Road & Trail: 1989 Honda Transalp XL600V

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This 1989 Honda Transalp XL600V (VIN JH2PD0613KM200411) is a first year US model in nice, rideable condition with a hair under 10k miles. Built to capitalize on Honda’s 80’s Paris-to-Dakar victories, these versatile bikes can be viewed as pioneers for the popular multipurpose machines of today, and this one should offer a similar riding experience for a fraction of the cost. Find it here on eBay in Corona, California with a $4,500 BIN. Special thanks to BaT reader Larry G. for this submission.

Honda Other | eBay

Says the seller: “Only Modifications are the Exhaust guard and windshield. Does show some wear from use but not bad. Some mild scratches and 1 crack in the fairing. Also some slight corrosion in some areas like the forks. Runs and rides excellent, Newer tires with 85-90% tread.”

Honda Other | eBay

The bike looks sharp from a few feet back, but closer inspection reveals a handful of scrapes, chips and even a decent-sized crack on the fairings. None of these flaws appear to stem from abuse however, but were more likely picked during the kind of mixed road and trail riding these machines were designed for. Corrosion likewise is very mild and doesn’t look like anything to worry about–at least what can be seen without the fairings removed.

Honda Other | eBay

The two-piece, wind-deflecting shield and exhaust guards are both worthwhile upgrades, and only enhance the bike’s tool-like, Swiss Army knife style. Power comes from a liquid-cooled, 52 degree, six-valve V-twin good for about 55 HP on stock Mikuni carbs. Weighing in at 450 pounds, these bikes aren’t particularly quick, but have ample torque and will easily move out of their own way for safe use in modern traffic.

Honda Other | eBay

At about half the going rate of the average new multipurpose Beemer, this one could prove to be very useful for the right buyer. Bring some heated grips and a pair of hard saddlebags.

Bizarre & Fascinating: Velocette LE MkII

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This Velocette LE is listed as 1960 MkIII model, though its hand-operated gearshift, leg shield-mounted instruments, interesting pull-start mechanism and 192cc, water-cooled flat twin point to it being a MkII built between 1951 and 1957. The ad is vague on mechanical condition, but the bike does appear to be in good, complete condition. Find it here on Craigslist near Atlanta, Georgia for $12,800. Special thanks to BaT reader Paul C. for this submission.

Velocette 200 LE, 1960

Conceived as reliable, comfortable, easy-to-ride transportation for the masses, the bike was introduced in 1948. Honda would later use a similar marketing strategy with its Cub, albeit with much more success. Advanced engineering meant a relatively high price, and despite becoming the British company’s all-time best-selling product, sales never met production goals and are rumored to have barely covered tooling costs. It’s also  claimed that a large police order accounted for more than half of MkII production, though sales ended with the MkIII in 1970 when the company voluntarily shut its doors.

Velocette 200 LE, 1960

Built around a pressed-steel frame, the LE (for “Little Engine”) utilized rubber motor mounts, felt soundproofing, water-cooling and large capacity silencers, and for the time was considered a very refined, quiet machine to ride. Power came from an L-head, horizontally-opposed twin, initially of 150cc and 6 HP, later upgraded to 192cc and 8 HP for MkII and MkIII models. Interstingly, the engine, 3-speed gearbox, driveshaft, swing-arm and bevel drive box were all built as a single unit. MkIII’s sacrificed much of the earlier bikes’ character for more conventional controls (foot-operated gear change, kick starter), making more powerful but still extraordinarily quirky MkII’s like this bike the pick of the bunch.

Velocette 200 LE, 1960

Good if unconventional looks, interesting engineering and scarcity make for a very compelling bike, though value is difficult to comment on with so few for sale at any given time. Regardless, it looks like a blast to ride–the two wheeled equivalent of a Citroen 2CV.

