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Ten great motorcycle stories including Honda, Lord of the Rings, The Yamaha Story, The History of Harley, The history of Suzuki.


Page 1: Motorbike Stories


10 Great Motorcycle Stories

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Motorcycling in Spain Page 3

Ten Top Tips for a Successful Motorbike Tour Page 5

The Harley-Davidson Story Page 8

Honda, Lord of the Rings Page 10

Yamaha History Page 12

The Ducati Story Page 13

The Metamorphosis of Suzuki Page 16

BMW History Page 18

Royal Enfield – To India and Back Page 21

Indian Motorcycles Page 24

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Motorcycling in Spain

Spain has so many fantastic motorcycle routes that it really is a problem deciding where to go. The country is vast and huge tracts are almost deserted, but most of the roads are fabulous, especially for motorcycling. This is the most mountainous country in Europe, and offers some of the best scenery you could wish for. It also boasts the best climate too, although the difference between the north and south can be quite marked.

Before you jump on your bike and head for the ferry terminal, there are a few things you should consider. Now this may sound stupid but, is your bike in tip-top condition? It’s

surprising how many people go on tour without having had their motorbike checked over. Beside the routine maintenance of checking brakes, tyres and lights, it may be a good idea to have the bike serviced before you set out. Having done all that, taking out an insurance plan that covers you and your vehicle for the duration of the trip adds security.

We’ve already mentioned the mountains and the climate, but it’s worth remembering that mountainous regions can be quite changeable weather-wise, so you’re going to need a good selection of clothing to cover all possibilities. This is where a tour back-up vehicle earns its corn. You can place everything you don’t immediately need, in the back-up vehicle, which leaves you free to enjoy the road without straining to see over the top of a well stacked tank bag. It can be pretty hot in July and August in Spain, so once again the back-up vehicle comes to the rescue with water or soft drinks. I once went on a tour that provided tea and coffee courtesy of a camping cooker; very nice. motorcycle tours

Of course, you could make your own way, and many people do successfully, but unless you’ve been to the hotels you’re going to stay in, you’re taking a bit of a chance. If you go with an organised group, your tour operator will have vetted the hotels, and to be honest, by the time the tour company has negotiated with the hotels for group booking discounts, you’re not really going to save a lot by going it alone. The

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best thing by far about going with a group is the lifelong friendships that are born during the tour, and that is priceless.

So, where to go? If you don’t like the heat, I would stay away from Andalusia during July and August, but any other time of year it’s an absolute treat, but it’s quite a way from the ferry ports in Northern Spain, so allow enough time for the journey. Bear in mind that Spain is a big country, and you may have to cover long distances each day. Be sure that you are up to this before you commit yourself. The North-West of Spain is green and lush, which is an indication as to the weather; put simply, green equals rain, so be prepared. On the other hand, Almeria in the South-East boasts the only true desert in Europe. I once rode through this place in June and it was as if some-one had turned a hair-dryer on me.

Another think to look out for is the Spanish driver. Although the Spanish are generally decent and friendly people, some of them they tend to be a bit wild when they climb in behind the steering wheel of a car. If you keep on your toes, there won’t be a problem, but it’s no good waving yours arms and gesticulating, it’s all grist to the mill for them. They may sound their horn at you, but without malice as is often the case in other countries.

Speed cameras are used in Spain, but at nowhere near the same level as is Britain, but if you are caught speeding by the Guardia Civil, you will be fined and often quite heavily. The speed limit on most single carriageway roads is 100 Kph, but at road junctions this decreases to 60 Kph, which catches out many foreign motorists, and these are the places that the police tend to place their traps, so be warned.

Whether you go it alone or join an organised trip, drive carefully, make sure you’ve got the right gear, don’t forget to drive on the right and have a great time. Once bitten, you’ll find it hard to stay away.

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Ten Top Tips for a Successful Motorbike Tour

You chose a country that you thought would suit you, you carefully packed your luggage and your maps, you meticulously planned the route, but still the holiday is a disaster. What more could you have done to ensure the success of the tour? Here are the top ten tips for motorbike touring. motorcycle tours


It sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people set off on a long tour without making sure that their bike is in the best possible condition it could be. Having your motorcycle serviced before a long tour could save days of heartache, especially if you are planning a trip abroad. In some

countries, garages aren’t always as motivated as you are, when it comes to getting your bike back on the road. Sometimes, the whole holiday can be taken up waiting for repairs. Don’t forget to carry spare bulbs.


Make sure you have the right clothing. Even in summer months there is a possibility that mountain roads can be subject to inclement weather. It could be forty degrees or it could be less than ten, and it’s a guessing game that you would be wise to avoid. This is when a guided tour with a luggage carrying back-up vehicle comes into its own. Another advantage of a back-up vehicle is the access to water if it does become very hot.


