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Mac750

Old bikes itch.

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On the second Sunday of every month I ride out with a group of mature chaps, they ride all kinds of bikes from modern bikes and everything in between. With sizes from 125 up to 800cc. The rides are  very relaxed and take in mostly country back roads and lanes, ending at a view point pub or a cafe.  I have done a fair few of these rides on old MZ bikes and my NC 750X which does it effortlessly and returns 86 to the gallon. 

 

However I have been following of late a Vellocette, Venom , VB Ariel,  English Enfield 350, Triumph T21, Tiger , Bonnie and a 200 Cub.  The more I hang about with these guys the more I'm starting to look at old Brit iron again. Apart from using a BSA A10 in my youth ( illegally) and owning a Bantam 175 , all my bikes have been German, Japanese or Italian.

 

I always take an interest in old Brit bikes, so riding with the chaps and watching them throw these bikes around the lanes has started an itch I want to scratch.

 

Trouble is these machines are all in the £3 to £5 k mark now and I know nothing about the Brit stuff.    For example if I was looking at two similar Japanese bike  I would know the difference between a CB500T twin and a GS 400 twin. The Suzuki GS is a smaller cc but the engine is mechanically stronger. 

 

I like the look of most BSA, I even like the C15, Starfire 250, M21, B series, the A65 or if I could afford one a A7 or A10. I know the C15 and Starfire engines are fragile.  But as for other bikes I know nothing about Matchless, AJS or Norton.  Except the little Navigator is best avoided . Would I be foolish to buy an old Brit bike I wonder. ? What's a solidly good choice to go for if I did. The Indian Enfield 500 are cheap enough but it has to be an old one to light fire. A Brit bike would be my second bike with the NC used for longer trips. 

What is worth looking at ? 

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I to was riding bikes in the Brit and Jap times-- there was no comparison with style or good lucks--but the jap bikes did not leak oil--started first time--reliable--and economical--Oh and went like shit off a shovel.

The biggest problem buying a old Brit bike--I would have thought--was getting spares--they will be expensive to say the least and if possible to find--It would be a good project to do over winter--that is saying you are doing a restoration--or would you buy a already done machine--whatever way--money is king--and deep pockets may be in order--a understanding wife--essential--good luck--let us know how you get on   

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I've scratched the old Brit bike itch a few times (and a few old Jap itches as well)

On the plus side, within reason, if you pay a fair market price for one then, barring disasters, you'll get your money back plus some.,

On the minus side these machines were, mostly, poorly built using obsolete machinery as Britain struggled to recover from the war and need a lot of effort to keep them on the road.  The brakes were designed for a bygone era and riding them needs much forward observations and modern traffic can be a nightmare.

Even more modern bikes such as the C15 and Starfire were stop gap models as the underinvested British bike industry struggled to stay afloat.

I'm not saying don't buy one but do so with eyes wide open and leave the nostalgia glasses at home.

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Posted (edited)

3 hours ago, bonekicker said:

I to was riding bikes in the Brit and Jap times-- there was no comparison with style or good lucks--but the jap bikes did not leak oil--started first time--reliable--and economical--Oh and went like shit off a shovel.

The biggest problem buying a old Brit bike--I would have thought--was getting spares--they will be expensive to say the least and if possible to find--It would be a good project to do over winter--that is saying you are doing a restoration--or would you buy a already done machine--whatever way--money is king--and deep pockets may be in order--a understanding wife--essential--good luck--let us know how you get on   

In fact if you buy one of the more common models spares tend to be plentiful and reasonably priced. Just check out the adverts in the appropriate magazines.

several of the owners clubs have spares departments which have parts made. In the case of Vincent and Norton enough that you can still order a brand new bike. Many of these parts are better quality than the original due to modern materials and manufacturing methods.

Edited by Rocker66
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If you don't want to spend a great deal a  BSA C15 or B40 Triumph  Tiger Cub or  21 are good buys especially the 350s. Plentiful spares at reasonable prices many of which are better quality than the original. Easy to work on and used in the manner you describe should be reasonably reliable. Remember back in the day they were ridden by young teenagers with very little mechanical sympathy and even less money to spend on maintenance which are the two main reasons for their fragility.

I would suggest talking to the guys you go on these rides with and listen to their advice and when you have chosen your model join the appropriate owners club. There is plenty of advice and help out there.

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The Indians have cottoned on to the expanding restoration market abroad and are batching short CNC runs of the harder to get spares.  Considering the poor quality of the original post war parts the Indian parts are, allegedly, good quality.

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Mac, I have loads of old magazines about the sort of things that interest you. Enough to give the fittest postman a hernia! You're welcome to them if we can sort out the logistics of getting them to you.

