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Kreb (Forum Supporter)
Kreb (Forum Supporter) UberDork
7/31/21 12:00 p.m.

I'm in a kinda unique situation. A guy who owns over 100 vintage motorcycles owes me a BIG favor. Yesterday he said to me that I should come by and chose a bike from his collection and we'd be square. Now I haven't really ridden motorcycles since dirt bikes in the late 70s/early 80s. But I like the idea of getting something reasonably fast, reasonably reliable (I want to run rallies on it) reasonably comfortable, good handling and stylish. Honestly, I just don't know old bikes remotely as well as I know old cars. I'm not much of a mechanic, but he'll help me as long as he's around (He's old).

His collection is mainly European from the 50s and 60s, but he has some bikes back to the 30s. He has some American Iron and very little if anything Japanese. He likes to do runs with the Velocette club a lot. 

Here are some of the bikes that he has:

BSA Gold Star,  Aremachi/Harley 250 and 350, Matchless G50, Triumph Bonneville, Norton Commando and more.




Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard Director of Marketing & Digital Assets
7/31/21 12:16 p.m.

Doesn't sound like anything worth taking for yourself. Shoot me the contact info and I'll swing by and handle it for you. laugh

Kreb (Forum Supporter)
Kreb (Forum Supporter) UberDork
7/31/21 12:29 p.m.
Tom Suddard said:

Doesn't sound like anything worth taking for yourself. Shoot me the contact info and I'll swing by and handle it for you. laugh

What a nice guy!

Cousin_Eddie (Forum Supporter)
Cousin_Eddie (Forum Supporter) Dork
7/31/21 12:42 p.m.

You listed a pile of British bikes. IMHO, meh. I never got the emotional return on the hassle associated with them or Italian bikes either one. Many folks would call me a fool for that opinion though. 

Does he have anything German ? Perhaps an airhead.  Or anything Japanese. Or any big V twin Harley.

BoxheadTim MegaDork
7/31/21 12:58 p.m.

Reasonably comfortable might already rule out some of the more sought after bikes on the list you provided - both the G50 (IIRC) and the Gold Star (definitely) are "hot singles"[1]. Which means that they're definitely of the "items in the rear view mirror that just fell off are less blurry than they appear". They're also probably faster than you'd ever want to go on a 1950s motorcycle. That said, depending on the year, a real Gold Star (there are replicas around, so you need to keep an eye out for that) that is still reasonably original is actually worth a reasonable amount of money.

All of the Brit bikes in your list fall in the same category as Land Rovers[2]. Actually, most non-Japanese bikes of that time do, possibly with the exception of some of the German (BMW) and Italian (Moto Guzzi) bikes. And of course those two brands have one thing in common - they made soldier/police officer proof bikes.

Out of the list, my pick would be an Aermacchi 350, especially if it's one of the racier[3] variations. They're surprisingly quick for the capacity, handle pretty well and are one of the funner Italian small capacity bikes (of which there are quite a few). Actually, check with him if he's got a Moto Morini - those might be even better.

The American Iron stuff I don't know much about, but my thoughts are always that if you want something you can ride on the road without too much hassle, you want at least a 60s bike, if not a 70s bike. What you probably don't want is a 30s bike unless it has a side car for the extra parts and tools you'll need to carry .

While a lot of the bikes in your list are iconic, you have to keep in mind that a lot of bikes from the 50s and 60s aren't that great by modern standards, and even 1970s bike aren't all that great, although more usable than a 1950s bike.

[1] No, not that kind

[2] Turning owners into mechanics, yadda yadda.

[3] No, the other racy.

stuart in mn
stuart in mn MegaDork
7/31/21 8:40 p.m.

Of the ones you mentioned, the best support as far as parts, service and available upgrades will be for Triumphs or Nortons.  The others are cool bikes too (I've been following a guy on Youtube who's building an Aermacchi race bike) but if something breaks it's going to be a lot harder to fix.  A 1969-1970 Triumph Trophy 500 (the single carb model, they're simpler and arguably more reliable than a 650 Bonneville) or a 1974-1975 Norton 850 would be my choices.

