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Classic Velocity Blog

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Collecting Nuances

Classic Velocity


In visiting museums and collections, I would always be intrigued and amazed by those who were very focused in their acquisitions. Just one marque, or just one model of one marque, or all of the models of one marque for a single year, or all of the yellow Ferraris. These curators have a specific theme or quest, and set out to achieve a focused goal. I always thought of these as rather eccentric collectors. I imagined that they were bored with gathering the usual suspects like Gullwings and Vincents. Perhaps they just wanted to outdo a fellow collector by saying "I have every shade of green BMW 2002 ever offered" or "I have every model of the Norton Commando ever offered for sale". This is the "Inch wide and mile deep" approach to contrast the mile wide and inch deep collectors. 

In a recent conversation, I realized that I am not immune to this tendency. I was speaking with an inch-wide enthusiast friend about the new Goldwing. This is relevant because he has 12 Goldwings (13 if you count the Silverwing). This is impressive just based on the space required, but also based on the dollars. He can spout chapter and verse about the nuances between model years. Three of them are yellow. He even has a model that is widely regarded as bad. It is the mark of a true inch-wide enthusiast, that they even have the bad version of the vehicle. He also has models that the ordinary motorcycle enthusiast would consider to be the same. He has special editions, and first-version-to-have-X models. He knows his Goldwings. And then, he pointed to a couple of my airheads and we had the following conversation.


"Those look identical to me. Those are your Goldwings." He was pointing to an R75/6 and an R75/7.

"They are not, see the tank on this one and the instrument cluster....." I fell right into the trap and was explaining nuances between the models that only airheads would appreciate, and probably just a subset of them at that.  

"They are both the same blue." Hhhmmmm, he did have a point there as they were the identical blue. Although, one was far more faded than the other. 

"Yes, but see the spoke wheels versus the cast wheels, and the switchgear is totally different......." He was smiling now, and I was digging a deep hole. 

"Was there a big performance jump between these, or some big functional improvement?" He was honestly asking this question, fully expecting to find the rationale for having both.

"Well......not really." I did not want to tell him about the few horsepower difference, or the infamous $2000 o-ring. That could easily be considered the bad version. I quickly ran through the years of knowledge and the memorized contents of the Ian Falloon book on Airheads. There was nothing of substance to offer a motorcycle enthusiast not pierced by one of cupid's horizontally opposed arrows. Nothing.

"Is one more of a touring model that goes with that fairing?" He was pointing to the color-matched blue Vetter fairing that I had removed, and had no intention of reinstalling on the /6.

"Well......not really." He was now fawning bewilderment.


"Is either one super rare or collectible then?" His knowledge of BMW Airheads was like my knowledge of Goldwings; an inch wide and a half inch deep. I could easily have lied.

"Well this one has fairly low miles," He was now implying that I was even worse than him, since I had no redeeming special editions or rarity cachet.  

"This one says R75 as well. Why would you have multiple versions of the same bike?" It was the /5 toaster tank. Beautiful and so different, but he had scored a knock down blow. Yes, I had gathered all three versions of the R75 over time, quite intentionally. This was a great motor for BMW, and I appreciated the subtle nuances between iterations of this platform from early 1970s to late. It goes even further if you include the R80RT. Yes, I was an inch-wide enthusiast. But when you have no substantive retort in a debate, when you have no defense, you must turn to offense. You must attack a flank where you at least have some advantage.

"Oh yeah, well I can park all three of these in the space taken up by one of your behemoth Goldwings!".  

NYC IMS 2017

Classic Velocity

As seen through the eyes of a vintage enthusiast, this annual pilgrimage is a chance to see what is new and trendy, and to lay eyes on what has heretofore been the stuff of articles. This year, there was an impressive number of “standard” motorcycles. This means relatively upright seating position, handlebars rather than clipons, very little bodywork, no winshield. Among them were the Yamaha MT09 and 07, the MV Agusta Rivale, Kawasaki Z900, BMW RNineT, etc. Nice looking machines that can be versatile as well. Everybody now has an “Adventure” bike, including Royal Enfield with their new Himalayan. Honda and BMW now offer “Baggers”! There is plenty of coverage of the event on major magazine sites, so here is a select sampling of images through the Classic Velocity lens.



NSU Supermax

Classic Velocity


Neckarsulm Strickmaschinen Union (NSU) emerged from producing knitting machines and bicycles to motorcycles and cars. By the  mid 1950s, NSU had grown to become one of the largest motorcycle producers in the world. It directly translated great success on the racetrack with the Rennfox and Sportmax machines into showroom sales, as they amassed victories in sidecar, 125cc and 250cc world championships (see Of silver dolphins and blue whales). One of the best translations was the NSU Supermax.