Don’t try and cover too much ground in one day. Many people who set out on their own, forget to allow time for refreshment stops. There’s nothing worse than arriving at your planned destination in a state of exhaustion, then quickly eating and climbing into bed. A few consecutive days of this will see you wanting to ditch your bike and catch a bus. Be reasonable with your itinerary.


Is it a race or a motorcycle holiday? Another downer that could happen whilst on tour, is being pulled by the local police and hit with a huge

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speeding fine, and in some countries I mean huge. Always, but always respect the traffic laws and speed limits, and this applies if you’re touring in your own country too.


When planning your route, make sure you go somewhere interesting. It’s all very well spending the day on fantastic country roads, but when you wash up in that one horse town and you’re sitting in bar all by yourselves, you’ll wish you’d put a little more thought into the route.

Again, if are travelling with a guided tour, someone else will have done all the homework for you.


What time of year are you planning to take the tour? Bear in mind, especially if you are travelling to a mountainous region, that even when the sun is shining on the coast, it can snowing in the mountains. In summer, you’re probably going to be fine if you remember to carry the right gear, but be careful in spring and autumn, or you may just have to pack a snow shovel.


I know that you’ve been set free and are determined to enjoy yourself, but believe me (here speaks the voice of experience), it’s no fun crawling to your bike with a raging hangover, a mouth that feels like a monkey slept in there and a splitting headache. For your own sake and the sake of the people you are travelling with, go easy on the booze.


We’ve talked about the condition of your bike, but what about you? You owe it to yourself to feel as well as you can during your tour. I’m not talking about launching into some kind of marathon training before you embark on your trip, but the better you feel, the more you’ll enjoy yourself, so if it means shedding a few pounds, it’s well worth it. Besides looking after yourself, it’s also a good idea to keep an eye on your travelling companions during the tour. It’s always worth asking how someone feels, especially if you know them well and feel they’re not quite on the ball.

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You’re in an incredibly beautiful mountain pass, the high peaks have a coating of pure white snow punctured by the most graceful pines you’ve ever seen, and guess what; you forgot you camera. This scenario is not as uncommon as you might think. Before you set off, and I don’t mean in the hour leading up to departure, make a list of all the things you’re likely to need on your trip. I know you want to travel light, but you can always cross things off the list, but you can’t magic them out of thin air once you’ve started.


This could be the most important one. Go with friends who’ll understand when you get lost, tired or irritable. Better still go with a specialised tour company. motorcycle tours

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The Harley-Davidson Story

William Harley was 21 when he drew up plans for an 116cc engine, which was built and fitted to a pedal cycle. That was in 1901. He was joined by his friend Arthur Davidson, and together they worked on what was really a motor-bicycle. With the help of Arthur's brother, Walter, they completed the project in 1903, however the boys were so dissatisfied with their first attempt,

they scrapped the bike, but not without gaining valuable experience along the way.

The second machine, with a 405cc engine is classed by many as the first real Harley. The bigger engine and frame design meant this machine was something other than a motor-bicycle, and was a forerunner of the modern motorcycle. The prototype was built in a ten by fifteen feet shed belonging to the Davidson family, although the engine parts were said to be built at the West Milwaukee Railshops, where older brother William Davidson worked as a foreman. By 1905 this motorcycle was been offered to the public on a very limited basis. Three were sold that year.

The shed was eventually moved to the Juneau Avenue factory to serve as a reminder of the company's humble beginnings, but sadly was accidentally demolished by contractors during the 1970's.

By 1907 production had reached 150 motorcycles, and in that year they began selling their machines to police departments. Also in that same year, a prototype 880cc, V-twin engine was developed and displayed at the Chicago Automobile Show, although very few V-twin motorcycles were sold before 1910. By 1909 well over 1,000 motorcycles were being produced, a tribute not only to the boys' engineering skills, but also to their entrepreneurial attributes.

In 1917, when the USA entered the arena of World War 1, new demands were placed on the company, as the military needed a robust, reliable machine. Harley-Davidson rose to the challenge and produced 20,000 motorcycles for the war machine. This no doubt helped the company take their place as the World's largest motorcycle manufacturer, and by

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1920 they were producing over 28,000 units which were sold in 67 countries.

The depression of the Thirties hit the company hard and production fell to less than 4,000 in 1933. Through necessity, they produced a three-wheeled delivery vehicle which was named the 'Servi-car', a design that stood the test of time and only ceased production in 1973.

As war came again, Harley-Davidson copied the design of the BMWR71, and produced the XA model, as once again the company answered the demands of the United States Army and produced large numbers of motorcycles. They also built the WLC for the Canadian military, and sent more than 30,000 units to the Soviet Union.

After the war, the company flourished and the 'Super 10' and 'Topper' scooter were produced. In 1960 they bought fifty percent of Aeronautica Macchi's motorcycle division and the importation of the 250cc horizontal single began. This bike wore the Harley-Davidson badge and was marketed as the 'Harley-Davidson Sprint'. The company became sole owners of Aermacchi in 1974.