Kreb (Forum Supporter)
Kreb (Forum Supporter) UberDork
7/31/21 10:30 p.m.
Cousin_Eddie (Forum Supporter) said:

You listed a pile of British bikes. IMHO, meh. I never got the emotional return on the hassle associated with them or Italian bikes either one. Many folks would call me a fool for that opinion though. 

Does he have anything German ? Perhaps an airhead.  Or anything Japanese. Or any big V twin Harley.

My sense of German motorcycles of that period is about reliability, not performance. The right horizontal twin beamer would fit my criteria pretty well, but the meat of his collection are the go-fast bikes of the period, not the cruisers. He does have a Harley flat-tracker or two, but at 59 years old, and having been a crash-prone rider in my day, there's no way I'd take one of these bikes to the track.  He also has a knucklehead that's pretty sweet, but that's definitely on the cruiser end of the spectrum also. 

Ethnic Food-Wrap Aficionado
Ethnic Food-Wrap Aficionado Dork
7/31/21 10:56 p.m.

In reply to Kreb (Forum Supporter) :

Uhhh, if you can get a KR or XR750 you're an absolute fool not to.


Although the XR is often likened to pulling a pin on a grenade, going racing, and then trying to stuff the pin back in before it goes bang.


But still.  Do that.  

Ethnic Food-Wrap Aficionado
Ethnic Food-Wrap Aficionado Dork
7/31/21 11:02 p.m.

Honestly though, if someone tossed me the keys to their warehouse and told me to pick a bike I would probably look for a pre-unit Triumph twin.  Maybe a Matchless.  A Norton might be hard to pass up.


Without being there, in the space, ogling all the goodness it's hard to say what I would drag home.  Dirt Track bikes from the 60s and 70s are my schtick, and I gave up on folding my body into a cafe racer friendly position a long time ago so take that all with a burrito sized grain of salt.

Kreb (Forum Supporter)
Kreb (Forum Supporter) UberDork
7/31/21 11:22 p.m.

Appreciate all the feedback. The KR fascinates me because they got so much out of a sidevalve motor. The year that the XR was released it wasn't as fast as the KR, despite being a far superior configuration. The top tuners had developed the flat head motor within an inch of its life. 

Dirt track racing is one of my favorites to watch. Those guys (with no brakes) tossing the bikes into the corners at those speeds! Can I hear an OMG?

ShawnG UltimaDork
7/31/21 11:27 p.m.

Nothing wrong with a Norton Commando either.

Everything is available and everything to fix all the little quirks and make them totally reliable is also available.

I know four people with Commandos and they all love them.

ddavidv UltimaDork
8/1/21 8:07 a.m.

I've ridden a variety of bikes from the 60s/70s. I do tend to lean toward the British stuff because of the 'feel' with Italian bikes a close second.

Velocette, Matchless, AJS are all lesser known and more poorly supported brands. BSA is a step above that. Triumph is probably the easiest to own. Norton Commandos are probably the best performing bikes of the period. They have quirks, but when properly set up are extremely capable. If you look at the pricing of Commandos vs the other brands you'll see they bring more, and it's for good reason IMO. The Triumph Bonneville is a bit over-hyped; I would be happy with any of their twins and wouldn't pay more for the Bonneville name. Keep in mind that post-1970 bikes are generally not as valuable due to a different frame design, though they are arguable nicer to ride.

I'd love a Moto Morini but getting parts is not for the faint of heart.  Same for the Benelli. Moto Guzzis are much easier to own but most are more leisurely to ride. The Aeramacchi H-D's command money mostly for the name. They are decent bikes but I don't think they are as great as the price would lead you to believe. I know so little about true H-D's I won't offer an opinion.

BMWs have never worked for me. A friend described their feel as 'bovine', and I thought that was very accurate. Agricultural, efficient but passionless, sturdy but clunky.

My biggest suggestion, however, is this:  take the one that 'speaks' to you...and that you fit on. All bikes have different ergonomics, and if you aren't going to be comfortable on it you won't ride it. Better too if you can actually ride a few. I've been on bikes I was convinced I'd like that I hated, and fell in love with bikes that on paper appeared to be terrible. The latter explains my two Royal Enfields, LOL.

