Classic Motorcycles Reviews & Road tests from other sites

If you are like me, you want  classic motorcycles of the past, the kind we grew up with.  I will be adding a lot more articles here as time goes on

Jack Corbett

Yamaha classic motorcycles from the past

Giant Killer, 1975 Yamaha RD 350

This bike could outrun a 650.  I fell in love with one the minute I test road it for a single city block.

Yamaha RD 350
The little Yamaha RD 350 could easily outclass the Honda 350 CB. For that matter it could outrun most 650’s but its 2 stroke engine was a real gas guzzler

I had just driven my brother in laws Yamaha 650.  The RD 350 felt so small, so compact in comparison.  Although I preferred it to the Honda CB350 because of its handling and much faster acceleration, the Yamaha RD 350 was a 2 stroke.  I read that it would only get 30 to 35 miles to the gallon.  So I ended up buying the Honda CB350 because of its much better fuel economy and renowned 4 stroke reliability.  Somehow the idea of a cruising range of less than 100 miles put me off.  It still does.

The Yamaha RD 350 vs the KTM Duke 390  The speed kings finally meet

These two bikes come from different eras.  The Yamaha RD 350 from the 1970’s whereas the KTM Duke 390 is current.  (2017).  The Yamaha’s a two stroke twin whereas the KTM is an Austrian single cylinder 4 stroke.

Yamaha RD 350 vs Suzuki GT 38) Middle Weight Giant Test  courtesy of Bike Magazine Circa November 1975

In 1975 the Yamaha RD 350 was the middleweight sports bike par excellence.  Here “Bike Magazine Circa” pits it against the lesser known Suzuki GT 380.

1980 Yamaha SR500 1980 Road Test from “Cycle World”

The Yamaha SR500 beget the Yamaha SR400, the bike I’m riding now.  The eye appeal of both is immense.  Both bikes are kick start only.  They are or were made in Japan.  But due to Japanese licensing restrictions you cannot get the 500 version anymore.  The modern Yamaha SR400 is now fuel injected.  Other than that, it’s low tech.  But back in 1978 the Yamaha SR500 boasted in the frame oil lubrication instead of a crankcase.  Yamaha could mount the engine lower because of this.  Improved handling is the result and enhanced reliability.

Yamaha SR400: In Thailand the Yamaha SR400 is a Chick Magnet

The Yamaha SR400 might be the best looking motorcycle sold in Thailand.

To some, the fact you must kick start it, sets you apart as a “real man”.  It’s a great machine for threading city traffic.  But it will only top out at around 80 mph or so.  But no matter, the exclusivity of the Yamaha SR 400 puts it towards the top of the food chain.

Honda Classic Motorcycles

Honda CB 350

Honda 350 CB
I bought a Honda 350 CB just like this one, in green when I was a 24 year old school teacher

This was my first motorcycle which I bought in 1972.  Reliable with a top speed the Honda CB 350 had a top speed of around 90 miles per hour.

Honda 1973 CB 350 Four “The Smallest Four: Honda CB 350F”

Intended to quell the typical vibrations of 2 cylinder motorcycles such as the Honda CB350 twin, the 4 cylinder 350 was smooth but a bit short on power compared the CB350.

Honda 1970 CB 450

1972 Honda 450 CB
I wound up trading my Honda CB 350 for a Honda CB 450 that had 100 more cc’s and 9 more horsepower

I traded my CB 350 for one of these.  The Honda CB450 had 45 horsepower compared to the CB350’s 36 h.p.  Its performance was competitive to the 650 British twins such as the Triumph Bonneville.  It was superior to the Honda CB350 on the interstate.  Mine was good for about 100 mph or so.  But on a two lane with lots of tight corners its heavier weight put it behind my Honda CB350.

Honda 500 XL S  “Best Performance in an off/road series”  Cycle World

300 pound, 32 horsepower, on or off road with lots of big single torque on tight trails in the woods this thing was just too much.

