Cucciolo – the little puppy that could

Today, Ducati is one of the first names a person might think of when asked to name a major motorcycle manufacturer. It wasn’t always that way, with Ducati starting out as an electronics and appliance firm. Oh how far they have come.

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In the mid 1940s, a Turin lawyer and a self taught engineer had an idea to build a clip on engine, that could be fitted to bicycles. By 1946, the prototype had been manufactured, the short muffler giving a yipping sound as it kicked over, the nickname given to the power unit was Cucciolo, Italian for ‘puppy’. The engine was a success, with demand far outstripping supply, the lawyer and engineer turning to the Ducati company, to attempt to mass produce the little engine. The ploy was a success, with Ducati making their way into the motorcycle market, where they have existed since. Ask anyone what they think of when they hear the word Ducati, and I can guarantee it won’t be electrical appliances.

Cucciolo picture courtesy of Neill Green.

Quick interview – Zero Engineering

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The term ‘cool’, defined, Zero Engineering is one of the top boutique bike builders in the world today. Based in Japan, but distributed around the world, the bikes showcase the Kimura styling in a more easily attainable form. I caught up with Akinobu Nakamura, one of Zero Engineering’s managers for a few questions about the brand:

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What are the plans for the future of Zero Engineering?

A future plan of ZERO is that all the countries of the world have a
distributor.

Are Zero Engineering bikes coming to Australia?

ZEROEngineering approximately ten are registered in Australia. Unfortunately there is no distributor in Australia now.

What is the most highest selling model Zero Engineering sells?

type9i having a rear suspension is a flagship model.

Do emission controls for any markets affect any aesthetic aspect of the bikes you sell?

It is an always difficult problem to clear the regulation of each country.

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The pictures are all from Zero Engineering’s websites.

Getting Involved

My name is Ian, and I am a vintage motorcycle fan.

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It is only recently that I have become involved in the vintage motorcycle world, after admiring the scene from afar for some time now. I use the term ‘involved’ because it is the most apt term to describe the relationship one has while involved in this culture. Whether it be upkeep and maintenance, the club community, or actually riding the machine itself, you definitely feel ‘involved’ whether you plan to or not. Albeit my project thus far is rebuilding a BSA C10 motor, I have learnt more in the last month of ownership than I learnt in my many years of watching the vintage bike scene from a distance. And I am loving it.

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Let’s take for instance if I need a spare part, and how involved one has to be. On my late model Japanese bike, I walk into a dealership during business hours, give the chassis number to a parts interpreter, who works out what I need, sells me the part if it is in stock, or orders it in from somewhere for delivery the next day. By comparison, if I find I require something for my project I need:
•the phone numbers of eight different people, the name of four different websites, and enough time to be able to work through all of them.
•To know what other models the part is fitted to in order to ascertain if I can use it on my bike
•A photographic image of the entire parts catalogue in my head, always handy when someone lists on Ebay: ‘For sale: BSA engine components’, and that’s it.
•Somewhere to keep all my additional parts I: need for the project/may need for the project/could possibly be of use later on/could use to barter later on down the track.
•Above all, determination.

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Maintenance runs along the same lines, without current dealers to help out when really stuck, or to utilize to copy their tooling, a certain level of ingenuity goes into maintaining the machine. Scrap bits of metal become handy gear pullers, bits of wood become engine stands, the socket you never use gets modified for the purpose of swingarm bush fitment. It literally is ‘bush mechanics’.

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It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that a person in possession of a good bike, should be in want of a good club.

The club culture is another phenomenon in itself. A bunch of people from all walks of life, with a common interest in vintage bikes, somehow makes you feel like you need to be doing something to ‘help the cause’. I joined a bike club and felt I needed to be doing something of assistance, which is why you are reading this. It’s not just about helping the collective cause of the club either, it comes down to helping individual members as well. On each club run, the spectre of Joseph Lucas hovers over us all, threatening to strike at any moment. Traversing any distance on a 50+ year old bike requires all the assistance you can garner, and a club culture ensures at least one person can go back and get the ute to come pick up everybody else.

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Finally, the act of riding itself. Today’s bikes boast 0-100kmh times of under 5 seconds, with just about the same amount of time required to go from 100kmh back to zero. Vintage bikes tend to require calendars in order to gauge speed, with days for acceleration and months for braking. Why do it then? Because to ride a vintage bike is to be involved. Anyone can jump on a modern bike and ride it, it takes someone who is involved in order to know how to wring the most performance out of a vintage bike. It is almost zen-like, to be at one with the machine, to make you feel like you are riding the bike, not that you are being taken for a ride.

