It’s sometimes a bit difficult to explain to people why we enjoy riding old motorcycles – and why we consider some to be much nicer or ‘better’ to ride that others when, surely, anything modern should trump our oldies every time?
It’s because the riding experience is so different, which, I think, is why over time I’ve found that I enjoy riding the older machines particularly, because it makes the experience even more alien. But then as soon as you get used to one thing, say hand-change, you want to try the next challenge, with, perhaps, a lever throttle. After that comes belt drives, dummy belt rims, single speeds, and no clutches and so it goes on. I, though, seem to have reached my personal ‘happy place’ in that I enjoy hand-change, lever-throttle early to mid-1920s machines, preferably with some form of braking, arguably best of all.
But then something happens and it all changes again. Jumping on a 1960s big single (I borrowed dad’s 1966 MSS Sunday before last) made me think, why I am I missing out on this, it’s brilliant – and easy – and comfortable; so then I start thinking, perhaps this is what my motorcycling life is missing.
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I’ve always loved the looks of certain things, say café racers, but, again, have never greatly enjoyed riding them, or least never felt totally comfortable on them. There are a number of reasons for this, among them that having been a glasses wearer for many years (I now wear contact lenses when riding) I always found I’d have to tip my head back to see through my lenses, giving myself a stiff neck, though really I’ve just always felt more at home on a sit-up-and-beg handlebar set-up, probably as early riding experiences were either on off-roaders while my first roadster was a 1973 TS125 Suzuki. It’s that riding position that feels most natural to me.
Other things add to making a pleasurable riding experience – or not. Great big fat handlebar grips are something I’ve always disliked for example and while talking of handlebars, up tipped bars (‘donkey ears’ I call them) are another of my pet hates. They look wrong and aren’t comfortable either.
It all comes down to personal preference of course, which is back to where we started. We prefer riding old motorcycles, and some more than others, just, well, ‘because’. If I have to explain it I realise I can’t (not succinctly anyway) but if you’re reading this, chances are you already understand. It’s just because we do.