Dutch Rider: 1981 BMW R100RS w/ EML Sidecar

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This 1981 BMW R100RS (VIN TEX205829) runs an EML sidecar, fitment of which apparently required all the donor bike’s components to be swapped over to an EML-made frame. It’s an odd but interesting rig, with a forward tilting clam shell side car top/door and some pretty out-there styling, but the seller says it runs great, adding that it’s ready to be ridden anywhere. Find it here on eBay in Mount Clemens, Michigan with reserve not met. Special thanks to BaT reader Matt for this submission.

BMW R Series | eBay

More on the re-frame, this time in the seller’s own words: “The rig is titled as a 1998 Assembled Vehicle.  For those of you that are not familiar with these sidecar setups, the EML rig is complete with the sidecar and the frame.  The donor bike, in this case a 1981 R100RS, has all of the necessary components removed from the original frame and placed inside of the new EML frame.  At that time, due to the new frame being used, the unit is re-titled.”

BMW R Series | eBay

The ad goes on to note that the bike appears to have been repainted at some point, adding that finish is nice overall despite some roughness on the lower front fairing and a deep scratch on the sidecar, the latter of which is documented in additional photos visible within the listing. Also notable is some bubbling on the left side cover, visible in the photo below near its top left corner, just aft and below the tank. The fiberglass sidecar is finished inside simply with carpets and a vinyl covered seat, but build quality does appear to be quite good.

BMW R Series | eBay

A Dutch company founded in the early 70s, EML is an acronym for “Eigen Makelij”, roughly translated as “self-made.” The seller notes that the bike had been sitting for sometime when acquired, and lists quite a bit of recommissioning work including rebuilt carbs, new fluids, filters, tires, fitment of replacement petcocks, plugs, a fresh batter, new fuel lines, voltage regulator and weatherstripping. Additionally, the bike’s electrical system has been completely gone through, and is now said to be fully functional with everything noted as working properly.

BMW R Series | eBay

The ad further notes that the bike starts quickly and pulls well through all gears. It will smoke a bit when first started after sitting for a time, but this is fairly common for horizontally-opposed motor designs. Said to be ready to ride anywhere, you might as well bring a passenger.

One of 62: 1983 Bimota KB2 Laser TT

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This 1983 Bimota KB2 Laser TT (VIN 00090) is the marriage of a super stiff, hand built Italian frame and a Kawasaki GPZ550 powerplant. Just 177 of these were built, and less than 62 received the TT designation that included upgraded stoppers. This one is fitted with a full race kit including upgraded pistons and cams, and a number of mostly factory-approved fast bits. Find it here on eBay in Alcheda, Italy with reserve not met.

Ducati Other | eBay

Bimota started as a boutique company that outsourced engine-building to Japan in order to concentrate on bleeding-edge, flex-free frames. No expense was spared on parts, and as a result these bikes went for a hefty $12k in their day. Factory wheels would usually be gold colored 16″ Campagnolo magnesium items that look cooler than the ones here, though at 17 inches they are said to be a factory upgrade. Other factory mods include M1R Marzocchi forks and Brembo four pot calipers.

Ducati Other | eBay

The cockpit on these is very simple and more track bike than street. It was the importer’s responsibility to provide mirrors, and like most, this one has none. At least there are turn signals, which a Cycle magazine tester lacked back in the day. The black-on-white cluster here looks like a newer Kawasaki-based part compared to the original, and some of the switchgear might also be relatively modern. Considering these weren’t Bimota parts originally, this seems like a reasonable update.

Ducati Other | eBay

All the KB models had Kawasaki powerplants, the particular model signifying the second with Kawasaki power. Its factory rating was around 65 horsepower, but you should get a decent bit more with the upgraded pistons, camshaft and carburetor. At only 375 pounds dry, this one was said to smoke the 60 pound heavier donor Kawas in the twisties. You can see the upgraded Mikuni flat carb peeking out behind the bodywork here. With a recent service, it should be ready to fire right up.

Ducati Other | eBay

These look equally as excellent with the fairing as without, something that’s hard to say about many bikes. This one’s certainly very collectible, but the relatively non-exotic powerplant means it could be used with at least some peace of mind.

