For many, a classic motorcycle implies something along the lines of a Triumph Bonneville, or perhaps as plebeian as a Honda CB750. Bikes have been part of the highway and byway scene for as long as there have been roads. And over those decades have come and gone more makes and models than you can list on both hands and both feet, and each nostril.
Parilla, Velocette, Moto Guzzi, Garelli, Indian, Gilera, Benelli. . . the list is almost endless. And many were not just modes of transportation for those with an innate sense of balance; many were jewel-like expressions of their builder’s passion for all things mechanical and speed above all else. Just like dogs, bikes came in an unending variety of size and shape, tiny TT racers, giant, thumping bruiser cruisers, the derivations were almost endless. Now mostly, they’re all gone.
But perhaps one remains, embedded deep in your psyche – one that stands out knuckle-head and handlebars above the rest. I can tell you that for me it’s an early superbike – the era’s Hayabusa if you will – that emerged from the foggy confines of the island nation of Great Britain. That bike is the Vincent Black Shadow, a two-wheel terror you might best remember as the evil-looking ride Richard Hammond proved too wee to be able to kick over on a notable Top Gear episode.
That hand built wonder packed a 55-horse, 998-cc V-twin that was Whitworth’d into what was in total an only 457-lb bike. Amazing to hear, worthy of hours – no, days – of visual contemplation, and, so I am told, nearly terrifying to ride due to its era-appropriate narrow tires and crazy fade-happy drum brakes. That’s my classic bike nirvana, what’s yours?
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