The Supermax was introduced in 1953, and was designed by Albert Roder who had worked on the supercharged racing motors. It was a 250cc 4 stroke single, producing about 18hp at 6500rpm, and weighing just 384lbs. The innovative features introduced included a new "calm" air filtration system, and a chain driven overhead camshaft. At the time, these were somewhat ground-breaking on a production motorcycle. It also featured a four speed gearbox which propelled the machine to 78mph. Very respectable for a 250cc thumper. Brakes were drum front and rear, on 19 inch wheels. Other innovations included the monocoque pressed steel frame, and a short rocker front suspension.

The Supermax enjoyed very good sales, helping to propel NSU to become the world's largest motorcycle producer in 1955. They also held world speed records in 1951, 1953, 1954, and 1955, including breaking the 200mph mark for motorcycles at Bonneville. The Supermax model continued until it was replaced in 1961. 



Anthropologic Vehicular Archeology

Classic Velocity


I was searching for items for a swap meet which was only a day away. As usual, this had turned into a last minute need to rummage through plastic crates in storage. As mentioned in Hoarding for Gearheads, this should be pretty straightforward, but over time the organization system gets corrupted.  So there I was, searching for a particular item that I knew I had new in a box, but which so far had eluded my grasp.  However, the search had given rise to a number of sudden utterances ( to no one in particular since I was alone) like "Oh, so that's where this was", or "Why would this be in this crate", or "I forgot I had one of these". And then I was easily diverted and took long trips down memory lane as I came across parts for vehicles I had not owned in years, vehicles I had no intention of ever owning again, and in some cases, vehicles I am pretty sure I never owned at all.  I was struck by how many times I must have purchased items just because I could not find them, or because I forgot I had one. But that was not the most interesting discovery on this journey. and in some cases, vehicles I had no intention of ever owning again.

If you really want insight into the diseased mind of a vintage gear head, then you need to examine the used parts. There should be a full advanced academic degree devoted to the understanding of this sub culture by way of the stuff in their garages and basements and storage units. I call it Anthropologic Vehicular Archeology. If we can discern the workings of ancient civilizations by way of a few fragments of a clay pot and some cave paintings, imagine what we can reconstruct from the 40 year old vintage parts stored by a modern human. There are already esteemed faculty who can determine your right foot reflexes just from reading a fouled spark plug! Imagine what could be done with a used oil filter, a crank journal bearing, and exhaust pipe discoloration. It is a rich field of exploration. Oh, the secrets that would be revealed, the new buildings on academic campuses, and the passionate doctoral candidates, not to mention the insights gained for all of humanity. But I digress. 

The parts and supplies of interest fell into several categories. The rationalization is followed in parentheses by (the more realistic translation) :

  1. I may return the vehicle to 100% stock one day, so I need to keep this.  (this will never get back on the vehicle during my ownership, but will be good for the online posting and for the new owner)
  2. I have an extra one of these because they will be hard to find soon and I may need it one day.  (they will not be that hard to find in my lifetime, so it will probably be in this crate when they sell it all at the estate sale)
  3. I got this in a box of parts at a swap meet.  (I will forget how I got this and be periodically perplexed as to what this fits)
  4. I replaced this with a new one, but I keep this as a spare.  (I will never use this and will always buy another new one because I will forget why I relegated this to a spare)
  5. I don't need this, but I hear they go for good money online. (If I ever got around to finding this again, cleaning it up, and putting it online, I would make $7)
  6. I have a good one of these, so I can modify this one. (The modification went horribly wrong, and now it is worth nothing so I keep it) 

Ignition coils are one of my favorites. There were several among the crates with masking tape and words like "reportedly tested good", or "suspect", or "R50/2??". I have no idea under what circumstances I would ever put one of these into a vehicle, and it would be unethical to even offer them to someone needing a coil, so why keep them? Answer; There is something about the weight and substance of a coil, along with the fact that they can look brand new even when bad, that makes me reluctant to throw them out. I left them right where I found them. But the jewel in the crown, the icing on the cake, the capstone of this outing, was a pair of brake pads, lightly used, on which was written in big permanent marker, the words "WRONG PADS". They were in a crate of mixed items, so there was no telling what vehicle, what year, front or rear, etc. I actually sat down and laughed out loud, which startled a blackbird on a nearby fence. There was no clue as to whether I inherited these in a box of parts, purchased them myself some time ago, or removed them from a vehicle. Were they wrong for a particular vehicle, the wrong type of pads for the correct vehicle? I had no idea other than I had obviously decided to keep them. In the end, I put them right back where I found them, still chuckling to myself. I know I should just throw them out along with the coils and other suspect items, but perhaps I will wait for a better time to go through all of this...yeah, that's it....another time soon. And if not, it will at least confound the vehicular archeologists.



Classic RS Rally

Classic Velocity


It is hard to imagine, but the original BMW R100RS was launched in the fall of 1976 as a 1977 model, and is now 40 years old.  There have been many variations and iterrations since then, but the original production vehicle still defines the model. At the time of its launch, the RS was a radical departure from other machines of the time. It was a fully faired machine compared to naked machines, it offered bold futuristic styling,  and relatively luxurious accommodations to envelope the pilot as he consumed miles by the hundreds each day.  A top speed of 108 mph, and 70 hp in a 535 pound machine was a very good performance package at the time. It was a true "Gentleman's Express".