Hollywood too has played a part in the development of Harley-Davidson, sadly tarnishing the company's image and leading the brand to be associated with groups such as 'Hell's Angels'. In 1969 AMF bought the company, decimated the workforce and began to produce a machine which was much inferior to its Japanese rivals. Sales slumped and the company was on the edge of the abyss. The company's reputation

became almost irredeemable.

Under pressure from Harley-Davidson, the US government introduced a 45% tariff on imported motorcycles over 700cc, but instead of going head to head with the Japanese, they concentrated on the 'Retro' style of bike. Many of the components for these machines were built overseas, and the quality of the finished article took a turn for the better.

In 2008, a Harley-Davidson Museum opened in Milwaukee. The three building complex contains a large collection of motorcycles and other Harley-Davidson memorabilia. This represents a huge leap from the shed in the Davidson's backyard and the austere years of the Great Depression. Proof enough that Harley-Davidson is more than a motorcycle, more than a company; it has become a way of life for motorcyclists all over the world. William and Arthur would be delighted.

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Honda, Lord of the Rings

I wonder if Soichiro Honda knew what he was starting when as a schoolboy in the late thirties, he began his development of the piston ring. As his ideas came to fruition and production began, he tried to sell his rings to Toyota, but was told that his work didn’t meet their rigorous standards. Undaunted, he carried on and two years later he finally earned a contract with the Japanese giant.

The man’s determination was shown in the lead up to the Second World War. Japan was short of building materials, so the enterprising Mr Honda invented a new concrete making process that allowed him to construct a factory so that he could feed the hungry Toyota. His factory was bombed twice and destroyed by an earthquake, but still he came back.

After the war he turned his attention to motorcycles, and in.1947 he produced a ½ horsepower motorcycle called the A-type. This machine gave off so much smoke that it earned the nickname of ‘The Chimney’. The Honda Motor Company was born in 1948 when Soichiro was 41. He went into partnership with Takeo Fujisawa and together they laid the foundation for what was to become the biggest motorcycle company in the World. This was the year that they introduced a 90cc version of the A-type named the B-type. motorcycle tours

1949 saw the birth of the two-stroke D-type Dream, a machine that was Honda’s first real motorcycle, rather than an engine mounted on a push bike. Soichiro oversaw every step of the development from design to production. It was indeed his dream.

By 1952 Honda were producing machines in large numbers. The F-type Cub was a ½ horsepower 50cc two-stroke that was available as a whole bike, or you could just purchase the engine to fit into your pushbike. Sales would soon reach 6500 per month.

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A 90cc four-stroke was made available in 1953. This became known as the ‘Benly’ which means ‘convenience’ in Japanese. A three speed gearbox was fitted to the J-type Benly along with rear suspension. 1000 Benly’s per month were being sent out of the factory gates. These were good times for Honda and a 200cc scooter soon followed. motorbike tours

The first twin cylinder offering from Honda appeared in 1957 with a 250cc four-stroke C70 Dream. By 1958 the 250 Dream had acquired an electric start, and in July 1958, what is considered to be the World’s most successful motorcycle, the C100 Super Cub was born. They would eventually sell in excess of thirty million units.

In 1959 Honda showed its C72 Dream in Amsterdam, impressing the public with its aluminium engine, electric start and indicators.

In 1961 Mike Hailwood’s victories at the Isle of Man cemented Honda’s reputation and began their honeymoon with racing. Honda collected more than one hundred major motorcycle racing championships throughout the world, and the knowledge gleaned from building high performance machines has been used in the development of production bikes.

Honda changed the face of the motorcyclist too, when in 1962 an advertising campaign declared ‘You meet the nicest people on a Honda’, destroying the tough guy image that motorcycling had carried with it for some years. Now bikes were attractive to everyone, and at the Tokyo Show of 1968, the World’s first true ‘Superbike’ was launched in the shape of the CB750F. It was the biggest motorcycle ever produced in Japan. The CB750 that introduced the following year was capable of 120mph, phenomenal for its day and by far the fastest bike on the road.

In 1975 Honda introduced their famous ‘Goldwing’ and in doing so, created a cult along with the bike that is still setting the standards today. It had a shaft drive, disc brakes and a fuel tank that was located under the seat.

Today, Honda is massive, employing more than one hundred thousand people in Japan and the USA, and it was all started by a schoolboy and his piston rings.