914Driver MegaDork
8/1/21 8:51 a.m.

With the Brits and Aermachi you have to stay on your game, shifter and brake locations were not standardized until the mid 70s.  Someone pops out of a side street and you may find yourself down shifting right into his door instead of braking.

First define what you want to do.  Sunday ride on a 90cc tiddler or show off a rare classic Brit?  Pictures always help with these decisions....

maj75 (Forum Supporter)
maj75 (Forum Supporter) Dork
8/2/21 7:33 a.m.

Norton Commando, everything else is second place.

Since he hasn't been a MC rider in a long time, shifter/brake location won't be an issue.

buenavides1 New Reader
8/2/21 9:30 p.m.

In reply to 914Driver :

That's a lot of motorbikes that you have here. 

californiamilleghia SuperDork
8/2/21 10:19 p.m.

Arial square 4

hybridmomentspass Reader
8/3/21 8:17 a.m.

I think Aermachi (sp?) HDs are cool...but they just have the HD sticker on them.

Ive considered one many many times, but the lack of parts makes it harder, and, and please correct me wrong, but the foot controls are on opposite sides, which  could be very confusing.

Im saying this based on limited knowledge, please correct me if Ive messed something up.

ShawnG UltimaDork
8/3/21 6:37 p.m.
californiamilleghia said:

Arial square 4

His friend is generous, not an idiot. cheeky

Kreb (Forum Supporter)
Kreb (Forum Supporter) UberDork
8/4/21 9:19 a.m.

Thanks so much for the information, guys. You've helped me define the issues and questions that I need to address before I make my decision. In general, I'm leaning towards the Commando, and I'm also considering something lighter and more compact to get my feet wet with first. It's been 40 years since I rode a bike with any regularity. One brand that he has several of are Parillas, which are pretty little things -  just right for kicking around the hills with, but not so fast as to easily go in over my head. It might be nice to start with something like a 350cc model. Any feedback on that marque? 


ShawnG UltimaDork
8/4/21 9:41 a.m.

I know nothing about them other than seeing one at the Italian bike night a few times.

I love Italian motorcycles but my knowledge is late 70's stuff.

Parilla's are simply gorgeous, if they're like other Italian bikes, a lot of the bits are probably shared with other brands.

Kreb (Forum Supporter)
Kreb (Forum Supporter) UberDork
8/4/21 12:17 p.m.

In reply to ShawnG :

Their wildcat scrambler's pretty cool too. 

BoxheadTim MegaDork
8/4/21 12:30 p.m.

In reply to Kreb (Forum Supporter) :

Parillas are gorgeous bikes, plus they are/were pretty high tech for the time. Basically, they were another one of the boutique manufacturers that sprung up in Italy in the 40s, 50s and 60s, mostly catering to the higher end of the market.

They're also pretty collectible, which may help if you decide that it's not for you.

That said, like most of the boutique manufacturers, getting parts (usually for the engines) is not as easy as getting parts for a Norton or Triumph. But I find that with most of the oddball marques, there are forums, email lists or FB groups and there seems to be a lot of cameradery going on. Heck, I when I needed some specific parts for one of my early 70s (pre-3 1/2) Morinis, one of the guys on a mailing list I was on the time went shopping for those specific parts at an Italian autojumble.

Also, if they are working, they usually stay that way if you look after these bikes. Keep in mind that back in the 50s and 60s, most of Italy used these fairly small bikes for daily transportation, so they're pretty well built. They're also surprisingly quick for their size. With Parilla being one of thei higher end manufacturers, they used pretty good parts.

Kreb (Forum Supporter)
Kreb (Forum Supporter) UberDork
8/4/21 12:55 p.m.

Thanks. He's got tons of spares -  jokes that his parts collection is worth as much as his bike collection. I think that I'm going to pursue the Parilla avenue at this time.  It kinda meshes with my Etceterini interests in the car world.

BoxheadTim MegaDork
8/4/21 1:02 p.m.

In reply to Kreb (Forum Supporter) :

Woohoo! Where's the build thread then?

amerson New Reader
8/19/21 1:14 a.m.

Cool. I like the retro style of the Parilla's.

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