The RS started with a recognition by BMW Motorrad that their bikes were sort of....well...dated, and were in danger of appealing only to an older demographic. Their solution was to employ stylist Hans Muth to spruce up the line, and get younger customers excited. He used the wind tunnel to design and then test a multi piece fairing that would look modern if not futuristic. The result was a 5.4% reduction in drag, and a 17.4% reduction in front wheel lift. To put this in perspective, lots of riders of all marques were buying and attaching Windjammer fairings to their machines for touring at the time. However, the R100RS was considered the first production model to come fully faired off the showroom floor.  At the time, Motorcyclist's Bob Greene said "In one bold move the Germans have advanced motorcycle styling several years". More than that, the bike offered great protection from the elements. Many consider this motorcycle to be the birth of the Sport Tourer. A special Motorsport edition was later launched with a signature red nose on the fairing, and many RS machines including K bikes and R bikes to the present time, occupy BMW showrooms and enthusiast garages.

Which brings us to Todd Trumbore, and the 40 year celebration of the RS. Todd has been a guest author for Classic Velocity, a great motorcycle enthusiast in general, and is well known for his annual rides. He is also known for his R90S 40 year celebration a few years ago. Once again, he has gone above and beyond in bringing Hans Muth to anchor a celebration of his design. The lineup of silver blue 1977 RS machines was spectacular, including serial number 001. The collection of attendee machines was impressive as well, including a million mile R100S. Camping and tech workshops and lectures, and the Airhead Store, and food and drink, made this a true Rally worthy of the BMWMOA organization. But it was essentially the work of one man. Great guy, great machine, great event.



Limerock 2017 The Motorcycles

Classic Velocity


The Limerock Vintage Weekend has long been a great destination for a motorcycle ride. It is set in bucolic north western Connecticut, and is surrounded by upstate NY and western MA. When  the Berkshires and the Catskills are neighbors, you are in great riding country. At the track, a motorcycle parking area on a hill above the swap/paddock area has emerged over time that is always interesting, and the infield camping area often has a smattering of motorcycles. It always delivers a surprise, such as the year when a Vincent was casually parked among the commuter and touring machines on the mound. There was also a Crocker one year inside a vendor tent!


This year, all of that was enhanced by a display of BMW machines from Philip Richter and his Turtle Garage. In addition to a few of Bruce Meyer's hot rods on display, there was an elegant line of BMWs from pre-war to the 1990s. A most welcome surprise to us, and a delight for the crowd of attendees who appreciated vintage machinery in general.  It was particularly amusing to listen in on some of the conversations of others admiring the collection. There were comments such as "They all look the same", or "Black must be his favorite color, since he has so many of them".


However, a few folks who knew their BMWs would also stop to spend time looking at the subtleties between models. They would comment on handlebar controls or frame gusseting.  They were always pleasantly surprised to find someone who wanted to share in the conversation.  There is a particularly strong bond that is formed between geeks who discover each other at an event not intended for them as a primary audience. You now instantly have 2 things in common. But I digress...


The machines included a Dover white R60/2, an R69S with a Hoske tank, a superb ISDT bike, and a pristine K1. All in superb restored condition. However, the favorite bike of the collection's owner is a 1938 R51 which is cosmetically unrestored. It has been mechanically restored, but the paint and bodywork has not been touched. It is in remarkably good condition, and has a patina that you simply cannot purchase. Sharing the same year, 1938, was an R71. Judging by the interest in German cars and motorcycles, it is easy to see why Limerock voted Philip collector of the year. The Turtle Garage is on our list st of places to visit soon....


The Neander Meander

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Ernst Neumann Neander of Duren, Germany was a man of many talents. He was known as an artist, with works in sculpture, painting, and poetry. However, he reportedly built one of the earliest motorcycles in 1886. He later returned to motorcycles in 1926 when he designed the machine seen here. It had many signature features, the most prominent of which was the box section frame made or Duralumin. But for the headlight, you would be excused for thinking this was a machine from 30 years later. The frame looks like a modern twin spar, the tank could be postwar, etc.  The frame went on to be licensed by Opel, which used it with some success in racing. It also featured a unique articulating fork. Neander used several different engines in his machines including JAP, Villiers, and MAG.    Although some small displacement machines were created, the majority were either 500cc or 1000cc machines. Overall, the look was very modern for the time, and it was thought to be both artistic and innovative.  However, they were not to everyone's taste. Only about 2,000 Neanders were produced over almost a ten year period, and they went out of production in the 1930s. They also produced tricycles and quadricycles, which never appealed to the public and were short-lived.  Neander also produced several very interesting cars during this time, but that is a story for another post. The name has been resurrected in recent times to be used on a turbo diesel motorcycle. 