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Yamaha History

Although the first Yamaha motorcycle didn’t appear until the mid fifties, the company’s history dates back to 1887, when the father of the company, Torakusa Yamaha began producing reed organs. The Yamaha Motor Corporation sprang into life on July 1st 1955, and remains part of the Yamaha Group. It has grown to be the second largest

motorcycle manufacturer in the world, which is no mean feat for what was a fledgling company that arrived late in the motorcycle market. Their first offering was the YA1, a 125cc, single cylinder two-stroke, was a copy of a German motorbike. The Japanese have often been accused of copying European models, but let’s not forget that BSA also used this very same design to produce their Bantam. This machine, fondly known as the Red Dragonfly, laid the foundation of Yamaha’s reputation for reliability, and success on the race track contributed to the bike’s popularity. The twin cylinder YD, the first machine designed by Yamaha, was introduced in 1957. A win a Mount Asama boosted sales, but at less than 16,000 models a year output was still way behind Honda and Suzuki. However, the company flourished during the following years, and in 1959 Yamaha were the first Japanese company to offer a sports model, the twin cylinder YDS1, complete with five speed gearbox. A kit was available which allowed the owner to adapt the bike for racing, both on and off road. By 1960 the company’s output had increased by a massive 600%, but a period of recession forced Japanese companies to look further afield to sell their products, and in 1961 Yamaha entered a team in the European Grand Prix. In the early sixties, America’s economy was on the rise and Yamaha managed to sell 12,000 motorcycles in the States. In 1963 the figure was 36,000 rising to 87,000 in 1964. Yamaha’s first factory outside Japan was opened in Siam (present day Thailand) in 1966, in order to supply Southeast Asia. By 1967, with 406,000 bikes built, production had overtaken that of Suzuki. Racing was important to Yamaha, so much so that in 1969 they constructed a full size race track near to their Iwata factory. In 1970, Yamaha’s catalogue carried 20 models, with a range from 50cc to 350cc. Production had reached 574,000 units per year, the majority of which went to overseas markets. That year also saw the introduction of

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the first four-stroke machine, in the shape of the 650cc XSI, although two-stroke engines were still favoured for bikes below 400cc. By 1973, Yamaha were producing over a million bikes annually, leaving Suzuki firmly in their wake. That year, Honda turned out 1,836,000 machines. During the seventies, Yamaha’s RD twin cylinder sports bikes were proving a big hit and the company had once again backed a winner. As the eighties arrived, over two million bikes were passing through the factory gates. During this period, the four cylinder XJ’s were developed with displacements ranging from 550cc to 1100cc. One of Yamaha’s most successful projects was the Virago, which was introduced as a 750cc, but 500cc and 920cc models were soon available. This bike was the first cruiser to come out of Japan, and proved to be immensely successful, so successful in fact, that Harley Davidson was running scared. They pressed for a tariff on imported motorcycles over 750cc, so Yamaha had to replace their 750cc Virago with the 699cc version, but at the same time, the 920cc grew to 1000cc. It eventually became the 1100cc. One of the most loved versions of the Virago is the XV535; its reliability and easy handling has delighted riders worldwide. The larger Virago’s were replaced by the V-Star and Road Star models and the last model to carry the Virago name was the 2007, 250cc version. It’s understandable how Yamaha have accrued such a dedicated following. Over the years, their bikes have married cutting edge technology with reliability, which is no mean feat. Their designs have earned admiration from far and wide, and continue to do so today.

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The Ducati Story

In 1926, Adriano and Marcello Ducati founded a company that specialised not in motorcycles, but the production of radio components. During the war years, they turned their attention toward electronic military equipment. This move made their factory a target for allied bombing, but despite frequent, serious damage, they managed

to remain in production. In 1950, Ducati launched their first motorcycle, which was based on the already well established Cucciolo engine. This power unit, designed by Aldo Farinelli, was originally created as a strap on motor for push bikes. By the time Ducati adopted it, 200,000 units had been produced. This first creation by Ducati was capable of 40mph and 200 mpg and weighed in at 98 pounds. These bikes were badged as 55M or 65TL.

Post-war economic growth put more money in Italians’ pockets and with it the need for something more sophisticated, so at the Milan Show of 1952, the company introduced the 65TS and the cruiser, which was the first four-stroke scooter in the world. Unfortunately, the public didn’t embrace the idea as Ducati had hoped, and the model was withdrawn the following year with sales barely reaching the 2,000 mark. At this time, Ducati were still making electronic equipment, so the decision was made to split the company and Ducati Elettronica SpA was created under separate management. motorcycle tours

Ducati Meccanica SpA, led by Dr Guiseppe Montano, became the motorcycle manufacturing company that we know today, and by 1954 were turning out 120 units per day as the factory was modernized with government aid. Although Montano was appointed by the government, he was a genuine motorcycle lover and realised the potential of racing to induce customers to buy his machines. By 1956, the Desmo Ducati 125 won its first race in Sweden. The Grand Prix at Hedemora saw the Ducati lap every other motorcycle. Sadly, the man who achieved this feat, Gianni Degli Antoni, died during practice for the following race. This

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unfortunate accident hit Ducati hard, and it wasn’t until 1958 that they could once again challenge MV Agusta.

