Hello everyone! It’s that time of year again, yep Christmas is fast approaching and you know that as a vintage motorcycle nut you will not receive any appropriate Vintage Motorcycle Gifts such as a 6 pack of 10mm sockets to replace all of the ones that have disappeared into the black hole behind your work bench.
Instead you’ll ooh and ahh over the latest tie and ugly sweater or sincerely thank the person who at least remembered that you ride a motorcycle and bought you a beanie at the Harley shop even though all you own are classic Bultaco dirtbikes or antique Marusho & Lilac motorcycles, because it means they at least have a vague peripheral idea of why you spend so much time in the garage. Of course if your vintage bike of choice is a Harley Davidson this wont be so terrible but I’m sure it’ll have a picture of a Milwaukee 8 on it and not a Panhead.
That’s why I decided to make this list of vintage motorcycle gifts. Copy this link and send it out to your significant other, and all other family members & friends who spend lavish amounts of money on things that will gather dust in the back of your closet. Since research is a large part of any motorcycle acquisition & restoration let’s start this list with a fine selection of books.
Now if you’re a vintage motorcycle nut like me you are most likely a twisted mechanical genius. After all keeping a several decades old motorcycle running, requires love, dedication, enthusiasm, skill & most of all tools. I often tell people that I’m a tool collector and that the motorcycles and cars are only there so that I can rationalize my real addiction, buying tools.
One battery powered tool brand that I sincerely recommend is the Ryobi One+ series 18v tools. Unlike some other big name tool brands, all of the batteries from any year Ryobi One tool series will work in any Ryobi One tool ever made. After throwing away a whole set of perfectly good tools from a “leading national brand” because the batteries were no longer available, I made the switch to Ryobi and have been happy ever since. Hopefully this year Santa will drop the 1/2″ impact in my stocking.
This is only a partial listing and yes most of these items are tools that I already have. In full disclosure this is a blatantly commercial page & hopefully some of you will at least begin your shopping from here and help me make enough commission to pay for the web hosting for all of the awesome do it yourself motorcycle restoration content on this site. Plus if it helps one of you get a vintage motorcycle gift you really want this holiday season it was worth it. Share it around & tag the people who love you and buy gifts for you.
As I drove around last Saturday to hand out flyers and solicit door prizes for the upcoming Rails and Roads Vintage Motorcycle Show(September 16th 2017 in Winnsboro SC) I stopped at a few dealerships and a few independent shops. In all places the welcomes were warm, but I noticed something very strange. In most cases there was almost no one in the stores besides the employees. When I worked at my local Honda dealership, every Saturday was a madhouse; an empty store on a Saturday was unheard of. It must have been inevitable that after decades of main stream success that it may be time for a rightsizing of the motorcycle industry.
Of course the recent news that Harley Davidson was going to layoff some production workers was something no one could have imagined 10-15 years ago. Before that Polaris announced the shuttering of their Victory motorcycle brand. The one bright spot in the market for Polaris is the success of the Indian brand that merged the solid technology of the Polaris company with an old legendary American brand name.
It’s not just cruisers, sport bike sales are off too. All across the market things are not as exciting as they used to be. The big 4 Japanese manufacturers are fortunate enough to have the ATV & side X side UTV market to keep them going, but even that segment has been affected by the tightening of the consumers spending habits. And this seems to be a global slide as the Nikkei Asian Review recently published an article entitled “The Motorcycle Becoming Thing of the Past.” According to this article, motorcycle sales in Japan are only 11% of what they once were. It’s sad to think that motorcycling is going away in the country that proved to the world that it was possible to build reliable, oil tight, powerful & lightweight motorcycles.
The bright spot in the world market for motorcycles is the increasing demand in India where according to the Times of India demand for 500cc and up motorcycles has increased at a 23% calculated annual growth rate from 2014 to 2017. This has led to a number of large players building factories there to pry some of this lucrative business away from Bajaj & Enfield.