Victoria Bergmeister

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Victoria as a marque has been covered before (see The Victoria Ventures). The word Bergmeister dates back some time, and refers to the Foreman of a mine in Germany and Austria. However, in the context of Victoria, it is intended to translate to Mountain Master.  The model was introduced in 1951, and was quite remarkable at the time. It featured a 4 stroke ransversely mounted 80 degree V-twin reminiscent of a Moto Guzzi. It was air-cooled, and had pushrods activated overhead valves. A single Bing carburetor served the 350cc motor, which produced 21hp, The engine is also noted for its streamlined Art Deco appearance. The cases are smooth, and enclose the aforementioned carburetor, giving an appearance common to today's no-visible-cables custom bikes. Elegant body panels and frame paint added to the blend of old and new.


The transmission used chains rather than gears which reportedly produced a quieter ride. The 4 speed  fed a shaft drive system. Total weight of the bike was 398 lbs, and it was often used in combination with a sidecar. Suspension was telescopic forks up front, and a plunger rear end. It took until 1954 for the Bergmeister to make it into production. It was very expensive to produce into a market with good competition from NSU and BMW. However, it did well in hill-climbs and other trials at the time to become well regarded. Reportedly, only about 5,000 Bergmeisters were produced until Victoria merged with DKW in 1958 to form Zwierad Union. 



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From 1952 to 1957, Fahrzeugwerke Kanneberg produced stylish scooters featuring "Jet Age" design. The key design element was a jet turbine looking feature beneath the seat, but they also had side air scoops and a smooth front end profile. The scooters were very well regarded from a quality and styling perspective, but they were high-priced. They also produced a three-wheeled commercial vehicle with a front-wheel mounted engine. 


Eventually, the high pricing killed sales, and production ended in 1957. 

In Season

Classic Velocity


One of the sure signs that we are back in the riding/driving season, is that the gatherings of the clans become routine once again. Breakfast meetings, and after work gatherings, and weekend outings begin to fill the calendar. These always compete with work and family schedules, but at the beginning of the season, motivation is high to make the first events. The eclectic Moto Hang group is always welcome and interesting, because there is no rhyme or reason to the machines and the people that show up. 

There is a world traveler on a Suzuki DR, a Triumph Street Triple, a Ducati ST4, a BMW R75/5, a Piaggio scooter, and a Fuji bicycle with a Whizzer motor next to a new BMW R1200GS. Talk about eclectic !


A Fuel's Errand

Classic Velocity


Simplicity is good. Few moving parts, a basic electrical layout, black paint, no frills. This could be a description of the Ford model T, but it is not. It is a description of our BMW R26. A 1956 single cylinder, single carb, 6V standard motorcycle. It does not get much simpler, no matter how far you go back. The motto of the Airheads (of which we are members) is "Simple by Choice", and this machine beautifully embodies that motto. It is a beautiful machine built for a purpose, at a time when quality efficient transportation was key. It even has points for sidecar attachment, despite having just 15hp at its' disposal. If you have ever been dragged along the ground by 15 horses at a gallop, you will know that it is more than adequate power.  So with such a simple and well-built machine, what tale do you have to tell ? Glad you asked.

It started with the smell of fuel n the garage. It took a while to trace it to the R26, but there was definitely a more pronounced smell around that machine.  There was no visible stain or wet spot, just a lingering smell of fuel. The usual suspect on machines like this is the float bowl of the carb being faulty, and failing to shut off the fuel supply leading to a leak. The bottom of the float bowl was suspiciously moist, and the engine casing below it was suspiciously clean, so it seemed like an open and shut case. Upon examination, the float had trapped some moisture, and so a new one was sourced (ridiculously expensive for a brass float compared to plastic, but this bike is nice enough to warrant original). A new float bowl gasket was ordered as well. Once received and installed, I went for a test ride and all seemed well. 

Next morning, faint smell of fuel. there was a droplet of fuel forming at the same spot on the bottom of the float bowl. At this point, I began to see if there was a route to the bottom of the float bowl coming from some other part of the carb or the fuel hoses. There was nothing obvious, although at one of the fuel hose connection points, the fabric-covered fuel hose was definitely damp from fuel. Since this motorcycle is just gravity-fed for fuel, there were no clips on any of the connection points. Despite not liking the look, hose clamps went onto every connection point. There was no other place where fuel was evident, so I took a brief test ride and checked. And then I checked again an hour later. The problem looked solved.

Next morning, faint smell of fuel. I laughed the kind of laugh that pokes fun at oneself, but which really indicates that the situation is not really funny anymore. Upon examination this time, there was no longer a droplet at the bottom of the float bowl, but there was a clean spot on the engine case right below where one of the hose clamps now lived.  Well I was planning to do a carb rebuild anyway, and so I did. Then, climbing a diagnostic ladder toward the fuel tank, I encountered a moist area right at the petcock lever. Aha ! A notorious spot for problems due to the disintegration of the o-ring gasket. Not content to stop there, I also ordered the petcock gasket for the attachment to the tank. Parts arrived a week later, and took only a few minutes to install. I sat watching the petcok with the fuel turned on, and the machine off. No detectable leakage. I waited an hour and checked again. No detectable leakage. I took a test ride. No detectable leakage. I waited 2 hours and looked again. The petcock was moist with fuel. 

