I’m asked all the time: “What’s in your garage?” When I reply that I don’t actually own that many motorcycles—that it’s all I can do to ride the various testbikes we get here at the magazine—that question gets rephrased: “Well if you did have a bunch of bikes, what would they be? What’s your perfect garage?”
You sure you want to know?
Over the years, I’ve participated in almost every kind of motorcycle race. And of those, the most fun have been quirky, once-a-year events that don’t lend themselves to riding testbikes. Instead, they mandate a specific make, model, size or vintage of motorcycle. Believe me when I say “vintage” does not have to be synonymous with “expensive.”
And so I submit to you my perfect, imperfect garage—contents subject to change at a moment’s whim.
Don’t dare call it Battle of the Twins (because those old fuddy-duddies at AHRMA bought the rights to the name), but the AMA is bringing twin-cylinder roadracing to this year’s Vintage Motorcycle Days at Mid-Ohio. When I first got into this business as a Cycle News cub reporter in the ’80s, BoTT was a regular class at the AMA Nationals, and handmade specials like Ducati’s 851 prototype, Dr. John Wittner’s Moto Guzzi and the late John Britten’s V1100 were more technically interesting than the factory Superbikes. In a perfect world, I’d be lapping Mid-Ohio aboard an air-cooled Ducati like the ones I raced back in the day.
Danger, Will Robinson! Pull-start mini-bikes prepare to tackle the TT scrambles track duri
For years, a Bible-Belt Baptist minister named Jerry Settle has promoted an invitational roadrace for air-cooled BMWs. I competed in that three times, winning twice, and the race I had with “Fast Frank” Shockley at Barber Motorsports Park in 2004 ranks as one of my all-time favorites. Gotta have something with cylinders sticking out on both sides for that, preferably a 1970s R75/5.
Kawasaki Ninja 250
Brought to you by the same overly caffeinated “Seattleites” that dreamt up Honda CB160 racing, there’s now a class within a class for “Ninjettes” that are too old to be eligible for Kawasaki contingencies. Serious bragging rights for beating the newer bikes, I’m sure!
Perhaps the best part of having a long-term XR1200 was racing it at Harley Night at Costa Mesa Speedway. Where else do you get to skid around a dirt bullring to the cheers of thousands (well, hundreds) of beer-addled spectators? With used 883 Sportsters readily available for $4000 or less, it wouldn’t take much of a financial commitment to park one of these in the garage.
I’ve had so much fun dabbling in dirt-track over the years that my perfect garage would have to include something that only turns left—say, a Yamaha 500-based “framer” like the one I borrowed from Rod Lake to race at Willow Springs and Perris in 2009. Those have to run in the unflatteringly named “Bomber” class with our local Southern California Flat Track Association, but they’re cheap, plentiful and virtually indestructible.
For many years White Brothers promoted the annual Four-Stroke World Championships at Glen Helen, but as “diesels” became the norm, having a race just for them became pointless. Thus in 2004 Rick Doughty added Modern Two-Stroke classes to his annual Vintage Iron World Championships, and through some fluke I was crowned the 250cc Expert “World Champion.” Nowadays there’s the MTA Two-Stroke World Championships, without a doubt the best-smelling race of the year! Gotta have a “ring-ding” for that.
Something with a CZ Motor
Fans of this venerable Czechoslovakian marque point to their superior metallurgy. “Go to any vintage swap meet and you’ll see a running CZ, and a Husky in a box,” one devotee once told me. For decades, CALVMX has put on an annual race especially for CZs, including a “run-what-ya’-brung” Grand Prix class. I always thought one of those old, air-cooled lumps would look great in a modern, twin-spar aluminum frame—both highly polished, of course.
Marty Tripes’ 100c Works Revenge Series is a hoot, and not just because it’s promoted by a guy who made every motorcycle he ever rode look like a mini-bike! The “serious” racers campaign Suzuki RMs and Yamaha YZs, but the guys on old Geminis, Hodakas, Indians, Rupps and Steens look like they’re having more fun. Hmmm, I wonder what’s on Craigslist today…
So there you have it: my perfect, imperfect garage. Aren’t you sorry you asked?