Big, Comfortable & Fast: 1985 Suzuki GS1150E

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This 1985 Suzuki GS1150E looks very nice in photos and has just received new tires, a fresh battery and had the carbs gone through. One of the very fastest street bikes available at the time, they were also quite sophisticated and good-looking, though at 550 pounds they were only OK handlers. Find this one here on Craigslist in Issaquah, Washington for $2,595. Special thanks to BaT reader Joby J. for this submission.

1985 Suzuki GS 1150e Survivor!

Dark, indoor photos don’t do the bike any favors, but closeups seem to confirm the seller’s claim of nicely preserved paint and bodywork. Red over black with white pinstriping is an attractive combination, and we’re always fans of 80s-style graphics–aside from the make and model, those seen here also proclaim FULL FLOATER SUSPENSION. Some black paint can be seen flaking off the cam covers, but overall the high-revving 16 valve four still looks sharp.

1985 Suzuki GS 1150e Survivor!

We’d prefer to see it without the aftermarket fairing, but at least it’s been nicely color-coordinated and should provide an added degree f comfort on long rides. Good for 119 HP at 8,500 RPM, these GS1150E’s were among the quickest un-faired big bikes on the market when introduced in 1984. This one has just under 22k miles from new, and the seller notes recent carb work, new Pirellis and a fresh battery.

00303_ke9KGtXULc3_600x450

We’d pull the fairing, restore the cam covers and do our best to ruin the new rear tire in an unreasonably short period of time.

One Owner: 1971 BMW R75/5

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This 1971 BMW R75/5 is a claimed 17k mile example on offer by its original owner. Said to be all-original apart from a rather ungainly aftermarket windshield, the bike otherwise looks quite nice in photos. Further claimed to have always been serviced at a BMW dealer, these are comfortable, well-built and engineered bikes that are often difficult to find as nice as this one seems to be. Find it here on Craigslist in Miami, Florida for $4k.

1971 BMW R75/5 For Sale

The bulky, distinctly shaped OEM tank seems to have nice paint and shows no immediately obvious dents or dings. The right rear turn signal has a broken stalk, but these are easy and cheap to source. The big, comfortable saddle looks correct, and though we’d ditch the big windshield and homemade looking luggage rack ASAP, everything else looks good.

1971 BMW R75/5 For Sale

Check out the combination speedo/tach unit. It’s not sporty, but it’s practical and looks cool–a perfect match for the bike’s character. Good for 50 HP and a bit less torque, these boxer twins make a good, distinct sound, and are pretty quiet with stock pipes as this one appears to be fitted with. The gyroscopic effect of the engine’s crank and shaft drive can be a bit disconcerting to those not familiar with this type of layout, but ridden within its limits–and limited clearance–it doesn’t take long to adapt.

1971 BMW R75/5 For Sale

Though not perfect, this one’s low mileage, one-owner history and dealer maintenance make it easy to look past it’s relatively minor and easily correctable faults.

Links to Moto Guzzi V7 Classic Reviews

V7 Classic on Roman Streets
V7 Classic on Roman Streets

I spent some time on the phone with Jim Barron at Rose Farm Classics yesterday.  I’m thinking about buying a bike from him right now (unless the right V7 Sport falls into my lap, which just doesn’t happen), and the subject turned around to the V7 Classic.  I’ve yet to plant my butt on one and ride it, but I know that will be happening in the future.

As we talked about the V7, we also talked about how much we liked Maxi Scooters.  The thing is, in Chicago, there are pot hole that will swallow you up.  I barely missed one last Saturday on Wacker that was more than 2 feet wide and at least as deep.  Had I hit that on the Eldorado I was riding, let alone a scooter, I do believe that would have made a spectacular mess.  Maxi-Scoots also aren’t getting any lighter, either.  Still love the scoots, and I’ve even looked at a couple recently for my jaunts around Oak Park.