From what I could tell, the fuel began right where the petcock threaded on to the tank. But it had a new gasket that I had just installed! I drained and removed the tank and concentrated my attention on the petcock flange. Nothing detectable. I put the petcock on it, plugged the cross connection, and threw in a little fuel. Nothing detectable. I then put the tank in its normal position, and taped some paper towel to the tank encircling the petcock flange. I let it sit. An hour later, Bingo ! The paper towel was moist with fuel. Not much, but certainly enough to form a drip over many hours. I repeated the experiment. Same result, a small fuel leak from the tank itself.


I emptied the tank and began to lightly sand the area around the flange. It was built up with solder, so someone had been here before. I could not find the specific point of the leak, but there were a few suspect areas once the paint was removed. After some days of drying, and then work with a wire wheel and dremmel tool, most of the solder was removed, revealing a hairline crack. It was clear then, that vibration was probably the key ingredient to making it leak and find its way through the solder patch job. Once cleaned up, it was properly welded, and the the paper towel test was repeated. Bone dry. 

So what did we learn? A repeated lesson shared before in To Fuel or not to Fuel, and in On Getting Grounded and in To Spark or Not to Spark. Obvious solutions, and the usual suspects sometimes mask the culprit. I did not go to the tank first, because carbs and petcock are notorious for fuel leaks, and I thought I found the problem with the float bowl (which did have an issue, just not the main one). In this case, the simplicity of the machine contributed to a sense that the solution must also be simple. It was, that is once I found the root cause....

On Being Far Away

Classic Velocity


Joshua Tree National Park is thousands of miles from home. It does not look like home.  It does not smell like home. It is dry and dusty brown and filled with scrub brush. But then, it has spectacular small rocks and massive geologic formations that burst with colors and form fantastic sculptures against a brilliant azure sky. What kind of strange and wondrous place is this that spawns such giant structures out of nothing ? You have certainly left the shire Frodo Baggins.

Traveling solo on two wheels in the western USA, you get a very visceral understanding of space. Endless prairies and deserts go on for hours.  Mountains and canyons  take miles to ascend or descend.  Towns and cities seem to appear and disappear leaving little trace. Highways fade into the distance. You do not have a sense that you are always close to civilization. Great well-paved deserted roads snake through the desert, connecting nothing to nothing, leaving you to wonder why they even exist, but leaving you eternally grateful that they do. The average campground is spectacular in setting, if not in amenities, but that is as it should be. Who would want to be shuttered in a motel with a night sky like this ? The tent seems the right abode, and open flame, the right heat.


These roads, these places, force you to contemplate big things, big questions. You can see time in these places in a way that is difficult in lush green places where perhaps a few hundred years is evident. Here, thousands of years are visible in rock formations, and cave paintings, and even in the brilliant simplicity of the homes of native peoples. You can see in canyons stretching for miles, how you are riding on what was once the bottom of an ocean. You can see how water has carved rock, how wind has shaped the mesa.

Riding and camping through these places implants the experience in a unique manner. You have to smell the air and get the dirt first on, and then under your skin. Slowly, over a few days, with nothing familiar around, it sinks in. This is why we should all go far away periodically. Physically, and mentally, you need to abandon the familiar for a time. You need to gain or refresh another perspective, to disturb a comfort zone that is probably deceiving you into thinking that you have figured something out. Your idea of far away may not be anything like mine, but I can only hope that it is as powerful as a motorcycle, a tent, and a few days in the southwest.

Modern Classics 2017

Classic Velocity


Here in the wintry northeast USA, we have invented a number of great ways to break the grip of winter on our 2-wheeled hearts. Among them are trips to warmer climes, maintenance and restoration, researching the next great ride, winter riding, and shows. This last one, shows, is welcome, but cruel. To walk around amongst fine classic motorcycles, any of which you would love to ride today, makes it painful to leave and confront salty icy roads. But such is the pain inflicted by The Modern Classics show in Boyertown, PA. I have ridden to this show in past years, but not this time. There were only 2 bikes in the parking lot, and with temperatures below 30 degrees, their riders were made of strong stuff.  


The show always manages to find interesting examples of machines from the 60s, 70s, and 80s. European, Japanese, and American brands are most prevalent. The theme of the show is modern classics, so you would expect to see the more iconic and popular models rather than the obscure.  With that said, it is great to see a nice unmolested example of a Kawasaki 1100 Eddie Lawson replica, or a Vincent Black Lightning, or a rotary-engined Suzuki RE5, or an MV Augusta or a BMW R100RT. All indoors, all a few feet away from each other.  