Another happy trend is the vintage motorcycle industry. Although it is in very real danger of falling victim to the same over-exposure & over-saturation as the “American Chopper” crowd from a few years ago, right now the demand for genuine vintage motorcycles whether restored or customized in either the “café racer or “Bratstyle,”is extremely high. Now when you buy that old Japanese 4 or even small displacement twin you have to pay real money for it, if you don’t someone else will. A lot of motorcycle manufacturers have noticed this trend and now offer ready to ride retro style machines to allow you to experience the joy of vintage motorcycling without the misery of actually restoring a vintage motorcycle.
But the motorcycle companies are not the only ones that suffer from a soft demand for motorcycles, the Touratech company makers of some of the finest accessories for the adventure touring market filed for bankruptcy protection this year. This is yet another symptom of the rightsizing of the motorcycle industry. According to the Touratech U.S.A. blog operations will continue as normal during the company’s reorganization.
Motorcycle magazines are another thing hit hard by the rightsizing of the motorcycle industry. The audience is fickle even when times are booming it’s tough for publishers. Two of my all-time favorite motorcycle magazines came & went during the nineties at the height of the motorcycling boom in the U.S. The Old Bike Journal was one and the other was Twistgrip. Both of them came and went pretty quickly, The Old Bike Journal lasted longer because it had a broader audience, but both of these publications came and went during relatively good times.
Recently on Facebook, Buzz Kanter the publisher of American Iron Magazine shared his thoughts on the state of the industry giving some examples of how tough it is to survive and thrive in today’s market. I am going to share his exact words with you in the succeeding paragraphs. (Yes he generously granted permission for all to share them.)
“Call it Industrial Darwinism if you wish. But the business world is really all about the survival of the fittest. I have questioned for a few years how the motorcycle industry could support so many manufacturers, distributors and magazines. I now believe we are about to have a serious shift and downsizing.
I predict a growing number of changes in the motorcycle industry in the next year or so.
Too many motorcycle-industry businesses are over finanically over leveraged and will not be able to carry the debt. Others seem to be poorly managed. But others look healthy, creative and sustainable.
I expect more consolidation of big name motorcycle industry brands, some companies going out of buisness, and a very significant reduction of motorcycle magazines.
Paisano (Easyriders Magazine, V-Twin Magazine, Wrench Magazine, Road Iron Magazine) has announced they are folding all their motorcycle magazines except Easyriders, which they are reducing from 12 to 9 or 10 issues a year.
Bonnier (Cycle World Magazine, Motorcyclist Magazine,Hot Bike Magazine, Baggers Magazine, Sport Rider Magazine, etc) has been cutting back on their magazines’s sizes and frequencies. They just announced they are folding Sport Rider, and I expect more radical cuts in staff and product there.
So what does this all mean? I believe the motorcycle industry is ripe for a “rightsizing” where there will be a rebalancing of supply and demand. As demand for motorcycles, motorcycle parts and motorcycle services continue to decline, so does the financial support of those who serve these markets.
We at the growing family of American Iron media (American Iron Magazine, American Iron Garage, American Iron Salute, and American Iron Powermagazines, plus our growing on-line operations) are working hard to understand and react to these changes with strategic and creative ways. We’d like to thank everyone involved with the amazing world of motorcycles for your support as we move ahead into the future.
If you have read this far, I’d appreciate your reaction and suggestions, also please feel free to share this post.”
This is sobering stuff from an acknowledged industry leader. The cuts at Bonnier especially bug me because Cycle World is the only one I subscribe to and is the current home of my favorite motorcycle writer of all times Kevin Cameron, but time and the economy march on relentlessly so we must all adapt or die.
Now this all sounds like a lot of gloom and doom, but there could be a lot of positives to the rightsizing of the motorcycle industry. As motorcycling has grown and become more mainstream the many of the long time hardcore motorcycle enthusiasts (especially American motorcycle loyalists) have resented being taken for granted and seemingly being pushed aside as the dealers and motorcycle companies ran chasing after the hordes of trend followers who saw motorcycles as cool fashion accessories to be discarded when the next big thing comes along.
