As most of us do, we subscribe to different mailing lists and forums. For me, it’s the Bevelheads (vintage Ducati’s),The VJMC (vintage Japanese bikes),the Hinckley generation Triumph list (the new stuff from Triumph)and a few more for motorcycle business stuff.
This last week a topic on the Triumph list came up that brought up reliability issues of Triumphs. Now, the new Triumphs are so good that the only issues that could be brought up were regarding older Brit Bikes. I and a couple of other list members were accused of trashing and slamming old bikes. It was all based on a couple of comments about unreliability. Hey, we all know that motorcycles of the 50’s through early 70’s American, English, Japanese, left a bit to be desired in the reliability column. Good jokes about Lucas Electrics being the Prince of Darkness…’Jap Crap’and if you add in the AMF Harley days..you know exactly what AMF means…Adios Mother F….R. I’m sorry I hurt this guys feelings but oh well.
So today I wanted to do a quick post about old Triumphs again. My step dad, who I blame for my sickness…loving motorcycles and in particular English motorcycles, started me on a little Yamaha dirt bike, moved me to the Bultaco, to a Honda 350, a Triumph Bonneville, then a BSA Lightning 650…on and on..In between all those bikes I was allowed to ride his 1952 Triumph Speed Twin. Only once in a while but I did get to ride it. I learned a lot about motorcycles with that bike. How to cut your own clutch plates out of cork, replacing a primary chain and servicing a ‘sprung hub’ style …suspension??
Early on in motorcycle history, the frames were rigid. Something of a front suspension was there and the rear..well, the seat had springs on it like an old tractor, but that was it. Then came the sprung hub…in the center of the rear wheel the hub had springs built into the wheel..a very ingenious design…didn’t do much, but was better than a rigid! I know Vincent had an incredibly modern suspension, way ahead of it’s time in that period, look at a Yamaha Mono Cross suspension of the Seventies and you’ll see how modern a Vincent was! One of the poster’s on the Triumph list extols the virtues of his Vincent on a regular basis..and I envy him a lot!!
So, the point of this little story…modern motorcycles are so reliable you don’t have to think about them hardly at all. Older bikes, and I don’t care where they came from, needed love and attention. Many of us learned the lesson…ride it for one hour, work on it for two. We may look back and criticize them for unreliability and sketchy handling, but those of us that rode them then and still do, learned about taking care of your motorcycle so it would get you there and home again. I hope you get the opportunity to spend some time with an older motorcycle, learn to clean and set points, adjust the timing and your clutch, tune the spokes on your wheels, tickle the carbs just right so it starts on the first or second kick and to love the sound and feel of an old motorcycle. Besides all that good stuff…they’re chick magnets!!! even for us old guys.