There is a people's choice award, so in addition to admiring the machines, you get to vote for your favorite. It is always hard to single out just one machine in this show. If you choose according to rarity, then it has to be the Rex, even more than the beautiful Munch on display. For artistic jewelry, you would have to pick the Ducati 175. For value, the Vincent. For oddity, the MV Agusta monocycle. However, my ultimate choice was the Bultaco Sherpa almost overlooked on the fringe of the display area. It captured the essence of the machines of the era. It was simple, light, well-designed, good looking, and performed well. Simple fame, simple engine, simple everything. There was absolutely nothing on it that was not functional, and it was ironically, in a room full of desirable machines, the one I most wanted to jump on and ride. Of course, starting it would have filled the room with 2-smoke and killed all the attendees. 


Vintage Dirt

Classic Velocity


There are significant pros and cons to some aspect of your passion becoming cool. In the pro column, parts can become available again, magazines run articles, beautiful examples appear at shows, and more people appreciate the realm. In the Cons column, prices double seemingly overnight, your cult niche becomes mainstream, and barn finds disappear. All of this was evident this year at the Potomac Vintage Riders York vintage show and swapmeet. 


There is no denying that the bike show part of this event gets more impressive each year.  It is also commendable that the PVR manages to find a different crop of excellent machines each year. While the focus is clearly on vintage dirt or enduro machines, there were some cool street bikes as well. Among them a brilliant green BSA cafe racer, and a rarely seen BMW R80ST, along with a nice Guzzi, an NSU Supermax, and a classically faired Triumph road racer. The real stars, though were the vintage enduro machines from Bultaco and Greeves, and Maico, and MZ. The favorites included a very nice R80G/S in Dakar trim, and a beautiful Montesa 360 Cappra resplendent in orange. 


At some point, we will need to drop the word "swapmeet" as a description of events like this. Nothing has been swapped at a swapmeet in several decades. At this event, the vendors inside are more established places, along with the odd private citizen with a bunch of spare parts. Outside, however, the parking lot has more of a flea market feel (another term that has aged out of relevance). Pickup beds filled with "Field Finds" (I am introducing this new term), and trailers festooned with home made for sale signs. Fancy a Fantic ? Pining for a Penton ? Oscillating on an Ossa ? Stroll the lot. Chances are, they will not be as nice as those inside, but good examples and plenty of parts can be found.  


Familiar faces are mixed with a sea of nouveau fans. Familiar old parts are mixed with New Old Stock. There is something strange about a pristine Enduro bike. It begs to be ridden, to be sullied, but it wants to be admired in showroom condition. Even more than a street bike, it doesn't belong inside. It looks like it is on vacation, but will soon return home to its natural environment. York in January may not be on the list of vacation destinations, but it is the place to be for the region's vintage 2-wheeled gear heads.  



Classic Velocity


What comes to mind when someone asks you about an automobile manufacturer from Stuttgart that produced rear engine cars? Porsche would be the most obvious answer, but there was another manufacturer that would also be a correct answer. Gutbrod. Actually, they were in Feuerbach, which is a suburb of Stuttgart, but close enough. What comes to mind when someone asks you about a German company that first started producing motorcycles in the 1920s and then went on to produce cars starting in the 1930s? BMW would be the most obvious answer, but there was another manufacturer that would also be a correct answer. Gutbrod. They produced motorcycles under the brand "Standard" beginning in 1926, and went on to produce their first car under the same brand in 1933. The cars were small basic rear-engined machines. The fact that we are not all riding or driving around in Gutbrods today, tells you that their story is very different from  Porsche or BMW. 


Wilheim Gutbrod started out high quality producing motorcycles in 1926 and immediately grasped the value of racing to publicize the brand. Gutbrod was both active and successful with machines ranging from 250cc to 1000cc in the late 1920s. They had particular success with the 1000cc sidecar class. Gutbrod purchased the Swiss motorcycle company Zehnder in 1930, which was ironically what enabled the production of cars. The company transitioned to son Walter and motorcycle production ended in 1939.


Postwar in 1950, a new small car now called the Gutbrod Superior was introduced using a 593cc or a 663cc front-mounted two-stroke engine.  It was developed by former Mercedes engineer Hans Scherenburg (who later returned to Mercedes). This link with Mercedes is probably responsible for the Gutbrod being the first production fuel-injected car in the world, a few years before Mercedes introduced theirs. Models included a ragtop, a station wagon, and a sedan. There was also a sport roadster. The car only weighed 1433 lbs, and top speed was around 62mph (100kph). In 1954, Gutbrod was forced to close its' doors for auto production, but lived on via the sale of engines and farm/lawn equipment. The Norwegian Troll car company produced cars using the Gutbrod chassis for a brief period as well. 