So the question came up.  Maxi-Scoot or V7 Classic?  The Maxi-Scoot gives a lot of storage and weather protection, park-ability and style.  They are reliable, get great mileage and allow you to zoom just about anywhere you want, including freeways, with ease. How does it compare with the lightweight Guzzi?

The V7 has style all over it, since Guzzi basically pulled every classic goodie out of their refrigerator and made a perfect Dagwood Sandwich of style with this bike. Even the white color just fits it.  This bike is all style and all bike, without having a sinister bone in it’s body.

Is it reliable?  Reliability is a Guzzi hallmark.  I think there were a few years, pre-Piaggio, that might have been troubling, but I also believe that time is long past.  Even the latest recall on the Stelvio/Grisos was more for caution and getting things absolutely right for the customer, instead of fixing a potential disaster in the field.  A couple of the new V7 owners on the mailing lists that I subscribe to have had some niggling issues, but this bike is built on a well-evolved, solid platform.

I keep hearing that the V7 is “under-powered”.  My Eldorado has about the same amount with at least an extra hundred pounds to haul around.  I’m just buying that argument unless you’re comparing it to a 750cc hot-rod bike.  This bike doesn’t fill that role.  This bike is about enough of everything — a typical Guzzi with nothing to prove to anyone — the right-minded owner will bond with this bike completely.  It’s a great first bike, a great retro-bike, and I predict that it’s a great “Eastern City” bike, where there’s lots of stop-and-go, potholes, and openings that must be quickly exploited.

I have no dog in the hunt.  I haven’t ridden the V7 Classic yet.  I’ve been on a bunch of scooters, thanks to Piaggio, and I believe them to be superior products that are a blast to ride.  I think for me the V7 Classic would edge out the Maxi Scoot on three things:

  • I ride mostly with motorcyclists at the moment since I haven’t had a scoot in Chicago.
  • I take a lot of rides out in the wilderness.
  • I ride at night, and the potholes in this city come out of nowhere in the pitch.
  • Jim thinks the Guzzi is lighter than the biggest Maxis
  • Jim sells only Guzzi, and I’m pretty much of a completely biased homer in that department.
  • I would love a scooter, seriously love one, but I don’t have enough Motorcycles yet for the amount of money that I currently have to spend.  The sad fact is that if I had a scooter, I would probably ride it more than the bikes.  I’m just not ready to be so damned pragmatic in my life.

While I’m waiting for my V7 to test and ride around, I’ve been reading the reviews, and in doing so, I’ve decided to give out the links that I’ve found and share them.  Please feel free to comment with your experiences on the V7, good or bad,  if you have one and if you find more reviews feel free to add them to your comments:

(There’s a lot of UK in here, simply because the bike was available for almost a year in Europe before they were brought into the US).

Backup Bike Continued

Well, I have the ST2 on Craigslist.  The drama in my mind with respect to my “backup bike” continues.  I’ve been looking at the usual Guzzi suspects, the 1000s, SP, Brevas — even a V7 Sport or a Lodola.  The fact is, how and where I ride has changed dramatically since I moved to Chicago — gone are the 1000 mi weeks, week after week.  My commute is only about 15 miles round trip, and even with things closer here, there’s just no way that I’m going to rack up the miles that I had previously, which I don’t know if it is good or bad, it just is what it is.

One of the things that has been tickling me of late is the maxi-scoot.  The Eldo is just a great bike.  I love riding it, love everything about it.  Sheer joy on my face while I’m on it, so I’m imagining what another bike looks like parked next to it, and trying to play forward what the use for the second bike would be as the “new to me” wears off and I get up in the morning and decide what to ride that day.

I love the Piaggio Maxi-Scoots.  They’ve made me a better overall rider.  They are a serious blast to run around in, and are just as relaxing and utilitarian as anything I have ever been on, and just plain fun.

So I’m still ruminating and want to seek comments and opinions from anyone that cares.   Here’s my poll:

Feel free to chime in with a comment, too!  Thanks!