It wasn’t bad on the highway though.  Its speedometer only went to 85 mph but my 500 Honda XL would hit the peg and go about 5 miles per hour faster.

British Classic Motorcycles

2001 Triumph Bonneville, Harley Davidson Sportster, and Kawasaki W650 by Chuck Hawks

Harley Davidson introduced the Sportster to stem the British Invasion during the 1950’s.

The 650 Triumph Bonneville was the benchmark against which all other 650 twins were measured

The British were fielding lighter, better handling, and cheaper bikes than Harley Davidson’s expensive cruisers with Triumph and BSA taking the lead.  Harley engineered the Sportster as a cheaper and sportier alternative to such behemoths.  Chuck Hawkes compares three competitive models in this 2001 review.  One American.  One British and one from the land of the Rising Sun.

BSA 650 Lightning 1968 BSA Lightning Thunderbolt 

In 1968 British 650 twins ruled the roost in U.S. motorcycledom.   The Japanese would soon rule the market.  But in 1968 Triumphs and BSA’s dominated the field of “Must have’s”.

BMW Classic Motorcycles

1979 BMW R 65 650

This was the best all around bike I owned.

With its low center of gravity and light weight (408 pounds), the BMW R65 was excellent in city driving.  But it was even better on the highway.  Equal to the much  larger BMW 1000 c.c. twins.  Those cost $6000.  I got my 650 for just $3400.  Its horizontal air cooled twin engine was and still is a classic.  The Germans introduced this basic engine conformation back in 1923 with shaft drive.  My BMW R65 had virtually no vibration at all up to 58 mph.  But once I reached 70 mph all vibration smoothed out and the engine got smooth as silk.  I could could cruise nearly 300 miles without stopping at a gas station.  I once drove it 400 miles in one day with my girlfriend sitting behind me.  The owner could easily maintain this bike by himself.  And one didn’t even have a chain to adjust.

Bikes of a Lifetime 1983 BMW R65–“Should of Kept it Forever by Robert Kim

This is a great article on the outstanding virtues of the BMW R65 with a lot of excellent pictures.  Robert Kim’s views reflect my own.  This is just about the best all around motorcycle there ever was.

BMW K 100 RS– the fastest, best looking bike I ever owned

classic motorcycles my BMW K100 RS
My BMW K100 RS was a true classic motorcycle. It looked just like this one. Blue. The perfect color for the bike with the perfect body.

In the following You Tube video John Landstrom from Blue Moon Cycle discusses the unique engineering features of the BMW K100 RS series of classic motorcycles. John also explains that the 1985 year model had more horsepower than the K100 RS’s from other years. And why.

BMW K-100 RS from Cafe Husky.com

My BMW k100 rs was just like this except it was blue

One reviewer’s opinion.  You will find here the remarks of other owners as well.

Riding the K-100 (RS) by Jim Wolcott

I did 220 kph on mine, then I chickened out.  BMW claimed a 137 mile per hour top speed and zero to 100 miles an hour in 7 seconds.  Some reviewers on the Internet claim the 1985 model K100 RS produced more than the 90 horsepower BMW claimed.  And that the 1985 models were the fastest K100 rs’s ever built.  Well, I don’t know about that.  But I drove my K100 RS on the old highway 66 near my farm at over 131 miles an hour.  This stretch of the road was a bumpy two lane.  There were side roads feeding into it and a steep overpass looming ahead of me.  I would have to slow down to around 20 mph to climb the overpass.  I don’t think any Japanese bike in the mid to late 1980’s could match my BMW K100’s all around performance.  It had an unmatchable chassis that provided exceptional stability.  And it had great brakes.  The K100’s four cylinder engine arrangement was a one of a kind as it was turned on its side.   No other 4 cylinder on the market could match this bike’s low center of gravity.

Driving the BMW K100 RS on the autobahn at 155 miles per hour by qno 1963

If you want to know what it’s really like driving the BMW100 rs, this you tube video’s for you.  Like mine this K100 RS is from the 1985 model year.

Look for more reviews of classic motorcycles to come.

 

 

 

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