 I had all the old Brits, back when they were new Brits, and have dabbled since. I'm urging caution here. They're not (as Dave points out) actually that good and they don't ride that well either. It depends on you.

 

I have a friend who is 'into' veteran cars, who currently has a French one from about 1890 or something. It's as hard work as a car could possibly be, both owning and driving it. But he looks forward to the London to Brighton run like I look forward to the TT. I think it's wonderful that people preserve such things, but have bugger all desire to join in.

 

Perhaps a Bantam might suit your needs best? Or one of the Villiers engined lightweights? There are a whole raft of things to steer clear of - too many to list.

 I think I have a book on the subject, written by Frank Westworth, that might be useful. PM me your address and I'll dig it out when I get home from Spain. 

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As they say.

I have a couple of old Brits. There weren't many (any?) really good ones. Some are better bets than others, but the desirability means more expensive. Even things like Tiger Cubs go for what is probably silly money, £1.5k upwards for a complete running bike, £3k+ for a very nice condition one. The engines were a little fragile (I have one).

Steer clear of anything which had pressed steel framework, they'll probably be rotten.

If at all possible get something complete and running. Don't believe hype about engines rebuilt by Blah Blah restorers, many of them are shocking, I've seen what's inside some of them.

As said, many mid range bikes, 350 singles etc, were tedious when new, and are no better 60yrs later.

Most brakes were modest in effect, some worse than others, it was very common to have the same brake front and back, on the back it was just about adequate. Most electrics were bordering between basic and primitive. Things wore out, oil pumps, cylinder bores, big ends, cam followers, fork bushes etc.

 

To get something budget you could look at the smaller 2 stroke singles, usually cheap and cheerful to own.

 

Good news is insurance is dirt cheap (tens of pounds) through the right specialists, historic vehicle status (free road tax) starts at 40yrs old so anything pre-1977 fits, and pre 1960 (I think) needs no MOT so even better, and as said unless you get a real shocker you probably won't lose money on one.

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The reason I suggested the bikes that I did were

1) They are suitable for the gentle rides he described

2) Mac already has an MZ so I didn't think he would want another 2 stroke single

3) There are plenty out there to choose from

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How about this for a project? https://1drv.ms/f/s!AsR8ieUBtjttiJQ3z749MT6wg8cB4Q

The bloke is asking £1,000 for it.........

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£1000?! Holy Mary Mother of God! £1000?! :D

 

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5 minutes ago, Tex said:

£1000?! Holy Mary Mother of God! £1000?! :D

 

He says it is a rare Russian bike. It has a hand gear change fitted - I think because the sidecar fitments would get in the way of a foot lever. The engine turns over on the kick start!

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Thanks guys for the imput, I have had many of the Japanese machines which are now hailed as classic, back when they wasn't expensive and was just old UJMs. We have all bought em, thrashed em and sold them on. 

And worthy as they all are I have become in the main de sensitised to the many cylindered charms of GS, CB, GPz, XS.   And not many modern " transporter robot" machines float my wallet opening boat. The NC750 X was the only one and that being a sensible bike replaced my last worthy and sensible bike. A lot can be said for sensible. 

 

 I like old kit that's used. An immaculate fully restored ES2 is very nice to see at a steam engine rally, but for example in St Ives in the summer you cannot move or park a car, the place rid heaving, so one shop keeper rides in every morning on a care worn BSA M21, it rests against the wall of his shop rain or shine. It has dents, dirt, the odd seagull dropping and a small puddle of oil,  but it has that "something" about it that I like, a well used riders bike .

 

So riding with guys where they take a Vellocette up a muddy track or lean an Ariel over through a bend until it's sparking is great fun. ( The Ariel lost its Bell mouth off the carb, it rattled off into the hedges ) 😁.  The NC just did it's thing as per normal, dependably, sensibly and returning 80 mpg. Solid dependable and sensible a go too bike for that long trip.  

 

The itch to also buy a dirty, rattling, smelly, not so sensible vintage bike that can be used without worrying if it gets scratched or dirty is tempting. I just don't have the product knowledge as they were (just) before my young motorcycling days . 

 

 

 

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47 minutes ago, baben said:

He says it is a rare Russian bike. It has a hand gear change fitted - I think because the sidecar fitments would get in the way of a foot lever. The engine turns over on the kick start!

It looks like a Russian Izh 350 cc two stroke twin. They were a little agricultural with an odd gear change. The Jawa 350 would be a better bet as parts are still available from places like India and Turkey. In fact I placed a bid on that auction site for a 1966 Jawa 250 but it reached more than the price I wanted to pay. 