Of Krausers and Kronenburgs

Classic Velocity

Right there, between the doors of the two door garage, in a pair of cubby holes designed to fit them, were a pair of Krausers. This is one of the irrefutable signs of an interesting garage. Someone was using every available space. Someone had taken the time to adapt or construct something in an unused space, to house luggage for a vintage motorcycle. You don't do that unless you care. Someone cared. If you cast your eye about the suburban garage, you would glimpse a Wixom fairing, and red Brembo brake calipers behind Fuchs wheels, and a 2 into 1 exhaust for a /5, and a 2 into 2 exhaust for a 911 SC, and 2 R100RS tail sections, and DOT race tires hanging from the ceiling, and a 915 gearbox, and lots of other stuff. Stuff that someone might need if he really liked machines from Germany of a certain era, that had air-cooled horizontally opposed engines. He does. The number of wheels that touched the ground could be 2, or 4. Either is fine, some of both is better. This is our kind of someone.

These things are scattered around 2 Porsche 911 SC cars parked nose to tail with one punched through a wall at the back of the garage so they could fit, and a BMW R1200GSA. And lest you think that is the only "encroachment" into the house, there is more. A long time ago in a galaxy far far away, I had a VW beetle engine in my kitchen. I rebuilt it over a month in the winter. A few years later, I had a slash 5 I was repairing on a tarp in my apartment for the entire winter. Both were before marriage. Since then, efforts have been redirected toward getting adequate heat in the garage. Not someone. He has managed to put 6 motorcycles into a carpeted fully climate-controlled room of the house, and his wife is fully aware. We don't know what kind of a deal had to be cut to get this to happen. Better not to know.  


The lineup includes an R69S, an R100RS, a /5 toaster, an RT cafe conversion, and an R90S. All are nice, none are pristine. Some high mileage, a few need work. A few have unique tail racks, or fairings. All have a story. One took a very long time to find. Another was owned, sold, and then owned again. We can relate (see repeat offenders and recidivism). The walls are adorned with posters and pictures. If all the bikes were show quality, this would be an eccentric arrangement. Since they are mostly "riders", this space is a real coup. We met many years ago, at a 2 wheeled event, and neither of us had any idea that there was more than BMW motorcycles in common, until we met again at a 4 wheeled event. This is our kind of someone.

Back to the garage, one of the SCs is being transformed into a street legal "Driver's Education (DE)" car. It has the engine out, roll cage in, rear seats out, coilovers in. It is the winter project. Another set of wheels is the rear of the garage next to the drill press and the miniature lathe. The SC has a Wevo shifter, modified guage package, dual oil coolers, 5 degrees negative camber, Kirkey seats, 5 point harness, etc. It will feature a Kronenburg engine management system from the Netherlands. Cool stuff. A year ago someone did his first DE event. Someone is on the slippery slope.  This is our kind of someone.

NYC IMS 2016

Classic Velocity


The International Motorcycle Show  (IMS) comes to NYC once per year and used to fall right in the of the non-riding season where it was a welcome oasis in the two-wheeled desert that is winter. Now that it falls in December, and in the case of this year, in a mild beginning to winter where riding is still a possibility for us die-hards, it is somewhat less dramatic. It also falls fast on the heels of much news from EICMA about new bikes, and after the CA IMS in Long Beach. So we were expecting to see some new machines in the flesh, but no real surprises.


It was as expected, but that is not to say it was a yawnfest. There was some nice vintage machinery hidden amongst the bright shiny new stuff which was of interest to fans of old iron. But we also had a chance to throw a leg over the new small kids on the block such as the BMW G310R, the KTM 390 Duke, and the Yamaha R3. All high quality machines that will be good choices for commuters, beginners, and general fans of small displacement. Max BMW had an impressive trio of restored BMWs including an immaculate R80 G/S that started the whole adventure craze. Speaking of that, KTM had the new big adventure bikes on display, the 1290 Super Adventure, and the 1050 adventure R. We have to admit struggling with the new "face" on the 1290 machine. The Yamaha Super Tenere in sand beige looked like just a livery change for this year, but the Honda Africa Twin looked and felt good. 


Elsewhere, we had a brief chat with Eric Buell who had yet another set of machines and another promise of a stable future. We hope he is right this time. The Harley Davidson booth was all about the new motor, which one die-hard fan described as "too smooth"! Victory further emphasized styling, but also had an Empulse electric bike, reminding us that they are now a player in that space (and they proved it on Pike's Peak!). Indian seems to be doing very well with the Scout, now planning to fully campaign in dirt track and amp up the new rivalry with Harley. There were also the usual series of custom show machines and accessory vendors. All in all, the show is still a fun way to pass several hours.


And we end with a modern interpretation of where we began....Nice job, but I'll take the original thank you. 

