Thursday, August 31, 2017

BMW R100RS - the best value classic bike?

BMW scored a publicity coup when a R100RS was chosen
as Simon Templar's motorcycle in the Saint tv series. From
personal experience however, despite evidence above to the
contrary, riding a BMW R100RS does not make you more
attractive to women.

First, a declaration of vested interest - I own a R100RS. I bought it for a fair price around about three years ago and it is worth little more now. I've put a good few miles on it and sorted out a few foibles but all in the market for the R100RS has little changed. It has probably had more spent on it than it has increased in price but none-the-less it has been good value motorcycling.

The new-wave custom scene has witnessed big numbers of RS machines divested of their fairings, fitted with chunky tyres and plank brat-style seats. Custom of course is about style but I stripped down a R65 with RS fairing around twelve years ago and I created a machine that was slower, used more fuel and accelerated worse. The point is that the RS machines are getting scarcer, just witness the number of fairings available on ebay.

Period R100RS publicity shot.

The number of R100RS to be seen on our roads is certainly dropping but those that are out and about just keep working. The build quality is of legend. Think about it, how many seventies or eighties BMWs have you seen that have actually been restored against restored Ducatis? The truth is that they just keep on working. I used my old R65 for a daily commute and it did 20,000 miles in 18 months with just three services and that was all the maintenance it required. These machines are still capable of being daily riders.

The styling of the R100RS is a meisterwerk by the great Hans
Muth and designed with the aid of the Pininfarina wind tunnel.
The R100RS is sometimes credited with being the first wind tunnel
designed motorcycle. This may be so of a production motorcycle
but Moto Guzzi had their own wind tunnel many years earlier. The
bike is also sometimes credited (and in BMW publicity) with being
the first production road motorcycle with full fairing. Patently not true!

Compare the RS with other machines of the day and it comes out pretty well. Though the reputation is slightly staid, the RS and its predecessor the 90S won races. Some exciting bikes appeared on the market in 1976, the Laverda Jota, Kawasaki Z900 and Moto Guzzi Lemans all appeared roughly the same time as the RS. Honda's Gold Wing and the CB750 along with Ducati's 900ss were already well established. The RS is slightly down on horsepower at 70bhp to some of its rivals but that fairing made the difference and top speed was a proportionally lower drop than horsepower and the fact was inescapable that the BMW could be ridden from tank full to tank full at high velocity whereas the others lacked the streamlining and high speeds were tiring.

The R100RS was a ground-breaking machine in its day; not the first there with any milestones but an overall package that blended together to create something new and spawned a genre of machines in itself. The R100RS was genuinely the first modern sports tourer, a machine that had the match of anything on the market in terms of speed yet could comfortably cruise all day in comfort at three figure (mph) speeds.

If you want more practicality go for a late monoshock model.
The motors are slightly less powerful albeit more torquey but
as a major plus they have decent Brembo brakes instead of the
rather woeful early ATE calipers.

So, let's put it in to perspective. The BMW R100RS was a top quality machine of its day, a flagship in the range. An expensive motorcycle and one that was of a build quality rarely seen before or after and one that was designed to keep working indefinitely with a reasonable amount of servicing input. A motorcycle for life. And nowadays you can pick up a decent one for just over two thousand pounds. That's just five hundred more than a BSA Bantam in similar condition. All of its competitors of the day have surpassed the RS in desirability as gauged by the forces of supply and demand in the market place.

How is this? How can it be that the 100RS is such a bargain? Simply, they don't fit a niche in the classic scene, the band of us out there who want a thirty to forty year old machine that is most at home cruising the A roads and motorways at modern bike velocities is small. The RS is not a bike for backroad Sunday runs, cafe or beach front posing. Believe me, I have used my RS on vintage runs when nothing else was working properly and it was neither a comfortable or rewarding experience. Whereas a Laverda Jota will make an entrance and turn heads with the noise and colour a RS will trundle up in a gentlemanly manner and come to a unobtrusive stop. It all comes down in the end to how we perceive our motorcycles and how we ride them. One of the things we like about riding bikes is that it marks us out as different, more so for a classic bike rider and rocking up on a BMW RS doesn't have the same impact as with a Ducati 900ss. The 100RS is a 'look at me, but not too much' kind of bike and that way suits me just fine.

I'm not going to finish with a rush out there and buy one before it is too late message as I've got the feeling that the RS is going to be good value for years to come. Just do yourself a favour and try out Hans Muth's masterpiece some time. Take the bike touring, use it as it was meant to be and reward yourself with the knowledge that you are one of the enlightened!

Monday, August 28, 2017

Veteran cycle tourist

I love this photo. There's just got to be such an interesting story behind the fellow with the cycle. Where was it taken? Where is he going, indeed why is he riding?

The chap seems to be a pioneering long distance cyclist. From the look of the clothing and the cycle the date is somewhere around 1900. There's something of a colonial look to the corrugated iron building and Mr Rutherford himself. I'm guessing it is taken in Australia. If he was cycling long distance in the outback back in those times then he was a tough man.

