Monday, October 4, 2010

Keeping it simple

Call me a traditionalist, but I like simple motorcycles. I've ridden and enjoyed bikes such as the silky smooth Honda CBX six-cylinder bike but my heart is with the singles, the twins and the simple little two-strokes. Simpler is lighter, and lighter is faster (well, sort of). Simpler is also cheaper to fix, and easier to fix for a minimally skilled home mechanic such as myself. And so my bike collection conforms to these conservative tastes. The collection is also limited to 1:24 scale bikes, as the first model bikes I bought (the Moto Guzzis) were 1:24s and so it made aesthetic sense for any new purchases to be on the same scale.

For starters, not quite simplicity itself, but at least it's a single, and it's a very
pretty one, too. The Ducati 350 single, with Desmo valve gear. While the
conventional widson is that Desmo valve gear, with its mechanical opening
and closing of valves allows high revs and prevents valve bounce, that's not
quite the whole story. The other benefit of the Desmo design is that it allows
more radical cam profiles to be used, without the threat of valve bounce.
While I couldn't find a YouTube video of a 350 Ducati Desmo, I did find this very tidy little road test of the smaller 250 Desmo, in the same colours and of the same vintage. 

Next, the BMW R90S. This is as close as I could get to the bike I owned.
This was my baby, the R100, 1000cc, low-compression model, without
annoying fairings or other heavy clobber. Lovely touring bike on which
I did a great many kilometres. And it was black. I like black bikes.
I'm perfectly happy to make do with the R90S model. This mid 70s Beemer
put BMW back onto the sports bike map in a big way. It performed very
well in local production races (especially the Castrol Six-Hour Race that was
such a big event every year during the 1970s) and won many admirers.
This 1:24 model by IXO looks like a piece of candy, and if you have a close
look at the slightly upturned cylinder barrel on the left side, it's not quite
straight. Instead of a 180° flat twin it looks about 172° to me!
It always seemed to me that to go fast on the big, open highways of Australia the most you needed to do the job well was two cylinders. A single couldn't comfortably go the distance at speed, so you did need a twin. The 1000cc twin I owned was probably more than enough to do the job. Other friends had 800cc BMWs and never lagged behind anywhere, and my current Moto Guzzi 750 would do any trip in style. 

However, as I spent most of my time in the city, I rode sporty little two-stroke bikes for many years. And I discovered that the little two-strokes could handle the open highways very nicely, especially those along our long coastline and up and over our mountain ranges.

In the same way that the BMW R90S represents other bikes which I owned
and loved, this Yamaha RZ250 has to deputise in my collection for the
air-cooled and water-cooled Yamaha 350s which I spent a lot of time on.
On the right open road, one with a good number of corners, a Yamaha 350
could take on any bike and acquit itself well, especially during the 70s and 80s,
when the roadholding of most of the big Japanese fours was suspect. As for
the big British twins of the era, they didn't stand a chance against a Yam 350.

To finish off the little bike collection, one I never owned, and this one also
is deputising for the bike I really wanted. This is a 1970s version of the
Spanish Bultaco Metralla, a single-cylinder 250 two-stroke.
This is the Metralla I want in my collection, the 60s era bike. Simplicity itself,
very sporty, too. On my very first day of riding a bike on my own after getting
my "L" plates, I came across a friendly old guy on a Metralla who had zoomed
past me at an alarming lean angle earlier on. We both stopped at the same
petrol station, and I was amazed to see him fill the fuel tank, add some
two-stroke oil to the tank, then pick up the front end of the bike, give it a
few vigorous shakes to mix it all up, then he sped off. Of course I wanted one!

And so to finish off this little diecast homage to bikes I have owned and ridden, here's a chap eventually succeeding in getting his 60s era Bultaco Metralla started, but not without a good struggle at first. Sporty two-strokes – sounds like an evil genius cackling!

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