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.

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