Another advantage is that the companies that survive the rightsizing will be more competitive and have a sounder financial footing for the future. I just hope the ones that do can produce products that I like and still stay in business.
Part of the problem with the motorcycle industry is enthusiasts like me, people with eclectic tastes in motorcycles that no one else but me really wants. The problem with modern motorcycling for me is there are so few motorcycles available that I would have. The short list in order by desirability is;
Triumph Bonneville Street Twin (Yes the 900cc version I’d never miss the other 300cc.)
Moto Guzzi V9 Roamer or Bobber (I prefer the Roamer with its chrome and 19” front wheel)
Honda CB1100 (This bike can do no wrong and would actually be my first choice for a cross country ride, it just blends into the background too easily.)
Honda Africa Twin (Only adventure bike I’d want)
Royal Enfield Bullet (Love the style, riding position etc. but I’d have to keep a Honda in the garage next to it, you know just in case.)
Look at this list other than the Triumph does anybody else want one? I must not want one too badly either, the newest bike I own is a scooter an 01 Honda Helix, the next newest one is a 1980 CB650, & the others are from 1964, 1971 & 1972. Too many people bitch on the internet about what they want but when someone builds it they don’t go buy it. I plead guilty as charged to that. Prices are too damn high, income is down, and my 37 year old ratbike is just as roadworthy & reliable as anything I can buy.
This friends leads to the real reason for the “rightsizing of the motorcycle industry”, the customers just aren’t buying. There are a million reasons why not. In my case personally it’s the value of what you get versus what you pay. I can sign the line and get any motorcycle I want, but quite frankly to me they’re not worth the cost. Others just simply don’t see anything new that they want even though they don’t mind spending the money. Plus many vintage bikes especially the Japanese ones are damn near as reliable as anything made today for a fraction of the cost once they get fettled properly. Combine this with a general decline in interest in the experience of driving by younger people it’s easy to see why the industry as a whole is downsizing. The customers just aren’t buying.
One of the best things about the internet is how easy it has made it to search for vintage vehicles and parts, and let’s face it we all love Craigslist, and the other similar for sale sites. That being said, I’d like to talk to you about some of the bullshit that sellers do that just really annoys the hell out of me. In fact I am counting down a list of my top 5 Craigslist pet peeves. So let’s proceed with Dear Craigslist Sellers.
5. When you sell an item and don’t delete the posting. Having sold a few things on Craigslist I know you can’t always make it back to your account settings to delete an item as soon as it sells, but don’t just leave it there. Nothing is more annoying than to call about a bike or a part and hear, “I sold it two weeks ago.” Seriously, just delete the ad at the first chance you get after making the sale.
4. Asking really stupid high prices. Pricing it up a little bit for negotiating wiggle room is one thing, but your hacksawn spray painted bobber is not worth five grand. Likewise just because a fully restored 1969 sandcast CB750 will bring thirty thousand bucks still does not make your 1975 that’s been leaning up against a tree in the back yard since 1977 after it scared the piss out of you worth more than one hundred dollars. Sorry, I usually don’t even reply to such ads because I hate for people to think I’m insulting them just for telling them the truth. Do a little bit of basic research and find out what your stuff is really worth in the condition that it is in. https://www.hagerty.com/valuationtools
3. No pictures or really lousy pictures. Usually a sign of a scam, normally no one in their right mind will even open such an ad. If you are a legit seller and can’t post a picture please see if someone you know can help you.
2. Really lousy descriptions that say “Motorcycle for sale” but nothing else, usually with no picture or really lousy pictures, see item 3 above. Once again this tends to be a sign of a scam, but if you really want to sell your motorcycle list the year, make, model, size, odometer reading and title status. I promise you’ll sell it faster if you do.
