The Classic Life

The Bike Made Me Do It

Landon Hall and a Norton Commando

I’m going to go out on a limb here, but I’ve met a lot of motorcyclists in my life, and I bet 75 percent of you would agree with me on this: Motorcycles can speak to you.

Some days they audibly speak: they misfire, they squeak, they squeal, or when things go really wrong, they grind, growl or just go bang. But that’s not what I mean. I’m talking about the way sometimes a motorcycle tells you something. Maybe it doesn’t even tell your brain. I think maybe it tells your gut.

The bike says, “Hey man, you need one of these.” The last time this happened to me was in July 2016. At our yearly MC Ride ’Em, Don't Hide ’Em event in Pennsylvania, we’d finished up our Sunday Morning Ride, the last of the official events for the weekend. After we helped attendees pack up and get their bikes loaded, we decided it was time for lunch.

This was to be the inaugural unofficial lunch ride. All weekend we had been riding a selection of vintage twins brought to the event by Joel Samick of RetroTours. I’d spent most of the weekend riding his 1970 Triumph T100C (dutifully named Purple Rain by ad man Shane Powers). Light, agile, simple and almost quaint, it did the job and got me around all weekend.

But the hard part was over. No more leading a group or trying to figure out where I was going. Get on a bike, follow editor Backus and see where we can find some grub. (We wound up at See-Mor’s All Star Grill in Normalville, Pennsylvania. We now try to go every year!) We all swapped bikes for the lunch ride. Joel had also brought his 1973 Norton Commando Fastback 750 for us to use (that's me with the 750 below). I’d pulled the Norton out Friday night to start it and run it around the parking lot. I was taught the kickstarting ritual by none other than Brian Slark (!) who was our guest of honor that year.

Riding the Triumph all weekend had me trained on shifting on the right, so I had that down, but the Norton had an upside-down shift pattern to boot. Yep, one up, three down. Don’t mis-shift!

A few miles into our ride, we got to a clear, open two-lane road and everyone picked up the pace. It was time to see what full throttle sounded like. I opened it wide, nailed the shift from second to third and opened that throttle again. And that’s when I heard it.

Right in the gut.

That bike told me one thing, clear as day and louder than the glorious growl from those open mufflers:

“You need one of these.”

Apparently I was too busy listening to the bike rather than keeping up the pace. We soon stopped for fuel, and Powers said something to the effect of “Hey, I thought those things were fast?” My response shouldn't be repeated here. Shane Powers, ballbuster extraordinaire.

Our crew spent lunch talking bikes. Backus knows Commandos inside and out. He knew what was going on here. It was obvious. I think he even said it. “You need one of those.” Two months later I had one, but that’s a story for another day.

What ride do you remember that led you to buy another old bike? Send me an email at Even better, If you’ve got a hi-res photo of the bike, send that along too. And next time a bike talks to you, listen.


Onwards and Sideways

 Landon Hall

Welcome, friends. Last issue in this space you read about the changes going on around here, yet despite a slightly-less-old guy behind the desk, the song remains the same. The only minor change this issue is you now get to read the drivel of not one, but two Motorcycle Classics editors. Founding editor Richard Backus speaks his mind, where he’ll pen a regular column each issue about his riding exploits, what bikes in his small stable have or haven’t broken, and his views on who knows what else.

Over the years while attending events with the magazine, I’ve met and spoken with many of you, and I look forward to meeting the rest of you as we move forward through show season. Join us at Road America, July 27, for the Rockerbox show, or better yet, come to Seven Springs, Pennsylvania, for the 4th Annual Ride ’Em, Don’t Hide ’Em Getaway. Richard swears he’s going to join us, and I intend to put him to as much work as possible. (I kid.)

For those of you I haven’t met yet, how we got this far is a funny tale. Back in 2005, I was an editor for the only other publisher in town, which specialized in floral magazines. I’d done an internship there during college, and they offered me a job when I graduated. An ad in the local paper alerted me one day to a job listing for an editor position with Motorcycle Classics, then just a startup. I mentioned it to my girlfriend (now wife) Marie, and commented that I wasn’t so sure about jumping to a title that was brand-new and unproven, despite my love of motorcycles (and bicycles before that). Marie saw it for what it was: an opportunity that couldn’t be passed up. Soon I had an interview with Richard. I brought my résumé and a book of photographs of all the bikes I’d bought and sold. Years later he admitted he never read my résumé (he’d forgotten his glasses). He figured if I’d worked at another magazine for two years and hadn’t gotten canned, it’d work out. The album of bikes was enough.

When I started, we were just finishing the second-ever issue, November/December 2005. Here we are, more than 13 years and some 82 (!) issues of the magazine later. You might say I know how the sausage is made.

Anyway, back to that album of photos. Like many of you, I’ve had a bunch of bikes over the years, more than 30 by now, and they’ve all come and gone (save the two in my garage, a 1973 BMW R75/5 and a 1974 Norton 850 Commando). And I’d guess, like many of you, there’s one bike you wish you’d kept.

The one I miss most is my 1976 Honda CB750. I bought it while Marie and I were dating. It’s the first bike I ever took her out riding on, and I even had it at our wedding (hence the silly photo from 2006). I never intended to sell it, but I wanted something modern to do real touring on, and funds were tight. I still occasionally send an email to the guy I sold it to, but I’ve never heard back from him. I keep an eye on the local Craigslist, hoping it will pop up. A 1976 model with a dented tank and faded original paint, I had it painted a wild metal-flake orange reminiscent of the stock 1974 color.

