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Blog

Classic Velocity Blog

Filtering by Tag: Triumph

Season Opener

Classic Velocity

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In this neck of the woods, winter cannot leave soon enough. It has a habit in many years of throwing some kind of last gasp in April, making it a very unpredictable month. While many of us have been able to sneak out a few times inbetween snow storms, the riding has been scarce. Riding a vintage bike was even scarcer. However, no matter what the winter has been like, everyone looks forward to the “season opener”. The event that causes everyone to brave roads still strewn with gravel and dotted with the craters that we call potholes. To brave the fickle weather patterns of April for a chance to fire up old faithful or trot out the completed winter project. That event around here is the Gathering of Nortons which takes place in Washington Crossing, PA (yes GW slept here) on the banks of the Delaware river.

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Although we have to thank the Delaware Valley Norton Riders for the event (as I do every year), and they turn out in impressive numbers with their machines, it has grown into an all-marque gathering of vintage iron. I discovered this event years ago when I was a paid up member and Norton owner. That is no longer the case, but at least once a year, I look at the beautiful examples and almost long for the days of shifting with the wrong foot. Delightful Dominators and elegant ES2s and commanding Commandos were all clustered into a feast. I am not sure why all Nortons look like the perfectly proportioned standard to me, but they do. In case the Nortons are not enough for the anglophiliac, you can cast your gaze upon the voluptuous Velocette with its aquatic exhaust, or one of several Vincents in attendance. British, but less exotic you say ? Well how about Triumphs of all stripes. Bonnevilles, T110/120s, Tridents, and a lovely TRW. Or perhaps something from the good folks at Birmingham Small Arms. They offered a few Lightnings, and a Thunderbolt, down in number this year but then again I was not there for the entire day. I have figured out that I do not so much lust for a BSA, as I lust for a chrome tank with that bejeweled red emblem on it. If only they were cheap enough to be garage art... And speaking of english jewels, what could be more British than a Royal Enfield made in India with no British parts ? What what.

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If you were not a great fan of the products of old blighty, all was not lost. Plenty of motociclo Italiano were present as well. They included a nice MV Agusta America, a pair of beautiful Moto Guzzi Eldorados, and a nicely done bugeyed Laverda 750. Not to be outdone, the land of the rising sun featured a Honda VFR400 in Rothmans livery, and a Suzuki RG500 Gamma in Walter Wolf livery. Very nice examples. They were joined by the dirt track styled Yamaha mentioned in the Winter Break post, and many small bore Hondas including a perfectly restored 305. Of course, BMWs were sprinkled throughout with K75s, /5s and just a couple of /2s this year. A cool Ural with sidecar sat off to one side, but drew an admiring crowd, as did a very nice Indian. Beyond the main showfield are an increasingly large number of bikes of all stripes and years. Harleys and modern sportbikes and more BMWs and Ducatis. They were not vintage for the most part, but their owners may have something that they are planning to bring next year, or perhaps they just agree that this is the best reason to get out and start riding again. Spring is sprung.

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Retrospective Recycling

Classic Velocity

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The road to successful rebirth of once heralded motorcycle marques is strewn with the carcases of the fallen, and has relatively few spectacular winners. Indian, Benelli, Triumph, Bimota, come immediately to mind as does Norton. Many of those marques have been subject to multiple attempts at reincarnation. One can readily understand the logic. Why create a new brand and try to establish a track record, when there are dozens of great marques that are lying dormant. These old marques come complete with the warm glow of fond memories,

glory years of racing

, and

vintage celluloid footage

. The passionate among us will not let these marques rest in peace, and are able to convince businessmen, engineers, and venture capitalists to give it a go, again.

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But this marque recycling is a tricky thing. Just like in the car world, you might be able to fund the mining of your past if you are a modern viable concern. Witness Ducati's classic series, and the Triumph Thruxton and Bonneville. You might also be able to develop and refine your roots while deviating little from an age old formula.

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Witness all things Harley, and my beloved BMW R-bikes. However, this business of resuscitating dead and dormant brands is not so easy. Triumph is a noted success widely attributed to the business acumen of John Bloor. You obviously need more than a storied marque, or Norton would be another Ducati by now. Instead it has a great looking bike and yet another attempt to remain viable.

Having owned a couple of classic Nortons

, I hope they make it this time. Indian has a noted Marque rescuer at the helm in Stephen Julius, but capturing a piece of the american premium v-twin space takes lots of time and money. Just ask Victory.

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So what's a would-be marque recycler to do? It seems to me that having to live up to the romanticized memory of some of us is a pretty high bar. Nobody wants to see a once lauded marque degraded by some legal/accounting dominated reinterpretation. I say that there are plenty of dead and dormant marques out there that have a history that no one remembers. You only have to visit a site like

Sheldon's European Motorcycle Universe

to realize that there are hundreds to choose from. Many of them can be yours for a bargain, have a cool retro logo, and you can still claim a lineage that goes back to say, a small village in Hungary circa 1921. Then just build a damn good motorcycle. After all, who among us wouldn't rush to own a new Dongo, Fopi, Hagg, Pouncy, or a Zig?