1. Dear Craigslist Sellers, This is the biggie, my number one most hated thing that advertisers do, deliberately putting a very low price into the Craigslist form and then putting the real price in your description. Dealerships are especially bad about this. Please be clear about one thing when I sort by price from low to high, I don’t want to see your brand new 35 grand FLHDWUCE bagger or your brand new SuperGranTurismo 1400CC racer replica. AND NEITHER DOES ANYONE ELSE. When sorting low to high I am desperately trying to find OLD motorcycles such as KE100s or CB200s and don’t want to waste my time scrolling past a bunch of shiny new overpriced crap. In fact I make a point of remembering which dealerships do this so that I can make sure that they never get a single nickel from me, ever. In fact I want everyone who reads this to contact Craigslist support and request a legally binding stipulation that whatever you sell has to be sold at the price listed in the price box shown on the listing page.
Dear Craigslist Seller’s here’s a little reading material to help you out.
There’s a group of people out there on the internet who seem bent bound & determined to ruin it for the rest of us, and they seem to be especially vocal in motorcycle pages, forums, and groups. You know who I’m talking about all those Safety Nazis & White Knights that are ever so eager to either protect you from yourself or to protect others from you.
Let me vent a little here, nothing drives me crazier than for someone to post a video or a ride report and say something like, “ I was cruising along on I-20 into Alabama at about 80 plus,” or the video camera catches a glimpse of a speedometer that’s a little north of the posted speed limit. Not because I mind a competent adult driver exceeding an often arbitrary speed limit, but because I know that the next post or two will be some jerk who will write a two page sermon on the evils of speeding and how he or she always drives 1 mph under the speed limit because they are saints, while the rest of us are horrible evil criminals who want chaos to reign, as we meet our end in a fiery blaze of glory leaving our children as orphans and taking as many innocent people as we can straight to hell with us. We do realize that excessive speed on the roads is dangerous but in most places you are much safer to move with the flow of the speeding traffic than to become a rolling roadblock. Quite frankly most of the speed limits in America are lower than they need to be especially on interstates and a lot of highways out in the boondocks, not for any real safety reason but to enhance revenue collection. I could go on and on and yes I will admit there are places where restrictive speed limits are reasonable, and that there is such a thing as driving way too fast. What exactly defines driving way too fast has more to do with road conditions, traffic, condition of the equipment and the skill of the operator, not necessarily some numbers nailed to a post beside the road.
I wear my helmet almost every time I sit down on a motorcycle now. At one time I would not have been caught dead on a motorcycle with a helmet but now when it’s time to mix it up in crazy commuter traffic or hit the road for a long haul not only is a full face helmet on my head, but I’m wearing a full riding suit with boots and gloves even in the heat of summer. At high speeds for long distances it’s actually far more comfortable. Even so I support the right of free adults to make that decision for themselves, and I really don’t care if you agree with me or not. As I said earlier I wear it most of the time, but on the odd Sunday morning my wife and I will take a long slow ride down the rural 2 lane roads that surround our country home without brain buckets. Sometimes we can go 20-30 miles at the time without seeing another vehicle. Yes I know it’s more dangerous than riding with a lid on, with the possibility of wildlife collisions, tire blowouts etc. but it reminds us of what it was like to be young and care free. Don’t preach at me, the kids are all grown, we have excellent health and accident coverage that we pay for and yes life insurance too as do the vast majority of riders that I know. Not to mention my equipment is immaculately maintained and I WORK at keeping my skills up and even improving them. These quiet country cruises we share together actually have very little risk and we minimize it well. Can’t deal with it? That’s your problem not mine.
Sometimes I can be a bit of a Safety Nazi & White Knight myself, on the subject of distracted or drunk driving but I try not to get too aggravating about it except that I’ll say these two things are almost guaranteed killers, usually of some innocent bystander. If you want to take the risk of offing yourself I’m actually cool with that, try to have fun in the process, but don’t take me or any other innocent people with you. Even with the way I feel about these two things the World Wide Web has introduced me to folks who get so totally unhinged and paranoid about distracted driving that it’s enough to drive me to drink. For example there is one person who inhabits a certain Facebook group and watches for some someone to make a post about GPS, phone, or camera mounts so that he can preach the same stupid sermon over and over. For example when I posted a picture of the Ram mounts installed on the handlebar of one of my scoots, this fool was the second person to see it and he went ballistic on me.