If you’ve got a story about the bike you wish you’d never sold, send me an email at Even better, If you’ve got a hi-res photo of the bike, send that along too.

And if you know where my CB750 went, help a brother out.


Landon signature

Race to Rebuild: Choose Our Next Custom Classic Motorcycle

Race To Rebuild Logo 

Motorcycle Classics has teamed up with Dairyland Cycle Insurance, sponsors of our popular Bonneville Build in 2010, for our next bike project, and this time you get to play a hand by helping us choose what to build. Like previous builds, our next project will be a custom classic motorcycle. This time, we want you to help us choose our subject bike by voting for your favorite in the Motorcycle Classics/Dairyland Cycle Insurance Race To Rebuild.

It’s no secret that we like riders, so for this next build, we’ve chosen four bikes that fit a theme of classic highway cruisers: the BMW R90/6, the Harley-Davidson Iron Head Sportster 1000, the Honda CB750 Four, and the last of the “real” Triumphs, the classic Triumph T140 Bonneville. All we need from you is your vote to determine which one of these classic cruisers deserves to get the Motorcycle Classics custom touch.

Once you’ve chosen our build bike, you can follow our progress online and weigh in with your opinion on what we’re doing and what you’d like to see on our finished bike. We’ll make regular updates on our build page and feature highlights of the build in every issue of Motorcycle Classics. And when it’s done, some lucky reader will ride our custom classic motorcycle home when we give it away!

Voting is easy: Just go to build sponsor Dairyland Cycle Insurance’s Race to Rebuild Facebook page to “like” our project and cast your vote. But hurry, because voting closes March 9, 2012. So log on now to help us decide what classic bike we’ll customize in the Motorcycle Classics/Dairyland Cycle Insurance Race to Rebuild!

Found on eBay: 1974 BMW R90S

Found on eBay: 1974 BMW R90S 

As much as we admire people who spend the time and the money to fully restore an old motorcycle, bikes like this 1974 BMW R90S remind us that they're only original once.

BMW's line of air-cooled bikes are known for their longevity and simplicity, especially the early Seventies models. This R90S shows just more than 62,000 miles on the odometer, and appears to be in very nice shape for its age. It still wears its original Black/Smoke paint, a highlight of the R90S models, along with the original seat cover.

The bike had new tires just 300 miles ago and saw recent serverice at a BMW dealer. Though the seller mentions the paint is somewhat faded on teh fairing, tank and tail, we like the fact that this is a bike that could be bought, ridden and maintained without the worries of a new nick here or a scratch there. Someone should buy this and continue to rack up the miles on it.

To visit the auction for this 1974 BMW R90S, go here. 

To read the Motorcycle Classics review of the BMW R90S, go here.  


Found on eBay: 1938 Triumph Speed Twin

speed twin 

Listed with no reserve, this 1938 Triumph Speed Twin is a bike that rarely comes up for sale, and with a starting bid of just $4,000, there's a chance that somebody is going to get one heck of a deal.

According to the auction, the engine turns over with what seems to be good compression. The transmission shifts through the gears smoothly and firmly, finds neutral easily. The body seems to be in fair shape, despite the "dent/crease" at the top front of the fuel tank.

The auction also mentions that the bike currently wears the wrong headlight and supports, but that it does include the original toolbox.

To visit the auction for this 1938 Triumph Speed Twin, go here. 

To read the Motorcycle Classics story on a later 1959 Triumph Speed Twin, go here. 



Found on eBay: 1979 Kawasaki KZ1300


This restored 1979 Kawasaki KZ1300 has just under 36,000 miles and looks to be in prime shape for many more. 1979 was the first production year for the KZ1300, and the auction states that the previous owner of this bike spent several thousand dollars performing a fraome-off chassis and engine restoration.

Although it wears a non-stock 6-into-1 exhaust, it otherwise appears to be in very nice, stock condition. The bike is available at National Powersports Distributors in Pembroke, New Hampshire.

To read the Motorcycle Classics story comparing the Benelli Sei 900, the Honda CBX 1000 and the Kawasaki KZ1300, go here. 

To visit the auction for this Kawasaki KZ1300, go here. 


Found on eBay: 1968 BSA Firebird Scrambler

bsa firebird 

Though this BSA sounds like it needs a little tuning to be ready for the road, it appears to be in fine original condition. The Firebird Scrambler debuted in 1968 with both high exhaust pipes and lights, and it sold reasonably well.

According to the auction, this bike wears its original gast tank. Though the paint appears to be in good condition, the auction doesn't mention whether it's original or whether it's been repainted. The chrome looks to be quite nice, and the bike appears to be a low-mileage survivor. The speedometer needs to be rebuilt, and one of the Amal Concentrics needs to be gone through, but if you've been looking for a BSA scrambler, this might be just what you need.

To visit the auction for this 1968 BSA Firebird Scrambler, go here. 

To read the Motorcycle Classics story on the BSA Firebird Scrambler, go here.  


The sound and the fury: celebrate the machines that changed the world!

Motorcycle Classics JulAug 16Motorcycle Classics is America's premier magazine for collectors and enthusiasts, dreamers and restorers, newcomers and life long motorheads who love the sound and the beauty of classic bikes. Every issue  delivers exciting and evocative articles and photographs of the most brilliant, unusual and popular motorcycles ever made!

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