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Two Wheel Tuesday: Last Gasp Norton Isolastics

Tanshanomi January 6, 2015 Two-Wheel Tuesday

When I was at the British National Motorcycle Museum a couple of years ago, some of my favorite bikes were the prototypes that were developed as Norton Villiers Triumph was foundering in a sea of red ink in the mid 1970s. With the Bonneville out of the picture and virtually no funds for new R&D or production tooling, they tried pouring all the remaining, outdated assets of BSA, Triumph and Norton into a blender and hitting “puree.” The results were mix-and-match specials, very much like what kids do with a Lego kit the seventh or eighth time they put it together.

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Yes, that says Norton on the tank. The forward-canted 3-cylinder motor in the frame was originally a BSA, then went on to grow an electric starter and become the Triumph Trident T160. In this guise, it has been enlarged and inserted into a frame equipped with Norton’s biggest selling feature, the rubber-mounted Isolastic frame, so naturally it would have been marketed as a Norton product.

A couple more similar experimental Isolastic bikes are featured after the jump.
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Bikes You Should Know: Yamaha TW200

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Bikes You Should Know appears most weeks as part of Two Wheel Tuesdays. Since Hooniverse primarily caters to automotive enthusiasts, this column focuses on historically or culturally significant motorcycles that are likely to interest a non-riding audience.


Some of the bikes I’ve profiled in the Bikes You Should Know series are notable for their remarkable speed, engineering wizardry, or prominence in motoring history, but are not something you are likely to ever likely to personally swing a leg over. And unless you are both an experienced rider and the owner of a very fat wallet, you really shouldn’t want to. While you should know about them, they are movie stars and exotic supermodels, not girls-next-door.

But today’s profile is a bike that is perfect for a novice rider. Approachable, easily manageable, unintimidating — slow, even. On the other hand, it is deeply beloved by riders who have more bikes in their history and more riding miles under their belt than you can imagine. It’s been around for decades, and it’s still available brand new at your local Yamaha dealer at an affordable price ($4,590 MSRP for ’15). It’s the Yamaha TW200, and it’s a bike everybody can love — and nearly all do, once they get to know it.

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Two-Wheel Tuesday: Victorian “Geared Facile” Replica Build is Workshop Porn

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A spectacularly talented craftsman from New Zealand (who goes by the catchy nom-de-web “Bob”) scratch-built this mesmerizing, handcrafted replica of an 1880s Geared Facile bicycle. And when I say “scratch-built,” I really do mean scratch-effin’-built. From making his own rolling dies to form his own oval tubing and machining his own bearing races to the painting and pinstriping, he did everything. And he did everything jaw-droppingly, meticulously, unnecessarily, gut-tighteningly well.

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The motorcycle built around a Lamborghini V12

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This story, like many other great ones, starts with “my wife was out of the country for the summer and I had nothing to do”.

That’s what inspired a local legend I ran into at Atlanta’s Caffeine and Octane by the name of Chuck Beck to build something very different. He had the skills and tools required to get creative and he had just been gifted with the right amount of time to do something ambitious. A friend of his recently lost a Lamborghini the honorable way (on fire) but it left behind its undamaged V12 engine. The stars aligned and when it was all said and done, he had a functional motorcycle with a Lamborghini’s V12 as its source of power.

Click past the jump for photos and a few details on what has to be the greatest thing I’ve ever seen at a car show.

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Two Wheel Tuesday: The “Smackdab” Summer Solstice Ride

Tanshanomi December 2, 2014 Two-Wheel Tuesday

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You have to be a bit crazy to ride a motorcycle. So it’s sort of expected when riders do nutty things on their motorcycles. There are countless stories of riding crossing the country off-road on the Trans-America Trail, riding the length of the Americas, single-day Five State and 1000 Mile rides, or riding 18,000 miles around the U.S. on a 50cc Honda Ruckus. These are collectively referred to as “challenge rides”: dream up a route with some sort of goal (or gimmick) and then ride it purely for the feeling of adventure and accomplishment it brings. There are a variety of organized ” just for the hell of it” annual events, from New Year’s Day club rides, snow-covered Halloween Rides in the Northeast, Three-Flags rallies, and over in the UK,  Land’s-End-To-John-O’Groats rides.