This is a double ball mount that hold my dash camera off to one side for a good view of the road, (I use the Midland XTC btw) and the other side holds my phone or GPS unit at a height where I can read my map and follow the navigation arrows without taking my eyes off of the road. No phone calls or texting while moving, just navigation. I actually regard texting and talking while driving as a hazard but using navigation apps or gear are not as long as you are not programming your route while on the move. In fact it may even make a trip in unfamiliar territory safer because you do not have to scan every single street sign to find out where your next turn is. I don’t miss the paper map in top of the tank bag one bit, the eye level GPS screen is much better and much safer.
Now let’s move on to another despicable creature that tends to inhabit the various for sale groups and websites on the internet, the White Knights protectors of the innocent consumer. Any time someone posts a price for any item that they feel is even a dollar too high the White Knights swoop in like a pack of vultures to fresh carrion to savage the seller and tell the whole world what a crook he is and try to besmirch his or her online reputation by telling everyone who will listen what a crook the seller is. In the last year a couple of the assholes have come after me for ads that I’ve posted to the point that I will not use any Facebook sale pages to sell any motorcycle or parts. Unfortunately the keyboard sociopaths dwelling in their parent’s basements or the unscrupulous online seller trying to shut down his competition by making them look bad will hammer the hell out of you. Here are 2 real stories that happened to me.
Example number one the Sportster; I bought a 65-70% complete Evo Sportster basket case. The complete engine was all there including the carb, along with frame, triple tree, miscellaneous, except for the wheels one fork leg, and sheet metal. At the time of purchase I took a bill of sale from the owner stating that the bike was an 883. So when I got home I took some pictures and posted it online for $1200 bucks. Yes that was high but I fully expected to be negotiating that price, nobody in their right mind would pay asking price for a project bike or parts pile. Too bad that time I posted it, a bunch of those pesky assholes pounced, posting that I was a rip off artist and a bunch of other crap so I got tired of their shit and pulled the ad. Over the next few days I got the paperwork straightened out and the bike turned out to be a 2002 XL1200, and I sold it to a coworker for a most excellent price far below $1200. It took him about 2 months to put it back together and now he rides it to work 2 or 3 times a week. So next time you see one of these “White Knights” giving an online seller hell, jump on his ass tell them if they want to buy, make an offer otherwise SHUT THE FUCK UP. Somebody out there missed a sweet deal on a 1200 Sportster from me because of these assholes.
Another time I bought an engine side cover for a Honda CT70 from an online seller but then traded the project before using it. My purchase price was 65 dollars plus shipping. The part is still in the original packaging, so I figured no problem right? Wrong! Some asshole who is an online parts dealer specializing in Honda Mini Trails, used his personal FB account to state that I was asking way too much and then he provided a link back to his aftermarket dealership website showing the same part for $50 and basically insinuating that I was trying to rip people off. Screw assholes like that, I paid $65 for it (from a real Honda dealer) and was simply trying to get my money back, and not a penny more. BTW I still have the left engine side cover that fits on a Honda CT70 and yes I will sell it to you for $50 plus shipping. It’s not correct for the early models but it will work if you are just fixing a rider. Next time one of these so called “White Knights” gets online and tries to slander me I think I’ll sic a lawyer on them even if it costs me 20 grand to do it just to teach them a lesson.
It would be possible to go on and on but even if I do expect to recoup my investment in motorcycles and parts every once in a while but this is mainly about having fun doing some things that I love to do. Since I don’t make my living doing this anymore I don’t have to put up with assholes.
Until next time I wish you happy riding, wrenching, & horse trading.
It’s always great to hear from readers about the various things that I’ve written through the years, for example a little over three years ago I wrote a post underscoring the importance of always using a new cotter pin every time you need one. Just a few weeks ago I received an email from a reader who had a near tragic ending and these next few words will be his.
