Motus MST – First Ride Impressions.

IMG_0467motus logo crYears ago, while in college, I had a friend who drove a 1970 SS 454 Chevelle. Riding “shotgun” in that car, and very occasionally driving it, are among the most pleasant memories of that period in my life. I’ve long since lost touch with my old buddy, and I’m sure that big block monster has gone on to the great junkyard in the sky (or possibly brought a high five figure sale price at some collector auction!) 109034_10621205_1970_Chevrolet_Chevelle+SS cropNow, four plus decades later, my overall recollection of that car is somewhat sketchy. Sure, I remember that it was black, had bucket seats, and was equipped with a four speed and posi-traction. I do, however, SS454 logoclearly remember that motor. The distinctive big block rumble is indelibly etched in my long term memory, as is the signature vibration and sense of endless power and torque that was transmitted through the floorpan and seat. And, when you pinned the throttle, well…….. Even today, If I close my eyes, I can recapture the sound and fury at will. Several days ago I had my first opportunity to ride a Motus MST motorcycle. I can honestly say that that the unique sound and feel of the 1650cc Motus “Baby Block” MV4 instantly transported me back to the aforementioned big block Chevy. Motorcycle version. If you are a product of that muscle car era and you have the chance to ride a Motus, then you will know exactly of what I speak.


Motus, a Birmingham , Alabama based startup has been working toward the introduction of their comfortable large displacement sport tourer for several years. The story has been well documented in the powersports press – the unique 1650 cc pushrod “Baby Block” MV4, an all-american pedigree, premium specification equipment across the board, and performance levels somewhere up in the stratosphere. Now, with a series of dealer sponsored demo rides and the impending shipment of production bikes, it seems that the time has finally come. It was definitely worth the wait. The bike I rode was the MST version – the lower of the two price classes available from Motus.IMG_5263 It lacked the carbon fiber wheels, Ohlins rear shock, Brembo monoblocs, hotter engine (cams, Ti valves, 180hp!) and several other premium features found on the pricier MST-R version. Do not, however, mistake the MST for anything other than a magnificent and fully equipped sport tourer. For example, every Motus comes with electronic cruise control, integrated hard luggage, Sargent Seat (regular and “low” available), and the MST also features almost infinitely adjustable Heli-bars capable of accomodating a wide variety of rider sizes, shapes and riding positions.IMG_5249 Speaking of rider accommodation, the Motus was a very comfortable ride for my smallish 5’8″ (and 29″ inseam”) self. The available low seat, coupled with the extraordinarily narrow frame allowed me to easily flat-foot the bike at standstill – something I typically have no hope of doing on full size sport and touring offerings (and potential competitors) like the big BMWs or the tallish Kawi Concours.IMG_5272 Other standard amenities include adjustable brake and clutch levers and a manually adjustable windscreen – available in standard or touring variants. In a side note, the body and chassis fit and finish were excellent on the high mileage development motorcycles that we had the opportunity to inspect and ride. A 20+ minute ride on mostly country roads, led by Motus founder Lee Conn, left me with these initial impressions. First of all this bike works! IMG_0455The clutch is light, feel and modulation is excellent, and fueling is nearly spot on. And with so much torque available, launching the bike is a no-brainer. Under way, the sense of massive, and linear, torque delivery overpowers everything else. IMG_0461The gearbox’s six speeds are nicely spaced and with both 5th and 6th being overdrive ratios, warp cruising speeds at modest engine rpms are readily achievable – though I had no chance to test that conclusion on this abbreviated ride. The bike’s performance in the twisties belies it’s nearly 600 pound fully-fueled weight. Sharp transitions are the norm and throttle changes mid-corner (like when you get in a little “hot”) upset the chassis not a whit. Due credit to the Pirelli Angel tires, chassis tuning and to the pushrod engine design which concentrates weight considerably lower than overhead cammers can manage. IMG_5251And, as one would suspect, the Brembo brakes are more than capable of snubbing the big scooter from any legal (or extra-legal) speed one might choose.IMG_5260 If I had one complaint it would be this – in their interest in providing a maximum amount of information via the multi function/multi colored dash display screen Motus may have arrived at some symbology and characters that are a bit small for these old eyes. Pretty minor stuff, huh? Otherwise this is a very fully developed and well executed motorcycle. Now reflecting on my brief ride in the fullness of, well, just a few days, my thoughts run along these lines. The Motus is a handsome, contemporary, and well executed machine. It features an extremely competent chassis. It comes loaded with great hardware and features. But when the day is done, the one thing that will stick with me is that engine – a living thing that simply screams prodigious power and torque. It looks great. It sounds great. It delivers on its promise in every tactile and visceral way. And it is now, I suspect, indelibly etched in my long term memory. Right along side that old big block Chevelle. Martin Moto is one of only 17 Motus Dealers nationwide. Visit us in person, or online at for more information Print

Classic Motorcycles at the Simeone Now Till Sept 12th !