The note on the reverse of the picture reads, "C Rutherford,just as he left me on the last occasion. Observe the large amount of food and luggage he carries." Personally I would have said that the amount of food and luggage he carries is quite small, especially given that amongst it there is more than likely a puncture repair kit and some tools. Is that a swag on the handlebars?

I feel that he has to be a known character but I cannot find out anything about him. If anyone out there knows, please get in touch.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Honda CB360 1975

Honda's brochure for the 1975 CB360. Honda's marketing department went for the good old iron horse analogy plus threw in racehorses for a bit of a sporty, pure bred association.... Wow, pulled out all the stops on this one guys!

Honda CB360 brochure 1975 page 1

Honda CB360 brochure 1975 page 2

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Royal Enfield J2 and the benefits of club membership

I passed my J2 on to a new home a little while back now. I had been wanting to find out more of its history for ages but the decision to re-home it spurred me on to find out more about the bike before it went.

I wrote the below before the bike went to its new home but for some reason didn't get round to pressing publish and then somehow forgot about it. Anyway, it is found now and the time is ripe to publish. 

Motorcycling is by its very nature often a solitary activity. I love to ride a bike solo through the countryside and being in to vintage bikes I'm accustomed to spending many happy hours (and some darned frustrating ones) alone in the workshop, however clubs are the heart and soul of the bike movement and the below demonstrates just how helpful they can be. You might, or might not notice a new section on the right hand column with a list of links to motorcycle and cycle clubs. They are all ones I am, or have been, a member of and can wholeheartedly endorse. If you have a club you recommend send the link in and it will be included.

Of course it is always a good thing to find out the history of your bike. With several of them in my garage I don't always get round to it. I had been wondering about the J2 for a while and when a friend came over and speculated that it was a military machine I thought I would check it out. With a manufacturing year of 1940 I had often wondered if the J2 has a service history, particularly as I originally bought it out in India.

Being a Royal Enfield Owners Club member I duly filled out their web form and had a reply within a couple of days. One more day and I was speaking to the club dating officer and getting a potted history of the bike down the phone.

Turns out that this J2 was in the last five civilian machines made before all production went over to the war effort. The bike was dispatched from Redditch to Hales Brothers in London. Hales Brothers were the export agent dealer for India. From Hales Brothers the bike was sent to Madras Motors who were the Royal Enfield import agents (and remained so up until June 1956).

A great enthusiast service and all for free. For me that totally highlights the benefits of being in a one make or old bike club.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Vintage sidecar milk float

Great picture of a flat tanker pressed in to use as a milk churn carrier. No idea of the marque, comment if you can identify....

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Sammy Miller's Museum pt4

The final few pictures from a recent visit to Sammy Miller's museum in Hampshire. Do yourself a favour and visit if you can, it's the finest collection of technically interesting, unusual and rare motorcycles anywhere.

Truly gorgeous 1913 BAT TT Roadster model
fitted with the legendary JAP '90 bore' 1270cc
ohv motor.

1911 Western Star. An Australian brand fitted with a Coventry
made Arno motor.

East German IFA flat twin two stroke 350cc. IFA went on to
become MZ.

The one-off Hawthorne four. A straight four motor in an OEC
duplex steering frame.

Close up on the Hawthorne 4's power plant.

1923 Sheppee Cyclaid. Made in York and in many ways ahead
of its time. The Cyclaid pre-dated the autocycle boom of the
late thirties by 15 years. The bike was the most successful machine
of the immediate post WW1 first cyclemotor boom.

Can't help but think that handling must be interesting
with all that weight on the front. You wouldn't want
to wear your best shoes or trousers either with all
that 1920s two stroke exhaust guffing out by your feet.

A 1948 Tandon. Tandons were the brainchild of Devdutt
Tandon, a gentleman born in India and living in the UK. Tandons
were made in Watford and were initially designed to be rugged and
cheap machines for export to India. The export market plans
did not go as well as expected but Tandon did continue and went
on to produce a range of slightly more sophisticated machines,
all using Villiers engines, that were notable for having rubber
in compression rear suspension.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Ladies light roadster

Hard to say when this picture was taken, possibly late thirties? Equally hard to identify the cycle, what is for sure is that it is a lightweight ladies model. Our dame seems to take her cycling seriously: it's a useful day-sized saddlebag she has, plus down-turned handlebars and what's more she has the physique of someone accustomed to putting a few miles in!

ladies light roadster bicycle

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Coventry Eagle at Blackpool. The most photographed vintage bike ever?

Another photo of the Blackpool Coventry Eagle. Back in the day ownership of a camera was confined to the wealthy and the enthusiast. Every weekend the seaside towns of England would be full of people bused in on Charabancs for day trips. Once you got there you promenaded, quite probably sank a brown ale or two and many folks popped in to a photo studio to have a picture taken for memories of the day. Motorcycles were popular props and in Blackpool one particular studio seemed to favour Coventry Eagles. I've come across literally countless snaps of this solo CE as well as a few of another CE with sidecar at the same studio. It seems pretty sure that with several photos taken every day for a period of a few years this Coventry Eagle would have been the most photographed bike, maybe ever or perhaps just up until the digital age.

