Don't Hide Classic Bikes, Ride Them

Much as we love them, never forget Classic bikes didn't start life as classics. They were made to be ridden.

editor-in-chief Richard Backus atop one of his red classic bikes

Yes, that's snow. Come prepared for drastic changes in temperature as you climb.

Photo by Motorcycle Classics Staff

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Although you'd never know it by looking at all the classic bikes inside the hovel I call my shop, I'm not a motorcycle collector. Shoved over in a corner are a 1973 Yamaha RD200 and a 1971 Triumph TR6C Trophy. In another corner, a 1983 Suzuki DR 100 trail bike and a 1973 Norton Commando patiently wait for attention. Rounding out the "collection" is a 1972 BMW R75/5 and a 1983 Laverda RGS 1000. A 1982 Yamaha XJ 1 100 is set to join the group, as is another RD200. The thing is, only two of these bikes actually belong to me.

The BMW — until recently my daily ride — has just been passed along to riding buddy Matt, leaving the Laverda (my "new" daily rider) and the Suzuki, a gift from pal Demon Dave, who's convinced it's past time to get my kids riding.

And the rest? Chalk them up to a habit of helping my friends keep their bikes on the road. I hate seeing perfectly good, classic machines sit, and my friends have keyed in on this. The RD200, a wonderful little bike with a little over 13,000 miles on the clock, was picked up by Tom, who figures it's perfect for his wife Kate's countryside commute to the blacksmith shop. He paid a paltry $250 for it, it's a great starter bike and all it needed was a little loving attention to get it back in the pack. Tom knew I'd jump at the chance to fiddle with it, and it's already singing its two-stroke song.

I rode Nortons for years, so when Ken's needed some TLC, I agreed to help (bartered, actually; Ken's a gifted carpenter — you can probably see where this is going). Nothing fills out a garage like a Norton, and it makes me happy just seeing it there. And my unabashed love of British bikes made it impossible not to take on Mike's old Trophy (another barter; Mike's an architect — now you can really see where this is going). It's a truly lovely old machine that needs a thorough going-over to get it back on the road. That one's a bit more of a long-term project, but I've become serenely accustomed to working around it; it just looks right sitting in the shop.

And there's still the yet-to-come second RD and the XJ 1 100, a project bike that's been languishing in associate editor Landon Hall 's garage. I owned a first-year 1 100, and I'm chomping at the bit for the chance to work on one again.

The thread that ties all this together is a desire to see these old bikes out on the road, where they belong. Each one of these bikes is special in its way, representing as they do different phases in motorcycle history and development. And for my friends, pride of ownership is certainly a factor; there 's nothing like being the only one in town on an old RD, still ring-dinging down the road.

The experience that comes with riding classic bikes is unique, and it's an experience we're looking forward to sharing with many of you at Vintage Motorcycle Days, July 28-30, 2006 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio.

MC