Accelerating down the straightaway, you know you’ve got less than a half mile to get to top speed. You know you will have to let go of the handlebar and reach to the tank to shift. But you won’t have to let go of the brakes. Because you don’t have any brakes. You know that guy a foot to your left on the bored out 1920 Indian Scout will still be there, giving your Excelsior a run for the money. And he’ll still be there with you sliding through the turn, handlebars turned to counter-steer in a taught and graceful tango, inches apart. Plus there is the guy on the right….
So you get to about 70 mph as fast as you can, back off and start your slide early scrubbing a little speed. You are hoping for a hole shot coming out of the corner. Last in, first out. The roar of a thousand fans is miraculously audible over the roar of the un-muffled engines as you begin your slide and the dust starts to fly. Welcome to flat track motorcycle racing history.
Specific vintage motorcycle insurance requirements vary from country to country, but wherever you live and ride, you probably have to carry liability insurance. Even if your vintage motorcycle is not street legal you may need insurance just to ride it at closed area events.
Your vintage motorcycle may be more valuable to you than money alone can express, but a well chosen insurance policy will be some consolation if your faithful steed gets damaged. Conversely looking sadly at a photo of your pre crash bike and paltry sum from the insurance agent could make a strong man shed a tear of regret, so first off, let’s discuss “Agreed Value,” the lynch pin of vintage motorcycle insurance policies.
Agreed Value – The Key to Vintage Motorcycle Insurance
Vintage motorcycle values are difficult to assess. One man’s <trash> – we shudder to think – is another man’s treasure. Potential resale prices depend on factors specific to the individual motorcycle and finding the ideal buyer. Consequently assessments can vary greatly. Values for rare bikes are also quite subjective.
Even today, in our supposedly enlightened and progressive times, motorcycling is still very much a male preserve. Women still tend to be used simply as scantily clad “eye candy” at motorcycle shows, MotoGP grids and in the pages of some motorcycling publications. Nonetheless, even in the early years of motorcycling, a few intrepid young women embraced this impractical, dangerous, dirty and smelly mode of transport. Bessie Stringfield stands out among them for her fearless will to live life to the fullest.
Bessie Stringfield – Early Years
Betsy Leonora Ellis – her full name – was born in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1911; her father was black and her mother was a white Dutch woman.
Discussing “the greatest motorsports competitor of all time” is like opening a can of rather aggressive, loud-mouthed worms. Whether on two wheels or four, many names come to mind: Hailwood; Agostini; Fangio; Sheene; Senna; Prost. The list isn’t endless, but it sure is long-winded.
In my view – shared by a great many motorsports enthusiasts – John Surtees MBE, OBE, CBE, stands head and shoulders above them all, if only because he triumphed in motorcycle and Formula 1 Grands Prix. Of course, the fact that he was born in my home county of Surrey (in Tatsfield to be precise) might also have something to do with it.
Imagine, if you will, living in 1913. Airlines were an unimaginable part of a distant future. International travel by train and steam ship was an unusual luxury, and most people saw little of the world. By this time, a number of people had sailed around the globe. But history has only recorded a handful of people who surmounted the challenge of travelling through many nations to circle the world on land by 1913. The new freedom of personal motorized transportation was arising, breaking barriers and giving birth to the first motorcycle trip around the world.
Internal combustion engines were newly arrived. The first motorcycle appeared less than 20 years before, putting along at 30 mph. Now, a few short years later, the fastest motorcycles could already reach speeds of up to 100 mph. Fuel efficient and light, vintage motorcycles could travel long distances on a single tank of gas. While they did not have the advantage of modern suspension, the simple, early bikes could withstand the rigors of 1913 style low maintenance roads.
In this context, with a little youthful dissatisfaction and boredom thrown in, 21 year old motorcyclist Carl Stearns Clancy hatched a plan. (more…)
How did the great Motorcycles Marques make their name?
Well, of course there is the high quality of workmanship and mechanical superiority above other marques. But how do you prove it? How do you show the public that your machine, your factory, your brand is better than the rest? Or rather how would you have proved it in the late tens and early twenties?
I shall tell you….
Do you love looking at vintage motorcycles? We sure do! The feeling we get seeing these beautiful machines and imagining all the adventures their riders had is hard to explain to people who haven’t experienced time travel. Maybe… hmm.. imagine if you will, an amnesiac homecoming. Because there’s nothing quite like visiting vintage motorcycle museums and being surrounded by bikes that are both familiar and oddly out of place.
The UK Motorcycle Museum has the largest vintage motorcycle collection in the world, with over 1,000 motorcycles. While the UK, the US, and Australia have the largest collections, there are several great vintage motorcycle museums in Europe too. Here are a few of our favorite European vintage motorcycle museums.
Germany: Deutsches Zweirad
Germany’s largest vintage motorcycle museum is housed in a 16th century castle. The Deutsches Zweirad (Two Wheel) Museum in Beckarsulm, Germany is dedicated to two wheeled vehicles. The museum displays 400 bicycles and motorcycles.
There, with well curated examples, the history of two wheeled transport is laid out. From the Draisian treadmill to early bicycles and on to vintage motorcycle manufacturers from Adler to Zundlapp, the exhibits both show and tell the history of our beloved machines.
Today, we will take a look back at the brief and bloody era of vintage motorcycle board track racing. An era when wood met metal, an era of speed and splinters, blood and oil. Young men challenged the limits of speed and gravity, the limits of their machines, and the limits of their own sinew and moxie hurtling along the steeply banked wooden tracks on machines with little suspension and no brakes. These death defying feats took place in an historical context that, while very different than our current world, was in some ways similar.
The Origin of Vintage Motorcycle Board Track Racing – An Era of Change
We are living in an era of rapid technological changes and developments that would be hard to imagine decades before. The new futures that we are thrust into daily offer ample opportunities to marvel at the magical innovative madness of humankind. At the same time, we feel a sense of nostalgia for simpler times. Even in those imagined “good old days” we would, perhaps, be startled by progress. Maybe nothing stays the same so much as the ways things seem to change.
Imagine, if you will, living at beginning of the 20th century…
Vintage Motorcycle Values
How much is a vintage motorcycle worth? How can we assess vintage motorcycle values? After first carefully assessing the condition of the motorcycle, we can look at a number of authoritative sources. They show estimates of how much someone money someone could get by selling a particular vintage motorcycle.
We feel dirty just talking about it! We certainly wouldn’t talk about, say, our girlfriends that way! And here at The Black Douglas, we don’t so much feel like we own our trusty steeds. It’s more like we have a relationship with them. With that initial purchase we embark on a relationship that doesn’t end til we ourselves do. Til death do us part! (Keep the rubber side down, boys and girls!)
But people do buy and sell vintage motorcycles, crass and inappropriate as it may seem. And we must admit that is ok with us. If no one sold them, we couldn’t buy them!
Eight riders set out for a vintage motorcycle trip on “Milan to Bristol, Expedition Nº 2”, May 2016. Our editors finally completed the long-awaited Official Video in Milan in February 2017. Our new vintage motorcycle trip video is included at the end of this article.