The folks that run Portland Cars & Coffee do many theme days during the year. One of the most popular ones isn’t about cars at all. It’s “Motorcycle Day”, and it’s one of their biggest events. This year it took place on a cool, cloudy September, Saturday morning at the World of Speed Museum in Wilsonville Oregon.
I will begin today’s tour with one of the oldest bikes I saw that day, a charming Velocette MAC 350. This one is from the late 40’s or early 50’s. One thing I always notice about motorcycles from this era is how much smaller these machines are compared to modern bikes. It’s dwarfed by the Kawasaki in the background.
If you look closely, you can see a small puddle of oil that has dripped on the ground beneath it. Even in this minty condition, it’s still an old British motorcycle. Some things never change.
My oh my, look how far we have come today. This KTM Super Duke V-twin looks like something Bat Man might ride. Like most modern sport bikes, it’s insanely fast, and handles fantastically. The state-of-the-art technology includes ABS, fuel injection, lots of carbon fiber pieces, adjustable suspension etc.
If the KTM doesn’t seem modern enough for you, then check out this 2019 Yamaha Niken GT with twin fork suspension. It’s powered by a DOCH 847cc triple. I’m not sure if I’d spend my money on one of these, if I was still into riding, but I do see a possible advantage in handling on slippery roads. It looks like no other motorcycle on the road today.
I’m going back into my comfort zone now with some classic Japanese bikes beginning with this 1981 Honda CB 750. I know it’s an ’81 because the only new motorcycle I ever bought was this bike’s little brother, the CB 400T Hawk.
Back in the day, these were considered pretty high tech. Their air cooled 4-cylinder engines, made plenty of reliable horses, and they were versatile enough to commute on, tour, or even race. That they still look so good today says something about the build quality of these bikes.
This customized Honda 550-4 makes a very nice café racer.
For all of you that enjoy classic Yamahas, here is a good example of the RT 360 Enduro. Most of these old dual sports lived pretty rough lives. It’s nice to see this one still being used and in pretty good shape.
Here is another beautiful old Yamaha, the RZ350 two stroke. These were pretty much the last of the street legal two strokes that were sold in the USA. They were known for their impeccable handling, and the ability to humiliate riders of much larger motorcycles. Notice the little bell above the cylinder head? It’s a perfect accessory for this ring-ding little racer.
This RD350 is probably 10 years older than the RZ above. It’s in a bit rougher shape, but I bet it’s still a blast to take it for a ride down some twisty roads.
When I was in my early teens, I used my paper route money to buy a Rupp Scrambler mini-bike. It was a fun little bike, but if I could have afforded it, this Yamaha Mini Enduro was what I really lusted after. No lawn mower engine and pull cord starter here. This was just like their super popular full range of dual-sport bikes, but sized for kids. There was nothing else like it.
Mini-bikes today have kind of followed the same pattern that cars have over the same period of time. This Honda Monkey 125 is an amazing machine. I’m sure it’s better in almost every way than the Mini- Enduro of the 70’s. But it’s also way heavier, more complicated, and expensive. The real question is which mini-bike would be more fun. Which one would be more likely to put a smile on your face?
Here is another odd Honda. This heavily modified Ruckus scooter looks nothing like most of the scooters that I normally see. I wish I had gotten a good shot of the Eddie Lawson Replica Kawasaki in the back ground.
Let’s take a look at some European motorcycles. I had almost forgotten about the Ducatis that were produced when Cagiva owned the company. It was nice to see this early 90’s Ducati 907 IE. Definitely not my favorite Ducati, but the styling still looks pretty fresh, even today.
I have long been a fan of the toaster tank BMWs of the late 60’s and early 70’s. When I was much younger, a guy in my hometown had one of these. While most of the bikes from this time were loud and obnoxious, the BMW was almost silent. It looked entirely different than most other motorcycles, and to me seemed to be extremely classy.
I was thrilled to see this immaculate R90S. I remember reading about these in motorcycle magazines as a teenager. They were some of the most expensive motorcycles of the time. Designed by Hans Muth, the 900cc boxer twin was the flagship of the line-up from 1973 to 1976.
Here is another BMW I’d want to own if I still rode. In a world where I had more time, money, and riding ability, I’d love one of these, to make a long, slow journey through western Canada and Alaska. I know I’d get some interesting photos on a trip like that.
This old Norton sure looks like a fun machine. Yeah, modern bikes would run circles around an old bike like this when ridden to its limits. But on a sedate back road at a moderate pace, this little Norton would be a nice riding partner.
I’m under the impression that these old BSAs weren’t very good motorcycles, but my God it’s beautiful. I love the look of the alloy fuel tank.
It’s always nice to see a Vincent. These amazing motorcycles were years ahead of their competitors of the time. They were rare and expensive then, and are even more so now.
As unusual as it is to see a Vincent, this Egli Vincent is an even rarer bird. About 100 of these bikes were produced from 1967 to 1972 by a Swiss engineer named Fritz Egli. At the time Vincent motors could be found for pretty low prices, but their chassis had become extremely outdated. He designed a modern frame and used top quality suspension pieces to create the Egli Vincent like the one seen here.
Let’s take a look at Some Harley Davidsons. I’m going to be completely honest here, I don’t get Harleys. I know there are legions of fans out that absolutely LOVE these motorcycles. The company has been building motorcycles for over 100 years, and many of them were groundbreaking designs. Yet, somehow I’ve never understood their appeal.
Just look at these three motorcycles. I see tiny uncomfortable seats, no fenders, no front brake, tiny fuel tanks that offer little range between fill ups, and loud exhausts. Some people are more than willing to live with these things, because they like the looks and sounds of Harleys.I guess I’m more of a form following function guy than a fan of fashion.
Why would a rider accept all of these limitations, and sacrifices to safety, handling and performance to simply look and sound cool? I might be wrong, but there are plenty of bikes presented right here that look and sound cool, that offer so much more riding pleasure.
I kind of like this Tour Glide or whatever this particular one is called. I do understand that Harleys like this are well suited for comfortable cruising. They are designed for American riders and American roads, I get it. But to me, it would be the same thing if Chevrolet said to itself “This 57 Bel Air is perfect. Let’s keep making essentially the same vehicle for the next 50 years or so.” Triumph still makes a Bonneville twin, but they also produce some very modern sport bikes and adventure bikes. Triumph seems to be doing pretty good these days, but Harley Davidson is falling on hard times, and it breaks my heart.
I like this Buell. It doesn’t look like it was designed in the 1930’s. But it wasn’t a “real Harley” so they dropped it. They just keep making bikes for rich old accountants and dentists who like to dress like pirates, and wonder what happened to all the younger customers? I sure hope they get themselves out of the financial mess they are in, and can save a historic American company and all of their workers’ jobs.
While H-D rested on their laurels for decades, Indian rose from the dead. And from the looks of this new Indian Scout, at least one American Motorcycle company has been busy designing some fresh hardware. Harley Davidson needs some competition to keep them on their toes.