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5 minutes ago, Mac750 said:

Thanks guys for the imput, I have had many of the Japanese machines which are now hailed as classic, back when they wasn't expensive and was just old UJMs. We have all bought em, thrashed em and sold them on. 

And worthy as they all are I have become in the main de sensitised to the many cylindered charms of GS, CB, GPz, XS.   And not many modern " transporter robot" machines float my wallet opening boat. The NC750 X was the only one and that being a sensible bike replaced my last worthy and sensible bike. A lot can be said for sensible. 

 

 I like old kit that's used. An immaculate fully restored ES2 is very nice to see at a steam engine rally, but for example in St Ives in the summer you cannot move or park a car, the place rid heaving, so one shop keeper rides in every morning on a care worn BSA M21, it rests against the wall of his shop rain or shine. It has dents, dirt, the odd seagull dropping and a small puddle of oil,  but it has that "something" about it that I like, a well used riders bike .

 

So riding with guys where they take a Vellocette up a muddy track or lean an Ariel over through a bend until it's sparking is great fun. ( The Ariel lost its Bell mouth off the carb, it rattled off into the hedges ) 😁.  The NC just did it's thing as per normal, dependably, sensibly and returning 80 mpg. Solid dependable and sensible a go too bike for that long trip.  

 

The itch to also buy a dirty, rattling, smelly, not so sensible vintage bike that can be used without worrying if it gets scratched or dirty is tempting. I just don't have the product knowledge as they were (just) before my young motorcycling days . 

 

 

 

I'm sure those guys that ride with can give you plenty of info on old bikes and their are magazines with buyers guides for them

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Watch this space.

I'm talking myself into it 😀

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Russian metallurgy was always utterly **** and as they hate the things in the Motherland* I'd be wary or Ural and Minsk and the like. 

 

Andy

 

 

*Those with Ostalgia would rather collect busts of Beria and Kalashnikovs and Zipov lighters which were sucessful. Those without view the old bikes as a humiliation, Britain had the Mini, Germany the Beetle, Japan the C90, Russia a very poor DKW copy. 

 

 

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16 minutes ago, Andy m said:

Russian metallurgy was always utterly **** and as they hate the things in the Motherland* I'd be wary or Ural and Minsk and the like. 

 

Andy

 

 

*Those with Ostalgia would rather collect busts of Beria and Kalashnikovs and Zipov lighters which were sucessful. Those without view the old bikes as a humiliation, Britain had the Mini, Germany the Beetle, Japan the C90, Russia a very poor DKW copy. 

 

 

Well we had a very good DKW copy in the UK.

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I know where there is a nice BSA A65 Thunderbolt. :whistle:

 

 

 

Andy.

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Well I hanker after bikes of my youth, but even wrecks cost far more than I want to py. eg even a Cyclemaster (look it up) ion an old bike frame was offered to me fro £1,000. I've been looking for a Francis Barnett 250cc Cruiser (prewar with a hand gear change (my first bike), but the only one I've seen recently was for sale in a magazine for over £3,000 and it was a wreck, not even vaguely original. I wish you luck, but of you want opinions about reliability etc, there are still a few of us who have some experience! I agree about Tiger Cubs having fragile engines, we had 6 to test for the Army and I got furthest - 3,000 miles...... (Admittedly 10% had to be cross country, but they were hopeless.)

 

Good luck! (Oh and BSA M20s are reliable, heavy, totally lacking in performance, and I thoroughly enjoyed my time on them - a great tough bike that outlasted many 'superior' bikes. Spares I would have though should be easy to get as many thousands were made for the Army during the second world war.)

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36 minutes ago, outrunner said:

I know where there is a nice BSA A65 Thunderbolt. :whistle:

 

 

 

Andy.

 

Thunderbolt " power egg" 

I have been told and I have no experience of this:

Early ones suffered poor oilling around the bottom end but okay if not thrashed, later bikes had the bearings and oil ways improved and best year was 1967/68. F and G reg.  

I do like the unit BSA motor.  

I'm swotting up on Brit stuff, like mad but no practical experience , a bit like a graduate building surveyor looking at his first stately home. 

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Posted (edited)

What I should have posted is, I know where there is a nice 1967 F reg BSA Thunderbolt. :yes:

28153025395_42a664937e_b.jpg

 

Andy.

Edited by outrunner
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19 minutes ago, outrunner said:

What I should have posted is, I know where there is a nice 1967 F reg BSA Thunderbolt. :yes:

28153025395_42a664937e_b.jpg

 

Andy.

Aaaaaaaaah, ooooooh and other noises of a man getting all wibberly wobbly 😀

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How much??

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7 minutes ago, Tex said:

How much??

Tempted then?

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