Tuesday, July 01, 2008


'Where' is an appropriate question - Soquel is a few miles south of Santa Cruz, which is 80 miles south of San Francisco, on the coast. The local Chamber of Commerce, in its wisdom, has for the past 3 years sponsored a vintage motorcycle show in the town center, catering to 'all classes' of bikes, although only one pre-war machine was featured (1915 Indian).

The real draw for me was the ride to Soquel; it's possible to travel almost the whole route on the 'Skyline' ridge which separates the Pacific Ocean from the South Bay (barring a few miles skirting the beach near my house, and 3 miles of a freeway hop, where the ridge highway mysteriously has a gap). I am familiarizing myself with a '65 Norton Atlas, a bike I swore I'd never own again (it was my first Britbike, but I had a bad example), but as it's running well and is undeniably pretty, it's time to give it another chance. As Billy was nearly two hours late to meet me (his '50 Triumph T'Bird got a flat tire a block from home), I decided to add a few more miles of freeway to our route and make up some time... which was really dumb. At 4500 rpm, the Atlas was buzzing like a chainsaw, and although it seems to have plenty of power in hand, the vibration in my handgrips was unpleasant. Then a passenger footpeg disappeared, and the muffler was left hanging, so we pulled into a service station, and of course the attendant wanted nothing to do with us when I asked if they had some wire or a zip tie. Luckily, there was plenty of trash on their grounds, and I found a zip tie AND some wire for good luck - that muffler wasn't going anywhere.
I began to relax a bit when we finally returned to Skyline, and after a ridiculously large breakfast at Alice's Restaurant (no, it's not the one in the song by Arlo Guthrie - that Alice's is on the East Coast), we settled into the lovely twisty roads to Soquel.
I found that by keeping the revs below 4000 and using the massive torque of the 750cc engine, the bike was sweet as a nut, and of course with a featherbed frame it handles impeccably.
As we approached Soquel proper, this rust-brown pickup truck with a '69 BSA A65 Thunderbolt sat by the roadside; apparently this machine has been for sale in the back of this pickup for 3 years now - they must be asking a fortune! Maybe they'll throw in the bike hauler - that's a ca '74 Ford F100 Custom, certainly the nadir of Detroit iron...

The show bikes were arranged by nationality, with the appropriate flag near the bikes, making for some silly photo opportunities (see below)... and I was taking pix with my cell phone, please pardon their horrific quality, but I've always kind of liked raw photographs, and have about a dozen 'box' cameras from the 1920's... which take better photos than my phone!

Another Norton Atlas in the show, this one slightly 'cafe-racer-ised' with a Commando front end/disc and humpy seat, 'Ace' handlebars, 'pedestrian eliminator' headlamp cowl, short megaphones, etc. I wonder how the ton-up boys stood the vibration of the vertical twins at speed? I've become used to fast single-cylinder machines, which have a completely different vibration period, and don't tingle the handlebars or break brackets and fenders.

This unusual stretched machine uses a BMW v-6 diesel engine, and is built for a speed record at Bonneville. The bike is built by The Crucible (a glass arts studio ?!), and they have this to say of their project: "The mission of the Die Moto project is to demonstrate that environmental responsibility and alternative technology have a place in the headlines and history books of high performance vehicles," says team leader and rider, Michael Sturtz, "And we expect to get Die Moto up to 160 mph on our next run." Does that seem like a stretch? Philosophically, that is. Speed-wise, if a diesel can tromp LeMans, there's no reason it couldn't take speed records as well.

Under the Italian flag sits a lone Lambretta LD125; a very early model with almost none of the cowling and engine covers which gave the whole Italian scooter industry such style. And yes, that IS a hair dryer attached to the motor...

And under the Stars and Bars, this three wheel monstrosity, which must symbolize something - insert opinion here - but had been artfully constructed. Take a gander at that crazy 'girder' front fork; I couldn't tell whether it was sculpted aluminum or built up from sheet and welded, and all other mechanical bits were constructed with some kind of aesthetic in mind... plus of course the massive supercharged Ford engine, guaranteed to suck gasoline at a rate of 8 miles per gallon. I think my neck would tire of craning around the blower, but who knows if anyone actually rides this thing.

Winner of the best British was Andy Miller's '56 Triumph Thunderbird, which is a very pretty bike, and not 100% standard, but in a good way. That's Billy looking skeptical - they've been friends since high school - we're all connected by old bikes, and I guess that's the point.

I had a great ride home on the Atlas; we're friends now.


david said...

Sorry, I didn't spot you at the show.
I guess 'period attire' for the Atlas is blue jeans & black tshirt?

vintagent said...

'Period attire' in my case meant blue jeans, Gucci Italian cop boots, and a
'60's zip-front sweater, as it was foggy in SF. Plus requisite black Langlitz jacket and vintage gold Buco helmet with 'bubble visor', which was so distorting to ride inside I flipped it over on top of the helmet! Found it at an antique shop...

david said...

I should have known it'd be something a little more