Comment: I just wanted to share a story about why you should always check those cotter pins.
I had just rebuilt a 200cc bike, and after riding 50 miles, the back wheel came off. I broke my clavicle, went to the ER in an ambulance, destroyed my helmet, broke my crankcase, and scraped up fairings and the frame. The towing & impound were expensive too. In the end, this cost me thousands, and I was out for 6 weeks w/ a hurt shoulder.
All this because I rode the bike without a cotter pin.
I’d torqued up the rear nut to spec, and it only took 50 miles for the nut to back out. I never thought it would happen…but it did.
Now you’ve heard from a man who really knows and yes he still rides motorcycles. He asked me to keep his identity completely private so I will, and thank you very much kind sir for sharing this with us. If the rest of you don’t already have one stop right now & get yourself a cotter pin assortment.
Another post that has generated a lot of comments & feedback was the one entitled Vintage Piston Valve Keihin Carburetor Overhaul. If you look at this post without reading the commentary you’re only getting half of the story. Check out the whole page, I learned as much from my readers as they learned from my meager do it yourself post. Of course this leads into my other series of posts Dirt Bike Carburetor 101.
Those of you with CV carbs don’t fret, I have several dozen detailed close up pictures of 2 different style of CV carburetors that I have worked on recently & will be getting a couple of detailed posts going for you about those.
Some of you may be wondering about the Project wAmmo bobber that I had started on. It’s probably the main reason that I have not posted as steadily this month as I should have because the darn thing needs to be finished. But it’s up on it’s wheels and actually went to it’s first show despite needing a few more details to finish it up. I hope to have it all wrapped up in the next 2 weeks for final pictures in the meantime give a listen to this video.
That’s about it for this post if you haven’t already signed up for email notifications please do so using the box below. There’s a lot of great stuff coming up & you don’t want to miss a thing.
Most of all thanks for the reader feedback on this blog.
Boy life has been running wide open these last few weeks, There have been a few ups and downs but overall more ups than downs, so if you hear me complaining, just ignore me things are actually pretty good around here.
In my professional life (the one that pays the bills since I seem to be unable to sell enough motorcycle parts to survive) the last few weeks, my spare time has been devoted to studying to take the Certified Solidworks Associate exam and this past Saturday I took the test and passed it! So now in addition to my other software skills & certifications I am now also certified for Solidworks 3D CAD as well.
A couple of weeks ago I was trying to change out a 20 year old motorcycle tire when I bent a top of the line name brand made in U.S.A. tire iron. Instead of taking this as a warning I continued try to wrestle with the ancient rubber until I pulled a muscle in my shoulder.
So I decided at last to try to buy a manual tire changer. My Dad already had the Harbor Freight cheapie car tire changer that he used to change his truck, lawnmower, & small tractor tires and was very happy with it. He finally got himself a new truck and decided last week that being 72 years old, he didn’t want to fix his own tires anymore, and sent the tire changer home with me. I ran up to my local store and grabbed the motorcycle tire attachment. Unfortunately as delivered out of the box with the changes that have been made to the rim clamps on this latest redesign, it was useless. It might be capable of mounting a fresh new tire without modifications, but if you are like me and frequently deal with the treasures, (‘er junk heaps) that you have dragged up from old barns, cow pastures, and junkyards then it won’t be of much use to you either.
Since the next cheapest manual motorcycle tire changer I could find was 600 bucks it’s time to order a few parts & make a few changes. I will post more about those adventures later after I get all the parts in and put it all together. In the meantime I broke out my reciprocating saw and took care of the next pesky tire.
We are heading into the heart of motorcycle show & rally season now here in the southeast, The Myrtle Beach Hog Rally, and Atlantic Beach Bikefest are the two biggies along the coast. For the vintage & antique bike lover, this weekend (May 2, 2015) in Panama City, Florida is Bikes on the Beach, in Spencer, North Carolina is the Carolina Classic Motorcycle Show, followed in two weeks by the AMCA Southern National Meet in Denton N.C.