First Week in Chicago — Looks Like Riding Season is Over

I think that part of my orientation with my new position at WMS is weather-related.  The day that I arrived it was in the 20’s, and the day after was a “balmy” 50 degree day.  Next day was snow, followed by a cold, windy day that showed the thermometer at 6° with a -20 wind chill.  Next day was a good foot of snow, demonstrating how traffic can get insanely snarled up.  It repeats until today, where it’s -5° and the wind is howling so much that I don’t really care what the wind chill factor is.  My moustache froze 15 seconds after I left my front door.

I had a great drive from Los Angeles to Chicago last week.  Took 3 1/2 days and I ended up at a friend’s house overnight, moving into my apartment in Roger’s Park the next day.  Up until that point I was extremely disappointed that I didn’t ride my Ducati ST2 out.  Sure, I would have had less stuff, but I would have taken only what I needed and just lived with a smaller footprint until I went back home for Christmas on the evening of the 23rd.  I could pack a suitcase and bring more stuff out on the return trip, and I would have the bike when the streets were clear. Continue reading First Week in Chicago — Looks Like Riding Season is Over

Vespa GTV250 i.e. – Day 4 – Testing the Limits

This is the fourth in a series of posts dedicated to living with the Vespa GTV 250 i.e. The third article is here.

Takin’ the long way on the GTV250.

Vespa GTV 250 i.e. - Retro Masterpiece
Vespa GTV 250 i.e. - Retro Masterpiece

I made two trips to Santa Barbara on my daily commute to my (now former) job there.  I decided that the 160 mile round trip daily ride would put the scooter to many tests.  Top speed, endurance, mileage, handling over different pavements and conditions, scootering in Santa Barbara, and finally the attitudes of the people that I have coffee with in Ventura, lunch with in Santa Barbara, and a cup of tea with in either place on the way home.

Top speed and freeway driving.

Those 14 inch tires just disappear underneath the Vespa.  I didn’t know what to think about them.  Even standing at idle on the bike, there is no way, without contortion, that you can see the rear wheel.  I didn’t expect much with respect to riding on the freeway, but I’ve seen lesser rides on the road with me, and the 250cc engine is freeway legal.

As I accelerated down the onramp from Reseda Blvd to the 118 freeway west, I was shocked how fast the GTV got from zero to “I’m not going to be killed doing this” speed.  By the time I hit the end of the relatively short onramp, I was speeding past 60 and on my way.   Signals and visibility are without question awesome, and I safely maneuvered into traffic, still accelerating even though I was going slightly uphill.  I topped out at an indicated 84mph, which, translated through an Italian Speedo, is either about 75mph, or, if you’re used to them like I am, that would be “fast”.

The first obstacle in the path between Northridge and Ventura’s salt breezes is the Susanna Pass road, which is quite steep uphill.  The Piaggio 250 that I had tested previously made it up this hill with very little drop in top speed, so I wanted to see what the Vespa, with slightly smaller tires, much more frontal area and a little more weight would do.

Not bad, about what I had expected actually.  By the time I got to the top of the hill, I was running about 71 indicated, 62 or so actual (italian translation: medium fast).  As soon as it flattened out, there was no doubt that the scoot would go back to top speed.  The engine, even with 5000 miles on it, just ran like it was new.  A rev-limiter is attached to the engine that limits top speed to an indicated 87 or so.  I was able to bump up against this limiter on the flats, so the bike is geared just about perfectly, the CVT works as advertised, and if you are skeptical, spend a week with one and you’ll be hooked.

The trip to work and back, taken twice, took about 15 minutes longer than it would have on my bigger motorcycles.  Two things stick out though.  I found myself taking side roads more often, enjoying the view, smells and textures of my surroundings, and generally relaxing along my ride.  I had come to accept the lower speed potential of the scoot, and found some very nice ways to entertain myself and enjoy my ride, especially on the way home. Continue reading Vespa GTV250 i.e. – Day 4 – Testing the Limits