As the 50’s drew to a close, the Berliner Brothers picked up the American franchise and pushed Ducati to the forefront in the USA. With no little flair, they began punching above their weight and mounted a serious challenge to the wave of Japanese machines that were coming into the country. At this time, the company was also enjoying success in other export markets as well as at home. In the mid sixties, Ducati became the Italian outlet of Standard-Triumph cars and Leyland vans and trucks. It seemed as if they could do no wrong, but the American market was about to give them a reminder of the fragility of success. Ducati insisted on pushing their 50cc two-strokes on the American public. Although these machines had accrued many sales in Italy, the contrary was true of the USA, as the nation snubbed what were in fact very good machines. Rather than heed the warning, the company pressed ahead and created a 100cc two-stroke, when they really should have been developing their much loved sporting four-strokes. Berliner suffered to such an extent, that they refused one shipment of bikes because they didn’t have the money to pay them, even if they could have sold them in the States.

As Ducati struggled to compete with the mass produced Japanese motorcycles, the future looked gloomy, but once again they turned to their racing roots, creating 750’s which took first and second places at Imola in 1972. A major coup for the company was the securing of the services of rider, Paul Smart, who was at that time racing for Kawasaki. The story goes that he wasn’t at home when the call

came, but the financial lure was so strong that his wife accepted the offer on his behalf. Success at Imola sparked the beginning of the love affair between big racing bikes and Ducati.

Today, Ducati riders are some of the most loyal when it comes to brand allegiance. Their reward is to be the owner of one of one most strikingly beautiful machines available. The company has achieved success by following its racing roots. At the company’s headquarters, you can visit the museum and re-live over 50 years of racing history.

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The Metamorphosis of Suzuki

Contrary to popular belief, Suzuki produced cars before they moved into the two wheeled market, but the early days of the company were devoted to the production of weaving looms. The father of the company, Michio Suzuki, the son of a Japanese cotton farmer, created a brand new version of the weaving machine in the

coastal village of Hamamatsu, Japan. A successful business was built upon his invention, providing employment and wealth for the company and its staff during the first thirty years of its incarnation.

Although the loom side of the business was still enjoying success, Suzuki thought the time was right to diversify, so after studying the market, he decided that the way forward would be the development of a car. In 1937, a development programme was launched, and within two years many prototypes integrating a cast aluminium gearbox and crankcase had been built. However, the company had a setback as the Japanese government declared civilian cars a non-essential commodity at the outbreak of World War 2. When the war ended, Suzuki once again concentrated on the production of looms as the US government gave the go ahead for the shipping of cotton to Japan. The company flourished for a short while as orders increased, but the rug was pulled from underneath them when the cotton market collapsed in 1951.

This could have proved the death knell for Suzuki’s operations, but rather than call it a day, the company once again turned their eyes toward motor vehicles. At this time, Japan had a dire need for cheap, reliable transportation, and a number of companies had begun to produce a clip-on engine which could be attached to a bicycle. Suzuki’s breakthrough came with the development of a motorised bicycle named the ‘Power Free’. Powered by a 36cc engine, this unique vehicle was the first to feature the double sprocket gear system, which allowed the rider to travel by pedal power alone, engine assisted pedalling or engine only propulsion. So ground-breaking was the new innovation, that the fledgling democratic government offered a grant to the Suzuki company to assist research in motorcycle engineering. This was the birth of the Suzuki Motor Corporation. By 1954, 6,000 ‘Colleda CO’ motorcycles

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were passing out of the factory gates every month. The Colleda was a single cylinder 90cc machine, which proved good enough to win a prominent motorcycle race during its first year of production. At this time, Suzuki also began development of the ‘Suzulight’ automobile, which featured front wheel drive and four-wheel independent suspension.

In 1955, Suzuki produced a larger offering in the form of the 125cc four-stroke ‘Colleda COX’, and an improved version of the two-stroke called the ‘Colleda ST’. The TT model, introduced in 1956 was in essence the forerunner of the Grand Prix bikes. By the standards of the day, the TT was regarded as a high performance machine, capable of reaching speeds in excess of 80 mph, and leaving in its wake, machines with much more power at their call. This motorcycle also showed a touch of finesse and featured some luxurious accessories, amongst these were indicators.

By 1958, 50, 125 and 250cc motorcycles were available from Suzuki, and the familiar ‘S’ logo was introduced. Many of you will know that the logo is still being used on motorcycles today. Engineering research went hand in hand with corporate branding, so when in 1960, Suzukis made their first appearance at the Isle of Man, it was an important milestone for both departments. By 1962 they had claimed their first World Road Racing Championship in the 500cc class. In 1964, the company set its sights on motocross Grand Prix, but enjoyed only limited success.

1976 saw the introduction of a range of four stroke machines, such as the GS400, a 400cc twin and the 750cc GS750. The shaft driven GS850G came along in 1978. So called ‘Superbikes’ were beginning to appear and the GS1000S was developed as Suzuki’s contribution to this class. In 1982, the turbocharged XN85 was introduced, and before the year was out, Suzuki had claimed their eighth consecutive victory in the 500cc class.

It’s fair to say that, had it not been for the Second World War and the later collapse of the cotton market, Suzuki could well have been solely a car manufacturer today, or worse still, not even in existence.