Simeone pic

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again……We love all motorcycles. Large or small. New or old. That deep seated interest leads us to some extraordinary opportunities.  Like the 2014 edition of the Classic Motorcycles at The Simeone Museum. If you don’t know about the Simeone, you should. Located in a warehouse area in West Philadelphia not far from Philadelphia International Airport, this undiscovered gem houses one of the world’s finest collection of classic, racing  and sports cars. Check out their web site to learn more about the museum and the remarkable selection of vehicles that has been assembled by founder Dr. Fred Simeone. OK, but what about motorcycles?

Each summer for the past several years the Simeone has presented a month long tribute to classic motorcycles. This year Vincent and Brough Superior were chosen as the show’s featured marques along with a selection of sub 250cc bikes from the 1974 and earlier period.  Despite the fact that we at Martin Moto have never sold a Vincent nor ever  had a Brough Superior on our showroom floor, we have elected to become the presenting sponsor of the 2014 Simeone Show. With such sponsorships come privilege. Last Saturday evening we were invited to the Museum’s Classic Motorcycles Show kickoff party. What a fascinating event! Not only did we have the opportunity to stroll the display floor and check out the amazing machinery on display but we had the chance to shmooze with many of the owners and other like minded classic bike enthusiasts. Later in the evening we had the chance to hear the featured speaker – Matthew Bieberman, author of the 2009 book, “Big Sid’s Vincati” speak of his famous (at least among the  Vincent crowd) father Sid Bieberman and the family’s love for, and great adventures with, the Vincent brand. And, oh yes, there were bikes.

Hartman 4

Hartman 2



Currently on display at the Simeone are some 30+ classic motorcycles, including two of the ultra-rare Brough Superiors and nearly 20 Vincents of various ages, models, and pedigrees. Interestingly, among the bikes at the Simeone, there are some half a dozen that have previously been shown at our own Modern Classics show.

Classic Motorcycles at the Simeone runs from now until September 12.  The Simeone Museum is open daily Tuesdays through Sundays  (closed Monday – just like bike dealerships!) For more information and directions go to  If the classic motorcycles virus is in your blood then you will probably want to put a visit to the Simeone on your calendar.

If you want to see some more classic bikes in action then plan on joining us for the Modern Classics Ride-In next Saturday, August 30 at Martin Moto!




Wanted Dead or Alive! The Search Is On For the 100 Stunning Classic Bikes That Will Be Presented at the 4th Annual Martin Motorsports “Modern Classics” Show, March 1, 2014.

?????It’s just over four months now until the Fourth Annual Martin Motorsports “Modern Classics” Bike Show. In just three years this one day, indoor show has has gained a hefty regional following and has even begun to attract some national attention. Check out what the local papers had to say about last year’s show HERE. Then take a look at the coverage in Modern Classics magazine.

MC-Parting Shots

Do you want to even consider missing this year’s show? Uuhhhh, don’t think so!

So here are some important details. The showroom doors open at 9:00AM and the show runs until 5:00PM. As in past years, Modern Classics is an invitational show – entries are nominated to the show planning committee which then determines the 100 bikes that will be this year’s “Modern Classics.” “Modern Classics” is an unjudged show but there are Peoples’ Choice awards in both the primary group – classics from the 60s, 70s, and 80s as well in the featured supplemental class. For the 2014 show the featured supplemental class is Two Stroke bikes! The planning committee is soliciting the nominations of Two Stroke Classics from the same era, meaning the 60s through the 80s. The bikes that the committee is looking for are 2-cycle engined motorcycles offered for sale between 1960 and 1990. Historically significant bikes from slightly before and after this time frame may be considered if they are helpful in telling the story of two strokes and their place in motorcycle history. The show is primarily focused on “street” models but a limited number of off-road and racing models may also be considered. Thinking about nominating your bike? For all the information you need go  HERE.

2 stroke wantedposterHere are a few of the Two Stroke Classics we’re seeking for Modern Classics 2014. If you have one of these bikes or know where there is one that might be a candidate for the show, the by all means give us a shout. You can either go directly to the “want to show your bike” page or contact Here ya go…….