Blackpool belles posing with a Coventry

Monday, August 14, 2017

Royal Enfield Continental GT Gander and Gray Gannet Special

1965 Royal Enfield Gannet Special. A stunning looking bike.

Back in the mid sixties the Royal Enfield Continental GT was the weapon of choice for the learner rider with ample readies in their wallet. The Continental GT was the fastest bike in its class and achieved some success in production racing. If you wanted to individualise your ride there were catalogues of goodies available from two London dealers - Deeprose Brothers and Gander and Gray. For the enthusiast with deeper pockets Gander and Gray offered a full machine, all singing, all dancing and fitted with every one of their special options straight from the showroom floor. This machine was offered as the 'Gannet Special' and it is one of these that Peter Collier has been lucky enough to come across.

Peter mailed with a few pictures of his Gannet Special in the hope that someone out there might have some further info on either the model in general or perhaps even his machine in particular (it was originally registered GLW 63C). If you do know more please contact via the blog - or make a comment at the bottom of the page.

Learner rider fantasy material back in the sixties!

Peter has penned a few words about his bike:

"During the 1960s two London dealers were heavily involved in the 250cc Royal Enfield. Deeprose Brothers had produced goodies for the Crusader but it was Gander and Gray from Manor Park who produced a special version of the Continental GT christened the Gannet. Engine modifications included a ported cylinder head with large inlet port, larger carburettor, a 10:1 piston and lead bronze big – end shells. On the outside there was a racing type single seat saddle, fibre glass tank, swept back Goldie style exhaust and silencer. To finish it off the bikes were fitted with alloy wheels and a full race fairing and matching fibre glass battery cover.

This one had remained in a private collection for over twenty years until Peter Collier purchased it in 2016. Last licensed for the road in 1990, it was rolled out this summer. It certainly goes! It’s first major outing with be at the Kop Hill Climb in Buckinghamshire over the weekend of 16th & 17th September. There is more information on

The owner is anxious to obtain any information on these bikes and in particular, this one."

Related literature:

At an event in France, where the Gannet Special now resides. The
bike found a new fan!

Saturday, August 12, 2017

BSA family snaps

A series of snaps from another forgotten family album. The bikes featured are BSAs - a brace of C11 and a B31. I like how you can see the enthusiasm develop, the C11s start off with learner plates which they lose and then, obviously happy with the C11, brand loyalty develops and we move on to the B31 which gets loaded up for touring. 

BSA C11 with L plates to the fore. Not sure of the machine
in the background, it looks pre-war, perhaps a Royal Enfield
lightweight. Seems like the bike is newly bought here.

Dad testing out the C11.

More posing with the C11.

The C11 again. A pillion has been picked up along the way!

And a B31 now,  Same place, same pillion.

The B31's screen has gone but a crash bar and natty spot
light have appeared.

On tour. AA box in the background.

A slice of old England when country roads were quiet and
free from SUV driving maniacs.

Another tour, this time using the screen.

Looks like a F-Type Morgan three wheeler in the background.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Matchless G3 on tour

Yep, not the finest quality snap but it's always good to see old pics of bikes on tour. It is obviously a rigid-framed Matchless in the foreground, the aft bike it is hard to tell but could well be the same. As for location I immediately thought Lake District or Scotland but look closely and the bike has an improvised number plate, probably one issued at a border so it could well be that they are somewhere significantly more exotic, plus the sun is shining - another hint that it is not the UK!

Rigid-framed Matchless on tour, destination

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Raleigh saleman's sample

I picked this diminutive little Raleigh frame up recently. It's a 23.5cm frame and is built with all the features of an adult road bike and as such is not possible to build up in to a complete cycle - ie it has braze-ons for the gear levers but there is no way that a lever would fit, it would foul with the steerer tube.

At a guess the frame dates from the eighties, it has a Cinelli bottom bracket shell, a Zeus fork crown and Raleigh drop outs. Overall it is surprisingly heavy but then again the only difference between this and a large frame is about four feet of thin wall lightweight tubing...

I'm told that Raleigh produced frames like this as samples for their sales guys to take around to distributors as they are a lot more portable than a full sized job. I've also seen mention that they were made as retirement presents. Perhaps they were both? If anyone out there can enlighten further, please do.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Mid twenties AJS combo

Several snaps from a long forgotten family album of a mid twenties combo. As far as I can work out it is an AJS from round about 1925 - the shape of the tank with an oiler on the left side, footrests and druid style forks are all fairly good hints as to the marque. As always though I'm happy to be corrected by the more knowledgable. The KA prefix on the numberplate means the bike was first registered in Liverpool between 1925 and 1927 - thanks to Ken Bryant for pointing this out..

Flat tank AJS with sidecar