Sunday, January 31, 2016

Classic Motorcycles

Barber Museum, Leeds, Alabama
I make no secret of the fact that whenever we visit friends in Birmingham Alabama I make the 20 mile trek east to Leeds (Alabama) and check out what's on display at the Barber Museum. If you put "barber" in the search function at the top left hand corner of the page you will see all the bikes I have photographed there, like the 1964 Triumph TR6 single carburetor version of the famed Bonneville, which in my head was the better bike. Or the Ducati 750 I was recently reading about in a magazine:
Barber Museum, Leeds, Alabama
Barber owns something like 1600 machines half of which are displayed at a time. He also likes Lotus cars and he has a shop where they are restored as well as a racetrack where they are...driven? For me the joy is to wander round and see the bikes of my youth, and all the other elderly machines on show for me to peer at to my heart's content.
I read Motorcycle Classics every two months and I have been a subscriber for years. It's not necessarily that I want to ride an elderly motorcycle every day and I acknowledge my only vaguely classic bike is my 1979 Vespa currently awaiting a new auto advance mechanism when 911buddy isn't absorbing all my attention and money. It's just that I like reading about the history of motorcycles, and where our sport came from and how it has grown, and in some respects stayed the same over the decades. Maybe one day I'll have the time and money to buy and ride a 1970's superbike but for now I am content to read about them and ride my modern imitation daily.
Bonneville, Baby's Coffee, Florida
My serene world of sideline riding and reading of classic bikes got shaken up a little while ago when I found out I could get a subscription, or even individual copies of another magazine direct to my iPhone and iPad...from this page:Real Classics. Oh dear. So far I have downloaded half a dozen copies and I have tons of back issues to read before I even think about subscribing, which doesn't actually save much money on the annual cost of a dozen copies of this fascinating read.
I downloaded the teaser free issue and was amazed how easy this new digital version is to read. I tried this format elsewhere a while back and it was horrible. Here you can store the magazine on your phone on it's own page and you can pull down the magazine at will.
You can enlarge the page to make it easy to read for elderly eyes and you can slide page to page easily without interrupting your pleasure. Or, in the illustration above you can slide the whole magazine page by page at the bottom of the screen. Very very user friendly.
Let me say it: there is no technical obstruction to enjoying Real Classics anywhere in the world. The question is: why would you want to? Especially if you live in North America and get the aforementioned Classic Motorcycle subscription (every two months only, unfortunately). And this is where I have to get culturally sidetracked a bit I fear.
Real Classics does not put classic historic motorcycles on a pedestal. These bikes exist to be ridden, a sentiment shared by the American magazine but not put into action the way these British enthusiasts do it. In the photo above notice the luggage; these bikes get ridden and written about. You will often see little parcels bungee'd to the back of these bikes because the weather in Britain is as fickle as you like and going anywhere without waterproofs almost guarantees you a chance to get drenched. So these elderly bikes get ridden in the wet too! And photographed with mud on them. Check this out:
Real Classics celebrates British idiosyncrasy, a dry sense of humor and the ability to not take oneself too seriously while doing serious riding and serious wrenching (spannering). Yes you will have to get used to British spelling and quirky British use of the language which will make some references unintelligible. Hey, most of it can be understood by anyone who speaks some form of English. The humor may escape you if you think motorcycles are Serious Stuff but at heart these people are Very Serious about their bikes.
The best part is that the man pictured above in his "Shed" (the sacrosanct motorcycle space for men and wrenches, not wenches) edits the publication with no corporate pretensions whatsoever. He is more like your capable friend ready to offer unbiased advice with a dollop of tart wit than a snarky condescending journalist's journalist. He does this with a woman who may or may not be his wife. The English can be coy about these things and you can draw your own conclusions as I have drawn mine. FW as the Editor likes to style himself goes out and actually rides motorbikes and when he does so he has no hesitation being photographed looking like the Lion from the Wizard of Oz. Tell me with his whiskers, his weird lined visor and the shadow on his nose he doesn't look like the Lion:
Am I wrong?
Image result for the Lion from Wizard of Oz
I have been having a quiet love affar with Real Classics so I shouldn't be rude about the man who puts it all together. It reminds me in part of my lost youth, it reminds me I am not alone when I enjoy riding in the rain, even if it is only the warm South Florida version. It reminds me you don't need to ride around the world to have a two wheeled adventure. The editor's favorite motorcycle is a weird and not well known Norton Rotary which he considers his go-to ride and it's not spared England's liquid sunshine:
Not only that but FW is not terribly fond of classic Triumph Bonnevilles which have attained cult status on this side of the Atlantic (though he does express some deep fondness for Triumph's Trident). In Real Classics you will read about people buying selling, keeping and never selling, touring commuting and breaking down on their elderly machines. If your idea of classics is to put them on a pedestal and keep them secure in a museum this magazine will make your hair stand on end.
A lovely old BSA absurdly overburdened by sloppy luggage or what may be voluminous riding gear tossed into the photo. This would be a crime in the US:
By this stage you are either salivating to read this magazine or shaking your head at the way people like to waste their money. I hope you are curious enough to download the free issue and have a few giggles. These people are crazy and well worth your time.