Possibly the Zenith of Two Stroke history? Of course we’re looking for a Suzuki GT 750 Water Buffalo. Or Steam Kettle if you prefer.


Yamaha Catalina or Big Bear? Among the first of the “big” Japanese Two Strokes and we’d love to have a great example of either one. 250 or 305cc? Doesn’t matter.


Was the Suzuki X-6 Hustler the first 250 capable of going 100mph? The debate rages. Nonetheless, if you have a nice example then please nominate it for our show.


Kawi H2. Mach IV 750. “The Widowmaker.” By any name or alias, we’d like to see one. A nice Mach III 500 would be welcome too – especially a first year white one! Yeah we like 350s too.


From the late 60s well into the 1970s two stroke enduros were a huge contributor to the explosive growth of motorcycling. Suzuki TS’s all welcome – 125, 185, 250 – we love ’em all. Of course the Yamaha enduro series is on our hit list too. Where is that one stunning white1968, first year DT1 we’ve been waiting years for? Kawis too – How about a nice Bighorn?


It’s easy to forget Bridgestone was a major player back in the day. A 350GTR would be a great show addition as would any of the smaller Bridgestone offerings. 90s. 175s. Who learned to ride on a Bridgestone?

We're not just on the lookout for Japanese Two Strokes. Europeans figured mightily in the Two Stroke story. And a hefty part of that story was was scooters. Vespa? Lambretta? Harley Davidson Topper?

We’re not just on the lookout for Japanese Two Strokes. Europeans figured mightily in the Two Stroke story. And a hefty part of that story was was scooters. Vespa? Lambretta? Harley Davidson Topper?

Silk. The Ultimate Evolution of the old Scott 2 strokes from England. This would be a cool add!

Silk. The Ultimate Evolution of the old Scott 2 strokes from England. This would be a cool add!

All American Brand Harley even had two strokes badged as their own. They were really an Italian-American hybrid cooked up by partner Aermacchi.

All American Brand Harley even had two strokes badged as their own. They were really an Italian-American hybrid cooked up with partner Aermacchi.

We'd very much like to snag a Scott Flying Squirrel. Though produced considerably earlier than our target 60s through 80s time frame, these Brit Classics are important in telling the two stroke history story.

We’d very much like to snag a Scott Flying Squirrel. Though produced considerably earlier than our target 60s through 80s time frame, these Brit Classics are important in telling the two stroke history story.

So there you have a few examples of the kind of things that we are on the lookout for. Two Strokes. Smoke ’em if ya got ’em! You can review the entire list of two stroke candidate bikes for the 2014 Modern Classics by clicking HERE. If you know where these bikes are, or you have one, please nominate your bike!! And if you think there’s something we’ve forgotten, we’d like to hear about that too.

Just a reminder though – Two Strokes represent just a portion of the magic that is the Modern Classics. We are also trying to run down a new and exciting collection of all the rest of the 60s through 80s bike population. Here are just a couple of the bikes were looking to score for this year’s show.


Long before there were Hayabusas and ZX14s there were Kawasaki Ninjas. Arguably the first hyperbike (Tom Cruise thought so in “Top Gun”) the first Kawasaki Gpz900 Ninja was introduced in 1984. Can it really be 30 years? And when will we score a first year Ninja for Modern Classics? Hopefully 2014.

A bike that we've had on our search list for all four years of The Modern Classisc - the Munch Mammut. Had kind of forgotten about this rare breed until we saw one recently. If there's one, there must be more. Help us find one for Modern Classics 2014!

A bike that we’ve had on our search list for all four years of The Modern Classisc – the Munch Mammut (Mammoth.) Had kind of forgotten about this rare breed until we saw one recently. If there’s one, there must be more. Help us find one for Modern Classics 2014!

So there you have it. Hopefully a preview of the sort of stunning bikes you’ll be seeing in just about four months. The 4th Annual MartinMoto “Modern Classics” Bike Show. It’s coming sooner than you think! If you can help us in any way find the classic bikes we’re searching for don’t hesitate to contact us! We’re as close as

More is Better. Or Perhaps Simpler is Better. Which One Is It?

We’ve all seen the series of AT&T TV ads themed “More is better.” Seriously, how can you miss ’em – they seem appear on network TV about every 30 seconds.  In the off chance you’ve been in captivity lately, you can see what we’re talking about BY CLICKING HERE. Cute kids. No?