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BMW History

It was the Treaty of Versailles that changed the face of BMW. Up until the end of World War 1, BMW was a manufacturer of aircraft engines. Its famous blue and white circular badge, which is said to represent aircraft propellers

in motion, being a reminder of the company’s past. The fact that the logo actually derives from the colours of the flag of Bavaria, and was used a good 12 years before BMW began to build aircraft engines, has done nothing to interfere with the popular myth.

When the German Air Force was disbanded and outlawed after the war, BMW had to turn its attentions elsewhere to put bread on the table. After briefly flirting with the manufacturer of agricultural machinery and even office furniture, they began building motorcycles. At that time, the chief designer was a man named Max Friz, who was responsible for the famous Boxer engines, the first of which was based on a British Douglas design.

In 1923, the R32 was born, which was to become the basis of future Boxer powered BMW’s. This motorcycle used the shaft drive system which would feature in all BMW motorcycles up until 1994.

BMW motorcycles were to prove invaluable in North Africa during World War 2. Not having a chain that could clog with sand, they were so successful that Harley-Davidson

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were requested by the US military, to copy the machine, which they duly did and produced the Harley-Davidson XA. With the German war machine insatiable for motorcycles, the company flourished during the war years, but as Germany’s fortunes declined, so did BMW’s. Its Munich factory was razed to the ground by bombing and after the war the Russians dismantled the Eisenach plant and re-assembled it in Irbit. Not only that, but the cream of their engineers were taken to Russia or the USA to work on jet engines research.

As the restriction on motorcycle production was eased, BMW had to go back to basics. None of the old plans had survived, so the engineers were forced to use pre-war motorcycles as a template for their new machines. The bike that came off the production line was the R24, which incidentally had no rear suspension. In 1949 over 9,000 R24’s were built, a figure which rose to more than 17,000 by 1950. The R68, a sports motorcycle was introduced in 1952. This 594cc machine was to become something of a collector’s piece, as less than 1,500 were produced.

The 1950’s saw a downturn in motorcycle demand. This period saw a reduction in output from 30,000 units to less than 6,000 by 1957. By the late 50’s the vast majority of BMW motorcycles were being exported to

the USA, Butler and Smith inc. having the sole distribution rights, but although American sales were strong, the company was struggling to survive. With the financial help of Herbert Quandt and the blossoming automobile division, BMW pulled through, and in 1959, cementing it’s American reputation, John Prenton rode a BMW R69 from New York to Los Angeles in 53 hours and 11 minutes, and in doing so, shaved over 22 hours off the existing record.

The R27, the last of the single cylinder models was introduced in 1967. Times were changing and the public demanded different machines, and so BMW’s were built, not with Sidecars in mind, but sporty performance. In 1970 the company introduced an entirely re-vamped range of motorcycles; the R50/5, the R60/5 and the R75/5.

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In 1974 the 500cc model was removed from the catalogue and replaced with a 900cc bike. In 1975 the R90S was introduced and soon earned the tag of the best ‘Supersports’ motorcycle of its day.

1977 saw the arrival of the first one litre engined motorcycles from BMW. This year also welcomed the first ‘Full Fairing’ to a BMW machine. In 1978 the R100T was thrown into the ring to compete with Honda’s Goldwing.

1986 brought the world’s first electrically adjusted windscreen on the K100LT, which at first seemed a little eccentric, but is now used on various BMW models and has in fact been copied by Honda, Yamaha and Kawasaki.

It was BMW who in 1988 introduced ABS to the motorcycle world when it became standard on all their K models, the R1100S acquiring it in 1993. It is now fitted to almost all the company’s shaft driven bikes.

Despite the near demise of the company after World War 2, the company has risen to be unquestionably one of the finest motorcycle manufacturers in the world.

The vehicles pictured in this article are to be found at the Classic

Motorcycle Museum in Spain, which is just one of the interesting ports

of call for

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Royal Enfield – To India and Back

Through necessity, and in common with most other engineering companies of the day, Enfield didn’t restrict themselves to one line. They also made lawnmowers, bicycles and rifle parts for a Small Arms factory in Enfield. A clue lies in their logo which depicts a cannon, which I have to say, is infinitely better than a lawn mower. Their motto of ‘Made like a gun, Goes like a bullet’ is also evidence of their military involvement. In 1907, the company joined forces with a business with the unlikely name of ‘Alldays & Onions’, to produce the Enfield-Allday automobile. Fortunately, the onion was dropped. These cars remained in production until 1925.

Royal Enfield produced their first motorised vehicle in 1898, a vehicle that would today be

described as a ‘Quad’. This early effort had a De Dion-Bouton 2.75 hp engine. As the 20th century dawned, a bicycle with a 150cc engine mounted above the front wheel was introduced. The year after in 1902, a similar machine was fitted with a 239cc Enfield engine. The famous V-Twins appeared in 1910, primarily fitted with a Motosacoche 344cc engine, but later superseded by Enfield’s own power unit. The first small, two stroke engines saw the light of day in 1915 with the 200model.

