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Retro + Vintage Motorcycle Reviews

The Quail Motorcycle Gathering 2015

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In its seven years, the Quail Motorcycle Gathering has never really called itself a Concours d’Elegance, not like many shows where spit and polish is of the essence. The Quail has been much less formal, with the occasional barn-find, straw still in the wheels, sitting next to a $90,000 Vincent. The organizing expert, Gordon McCall, has developed a very successful ...

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Retrospective—Bobber: 1945 to Present (1947 Indian Chief)

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Look up “bobber” in a conventional dictionary, and the definition talks about a float on a fishing line. Try Wikipedia: “A bobber is a custom motorcycle that usually has the front fender removed, the rear fender ‘bobbed’ (made smaller), and all superfluous parts removed to reduce weight.” Conventional wisdom states that motorcycle bobbers originated after World War II, when returning ...

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Retrospective: Suzuki RG500 Gamma: 1985-1986

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Sportbikes are one thing, street-legal repli-racers patterned on GP bikes are quite another. Both are intended for public roads, and while both are extremely fast, the repli-racer will have handling better suited to a racetrack than a mountain road. This RG500 was a repli-racer mildly popular in Europe and Canada, although never officially imported to the United States. That is ...

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Retrospective: Lambretta 150 Li Series I, II, III: 1958-1967

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The Italian scooter wars were in full ruckus in the late ’50s, as Lambretta and Vespa fought ferociously for market share. A number of other companies were building scooters, but those two were very much the leading contenders. “New” being the keyword to success, the Lambretta Company, with founder Ferdinando Innocenti very much at the handlebars, came out with the ...

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Retrospective: Honda CL175 Scrambler: 1968-1973

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There certainly were lots of variations of Honda’s 175 twin over its six years on the market, from Super Sport to Motosport, with the Scrambler sitting right in the middle. All part of Honda’s marketing wisdom—offering roughly the same bike in a variety of styles, appealing to any number of potential buyers. In the mid-1960s Americans were falling in lust ...

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Retrospective: Amazonas 1600: 1977-1989

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This motorcycle was a result of economic solutions rather than engineering designs, which may explain its questionable status as one of the worst motorcycles ever built. In the early 1970s, Brazil was getting its economic act together after 25 years of mismanagement and heavy borrowing to keep the country afloat. Industry was now beginning to compete with agriculture as the ...

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Retrospective: Rumi Turismo 125: 1950-1956

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After World War II ended, dozens of Italian companies began producing small motorcycles and motor scooters to provide the local folk with some sort of personal transportation. A few of the names live on, like Vespa, Moto Guzzi and Ducati, but most have been relegated to dusty files on the back shelves of those interested in motorcycle history, names like ...

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Retrospective: Velocette MAC 350: 1934-1960

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The reader may be surprised that this motorcycle is not in more immaculate condition, having a shabby saddle, abbreviated aluminum front fender, chromed oil reservoir and a bunch of other blemishes. Truth be told, around here we are not much interested in concours machines, motorcycles to be found on mantelpieces, but are more amenable to what we loosely call “riders.” ...

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Hercules W2000 and Suzuki RE5—Short History of Wankel-Powered Motorcycles

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In March 1972, Cycle Guide suggested it was “inevitable that the Wankel rotary engine will shortly invade the 2-wheel domain…and they just might take it by storm.” That storm never happened, even though rotary engines would seem good candidates for motorcycles. They’re compact, make good power for their weight and have just two moving parts, the rotor and the crankshaft. ...

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Retrospective: Harley-Davidson M65S Sport Leggero: 1967-197

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This is one cool-looking motorcycle, with Harley-Davidson writ large on the gas tank and molded into the crankcases. A bit on the small side, but what the heck—if you were the coolest newspaper boy in town, who cared? The M65S had a price tag of a mere $265, which even the bag boy at the supermarket could come up with. ...

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