Anyway, the reason to bring this up is a question that’s recently been rolling around in our heads. That is, do the product planners at the various motorcycle manufacturers subscribe to that “more is better” concept? Or, do they believe Leonardo DaVinci who “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”  Clearly there are a variety of approaches out there. Case in point – Kawasaki. Just last year they introduced an “improved” version of their ZX14-R hyperbike. More power. More torque. More displacement. More performance. Better?

Kaw ZX14-r. Bigger. Better?

Kaw ZX14-R. More. Better?

Even the lowly Ninja 250 was made “better” with 50cc more displacement as it morphed into the Ninja 300. That approach is not, however, universal. Take Honda for example.

Honda CB500F. Simpler. Better?

Honda CB500F. Simpler. Better?

Their 2014 new product lineup includes a complete series of CB 500cc bikes – a displacement class that has in recent years been nearly neglected in favor of 600s, 800s, and other “middleweights.” Smaller. Less expensive. Simpler. Better?

So, which approach is better? You can almost imagine two wildly different boardroom debates. “The economy is coming back and we need to continue offering the American buyers the faster, more powerful, larger bikes that they have always loved so much. Now that the marketplace is coming around we need to be there with ‘bigger is better’ stuff.” Or maybe this – “The marketplace has been fundamentally changed over the past few years. There is less disposable income and the baby boomers are aging out of the riding population. We need an entirely new series of bikes to sustain the new customer base into the future. Simpler. Cheaper. Easier and more economical to operate. Smaller and less intimidating.”

To be fair, no manufacturer is putting all of their eggs in either one of these baskets but you can see clear examples of each thought process in the stream of new product introductions. Like Yamaha’s chosen path in introducing their new 950cc cruiser, the 2014 Bolt.

Yamaha Star Bolt. Simpler. Better?

Yamaha Star Bolt. Simpler. Better?

It’s another example of simpler, smaller, and more affordable in the cruiser world. BMW has entered the maxi-scooter market with their C650GT and -S twins

BMW C650GT Scooter. Simpler. Better?

BMW C650GT Scooter. Simpler. Better?

and even Suzuki has jumped on the econo bike bandwagon with it’s recently introduced GW250. On the other side of the ledger we find Triumph coming off a record year in the US market by introducing the 2013 Trophy SE, a full-boat 1213cc sport tourer equipped with all the toys and a price tag making a frontal assault on the $20,000 benchmark. Is that better?

Triumph Trophy SE. More. Better?

Triumph Trophy SE. More. Better?

Examples of each philosophical approach roll into motorcycle showrooms daily. Have you got an opinion on which approach is likely to prevail over the next several years? We’d love to hear what you think about where the marketplace is heading.

Thoughts on Lane Splitting…All In? Or Maybe Not.


You may refer to it as “lane splitting” or “lane sharing”. Perhaps even “filtering.” In any case we’re all talking about the same thing – moving between lanes of four wheelers on our bikes and scooters – hopefully in the same direction.  It’s not exactly a common practice in the USA as it’s  legal only in the State of California (Which, of course, doesn’t mean we haven’t seen it elsewhere. Booya!) It is, however, legal and widely practiced in Europe, Japan, and much of the rest of the world. Thought we’d spend a few moments here chatting about the rationale for, and against the practice.

The leading argument for lane splitting centers around the concept of reducing traffic congestion by allowing use efficient use of that empty space between lanes of traffic. In particular by those vehicles that can readily fit in the space i.e bicycles and motorcycles. As a corollary, it offers reduced travel times for commuters willing to utilize those smaller, lighter, and more fuel efficient modes of transportation. Ponder this for a moment. BMW recently introduced a pair of 650cc Maxi Scooters to the world and pitched them as one of many solutions to urban traffic congestion. How’s that going to work in places (like most of the US) where it’s not possible to filter ahead through rush hour congestion. Doesn’t that just leave bikes and scooters as yet another vehicle mindlessly waiting in line, albeit colder and wetter than the folks in the Toyota Sequoia ahead and the Ford Focus behind? There is also some body of data which may suggest that lane splitting reduces the incidence of rear end collisions for bikers.

628x471 lane split 3The “against” arguments tend to center on safety issues.  And it isn’t just the issue of “mad” bikers whistling through traffic, between lanes, at majorly extra-legal speeds. We all know that happens anyway – laws or not. It’s more about the low speed stuff. Bikes filtering through stationary traffic at 10 or 15  MPH and being whacked by a suddenly opened door or mowed down by an unexpected, and un-signaled, lane change or turn. There’s another issue too. Confinement in one’s “cage” in stopped traffic tends to be a blood pressure raiser. Agitated drivers, seeing others “succeed” at moving when they cannot can become belligerent. Sometimes the excitement escalates well beyond raised middle fingers and the next thing you know, someone’s laying on the ground. Sad to say, but true. One handy way to avoid such confrontations, safety advocates say, is to avoid laws which allow preferential treatment for a single class of vehicles.  Ergo: no lane splitting for motorcyclists.

