~Since 2004~
A site about memories, thoughts, photos, and unrepentant opinions about motorcycles and motorcycling after four decades of twisting the throttle.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

If I Were A Rich Man - An Update

photo: Bonham's

Last year I did a blog entry on the Bonham's auction of some Steve McQueen goodies including his personal Belstaff jacket. That entry is here. I got an e-mail this weekend from Paul Brooks who is the CEO of British Motorcycle Gear. Paul corrected the error I'd made in referring to the Belstaff jacket Steve McQueen was wearing in the famous ISDT picture of him and also provided some info on the buyer of McQueen's jacket.

Above, not a Belstaff jacket at all but a Barbour International jacket. Good thing I made that entry last year or my perfect 2007 record would be shot. Here's a chunk of Paul's message about where McQueen's jacket went to after the auction and a bit of interesting history about the Barbour International jacket:

"The Jacket was purchased by the Italian Fashion House in Venice the same company that purchased Belstaff several years ago. They are coming out with a fashion line based on the Trialmaster Jacket called the Steve McQueen Line. I was the North American Distributor for Belstaff and we have taken over the production of the line under a new name "British Motorcycle Gear" see www.BritishMotorcycleGear.com . The jacket pictured on Steve McQueen is a Barbour International Jacket which is also available on our web site, you can tell straight off by the heavy slant of the left pocket, designed for quick draw of a pistol since this jacket was also used by submarine Captains in World War II...."

"...We will be at the Cycle World International Motorcycle Show in Glendale Arizona next October. We do the following Shows around the USA every year. All 13 Cycle World International Motorcycle Shows, Daytona 200, Laguna Seca GP race, Lake George Rally, Honda Hoot, Street Vibrations in Reno and BMW national Rally. We have all the gear at each of these shows if any of your readers want to check out the classics or the new lines.

Interesting story behind the Barbour becoming a Sub Commanders Jacket. When the Ursula was leaving port in Liverpool (first generation Submarine) during World War 2 the Queen was there to Christen her. It was pouring with rain and the second in command, a dirt bike racer, lent the Skipper his International Jacket to wear on the Bridge. The Queen thought he looked so dashing in it she decreed the jacket as the new Sub Commanders Coat."

Excellent story (Thanks, Paul!) about the Barbour jacket but I'm slightly sad to see the McQeen jacket wind up at a "fashion house." Still, Steve McQueen has lots of fans in Europe and as the old saying goes "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery." I'd be happy as a clam to imitate him on a Triumph Scrambler. I remain hopeful.
I poked around the British Motorcycle Gear web page and the jackets all look very nice and the prices seem more than reasonable for full featured riding jackets. Best of all, you can still find the genuine waxed cotton jackets there. Makes me want to buy a proper size 38 Belstaff jacket, another Suzuki 550 Indy, and go touring again just like I did in 1971.

Your's Truly returning from the road. 1971

On second thought, I'll take the Gold Wing or the Aprilia. I'm not as tough as I used to be. Touring on a 550cc three cylinder two-stroke bike has lost it's appeal. I don't have that much hair now, either. Sigh.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Just Winging It

Honda: Hint, hint: Section 2, page 12

Sometimes after leaving the shop with a new bike things don't go quite as planned. Back in 1986 when I got home with my brand new Harley-Davidson Softail Custom I discovered that the engine side cover had cracked at a bolt hole and oil was leaking on my garage floor. What a quintessential Harley experience! I'm a patient man though and the H-D dealer made good very quickly as he did over the next couple of months when the fuel filler cap vent stopped venting, the battery died, the speedo stopped working, and the starter lay shaft stripped it's gears. I could find fault with the H-D quality but the warranty service was terrific. At least the bike made it home before it broke.

As I began to write a blog entry about my travails in trying to buy a new 2007 Honda Gold Wing the more I wrote the more harsh it got and the more I wanted to yell at someone for being... OK...there I go again. Breath deep, Doug. Count to ten...

Let us just say that I walked away from a brand new shiny red 2007 Gold Wing. I left it sitting in the dealer's driveway with the temporary registration still taped to the back because twice in a row, three days apart, the bike was rolled out to me with easily spotted electrical problems. I don't always catch on real fast but I was pretty sure that after the second time it was the right time to grab my check and run for it. So I did.

As I drove away I felt slightly sick at the sight of the gorgeous red 'Wing in the rear view mirror of the VW but I wasn't angry at that moment. Some things are just not meant to be and there comes a time when you need to just calmly walk away. That was the first time in forty years I've ever walked away from a bike sale like that. It shouldn't have happened and didn't need to happen if only a series of Honda people paid to be so had been thorough and conscientious about their work.

As I drove towards home thought about a very clean 2002, low mileage Gold Wing advertised for sale in Southern AZ.  Maybe I'd call the guy when I got home and see if he still had it. It was a bunch cheaper than a new one and it was red. That seemed to cheer me up. So I called the fellow and he still had the bike and I made arrangements to drive south and look at it come Saturday.

