Monday, February 08, 2010


Vintage motorcycles might seem fragile to our modern eyes, and most owners would be horrified to ride them off-road or on a poorly-paved surface, so it's good to be reminded just how rough was the young life of our beloved mount. Macadam paved roads were a rare exception in the 1920s; cobblestones (which help horses find purchase while hauling loads) were common in town centers, but the rest of the world was paved with what the world had to offer - dirt.

Even if you were a rich young man in 1930, the scion of a good family of merchants or cattle ranchers, and had the wherewithal to buy the most exotic and up-to-date machine (plus some natty kit to peacock for the ladies), you were still limited to riding on the infrastructure available, and your 100mph hotrod had to avoid children, cows, horses, chickens, automobiles, and unexpected hazards.

This pair of fine young gentlemen hailed from Brazil, and chose as their mounts two superb machines, a pair of 'four-valves' in fact; a 500cc Rudge Ulster and a Moto Guzzi 500S - that's a Corsa Quattro Valvole, a four-valve overhead camshaft racing machine, extremely rare then as now, and just about the most technically interesting motorcycle available in the late 1920s. Hand-built in Mandello del Lario, in far-away Italy, the Guzzi a remarkable choice of motorcycle for the dirt roads of Brazil. There are few people on the planet who would ride a C4V down rutted dirt roads today, yet this was the home of one such remarkable beast.

The Story; (Top photo) We've stopped for gas with our heroes before a ride to the countryside, in a clean and new town center, as a well-dressed population kibbitzes - what a variety of hats on display! Also note the rider's kit - leather coat with 'pop' collar, flying cap, aviator's goggles. Tres chic. (Second photo) Charming barefoot children at an impromptu cantina stop. All children love motorcycles - they simply Understand. (Third photo) A trap for the unwary! The Mighty Rut! (Last photo) Banging the plot back into shape after a nasty landing, post-flight; the local Brazilian army regiment watches. In a world without television, or even radio out in the countryside, a pair of super-sports motorcycles racketing noisily through the village were THE entertainment for the day.
And would still be, in truth, even here in cosmopolitan San Francisco. The question is, of course, where is that C4V today?

All photos copyright 2010 The Vintagent.


vintagent said...
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Anonymous said...

i really enjoy your postings, your site is the 50 year old single malt of motocycling.

my regular ride is a 1953 bmw r67/2, usually getting between 7 and 10 thousand miles a year over the back roads of new england.

just getting the wheels moving on what will be a 1937 indian chief of some sort, currently leaning toward a totally incorrect but more fun to ride,less to worry about type machine.

the talons of the old iron and paint hobby are set deep into my pale,doughy flanks. the heart wants what it wants i guess.

anyway- fantastic photographs, great style. persist!

dave blakney

Anonymous said...

It's stories and pictures like these that make your blog the best out there. Thank you Paul.


Don O'Reilly said...

Ah nostalgia...

eighty years ago, the roads were unpaved but a lot less congested. Bikes were mechanically simpler; and if you rode, you needed to know how to fix everything you could on your machine, otherwise you might spend a lot of time walking.

Kids knew how to play, and use their imaginations, as opposed to today's paradigm of violent, mindless video.

All this is from what I gather.

Thirty years ago, I was a twenty-something fine arts student in a rural Illinois college town. In that pre-digital age, I could run my little triumph bonneville hundreds of miles in almost any direction, and live a bit of the life of these two riders, easy winding roads through verdant countryside. I'm sure you can still do that these days, but not so much where I live. Just the same, I'm so glad I have an old bike, it's very much a part of our collective past.

Anonymous said...

your blog is by far the best motorcycling blog on the web. I'm blown away by the richness and variety, and high quality of the content
Gabe Ets-Hokin
editor of CityBike

Anonymous said...

Hey Paul, awesome site-how about more Guzzi stuff?
Dave in Denver