What do you think of lane splitting? Like it or not, we’d be interested in hearing your well considered opinion.

Modern Classics Bike Show Tomorrow…….A Sneak Preview!

The Third Annual Modern Classics Show is tomorrow and there is an absolutely phenomenal collection of bikes gathering in the Martin Motorsports showroom in Boyertown, PA. This year’s show features both street bikes from the 60s, 70s, and 80s as well as competition bikes from the same basic era (with only a couple of stunning outliers.) Just about 100 bikes of incredible pedigree make up our “Museum For A Day.” For example right now there are five, count ’em – five, MV Agustas sitting on the showroom floor. Where else can you see that on a Saturday in March?

Capture x75

Here’s a sweet Triumph X75 Hurricane

As a kind of preview of the sort of things you might see, we’ve picked just one entry as a sample. Here’s the placard writeup for Tom Johnson’s 1973 Triumph Hurricane and a pic of an X75 to enjoy. Come on out to spend the day with these classic rides.

Here’s what Tom had to say about his Triumph X75:

In the early 1970s the British motorcycle industry was suffering desperately. Looking to improve their prospects, Triumph turned to American designer Craig Vetter. First shown as a concept in 1970 (and featured on the cover of that September’s Cycle World) Vetter’s concept created a firestorm of excitement. This three cylinder 750cc machine, with its distinctive exhaust, tiny gas tank, wild paint, and near “chopper” proportions was unlike anything previously seen from the British Isles and perhaps offered competition for the Japanese bikes that were sweeping through the marketplace.

From the moment I saw the Vetter Hurricane on that Cycle World cover I knew someday I would own one. I was in the motorcycle business when it was productionized by Triumph in 1972, but because I was so engaged in work and flat track racing I couldn’t focus on my street ride. Then, in early 2000s I happened upon a basket case Hurricane with restoration potential. I was fortunate to have found a matching frame and motor and became totally absorbed in creating a rider. A restorer helped me through the recreation, and in 2010 another 1973 Triumph X75 Hurricane was born! I recently added the final touches with OE tires it’s now working to a tee.

Looking for New Places to Ride? Look Here. Online Ride Resources!

OK, so the snow has been shoveled (or it melted), the sun is shining brightly, and the groundhog has assured us that spring is on it’s way. This, in turn, may cause you to begin turning your thoughts to the spring riding season that is headed your way at warp speed (or so you hope.) Anyway, thoughts of riding often lead us to the eternal question, “Where to today?”

Where to indeed! We all have our favorite local ride roads but the thought of venturing further afield is often on the agenda as the days get longer and warmer. Even if the warm weather isn’t REALLY here yet this is a great time to imagine rides to new and interesting places. And here are three of our favorite online resources to go to check out the prospects for great ride roads almost anywhere we might want to go.
Motorcycle Roads US header

Need more info on some 3200 riding roads spread across the nation? This could be your source. A single click on front page map of the USA will carry you directly to any of the 50 states. Also included is a section entitled “Nifty Fifty” that will take you to a showcase ride in each of the states. Not necessarily anyone’s choice of “best” mind you (no doubt to avoid violent controversy) but a typical great ride nonetheless. For our home state of Pennsylvania they have conveniently chosen PA route 842 which winds it’s way through Chester County, not more than about 30 miles from the Martin Motorsports showroom. utilizes Google maps as well as verbal descriptions to help us along the way. Check it out.

Motorcycle Roads coverPA

Similar in concept to in that it uses Google maps, the entirely separate brings slightly more appealing graphics along for the ride. It is also different in that it maintains a (free) membership scheme. You can freely scope out the reviews as a guest but if you want to enter your own “great ride road” submission” you’ve got to join some 9800 others as a member(easily accomplished from the home page at no cost.) They also offer a mobile app for iPhone and Android and have their own branded swag for sale. carries commercial advertising but not in an invasive way. Lots of routes for Pennsylvania and neighboring states!

