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Classic Motorcycle Collecting


Classic Motorcycle Collecting
Classic Motorcycle Collecting

George Barber's collection turned into one of the worlds largest classic motorcycle museums.

John H Glimmerveen Licensed to About.com

Some of the highly regarded museums displaying classic motorcycles can trace their beginnings back to a private collection. Enthusiasts often start out by acquiring a single machine, and soon find the experience so enjoyable that they find and purchase other similar machines, typically from the same manufacturer.

As collections grow, the first thing that happens to most collectors is that they begin to run out of space, not just to display or store the bikes, but to work on them. It is about this time that some enthusiasts decide to display their collection in a public location—a small museum, for example.

For many collectors, the hobby becomes serious when they realize how many bikes they have. The typical collector gravitates toward a single make or type of machine. In addition, many competition riders keep the machines they once raced.

Building the Collection

When the point is reached that the owner realizes he or she is consciously building a collection, their approach changes. For example, if the collector is trying to put together a collection of 1960s small Italian road race bikes, he will at some point search the internet, or attend an auction looking to purchase a hard-to-find part. During this process he may well purchase other parts or even memorabilia connected with his collection.

Although some of the purchases a collector makes may not be used on one of his bikes, they may be a useful bartering tool for those hard to locate items. This is not a case of hoarding, but a legitimate way to secure hard-to-find parts.

When attending auctions or swap meets, for example, the collector should consider general items such as handlebar grips, footrest rubbers, cables, etc., all of which tend to be generic and therefore interchangeable between makes and models. Items purchased at this point will again come in handy later.

Keeping or increasing the value of machines within a collection will often come down to the originality of the machines. For example, the value of the machines can be greatly affected by the muffler fitted. If a 4 into 1is fitted to a machine, for example, its value may well be increased if a set of the original 4 into 4 pipes and silencers are fitted.

Returning a classic motorcycle it to its original specification is something to keep in mind when searching for parts for another machine within a collection. For example, an owner may be searching at a swap meet for a headlight shell and see an original NOS set of handlebar grips. The bottom line here is that the collector must always be on the lookout for parts, bikes or


As with most aspects of classic bike participation, research is the key to many problems--researching where a manufacturer exported bikes to can lead to an untapped source of parts. This is particularly true for the smaller capacity machines because they were often exported to other countries for use as commuter bikes.

Some examples of this include:

Honda Express. Many of these machines were imported into Bermuda for the buoyant motorcycle rental market.

Yamaha RX100. Examples of this bike were manufactured (built) under license in India where they had a very strong market presence.

Yamaha RD350B. Again assembled under license in India, the RD350B was available from 1983 in that country as the Rajdoot 350.

Vespa Scooters. These popular scooters have a strong presence in Vietnam, but as these machines were sold in 114 countries and produced under license in 13, parts are available worldwide.

Most of these countries have a substantial spare parts inventory as they tend to keep these bikes running longer. However, certain items are not the same on some of these bikes to reflect the local market—rebadging is typical, as is a different name on the side cases, for example.

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