Matching Motorcycle Luggage

Classic Velocity


At first glance, the very title of this article, and the content seem like a very "First World" kind of problem. And it is, but bear with us and read on as it is not quite what it seems. First, the reality check. Having more than one motorcycle is certainly a first world problem. In fact, having a motorcycle at all which is used for pleasure and leisure is also a first world privilege. However, most readers of this are likely to have more than one machine, and many have both modern and vintage iron. As such, they may relate to this quest. It is the desire to have a single set of luggage that can be used on multiple machines. In this case, more modern machines, since the Krausers from the BMW /5 are never going to work on the Norton Dominator, and neither will be the choice for a 2-up cross country trip (although the /5 would probably do fine). Ever since Trog first rode his R bike or his Hurling Davidstone to the steakosaurus hunting grounds, man has been seeking to safely carry spiked clubs, spears, and cashmere smoking jackets along with him on a motorcycle. When Brog invented motorcycle luggage, he became very wealthy, and could hire others to hunt his steakosaurus, while he stayed in the cave by the fire with the women - smart man, that Brog. But I digress....

Over the years, the more modern machines in the garage have changed. And with those changes, has come an odd assortment of racks and luggage. Sometime inexpensive commuter solutions, and sometimes costly machine-specific items. For example, the stock luggage for the R1150GSA, or a set of soft "Moto Totes"given to us for free with a CB750. Facing the need for yet another luggage solution, we decided to clean house and buy one quality set of luggage that could work on both a BMW 650, and a KTM 1190. Just sell all of the odd bits and pieces, and buy the ultimate luggage set that could match both machines. To quote Top Gear, "How hard could it be?"

In a word, very. So first some parameters. We wanted a complete setup including tankbag, panniers, and topcase. They had to be interchangeable on either bike. With the exception of the tank bag, the entire luggage system had to be weatherproof without stopping to put on any kind of covers.  It needed to be able to accommodate a passenger. It had to cost less than a running vintage motorcycle in reasonable condition -- we have found this to be a reasonable unit of currency, as any funds would get diverted to a running vintage motorcycle over accessories for a more modern one. In fact, the children's college fund might lose such a challenge depending on the bike, but I digress... It needed enough carrying capacity for a multi week trip. It should be removable or remountable in less than one minute. It should survive a healthy amount of off-road usage. A specific, but not unreasonable set of parameters.

We found that there are many fine solutions out there, but they quickly fall away as you apply all of the parameters. Cost was a big one. We could have just picked stuff from the Touratech catalog, but costs quickly approached 2 running vintage motorcycles. Same was true for having a shop build a custom setup. It quickly became apparent that a single solution from one manufacturer was not going to work. With that established, we began to tackle the components separately. First, the tank bag. Magnetic bags were not an option, so strapped options like Wolfman were the leading candidates. I did like the whole detachable base concept from Giant Loop. Ultimately though, I decided to go with the SW Motech tank ring solution. No straps, no magnets, quick refueling, and adapters for both machines. OK,  we now had a single tank bag that could be used either machine. On to the second area of challenge. The panniers. Racks are expensive, panniers are expensive, and then there is the whole soft vs hard luggage debate. It was very difficult to find a single set of metal panniers that could work on both bikes. We failed to find racks with the same size hoops so that the pannier pucks could be positioned in the same location! The total here was going to be the cost of 2 sets of panniers plus racks for 2 machines. The dollars climbed like a scalded rump monkey.

 Rackless soft luggage solutions tended to use the passenger seat or violate the one minute rule to get on and off. However the quest lead us back to Mosko Moto. A unique soft luggage solution that fit a variety of racks including those I already had on the 650. A set of Tusk racks for the 1190 were very reasonable, so we now had a single set of panniers with 50 liters of capacity. Not cheap, but weatherproof, and well below the hard luggage alternatives. That brings us to the top box. The obvious choice here it is to get something like a Givi or a Shad case, and mounting brackets for two bikes. However, at a rally I ran into a guy who had a unique and useful system for mounting a Pelican top case so that it was easily detachable. I had a pelican top case from the prior project, so this was even more intriguing in that I could eliminate the cost of the top case itself. This mounting system is by a company called back road equipment, and they are a small shop making some really cool items for a specific segment of the market. The system is brilliant. It uses a plate for your rear rack along with a puck system for mounting the pelican case to the plate. It releases by way of a simple mechanism which can also be locked. While they had an adapter for the 1190, they were still developing the adapter for the 650. We decided that it was worth the wait, and after about a month, we had solutions for both machines.

So finally, after a lot of shopping online, talking to potential solution providers, and becoming a beta tester, we have accomplished the goal. One top case, one set of Panniers, and one tank bag. The good news, is that this was all achieved using funds which came from bits and pieces of luggage and racks that have been laying around for years and which went to new appreciative homes. The not so good news, is that all of this ended up costing about the price of a running CB360 in good condition. It's a good thing it was spent in smaller chunks so that we avoided diversion of funds. Was it worth it? So far, yes. It is great to know that the rain gear or the compressor, is not in the "other luggage". It is great to know that the USB adapter is in the (only) tankbag. And we really like having our favorite top case on both machines. We're sure that at some point in the future, a modular system will emerge which allows you to accomplish this goal easily using a single vendor of your choice. Today, however, getting matching luggage is harder than you think.