Bestbikeroads cover

Dreaming about making a lap through Kazakhstan rather than heading out to Ephrata on a Sunday?
In that case may be the preferred destination for you. They claim to be able to fix you up with 309,980 miles of great roads in 76 countries. A truly global site – Bestbikingroads has almost 21,000 contributing members and nearly 9000 individual route reviews. Have no fear though. They can help you Bestbike roads pa 287
out with US domestic rides too, including this one, a favorite from north-central PA. As with the other sites here, Google maps comes into play and the writeups and directions are comprehensive. They also incorporate a rating system for the ride routes with various important factors like scenery, road condition, and presence of the Gendarmes. A mobile app is also available. Because of the massive amount of content and the international angle, you can easily kill an afternoon on this site, just daydreaming of epic rides to come.

There a numerous other sources that can keep you amused for an afternoon. Let us know if you have one that you especially like. Ride Safe!

Final answers to our quiz. This time it’s Laverda and Suzuki. How did you do?

OK folks. Here’s the wrap up to our little 10 bike history quiz. Today it’s the Italian marque Laverda along with Japanese mainstay Suzuki.

laverda_aI. Laverda – Answer 4: Agricultural engines

Pietro Laverda founded Laverda Macchine Agricole (Laverda S.p.A) in 1873 in Breganze, Northern Italy as a manufacturer of agricultural equipment, engines, farm implements and wine-making machinery. Much later, in 1949, Francesco Laverda (grandson of Pietro) formed Moto Laverda as an offshoot of the family business. Like other Italian manufacturers in those difficult post-war years Moto Laverda focused on small-displacement bikes, built in the Italian tradition of craftsmanship, and attention to detail, combined with a durable ‘tractor-like’ build quality. Through the 50s and 60s the company participated in nearly every segment of two wheeled transport – race bikes, scooters, trials, motocross, and more.  But always with small displacement bikes, both two and four stroke versions. At times they even had development partnerships with other brands like Zundapp and Husqvarna in order to create products that ventured outside the typical Italian mold. By 1969 they were ready to really break the mold with their first large displacement offering by launching its GT750 touring, SF750 sport, and SFC (super freni competizione) race bike. Orange (known as “SFC Orange”) became Laverda’s signature color during this period. The 750cc parallel twin featured a single chain-driven overhead cam and at produced up to 70 hp. It also utilized the engine as a stressed chassis member. The 750s also featured the street/sport segment’s latest innovations such as cast wheels and disc brakes. Did you know that during the late 1960s and early 1970s, Laverda was imported to America under the “American Eagle” name? Vintage Motorcycle PhotographsThe success of the 750 twins, and the continued marketplace movement toward larger displacements begat a 1000cc triple from Laverda in 1973. This bike subsequently morphed into the more refined and well received Laverda Jota, produced from 1976 until 1985. Unfortunately, by that time the Japanese manufacturers, with the application of advanced technology and low cost manufacturing, had basically left the small boutique manufacturers like Laverda in the dust. The parent company Laverda S.p.A. shut down the Moto Laverda operation in 1985. The Laverda brand was briefly resuscitated in 1993, when investor Francesco Tognon re-started production in Zane, Italy. The Zane/Laverda incarnation created a full line of motorcycles including the Laverda Diamante, Laverda 650, Laverda 668, and Laverda 750 ‘Ghost Strike,’ and a prototype flagship 900cc liquid cooled 3 cylinder sport bike. Failing to generate market enthusiasm, Laverda manufacturing was shuttered once again. But the name refused to die. The Aprilia Group S.p.A. purchased the Laverda brand in 2000, creating the ‘SFC,’ which was basically a re-packaged Aprilia RSV1000 with Laverda trim and badging. By 2003 this incarnation was gone too. In 2004 Aprilia was acquired by transportation giant Piaggio and the Laverda name was once again consigned to the dustbin. This time seemingly for good. At least as far as motorcycles go. The good news? You can still buy brand new Laverda farm equipment –  harvesters, threshers and such from the direct descendant of the parent firm that was originally founded by Pietro Laverda in 1873.

