When most people think of antique motorcycles they picture a fragile, perfectly preserved time capsule. A bike that is pampered and proudly displayed by an old man in a lawn chair at local bike shows. At best, maybe it’s ridden to the local pub once or twice a year on a nice summer day, then hurried home for a bath before it’s stashed away in the garage. Then of course there’s the other end of the spectrum. The proverbial barn find. A bike that’s been forgotten somewhere, covered in dust, and after a short commercial break the American Pickers will offer a staggering sum of money for it. Then they resell it for even more money to the old man in the lawn chair.
Don’t get me wrong, I love and appreciate a museum quality vintage motorcycle, perhaps more than the average guy. However, the concept is not so cut and dried to me. Not everything that’s old is rare and priceless, just as all that’s rare and priceless is not old. So many manufacturers made motorcycles in such mass quantity that there are quite literally thousands of “barn finds” waiting for someone to breath life into them again. My favorite example (and obvious recurring theme on LMYR) is the many, many variations of the old Honda twins. Tens of thousands of these reliable and simple air cooled, carbureted machines were imported to the United States throughout the 60’s, 70’s, and into the 80’s. Obviously time takes its toll, and even more so, foolish owners take their toll as well. But even negating those that have been crashed, trashed, scrapped, and hacked… there are still plenty of these old machines that need nothing more than a carb clean, some new tires, and a loving home.
Truth be told, it’s not beyond the reach of anyone with five hundred bucks, a basic set of tools, and the wherewithal to provide an old bike with the only three things it needs… air, fuel, and spark. You do that and you’re in the club. You have a running vintage motorcycle. And that’s pretty freaking awesome. Cheap registration, classic plates, 60 year old dudes talking your ear off every time you gas up, you get the whole package. And you don’t have to keep it indoors until the bike show or classic car meet. These old bikes are arguably more reliable than anything produced for years after. Which brings me to the point of this whole rant… Ride em’ don’t hide em’!!
Almost all of my friends that I ride with ended up buying, restoring, and riding old shitty motorcycles we picked up off of Craigslist for no other reason besides dollars and cents. They are cheap. We like to wrench, or at least learned to like it. And once your in the game, the nostalgia and pure character of them is so endearing that it’s tough to move on.
So finally I get to my point! Why I wrote this post… it’s possible to buy an old motorcycle, dare I say an antique, render it roadworthy and ride into the sunset without worrying that you’re destroying a piece of history. These bikes were made to RIDE and I promise they will keep running and riding with nothing more than basic maintenance. You don’t need a $12k ADV bike or top of the line sport touring Ducati to get out there and have some real deal adventures. Your adventures are where you venture to. It’s up to you to get out there and set it in motion, and there’s no more fulfilling way to do that than by reviving a classic motorcycle and hitting the trail. Take a look at some of the fun I’ve had on my old Harley with Daigle and his 65 Honda 305 Dream. This is just a simple example, the possibilities are endless… so get out there, rescue an old motorcycle, and find your adventure. Good luck, and Long May You Ride.