I mentioned in the “Who Am I” section that, for a while, I was involved in the vintage bike movement. I joined the Classic And Enthusiast Motorcycle Association of NSW and was a member for quite a few years. I joined for the social aspect, and also to admire the wonderfully restored old bikes. Along the way I did do a fairly amateurish job of restoring a BSA Bantam. It never quite got to the running stage, but it kept me interested for a long time while I restored it from bare-frame up.
As time went by I sort of gave up on the Bantam; figuring that even if I did finish it, I wouldn’t ride it anyway. So I sold it, and also let my membership of the club slide.
Recently the local branch of the club held it’s annual rally. During the rally there is always a display where the participating bikes are put on show and judged. So I thought it’d be good to go along and have a look at the bikes, catch up with some people I hadn’t seen for quite a while, and also catch up on the classic-bike scene.
It’d be easy to dismiss the classic movement as just a lot of old blokes re-living their youth on old bikes. But that’d be selling it way too short! For a start, it’s not all blokes; many women are involved with the classic movement too. And it’s not just about re-living memories of youth. Yes, for many people there is an element of that, owning and riding the same bikes they rode in their younger years; but there’s also an appreciation for the bikes of by-gone eras, and a desire to preserve the past; because the past is important.
It’s often said that to appreciate the present you have to understand the past. To appreciate where bikes are now, and where they might be going in the future, you have to understand where they’ve come from in the past. If you look back through the history of motorcycling you’ll find certain bikes that changed the direction of motorcycle design. People involved in the classic movement want to preserve – and indeed experience on a regular basis – these bikes. That’s what they’re all about.
For some it can be a chance to own bikes that they remember dreaming of owning, but couldn’t afford, when they were younger. Memories of standing outside a bike shop and admiring the latest Ducati, Norton, Triumph etc can be a strong motivation to now realise those dreams.
But it’s not all “landmark” models and exotics; there are more “mundane” and modest bikes too. And really, they are just as much a part of the world of motorcycling that existed at that time as the more seminal machines. That’s why you’ll see these more mundane models also being lovingly restored; because their owners appreciate that these bikes were a part of the motorcycling world at that time. People bought them and used them for what they were; and now other people are buying them to preserve their place in motorcycling history.
So, there are a lot of goods reasons to be involved in the classic-bike scene. A word of warning though, if you’re thinking of getting involved in the classic bike scene; it’s not for the faint-hearted! By that I mean that classic bikes generally consume enormous amounts of time and money! If you go for the full restoration job (buy a trailer-load of rusty bits and turn it into a gleaming classic!), you’ll spend every spare minute, for an exceedingly long time, in the shed working on your “project”. You’ll also spend a frightening amount of money doing it. Despite what you might think, this is probably the most expensive way of getting into the scene. When it comes to vintage machinery, the final product is usually worth less than the sum of it’s parts. Think of it this way: Imagine what it would cost you to build a current model bike by buying all the bits over the spare-parts counter and then assembling it yourself. Yeah, you could probably buy a Goldwing for what it’d cost to build a CB250! And it’s the same thing with vintage bikes. Except the parts aren’t as available. Some parts will be available through dealers and specialist suppliers, but many will have to be searched out through swap-meets and so on. (The internet is a great help in getting parts now). And especially if the bike is something a bit rare, and they know that you really need the parts for it, then the prices are usually set at a premium. So buying an already-restored bike is usually cheaper. Yes, of course it’ll cost you a lot more initially, but in the long run it’ll usually be a lot cheaper.
Of course for some people the actual restoration process is something that they enjoy. They want a project to occupy their time, and they enjoy spending the time rebuilding an old bike. And indeed there is great satisfaction and pride to be had in turning that "trailer-load of rusty bits" into a gleaming classic! So I’m not saying “Don’t buy a bike to restore,” I’m just saying that doing it from scratch will take a lot more time and effort and, in the long-term, money. But if you enjoy that process then go for it!
Another, often more practical, route is to get something that is basically complete and running, and refurbish it. If you like tinkering with bikes, but don’t want to go the whole “trailer-load of bits” route, this is a good way to go. The bike will be cheaper to buy than a fully-restored job, and you’ll have fun removing the various parts and restoring them. Take a look at the job one reader, Steve, did with a Kawasaki Z400. There’s great satisfaction and pride in doing something like this! 
Anyway, back to this particular rally I went to. It was a cold winter’s day, with a smattering of occasional rain, that greeted the intrepid riders as they made their way to the display area adjacent to a local club, which would also be their lunch-stop. But the conditions didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the riders. They’d enjoyed a morning ride around the district and now they were lining up their machines ready for judging.
For me, it was good to meet up with people, and also to see how the classic scene had changed since I’d been a regular member.
Brands like Triumph, Norton, and BSA were still there in abundance. But they’re being joined by an increasing number of Japanese. Models from the 1970s were fairly common, with the Honda 750 being a popular choice. The water-cooled Suzuki GT750 was another popular model. But there were also, as I’ve mentioned above, some of the more “mundane” models like 550s etc. There weren’t a lot of older – I’m talking 30’s and 40’s – bikes there though. Even when I was still a member there was a line of thinking that said these bikes were just not practical (and indeed not safe!) to ride in modern traffic. And, sadly perhaps, this seems to have removed a lot of the older bikes from these sort of events. Not completely though; there were still some there.
The bikes aren’t the only attraction though. People in these clubs are usually very friendly; and that was certainly the case in this club. There’s great camaraderie amongst people who all share the same passion for classic machinery. Of course there’s good-natured joking and rivalry between owners of different brands, but this just adds to the fun of being in the club and owning these particular bikes.
So, as I said, it was good to catch up with it all again. And I do have an intention to get back into the classic scene again, when I can. Of course, I’ll need a suitable bike. And yes, I’ve missed a couple of good opportunities; with bargains I just couldn’t afford (or sneak past the “manager-of-household-finances”!) at the time. But one day. At the moment, the early RD Yamahas appeal to me. Another thought is to combine re-joining the classic movement with my liking for trail bikes, and get myself an old trail-bike to restore. Like the DT125, which was my first real trail-bike and the first bike I bought new. Or perhaps a DT175, which was my next bike. (So if anyone has a 1970’s DT175 they don’t want…!). Actually I’ve just realised (and this is a scary thought!) that the last trail-bike I owned would, at the time of writing, be eligible for historic plates in a couple of years!
Now, to give you a sample of the classic scene, here are some photos of bikes on this particular rally. Look and dream!
Click here to return to front page. Click your BACK button to return to previous page.