Fast forward a few days. It seems I didn't actually need a brand new 2007 Gold Wing at all. A well kept 2002 is a very nice ride, thoroughly debugged, and even has a few extra goodies already attached to it.

After about 700 miles on the new-to-us 2002 'Wing I can say I'm extremely impressed with the bike. It was easily more comfortable after 300 miles than the Honda ST1300 was after 125 miles. I believe after much frustration and effort expended I actually got the machine that is right for me. Of course I still have the Aprilia Caponord because that's the right bike for me also. I'm quite happy to ride the big 'Wing but it's no Aprilia.

Below are a few pictures from last Saturday's 400+ mile loop through the Salt River Canyon. That excursion, originally planned to be 250 miles or so, turned into an easy 450 miles when I decided to just keep going. It was sure nice to get home and feel tired from the ride but not feel beat to death.

Also, special thanks to the redoubtable Stu Oltman for his invaluable advice on all things Gold Wing. Click here for info on Stu's Gold Wing maintenance video series.

Rest area, Salt River Canyon

That cut across the mountainside in the distance is a very fun section of road.

Bridge over the Salt River Canyon

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Photos and Comments - 23rd Annual Antique and Classic Motorcycle Show

1927 Indian Scout owned by John Cannon

I headed off Sunday to the 23rd Annual Antique & Classic Motorcycle Show and Swap Meet in Phoenix and met up with the redoubtable AngryBob from MotorcycleBloggers.com.

Held these days at the new Shrine Auditorium in Phoenix, the vintage event is clean tidy, and very friendly. Although a relatively small show and by appearances a bit smaller this year than last, the quality of many of many of the bikes present was superb, as good as you will find short of a major concours event.

As with last year, some really interesting bikes were ridden to the event by their owners and walking through the parking lot turned up some great bikes of all years and persuasions, and even a couple of crazy Lambretta scooters decked out as only scooter guys are able to do. Showing that bike people love anything on two wheels with an engine, I saw three scooters, including the crazy Labretta's with "parking lot award" ribbons hanging on them.

Below are a few pictures from the event and some comments. There is a link at the bottom of the entry to the rest of my pictures from the event. I have not taken the time to annotate each of the pictures in the linked page; it was late when I put it together and my supply of brain power was kaput.

Bob Kimm, accompanied by his grandson Tyler, brought out two nice Indian examples. Way back in the early '50s Bob raced flat track in the Midwest and told me one of his finest days back then was racing against Bill Tuman of the "Indian Wrecking Crew." Bob said he was pleased that he was able to stay on the same lap with Tuman and not be lapped.

Bob was also kind enough to let me sit on his Indian and even offered to sell it to me. Sadly, my motorcycle mad money has already been spent elsewhere and my dream of someday owning an Indian will have to wait a bit longer but the picture snapped of me on the bike will be cherished.

T.J. and Pam Jackson of Eastside Performance in Mesa, AZ have put together a really wonderful collection of antique and classic bikes, European, American, and Japanese and go to some serious effort to bring most of them out for this event. T.J. and Pam were kind enough to allow the Mrs to display the painting (left) she painted of their Ariel Red Hunter last year.

I know there are lots of great old bikes hidden away around Arizona so it would be really nice to see people bring them out and help make this annual event a knock out and perhaps the best event in Arizona for the real motorcycle enthusiast.

I'm told that Jim Boomer bought this 1939 Indian Four used when he was about 15 years old. What a bike for a kid! Jim's well past 15 now but kept the Indian all these years and now it's returned to it's full glory.

I have a very nice model of the '39 Four at home. My dad told me once when he say it that as a young man (in '39) that he thought the greatest thing in the world would be to buy a 1939 Indian Four, some high lace up boots, and go calling on his best girl (who later became his wife and my mom).

Vintage Japanese bikes are starting to come on strong and some amazing examples of low mileage bikes are beginning to turn up. Long ago people hoped to find an old Indian motorcycle in a barn and sometimes did. These days people are beginning to turn up some amazing examples of low mileage Japanese bikes in near pristine condition.
Left is a Kawasaki 900, a superb rocket ship of a bike in it's day and a bike that still has tons of presence 30+ years later. As my dear ol' dad used to say "I wish I had that one and he had a better one."

One of the best examples of low mileage treasure was a 1979 Suzuki 1000S Wes Cooley edition, one of just 650 made for the US, with just 2 miles on the odometer. This wonderful jewel was brought out by Kent Meyers and is part of his great collection of vintage Japanese bikes. If you don't know who Wes Cooley was (is…Wes is still around), do a bit of research and you'll find that in the late '70s and early '80s he was one of the best American road races to be found, maybe the equal of "Fast Freddie" Spencer, before an untimely racing crash effectively ended Wes's racing career. You'll find the blue and white Wes Cooley bike at the top of the photo page here, second bike from the left, top row.


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