Sunday, November 19, 2006


This was the view from John Jenning's Thruxton, somewhere in the Blue Mountains outside Sydney. That night our group occupied a former elementary school turned hostel; I shared a room with 14 other men, all over 60. I bought earplugs and a bottle of Chivas Regal, for a sound night's sleep. Didn't hear a thing!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


CT Ashby on his Zenith, Brooklands 1925. Zenith motorcycles held more over-100mph lap times at the Brooklands track than any other make, and the competition machines were personally supervised by Freddie Barnes, owner of Zenith. The bike is stripped down to the essentials, with a big pillow strapped to the tank for rider comfort on the notoriously bumpy Brooklands bowl. The crucial components; big 1000cc JAP ohv engine, Harley forks with an Andre bump damper, 'square' ML magneto at the front of the engine, two big fishtail mufflers poking beyond the rear wheel, 21" wheels front and rear, and a a dummy rim rear brake. Ashby, always a practical rider, is wearing a turtleneck sweater under his collarless leathers, and what looks like a kidney belt to help with the pounding he must have recieved while doing 110mph. I owned a similar machine, which I'll show in a future post.

Thursday, November 9, 2006


This is 'Cec' Weatherby, from Australia, about to start in the 1933 Junior TT, on his '33 Velocette mkIV KTT, sister bike of 'the Mule'. Dennis Quinlan sent this pic from his archives in Sydney; clear photos of rigid Velos in the IOM are rare, even though they figured highly in the results. The other visible makes are Norton and Rudge; Rudge had won its last TT in 1930, and a pushrod-engine machine would never win again. Nortons, though, won this and many others!
Visible on top of the scoreboard are the Boy Scouts who updated the rider positions during the race. One 'bobby' (a sergeant by the looks of it) stands by to keep order, the sponsors/owners are wearing their tweed suits and ties, the riders are wearing their baggy leather separates (one-piece suits weren't common until the early 50's); double-breasted button-up short jacket, high-waisted jodhpurs with suspenders underneath. Some of the riders wore shirts and ties, but Sartorialism was on the wane for motorcyclists by the mid-30's. Brooklands riders kept thier neckties until the war, with 'Barry' Baragwanath keeping his detachable collar and bowtie until the end of his career (must scan a photo!).

Wednesday, November 8, 2006


The consolation of bike trouble on Highway 1 is the view. This is Chris Potempa three years ago, working on his '34 Indian Chief which was having multiple 'issues' on the day, including shedding the rivets which held on the rear brake drum. That fix took a trip to the hardware store, which luckily was only about 10 miles away, and we managed to squeeze some bolts into the rivet holes for the trip home. Chris has since sold the bike!

Monday, November 6, 2006


1967 Velocette Venom Clubman Veeline - what a mouthful. This absolutely gorgeous machine lives in Australia, where I met it in '04, and it ran as well as it looked. This is just about my favorite configuration of Velo, barring a mkVIII KTT. It has a grace of line that even the Thruxton with a nose-cone fairing lacks. Doug Michenall, owner of Avon Fairings, created the mould for this line of fiberglass wind-cheaters specifically for Velocettes, and it shows. I have seen slimline Nortons use the same item, which looks great as well.

1928 BMW R63

A few years ago, after I sold a Brough SS100 basket case, I had enough cash to buy a '28 BMW R63, which is a 750cc ohv machine, very rare, top of the line, and a beautiful bike. I've never been so disappointed! It was awful, sounded like a cement mixer, handled like a cart, had terrible brakes which dragged and howled while riding, and a gearbox which whined like a dog with attachment issues. I don't know if it was representative of ALL BMW's of the 1920's, but after asking around for opinions, I found that although it might have been mechanically suspect, they're all pretty crude pieces of kit until you get to the R5 in 1936. It became clear to me first-hand why British machines were dominant in racing in the 20's, as my Sunbeam or Norton or Velo would run rings around this tractor. When I look at the pictures, though, I wish I still had it, and could re-engineer some finesse into the thing. Anyone got an opinion on old BMW's?

Saturday, November 4, 2006


The 150 bikes attending the 13th annual All-British Ride ranged in age from Pete Young's 1914 Premier to brand-new Triumph Rocket 3's. The BSA club has taken over management of this event from Don Danmeier, and volunteers staffed the sign-up table at our meeting point in downtown Novato. The ride cost $15, which included a back-up vehicle and lunch stop at the ride's end, the Cheese Factory. (Mike Shiro on his Matchless G12 CSR below)

The ride moves quickly out of Novato and into the wonderfully hilly, sinous roads of West Marin county. Some of the roads are very poorly maintained, with bumps and potholes making for a rough ride - but as there is absolutely no automobile traffic in these areas, there is some consolation; plus, it's a beautiful, rural part of our state, worth investigating. (Norton Commando special)

We moved north through town and cross the Russian River, then wind our way out to the coast itself via the small town of Occidental. Highway 1 isn't well travelled here, so the bikes can stretch their legs and riders can enjoy 'getting down to it' on the well-banked corners. Hwy 1, at least, is fairly well paved, and some stretches, as along Bolinas Lagoon or just south of Tomales, can be taken very quickly indeed! (1934 Morgan with JAP JTOS engine - one of two Mogs this year)

This year's event was light on prewar machines, but this was compensated by serveral tasty specials from the 1960's. It was a beautiful autumn day, and the bikes sounded great. (Jerry Kaplan looking stylish)

Thursday, November 2, 2006


Regardless of the value of the Cyclone below, this is my idea of a truly compelling motorcycle. A Velocette mk1 KTT, ca. 1930. A real gem of a motorcycle, a landmark competition machine, and still cheaper than a new Harley.


This week's theme is yellow... actually a pic of one of the most compelling motorcycles ever. This yellow Cyclone was displayed at the Legends Concours, clean enough to eat from. Unfortunately it will never be ridden again, and is sculpture at this stage in history. Pound for pound as valuable as a Rodin, and arguably just as beautiful. Comments?

Spaceman Spiff

Craig took this pic on the 49 Mile Ride; I thought it was pretty funny; the Vintagent on his cell phone. Those crazy Spaceman Spiff goggles were purchased from Allyn Scura out of LA (who shows up at the Vintage Fashion Expos), and has a line of vintage-inspired eyewear, as well as a huge supply of nos sunglasses and frames. I buy far too many from him, but I have a lot of very cool sunglasses!