suzuki_aJ. Suzuki – Answer 5: Industrial Weaving Looms

In 1909, in the tiny seacoast village of Hamamatsu, 22 year old Michio Suzuki founded the Suzuki Loom Works. The manufacture of looms (originally for Japan’s giant silk industry) remained a primary focus of Suzuki’s firm for the next 30 years. Despite the success of the loom business, the lure of diversification called to Suzuki. Based on growing consumer demand, and a high level of expertise in the manufacture of complex and demanding machines, the firm elected to try it’s hand at the production of small cars. The project was begun in 1937 and prototypes were produced but World War II intervened. The government deemed passenger car production a “non essential commodity” and the plan was set aside for the duration. Post war, Suzuki went back to what they knew best, loom production. For a time, business boomed, especially after the US government approved the shipment of cotton to Japan, driving loom demand from Japanese domestic producers through the roof. This joy was, however, short lived as the cotton market collapsed in 1951. Faced with tough times, Suzuki’s thoughts went back to motor vehicles. This time the firm zeroed in on the post war need for simple, affordable, and reliable personal transportation in the form of motorized bicycles, scooters, and lightweight motorcycles. Beginning in 1952 with a motorized bicycle that featured a 36cc two stroke single cylinder engine they called the “Power Free”, the firm quickly grew. Just two years later they were producing 6,000 motorbikes a month and the company name was officially changed to Suzuki Motor Co., Ltd. Then in 1955 first Suzuki car, the “Suzulight” appeared on the scene, helping to usher in the era of Japanese small cars. Both the motorcycle and auto business proceeded aggressively forward throughout the balance of the 20th Century. Success in motorcycle racing (including wins at the Isle of Man TT) foretold advent of stunning Suzuki offerings such as the GSX-R series of sportbikes. BUt they competed in every segment – dirtbikes, cruisers, dual sports and more. By the end of 1999 aggregate worldwide motorcycle production passed the 40 million milestone and just two years later automobile (and light truck) production crossed the 30 million benchmark. Suzuki remains a stalwart of the motorcycle industry with annual worldwide sales of nearly 3.0 million units, and a broad product line capturing virtually every segment of the business.

So, there you go. How did you make out? Hope you enjoyed this little exercise. We’ll have more of this thing from time to time. Hope you’ll join us in the future.

Quiz answers part 4 – the back stories of BSA and KTM.

For reasons unknown an inordinate number of motorcycle firms (and frankly, companies everywhere) have taken corporate names that consist of three letters. Today we touch on two such firms. First the iconic, and long deceased, British concern BSA. Then we’ll visit the relatively new Austrian outfit, KTM.

bsa_a G. BSA – Answer 7: Armamants/Firearms

In 1861, fourteen independent members of the Birmingham (U.K.) Small Arms Trade Association joined together to form a new enterprise, Birmingham Small Arms. Catalyzed by the growing availability of specialized manufacturing machinery, the firm made it’s name via precision machining and the relatively new concept of interchangable parts. Shortly after inception, the enterprise established a facility in the Small Heath district of Birmingham on the ever so cleverly named Armoury Road. Providing high quality rifles to the British War Office, as well as other nations, proved to be a “feast or famine” business model. Seeking to attenuate the vagaries of the arms business, BSA branched out into the manufacture of bicycles in 1880. Near the turn of the century bicycles were all the trend and their production required large numbers of precise and interchangeable parts. It was a near perfect fit for the gun making machinery and business flourished. It was a short step from bicycles to motor-bicycles and by the fall of 1910 BSA had 3 1/2 HP offering in the marketplace. Distracted, in the 1914-1918, period by World War I, the company returned to strictly arms production. Immediately following, however, in 1919 they introduced their first two-cylinder motorcycle. Motorcycle production carried on throughout the intra-war period but by 1939 Britain was back on a war footing.BSA-Rifles The manufacture of arms, as well as military motorcycles, prevailed until the cessation of hostilities in 1945. At one point in the war, BSA was managing the war production at 67 factories throughout the British Empire. During the course of the war BSA also bought Sunbeam Motorcycles from Associated Motorcycles and later, in 1944, they also purchased Ariel. Following the war, the entire production capacity at Small Heath was turned over to motorcycles in order to meet growing civilian demand. By the early 1950s the BSA Group was the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world. The Group continued to expand and acquire throughout the 1950s, including the notable 1951 acquisition of Triumph. Throughout the late 60s , however, competition from Japan and Continental Europe (in the form of  Jawa, CZ, Bultaco, and Husqvarna) severely eroded BSA’s market share. By 1972 poor marketing decisions, products no longer aligned to the marketplace, and some failed (but expensive) projects had placed BSA (and Triumph) in dire financial straits. A government bailout which involved the contrived marriage of BSA group with the remains of Associated Motorcycles (which had already failed in 1966) resulted in the Norton-Villiers-Triumph (NVT) conglomerate. Unfortunately, the hemorraging of cash continued, compounded by management miscalculations, labor strife and more. NVT finally went into receivership in late 1975 and was unltimately liquidated, in its entirity in 1978. Once the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world, BSA has now been gone for over 30 years. It remains a favorite marque of restorers and Brit bike enthusiasts who all love the BSA graphic logo which shows 3 stacked rifles, a tribute to its origin as a rifle maker.