When it comes to how I feel about entering into vintage motorcycle culture, I feel I have definitely gotten involved in the right crowd.

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BSA with pistol grip courtesy of Pipeburn.com

BSA vintage hillclimber courtesy of Motomania.com

Ducati SCR pic courtesy of Neill Green.

Substance over form

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There it was, just sitting there just outside the roller door. A wedge of wood, created when a pallet was broken down, caught my eye. It had been passed over by many people who had thought nothing of it, but none of them had a vintage motorcycle they were having trouble disassembling. The problem i was facing was that the metal used in the manufacture of my engine is very low quality, making it apt to crack if forced. The wooden wedge looked soft enough to aid me. I took the piece home, and in less than 10 minutes I had removed the cover, then found the wedge handy in holding the crank from turning do I could remove a drive gear nut. And all from that discarded single chunk of wood.

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It seems that in human nature we are naturally predisposed to have an attraction towards anything that makes our life easier, any advancement in technology that makes our lives easier. Tools are a physical manifestation of this liking of advancing technology, in that we are drawn towards them because of this innate desire to move ‘onwards and upwards’. The trick lies in seeing the underlying form of whatever item you are seeing and saying ‘you know what, that would be great to help me to….’

Project C10 – For the love of Amal

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I’m not a fan of working on carburettors. My biggest problem is with the fiddly little pieces, which I am pretty sure are designed to shoot out on disassembly and disappear into the ether. Amal carbs got it right though, long long ago. A flathead screwdriver and spanner, and the whole things comes apart quite easily. Can see why riders used to be more likely to do any carburettor work themselves. Remove two bolts and a fuel line, then you can take it off and strip it down. Simplicity itself, a ten minute job to pull it down and put it back together, with a minimum of moving parts that could go wrong.

Definitely my type of automotive component design. 

On any given…er…Saturday

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Because we love the smell of two stroke and dust clouds.
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It’s the backwards lean that is so impressive.
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Favourite bike of the meet, a CX500 dirtbruiser. Couldn’t corner, but roostertailed like a mofo coming out of corners.
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Almost rubbin racin, which is even cooler because it’s on dirtbikes.
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Most of these bikes I would be scared to take on the road, let alone on dirt.
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Old school dirt trackers.
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Nothing like a bare metal tank to show how you’re more about go than show.
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Sweet little Bultaco tracker, it’s testament to the build quality that bikes like these still exist and run at events like this.
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Everyone loves an airhead, especially one with a flat tracker seat.
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It’s getting to the point when plastic tank models are becoming resto specialists. This neat Kwaka was up for sale at the meet.
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Big bore thumper? Good. Spanish Bigbore thumper…oh yes.
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The girl from Griffith…the girl who rode this bike, cut up the class in the ‘run what ya brung’ race, she’s got some mad skills.

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Definitely.

And because it is so awesome, just one more shot.

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It begins

Many times I have traversed the internet and stumbled across niche automotive groups that honour vehicles which would have otherwise disappeared into the ether of history. Fanatics of the most passionate kind, worshipping machines which back in their day were known to have faults. Today I have become one of those fanatics. 

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A sidevalve 250cc engine of around 1950 vintage, this beautiful piece of the puzzle is only the beginning of a long and frustrating time. And I have already started.

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Armed with my handy 50s motorcycle guide, I have all the knowledge of the period to help me with getting started. On top of that, within the last week I have made two new contacts who can help with parts supply. Which is important when we are dealing with a sixty year old engine. 

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Easy to lift, agricultural in design and a challenge to source parts for. It’s the perfect project for me. 

Stay tuned. 

 

There’s no need to resort to a Kluger.

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6am: Alarm goes off, hesitatingly climb out of bed.

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8:30am: School run, drop the kids off while dodging manic SUV captains.

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11am: Park in Woolworths carpark, well away from everyone else.

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1pm: Park time for the pre schoolie kid.

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3pm: School pick up, Hemi is running hot sitting around.

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5:30pm: Prepare dinner for fussy little appetites.

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7:30pm: Kids to bed, dinner with the mrs.

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9:30pm: Head out to the garage with car polish and ensure you maintain your position as owning the coolest daily driver in the suburb.

With thanks to Grant, the owner of this amazing every day kid hauler.