Little Bikes Go Over Big at Amelia Island in 2016

| 3/22/2016 11:09:00 AM

Bikes at Amelia Island

Preliminary lineup of bikes.

March 13, 2016, was the 21st anniversary of the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance in Amelia Island, Florida. Amelia Island has always had a motorcycle class included in the Concours, and each year a theme is selected and appropriate bikes are sourced and invited. This year’s theme was Italian motorcycles under 175cc — “Jewels of the Motor Valley,” which is in the Emilia Romagna region of Northern Italy and home to Ferrari, Lamborghini, Ducati, Maserati ... and a gear head’s Silicon Valley.

It is hard to remember that these small bikes were once considered big in postwar Italy. But while small in displacement, they are still large in style. Many give the appearance of a small racer, with clip-on handlebars and rear-set foot controls. Until 1957 these types of bikes ruled the Italian racing scene in cross-country events such as the Moto Giro. Win the Moto Giro on Sunday; sell the bike on Monday!

Sadly, those types of events were outlawed due to the hazards of cross-country racing. The legacy of these tiddlers remains in honor of a time when there was even a 50cc class, a highly competitive class thanks to the ever growing scooter market. Innovation ranked high among manufacturers in postwar Italy. Given the scarcity and premium paid for gas, small bikes had to deliver maximum power. Dual overhead camshafts, pressed steel frames that guaranteed strength and lightness, and bevel drives (a complex but efficient and reliable way to drive camshafts) were standard in these Italian bikes made in the Fifties.

Rich Lambrecht's 1949 Mondial 125S

3/24/2016 10:09:20 PM

How small do you have to be to ride one of those little things? Were they intended just for teenagers?