And starting next June, there will be one more: The Smackdab Summer Solstice Run.

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Bikes You Should Know: BMW GS Boxers

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Bikes You Should Know appears weekly as part of Two Wheel Tuesdays. Since Hooniverse primarily caters to automotive enthusiasts, this column focuses on historically or culturally significant motorcycles that are likely to interest a non-riding audience.


The term “adventure bike” enjoys widespread use these days, and most riders understand immediately what it is: a large, four-stroke motorcycle (usually multi-cylinder and often with shaft drive) that can be used to traverse long distances over most types of terrain. An adventure bike is rarely useful on extremely tight trails or steep, gnarly terrain. Instead, has a large fuel tank, a comfortable seat, and is often fitted with large saddlebags or panniers. An adventure bike can take you hundreds of miles on paved roads in comfort, and then take you hundreds more on gravel, dust, mud, fireroads and lumber truck paths without bashing it or the rider to death. Its the two-wheel equivalent of a Range Rover.

Remember a few months back, when I claimed that the Yamaha DT1 was the first true dirt bike? Well, after the dirt world and the street bike world diverged, they came back together in a wild and unexpected way: the 1981 BMW R80G/S was the first true adventure bike. We just didn’t know what to call it back then.

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Feast Your Eyes on This Fabulous Ferrari… Motorcycle?

 

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Did you know that Ferrari once designed and built motorcycles? No, not Enzo Ferrari, but in fact a pair of brothers who happened to share that same last name, and thought they could capitalize on that tenuous connection to Maranello’s favored son. I came across this 1952 150 Sport at a recent show and found it to be a cheeky poke in ribs to the venerated auto maker.

This bike features a 150-cc two-stroke and is very similar in design to the contemporary Parilla. There’s a good reason for that, as one of the brothers who founded Fratelli Ferrari had previously worked for that maker. … Continue Reading

Bikes You Should Know: Honda CB400/450 Twins

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Bikes You Should Know appears weekly as part of Two Wheel Tuesdays. Since Hooniverse primarily caters to automotive enthusiasts, this column focuses on historically or culturally significant motorcycles that are likely to interest a non-riding audience.


Throughout the Bikes You Should Know series, I’ve found myself often tossing around superlatives such as “iconic,” “legendary,” and “groundbreaking.” That sort of hyped-up prose can wear thin, leaving the regular reader with the impression that I think every bike I discuss is the greatest thing ever. Today, I will use those words only once, and since they only appear in this opening introduction, you’re past them now.

Today’s topic is Honda’s six-valve 400/450cc twins, known by a variety of designations, including Hawk, SuperHawk and SuperDream. They’re not the greatest thing ever. In fact, it’s become very fashionable for riders to mock them. But such derision isn’t deserved either. The truth is somewhere in between. The six-valve, twin-cylinder motor was sold in a dizzying array of different models and configurations for various markets, and sold by the millions in markets all around the world. The basic architecture anchored Honda’s mid-size lineup for a decade and a half, and was among the most profitable designs ever marketed. That widespread popularity can only be labeled a success, and it’s why it’s a line-up you should know.

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Bikes You Should Know: Triumph Bonneville

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Bikes You Should Know appears weekly as part of Two Wheel Tuesdays. Since Hooniverse primarily caters to automotive enthusiasts, this column focuses on historically or culturally significant motorcycles that are likely to interest a non-riding audience.


The classic Triumph Bonneville was available (in some form) almost continually for thirty years. Throughout the 1960s, the Bonneville was perhaps the most iconic, widely desired motorcycle in the world. By the ‘Seventies, it had been eclipsed by both foreign competition and by bigger, faster Triumphs. But its amazing balance of ride, handling, power and size were too good for it to die without a fight. It remains a magic formula for riding enjoyment.

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Seven U.S. Motorcycle Events You Should Know

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Motorcyclists are a social lot, which is surprising for all the talk of individualism, and the meager passenger capacity of their chosen mode of transport. There are lots of informal breakfast runs and club rallies around the country, and motorcycle races of all kinds will attract a crowd of bikes in the parking lot, but there are some truly significant events that even non-riders may wish to familiarize themselves with. Here are seven big hitters you should be able to name.
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