Our Long-Term Rides
Check out these letters from readers on their long-term motorcycle ownership stories.
Robert Freeman and his BMW, purchased new in 1963 (MC March/April 2021) won’t be challenged for the record of longest ownership of one motorcycle by me. But maybe I can be a notable also-ran in the competition. I’ve had my 1972 Norton Commando for a bit over 41 years.
In late 1979, a very sorry looking Norton was traded in on a Honda Goldwing at the Honda-Kawasaki dealership where I worked. By January 1980 it was mine, replacing a succession of Suzuki 2-stroke twins (150cc, 250cc and 500cc) that had kept me on two wheels since I started riding in 1966. I got it running right and was entranced by everything about the bike. Aside from a 1974 Triumph T140V/Velorex sidecar combination for about three years in the mid 1980s, this Norton was my only motorcycle for nearly 20 years.
Then when I planned an extensive frame-out rebuild expected to take at least a year beginning in 2000, I needed a back-up bike while the Norton was under construction. That role was first played by a 1982 Honda FT500 Ascot single. Even when the Norton was back in one piece and running better than ever, I found it handy to have another bike. I could keep riding while taking my time for careful work when the Norton needed maintenance, upgrades or occasional crash repair (it had another frame out rebuild after a major crash in 2016).
I also came to enjoy sampling the virtues of more modern machinery, as the Honda was succeeded first by a 2000 Buell M2 Cyclone, then a 2003 Ducati M1000S Monster Senna edition, and finally a 2018 Moto Guzzi V7III Milano. The “back up” isn’t just one way; each of these has had its own downtime, making the Norton my one functioning ride at times.
My Commando had 8,700 miles when it came under my care, and it now has 103,100, so I have ridden it over 94,000 miles, while the back-ups accumulated less than 25,000 in total. Wonderful motorcycles all, but none provide the soul-stirring joy of the Norton.
It now wears Brembo brakes, 18-inch Sun aluminum rims, Amal Premier carburetors, a Lucas Powerbase charging system, a RITA electronic ignition, Colorado Norton Works billet triple clamps, a Lockhart oil cooler and thermostat, and all manner of other refinements and modifications major and minor to make it my reliable daily rider. I am 76 now, and expect to keep rolling on the miles as long as I can still kickstart it.
Then I will consider one of the electric start kits available!
Ben English/Albany, New York
Image Harry Weingardt
More long-term rides
I just opened the March/April 2021 Motorcycle Classics issue and read the editor’s letter asking for bikes I kept the longest and why. I purchased my 1975 Moto Guzzi 850T new in the spring of 1976 from Rissman Motors here in Albuquerque. I remember telling Ilsa Rissman (she did the sales) that I was also looking at BMWs, to which she responded in her thick German accent, “on a BMW you work through the turns, on the Guzzi you dance.” It was one of the reasons I ended up on the 850T.
It traveled coast to coast, took me to grad school, lived and toured Northern California for 15 years and came back to Albuquerque with me. It has outlasted two marriages and many changes in career. It could tell my life story. In 2013 I decided she deserved a complete restoration, all of which was done in my garage except powder coating and chrome.
Why this bike? It was a “sport touring” bike before the term was invented: four hundred miles a day with a passenger, no problem. It never left me stranded and I was able to do all the maintenance and repairs. Anyone could do a valve adjustment on a Guzzi. Forty-five years and she still dances through the turns.
I’ll never let this Guzzi go, my daughter has already laid claim to my motorcycles. I bought her a “learner” bike (don’t tell her mom) so she will be ready when the time comes.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Image John Huberts
I purchased my 1968 Triumph Bonneville when I was 19 years old. I am the original owner and it will be passed on to my children. I have explained to them when you have a classic motorcycle such as the Bonneville you are now not just an owner, but a caretaker, to preserve and share it with others. I have done just that. I do not hide it, I ride it. This motorcycle is completely stock and looks and runs as good as the day I purchased it from Family Cycle Center in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, 53 years ago. I consider it the best purchase of my life!
John Hubertus/via email
Image Dave Goldman
This 1967 T120R has been with me in various configurations for many years. I was given a 1967 Bonneville to ride as a young mechanic at a Yamaha/Triumph dealership in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. As this was our first year for the Triumph franchise, the boss had me strip the demonstrator for parts to keep customers bike on the road. The bits and pieces left over were put back on the road in 1975 and ridden until 1999 when I was hit in a failure to yield right of way left turn accident. I restored the bike again and have ridden it each season. I am looking forward to spring and getting back on the Triumph.
Dave Goldman/via email
Someone might have already replied to reader Ralph Poulsbo’s letter in the May/June 2021 issue about the all-white Honda CB160, but for the record, my friend John Lassak, whom I bought my 1966 CL160 from (and it’s in rather nice condition!) also has an all-white CB160, and he says the fenders are WHITE, not silver, as the other models have (including my CL).
Dain Gingerelli/via email
I read Ralph’s question regarding all-white CB160s and wanted to confirm that Honda did indeed produce these bikes with white fenders and side covers, contrary to the Honda product identification guide. My CB160 shown in the attached photo (at top) was purchased new by a friend of mine, ridden briefly, and parked in an unheated garage for many years. We pulled it from that garage a while back and did a complete restoration, being sure to repaint each piece in the original color scheme. Every sheet metal part was white, including the taillight bracket. Only the footpeg bracket and center stand were not white. Since restoring this one, I have seen several all-white 160s, so I guess they are not as uncommon as I once thought.
By the way, this machine has only 856 miles. It still wears the original Nitto rubber, along with all of the original Honda parts except for the hand grips (which were changed by the original owner to the much more comfortable Gran Turismos), and the battery which succumbed long ago.
Dave Dawes/via email
Regarding white CB160s from the factory: My buddy in McFarland, Wisconsin, set the record straight when I asked him about colors on his white 160. His was totally stock and all white. I hope this helps.
Tom Neumann/Janesville, Wisconsin
Thanks to everyone who wrote us regarding all white CB160s. Though it’s a small photo, we also found this period Honda advertisement (above) that appears to show an all-white CB160. — Ed.
How to Service the Steering Head Bearing on a BMW/5
Learn how to service a BMW/5 steering head bearing a common issue by following these simple steps before it’s too late.
1970-1973 Norton 750 Roadster Common Commando
Compare the 1970-73 750 Roadster Norton Commando to the BMW R75/5 and the Triumph T140 Bonneville.
Smooth Operator: BMW R75/5
Join us as we take a look at a well-loved airhead motorcycle, now owned by reader Dane Berens.