H. KTM – Answer 6: Metalworking and Fabrication

Among the Europeans in our little quiz, KTM is a relative newcomer. In 1934 Austrian engineer Hans Trunkenpolz opened the doors to a small metal working shop in Mattighofen, Austria under the business name of Kraftfahrzeuge Trunkenpolz Mattighofen. However, it was 1951 before the firm produced its first motorcycle and it took a couple of years to produce its first 100 bikes. A slow ramp up, to be sure.  Substantial change came about in 1955 with a massive investment from Austrian businessman Ernst Kronreif. The company name was changed to Kronreif & Trunkenpolz, Mattighofen but, more importantly, the pace of the action picked up. A series of light sports bikes, as well as scooters and mopeds became the company’s core business and by the 1960s, some 10,000 units had been produced. Knowledgeable American enthusiasts may know that the Penton trials bikes were manufactured, under contract, by KTM and utilized Sachs engines. It was actually not until 1970 that KTM produced its own engines. Throughout the 1980s the firm moved from success to success with off-road and motocross bikes but by the end of the decade things are not going so well. In 1989 founder Hans Trunkenpolz died and two years later the firm filed for bankruptcy. KTM was split into several pieces – tooling, radiators, bicycles, and motorcycles. Just a year later, in 1992, a new entity, KTM Sportsmotorcycle GmbH, emerged. A new business plan also emerged and by 1994, the firm which had specialized in off-road bikes, went into production with a road going model, the Duke. Now on a sound footing once again, the firm aggressively moved forward. Through the 1990s technical advances like linkless suspensions for some of the two stroke bikes emerge, as do new models including the LC4, in both Supermoto and Adventure versions. By 2001 KTM has become a Dakar Rally winner and an international leader in the production of on-off road bikes. A cooperative business agreement with Polaris, intended to share vehicle development and distribution networks came, and went, in 2006-2008. Which leaves us, today, with KTM as a relatively small, but growing, independent force in the motorcycle marketplace with expanded presence in the off-road and on road markets. Signature products like the Adventure series and the RC8 sportbike carry on the heritage of the nearly 80 year old firm that started simply as a metalworking shop.

Tomorrow we’ll finish up with the stories of Laverda and Suzuki. Hope you’ll join us as we complete our motorcycle history quiz.

Results – Part 3….Origins of BMW and Yamaha

bmw_aE. BMW – Answer 8: Aircraft Engines.

The small Munich engineering firm Rapp Motorenwerke was a troubled aircraft engine manufacturer founded in 1913. In financial straits, founder Karl Friedrich Rapp was forced to resign and control was taken by a couple of Austrians. The new Austrian owners, Franz Josef Popp and Max Friz, subsequently merged Rapp with the even smaller Munich based Otto Aircraft firm and folded the entire mess into their own Bayerische Flugzuegwerke (BFw.) Shortly after, in 1916, the entire conglomeration was renamed Bayerische Motorenwerke (Bavarian Motor Works – get it?)  The interesting part for us is that BFw had a small motorcycle sideline business that was retained, and improved upon by the recently consolidated BMW. The first BMW branded motorcycle came in the form of the R32, a 494cc flat twin cylinder engine mounted in a double loop tubular frame that had a top speed of 59 mph. The flat twin design cylinder engine architecture remains to this day, with a water cooled version introduced as recently as the fall of 2012. It is believed by many that the BMW logo was based on the circular design of a whirling propeller. This belief is surrounded by a degree of controversy, as other historians simply point to the color combination as being based on the Bavarian flag. Whatever you choose to believe, it is clear that the roots of the BMW we know today are based in aircraft engine manufacture.

yamaha_aF. Yamaha – Answer 10: Musical Instruments

While there may be some controversy over the origin of the BMW Logo, there is absolutely none regarding Yamaha. Yamaha’s distinctive logo featuring the three tuning forks is clearly attributable to the firm’s origin as a producer of Musical Instruments. Founder Torakusu Yamaha built his first reed organ in 1887. The Nippon Gakki Co., Ltd. (current Yamaha Corporation) was capitalized by Yamaha and his supporters ten years later in 1897. Pianos followed in 1900. The advent of Yamaha Motor, the motorcycle arm of the firm, came more than half a century later in 1955. That original firm continues to this day as a world leading producer of both musical instruments and powersports vehicles. The “tuning fork” folks are the current MotoGP world champions with Spanish rider Jorge Lorenzo. We don’t know if he plays piano.

Tomorrow we’ll cover the classic British bike builder BSA and relative newcomers to the scene KTM. Hope you’ll stop back.