The ups and downs of owning a classic motorcycle
Bike: 1957 Nimbus Type C
Owner: Jamie Spitzley
Hometown: Cambria, Calif.
Bio: Jamie Spitzley’s probably the only person you’ll ever meet who got crossed up with the law on a Whizzer. “My first infraction with the law was as a kid on a friend’s Whizzer, running a straight pipe with no muffler,” Jamie says. And he got his first bike, a 1961 Norton 99, the old fashioned way. He lied for it. “When I was sent away to college, one of the first things I did was write my dad and ask him for money for books and clothes. ‘Jeez, that’s a lot of money,’ he said.” The Norton was sold when the military called, but bikes returned when Jamie’s service stint ended, and in 1967 he and a buddy opened Crossland Cycles in Boulder, Colo. The cycle shop only lasted a few years, followed by marriage, kids and running a ranch in Colorado. Jamie moved away from motorcycles again, but following a divorce and a move out of ranching, he rekindled his motorcycle love affair. These days you’ll find Jamie and wife Suzie (“Guzzi Suzie”) tending to their vineyard, Boulder Ridge Estates, near Cambria on California’s West Coast, and to Jamie’s collection of 40 motorcycles. The collection ranges from the 1957 Nimbus Type C featured here to a Bultaco Metralla and a Harley-Davidson XR1000.
Etc: “When I was a rancher, one of my neighbors had a 1922 REO in his barn. I bought it with the hope of restoring it someday, but it never happened. I hauled it out here and it sat in my shed. Somebody heard about it, and a car collector came by and asked if I’d be interested in selling or trading: He offered a 1957 Nimbus Type C and sidecar in trade. The Nimbus takes less space, and I could put four more bikes in with the REO gone. That was in 2000. I didn’t know anything about it, really. It was running when I got it, the engine had been rebuilt, and shortly after the trade there was a Nimbus for sale for $15,000, so I didn’t feel too bad.
“It tracks well, but you have to muscle it through corners, and it’s a slow shifter; you need to count to three before you shift to the next gear. “I like that it’s not typical, it’s not like other motorcycles in design. The engine is very innovative, it’s very smooth, but I don’t want to push it too much for fear of something letting go.
“The brakes are minimal. They slow it down pretty well, but I don’t know if I could lock it up on pavement, but I haven’t really tried. I live on a steep hill, it’s a gravel road, and when I go down I just skid all the way down. “It’s happiest in a straight line at 45mph — you’re not going to get anywhere fast, but it’s a pleasure to ride. And it’s fun because Suzie and I can take it to the farmers market and get produce; it’s just nice.”