When Doug and I decided after a long separation to marry in 1968, he announced “Oh, and by the way, a few months ago I bought a 1967 BSA Victor.” His timing was perfect as I was swept up in our engagement and too busy to worry about becoming a biker. It turns out that the 441 Victor was our greatest source of entertainment in those early years as we discovered the Berkshires in Western Massachusetts riding the back roads together.
In 1974 we couldn’t pass up a chance to buy a friend’s 1968 Triumph Bonneville, which we enjoyed for another 10 years. In 1984 when the Harley craze was in full swing, we sold the Triumph and purchased a new Harley Sportster. The 441 Victor was kept for posterity and the good memories.
A family has a grounding effect and in 1986 our riding days were numbered. The Harley was sold and the Victor was put in storage, for more than 20 years.
Fast forward to 2008: Our friend Jack Manning opened The Classic Bike Experience, (CBE), and he asked me to collaborate on a new logo for his shop. I thought an actual Triumph tailpipe had to be used in the design and looking at the bikes from that era brought on a new wave of nostalgia for Doug and I. Days gone by turned out to be just the beginning.
Fast forward to August 2012: This year’s “Manning Family Reunion” was to be held in VT. Jack sent us a note that he was bringing a couple of bikes and that he knew I still had my motorcycle license.
When I first saw the “Blue Strip” Norton Commando that Jack had brought, I was a bit nervous to say the least. The 850 Commando was a lot of bike to start off on, after not riding for 24 years. Jack assured me that it would all come back once I got on and said something like “you know how to ride, have fun”.
Well he was right, after a lap around the parking lot; I was out on the main road, cruising past the corn fields, with a big smile on my face and gaining confidence with every mile. The roar of the exhaust and good vibrations made me feel like Anthony Hopkins in the movie, “World’s Fastest Indian” where he portrayed 68 year old, Burt Munro, who set a land speed record at the Bonneville Salt Flats in 1967 with his 47 year old Indian motorcycle.
Within days of returning home, I rolled the Victor out of the shed and had it running again, driving the dirt roads around our house. Once I felt confident that the Victor was safe and my driving skills were good enough to take a passenger, Sue and I went for a ride. After about 45 minutes of ‘thumping “down the back roads, I turned back into our driveway and Sue said, “Why such a short ride”. I knew we were hooked.
After consulting with Jack, I started searching for a mid-70’s Triumph Bonneville. There were certainly many available, however they varied widely on condition and many had been modified, I was really looking for a Bonneville in original configuration and in good condition.
In September, I found an ad for a 1979 Bonneville T140 that had been in storage since 1985. It had less than 5000 miles and the pictures looked great. I was concerned that it had not run for 27 years, so I called Jack, who gave me a list of things to look for, and he said, “don’t worry, everything is fixable, if you buy it, bring it to CBE and we will work with you to get it running”.
This is one of the great things about CBE, where classic bike owners can work in the shop, use their tools and get help if they need it. I wouldn’t have bought the Bonneville if not for Jacks confidence and offer to bring it to CBE.
I arrived at CBE Tuesday morning and met with Jack, who had a plan: Tues, perform assessment and order parts, Wed, major wrench work, Thurs, test drive and “go home with a big smile.”
I was introduced to the CBE guys who offered their expertise on what should be checked and replaced. As it turned out, I would be working with Bill, a former CFO turned Triumph owner and now CBE’s Service Manager who has extensive knowledge of Triumph restoration.
Another unique thing about CBE is the collaborative environment. All the guys are a pleasure to work with and willing to help when problems arise.
We ran a day behind schedule due to multiple electrical problems created by the bikes original owner. Late Thursday, with the bike still on the stand and missing its rear wheel, Jack said, “let’s see if it will start.” The first kick produced a cough, with the second kick; the Triumph came to life, the first time in 27 years.
Friday morning was spent finishing assembly, tuning and road testing. After lunch I was on my way home, with a “big smile”.
Back in the Berkshires, Sue and I ride every chance we get. Each time the Bonneville comes to life we are transported back to the 60’s. What a great feeling.
Thanks Jack and thanks to all the folks at CBE.
Doug and Sue