With the outbreak of World War 1 in 1914, Royal Enfield was requested to furnish the British armed forces with machine gun-carrying combinations and stretcher-bearing motorcycles. The company also won a contract to supply machines to the Russians. In 1917, when most able bodied men were at war in Europe, a police force made up of women was issued with 600cc Royal Enfield motorcycles.

The time between the wars saw a boom in the popularity of sidecars, and in 1924 a combination using a 350cc single was launched. In 1928, saddle tanks and centre-spring, girder front forks were used. Royal Enfield bikes now took on a more contemporary appearance, and despite the economic gloom of the depression years, sales kept steady. A 488cc machine with a four speed gearbox was offered in 1927 and a side-valve 225cc in 1928. It seemed that the company could do no wrong, and during the thirties, Royal Enfield’s catalogue featured thirteen models. This is the time that the famous single cylinder ‘Bullet’ was born.

As the world once again fell into war, Royal Enfield rose to the occasion to produce a series of motorcycles for military use, the most famous of these being a 125cc bike called the ‘Flying Flea’. It was also known as the ‘Airborne’ because of its capability of being dropped by parachute. Special instruments for war use were also manufactured at this time.

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In the fifties, Enfield of India began building machines with parts shipped from Britain, but in 1962 were producing complete motorcycles. Unfortunately, the factory in Redditch, England ceased production in 1970, with the Chennau plant in India still operating. Denomination rights were purchased by the Indians and the name lived on, which today enables Royal Enfield to claim the title of ‘The world’s oldest motorcycle model’. The bullet is in fact the model with the longest production run.

Between 1955 and 1960, Royal Enfield’s were sold in the USA as ‘Indian Motorcycles’. This of course had nothing to do with India in the Asian context. The famous Indian motorcycle company had experienced troubles of its own, and this was just another chapter in their particular history. The Americans weren’t too keen on badged motorcycles, and when the business agreement expired, Floyd Clymer, who had controversially claimed the ‘Indian rights’, sought other sources for his venture.

It appears that the ‘Enfield’ name has plenty of life in it yet. Enfield India continues making motorcycles and is indeed flourishing. In 1986, a civil servant from Britain named Raja Narayan went back to India to create an export arm for Royal Enfield, so in the same way that Raja had returned to his roots, so had the Bullet, which is now marketed in Britain. motorcycle tours

Despite production moving from Redditch to India, the marque can claim to be the only one to span three centuries, and who knows, it may even reach a fourth. Whilst the Indian plant goes from strength to strength, the few buildings that remain from the Redditch glory days have been swallowed up by the Enfield Industrial Estate.

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Packing for a Motorcycle Tour

It's always a problem knowing what to pack for a motorcycle tour. Fortunately, that feeling of utter freedom we get when we are riding our bikes far outweighs the problem of limited luggage space. Having said that, the problem doesn't go away, but by applying a little thought, it can be overcome. Here are some tips to make life easier

on the road. motorcycle tours


It's tempting to throw as much as possible into your panniers, but remember, every ounce you pack onto your bike reduces handling qualities. Add to this a pillion and the needle on the pleasure-ometer begins to swing to the low side. Of course, there are some things that you can't do without, but the keyword here is need. Take what you need and nothing more. If you are going on an organised guided tour, the company should (if it's worth its salt) have a back-up vehicle that will carry your luggage.


To optimise the handling of your bike, place heavy items at the bottom of your panniers.


In the weeks leading up to your planned tour, begin making a list of what you might need to take with you. At this stage, it doesn't matter if the list is too long; you can always cross things off as the time draws nearer. By using this method, you will ensure that the things you take with you are what you really need. You will also reduce the risk of leaving behind an essential item.


Unless you like riding for hours with a rucksack strapped to your back, it's invariably better to have panniers and back box. Detachable panniers are great; they can be unhooked as carried like a suitcase. Belt bags are also popular for carrying things like money, credit cards and mobile phone.

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You'll have to decide this for yourselves, but personally speaking I prefer to roll my clothes before placing them in a bag inside the panniers. Other riders like to lay things flat, but it doesn't work for me. Some bikers like to use zippable plastic bags that are sat upon to squeeze out the air before they are sealed. They claim that the vacuum keeps their clothes crease-free, but of course, I'm just not heavy enough (hee-hee).


Tank bags are fine and some of expandable ones can hold quite a lot of luggage, but it does take the fun out of it a little bit for me. If you're going on a tour with a back-up vehicle, you only have to put up with the tank bag until you reach your starting point, then someone else carries it for you; great.


It's always good to keep your smelly socks away from your good clothes. How many times have you gone into your luggage and found that you can't decide whether you've worn those socks once before or not?


