Considering Owning A Vintage British Motorcycle?
Owning A Vintage British Motorcycle
Steve McQueen with a lovely passenger on a 1966 Triumph TR6R Tiger
Thinking about purchasing or building a vintage British motorcycle but not sure where to start? The question you need to ask your self is should you start? Vintage British motorcycles can be very, very complicated and delicate machines. Everyone wants that cool vintage Triumph motorcycle because James Dean rode one, Steve McQueen, Fonzie did, and maybe your grandpa did too. Or maybe it's an investment or just the joy of a owning a British motorcycle. So what's it like owning a vintage British motorcycle? The answer may not be the one you want to hear, but I'll tell you the truth behind owning a classic British motorcycle.
"I quickly saw how complicated British motorcycles where.."
For starters, I have been around vintage Triumph motorcycles, BSA, and even Norton motorcycles basically my whole life. My Father and I have always done our own work. I have also owned many new Japanese motorcycles along with vintage Japanese motorcycles such as a Honda Benley and a Honda CB360. After working on vintage Japanese motorcycles and switching to vintage British motorcycles, I quickly saw how complicated British motorcycles where. Don't get me wrong here, I love British motorcycles, but for those that want to own one, this is something to take into consideration.
"You are always 'tinkering' around with it..."
I feel that owning an old Triumph or BSA motorcycle you are always "tinkering" around with it. There seems to be something that always needs to be done. For example, all old British bikes leak oil. No matter how well you seal the cases, over time with use and abuse, oil will find its way out. For those who have never rebuilt an engine, a Triumph, BSA, or Norton Engine is pretty straight forward but at the same time it can be very complicated? Although most classic Triumph motorcycles look the same for example, internally they are not. Sometimes I feel you have to be a machinist to rebuild these old bikes. If you have experience with engines, electrical, or just the basics with tuning, you may be capable of wrenching on your own bike.
"Some could not take the complexity, expense..."
I have seen many new vintage British motorcycle owners give up and throw in the towel. Some could not take the complexity, expense, or perhaps understand how the motorcycle worked. As stated previously, these bikes can be very complicated especially when little issues develop. Each seems to have there own unique personality. Maybe because each one was built by hand?
"Be prepared to work on your bike yourself..."
Once a classic British motorcycle has been properly rebuilt, we'll maintained, and all the "issues" have been sorted out, it is a blast to ride. There will ALWAYS be some type of upkeep on an old bike. Sometimes a coil might fail, ignition switch goes bad, light bulb goes out, or the bike won't start, these are all examples that can even happen to a modern bike but you have to able and willing to fix these problems yourself. Most shops today won't even touch an old Triumph, even new Triumph dealerships. Just be prepared to work on your bike yourself and don't be afraid to! There are wonderful sources here on the web that can help you wrench on your bike or if you have any questions.
"Patience will go a long way..."
Patience will go a long way when owning a vintage Triumph, BSA, or Norton motorcycle. At the end of the day, owning a vintage British motorcycle is not for everyone. Just like Hobby's, try one out and see how it goes. If you don't like it, try something else! My goal is not to detour people away from owning British motorcycles, but is to tell them the truth. Most folks or let alone dealers won't tell you this. If you like to learn and you enjoy a challenge, by all means go for it!