Very often small items are forgotten, such as; mobile phone charger, camera, camera batteries, first-aid kit, toiletries etc. This is when list-making comes into its own. If you're going to a hot country, don't forget your insect bite/sting cream. Something I always carry is a pack of tissues; I know it's just a small item, but it comes under 'Essentials' for me.


If you get as excited as I do prior to a motorcycle tour, please pay extra attention to making sure that you are carrying your bike documents and driving licence. If you are going overseas, don't forget your passport, or you'll be turning around and going home. .


Unless you are heading for some remote region, there will always be a chance to buy things that you forget, but you aren't really going on a shopping trip so try to remember as much as you can. No doubt, there will be something you need, and it can be fun finding these things in a foreign town, but if the list is long, it can become tiresome. Well, you've packed and you're on your way. Have a great time and ride safely. May the roads be long and winding, and the sky blue.

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Indian Motorcycles

At the beginning of the twentieth century, Springfield Massachusetts saw the birth of a legend in the shape of ‘The Indian Motorcycle Manufacturing Company’; its most famous models being the ‘Scout’ and the ‘Chief’, the latter being in production for an incredible thirty-one years.

The founders of the company, which was originally known as the ‘Hendee Manufacturing

Company’, were George M. Hendee and Carl Oscar Hedstrom, a pair of former bicycle racers who joined forces to produce a 1 ¾ horsepower motorcycle. Sales began slowly, but soon increased giving the company a solid platform to build upon. These early bikes were belt-driven and by 1903 were performing well enough to allow Hedstrom to create a new motorcycle speed record of 56mph. motorcycle tours

Aurora of Illinois supplied the engine that would power the ‘Diamond framed Single’, which carried the rich red that would become synonymous with Indian. Introduced in 1902, sales rose to 32,000 in 1913. 1907 saw the introduction of a V-twin which, along with Erwin ‘Canonball’ Baker would set many long distance records culminating with a trip from San Diego to New York in a record time of 11 days, 12 hours and ten minutes. As is the case today, competition inspired technical innovation and Indian went from strength to strength, winning the Isle of Man TT race in 1911. Not only that, but Indians finished second and third too.

The Indian Chief and Scout appeared in the early 1920’s and went on to become the flagships of the company. By this time, both Hendee and Hedstrom had left the company. Both bikes won the admiration of the public, not only for their looks, but also for their durability, hence the saying, ‘You can’t wear out an Indian Scout, or its brother the

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Indian Chief. They are built like rocks to take hard knocks; it’s the Harleys that cause the grief’.

By 1930 Indian had teamed up with ‘Dupont Motors’ who ended the production of Dupont cars to put every ounce of energy and resource into the development of the Indian. Their links with the paint industry saw a dramatic increase in colour choice, with 24 on offer by 1934. This is the time when the distinctive Indian head-dress logo first saw light of day on the tanks of the machines, and it wasn’t long before the Indian factory became known as the ‘Wigwam’.

By 1940, Indian has almost rivalled its major competitor Harley Davidson in sales. The company also produced engineless bicycles, air conditioning equipment, aircraft engines along with many other lines. This year also saw the introduction of the skirted fenders which were to define Indians for years to come. Another innovation that arrived at this time was the sprung frame which made the machine far superior to the Harley of the day. In its basic form, the Chief could reach 86mph, but with a little tuning over 100mph was possible.

Ralph B. Rogers was the leader of a consortium which bought a controlling interest in Indian in 1945, and on November 1st Dupont officially handed control to Rogers. Unfortunately Rogers discontinued the Scout to concentrate on models such as the 149 Arrow, the Warrior 250 and the Superscout 249. These bikes suffered from poor quality and a lack of development and by 1949 production had almost ground to a halt. In 1953 manufacturer of all Indian’s models was ceased and the import of the ‘Royal Enfield’ from England began. These models were badged and sold as Indians throughout the rest of the decade. Later, the Indian name became the property of a company that imported

‘Matchless’ motorcycles, however the Indian name wasn’t used.

In the 1960’s, one Floyd Clymer began to use the Indian name on imported bikes from Italy, apparently without buying the trademark from the last known owner. When Clymer died in 1970, his widow sold the mark to Los Angeles attorney, Alan Newman who continued to import Italian machines, and later bikes from Taiwan, but by 1975 the company was in trouble

and in 1977 was declared bankrupt. A legal battle ensued for the rights of the brand name, and eventually in 1988 the Federal Bankruptcy Court in Denver cleared the way for ‘Gilroy’ to resume the production of Indians. These bikes became known as the ‘Gilroy Indians’. In 2006, a

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London based company took control and created a new factory in Kings Mountain, North Carolina. Plans are being drawn up to produce a new chief, something we all look forward to.

Maybe the glory days of Indian will return, but we can’t leave off without mentioning Bert Munro from New Zealand, who in the 1960’s, with the aid of a 1920’s Indian Scout created numerous land speed records as seen in the 2005 movie ‘The World’s Fastest Indian’