Vintage motorcycles are cooler than having a dragon in your garage.
They’re both noisy.
They both look like they may breathe fire any second.
They have a magical quality that’s very, very hard to resist.
And why would you want to?
It feels so good to be under their spell.
Vintage motorcycles are so cool, they’re almost impossible to resist. They’re from another time, another world. They’re a part of motorcycle history, and so they’re rare and often valuable. But they’re also quirky, with their own moods and personalities. That’s why you don’t just own a vintage motorcycle: you bond with it.
There are a million reasons to think vintage motorcycles are cool.
But let’s limit ourselves to 15 of the most sensible ones.
Now, this list could come in really handy one day.
You might just wake up one morning, and find you have one in the shed.
How did she get there?
It won’t be magic.
That beautiful, fire-breathing vintage motorcycle will be in your garage for one of these reasons…
Why Vintage Motorcycles Are so Cool You Probably Need One
Here are 15 reasons to love vintage motorcycles.
1. Vintage motorcycles are totally old school
Vintage motorcycles are the very definition of old school.
They’re completely authentic.
There’s a gritty, down-and-dirty feeling about them.
Of course, that mainly comes from having to spend hours in the shed with a multitude of spanners and a lot of rags.
Even so, you’re face to face with a fascinating stage in motorcycle evolution.
This is the original form of the machine.
It’s stripped back.
It doesn’t bother with ridiculous modern add-ons like indicators and electric starter motors.
2. Vintage motorcycles run on personality, not logic
To the untrained eye, a classic motorcycle is just a piece of vintage machinery.
It’s subject to all the laws of mechanics, right?
Vintage motorcycles have minds of their own.
And unfortunately, they’re not exactly people-pleasers.
They do what they want, when they want.
You find this out the hard way.
It’s a sunny Sunday afternoon: the perfect day for a ride on your classic bike.
So you head out to the shed, and kick her over.
She started just fine yesterday.
You check the battery. It’s fine.
The plugs are firing.
There are no loose wires.
The petrol tap is on.
Why won’t she start?
There’s no logical reason.
This is a classic motorcycle.
She has no use for logic.
She’s simply not in the mood to start.
And there’s nothing you can do about it.
You should just abandon your original plan for the day, and go do something else.
But tomorrow is a new day.
So the next morning, head back out to the shed and see if you can gage the mood of your vintage motorcycle.
How you doing? you ask her warily.
You could swear she smiles at you.
So you gently, hopefully, turn the key.
You kick her over.
And what do you know…
She starts purring as loudly as your favorite cat in front of the fire on a winter’s night.
OK, this might be the loudest cat in the world.
But now she looks perfectly innocent – and totally roadworthy.
Yep, today, your vintage motorcycle feels like breathing a little fire out on the highway.
3. Kick starts are a magic trick
When the hubby bought his 1973 Norton Commando, we were out in the driveway, admiring her.
Hang on, I said to him in sudden alarm, Where do you put the key?
There’s no key, he said patiently.
It’s a kick start.
What! I said, incredulous.
Well, you can never park her on the street, then.
Anyone could just start her up and ride her away!
How’s this going to work, security wise?
And then walked me through a start-up routine that would take Harry Potter himself 4 years at Hogwart’s to master.
To say the least, it’s complicated.
You have to turn her off, jiggle this, wriggle that and kick her two or three times.
Then you turn her on, do more secret jiggling, turn around three times, speak the magic words, and make a secret signal at the sky. Then you wait until you can smell petrol, and kick her again.
The Norton will sigh happily at getting all this attention – and then roar into life.
What a rigmarole!
I stood in the driveway laughing.
It was like having front row seats at a biker magic show.
That’s some technique.
It’s so specialist that surely there are only a handful of people on the planet with this arcane knowledge.
I doubt many bike thieves have graduated wizard school, somehow.
4. Vintage motorcycles are two-wheeled time machines
Vintage motorcycles make you feel like you’ve gone back in time.
You may be hanging out with your motorcycle in the garage, tightening up a loose bolt, or wiping some road dirt off its slightly dented tank.
Or you might be out on a ride, grinning in amazement as this creature chugs away down the road, its motor jangling happily.
This is how motorcycles used to be.
This is how it felt to ride bikes 40 years ago.
And suddenly, the modern world feels irrelevant.
The internet seems like a weird (and boring) dream.
Who cares about social media or fake news when you’re riding in another era?
This is a personal time machine you can keep in your garage.
5. The vintage motor makes its own music
Start up a vintage motorcycle, and listen to it with your eyes closed.
The motor will sing to you.
But this is no screeching opera singer.
It’s not irritating skibbidy-doo-dah-be-bop jazz.
And it’s not a perky pop song from a 19-year-old with an important message for the world about her, like, amazing hair.
This is a raspy growl teenagers don’t sing along to.
Classic motorcycles have their own distinct voices.
And more into rhythm than melody.
The sound is utterly unique.
It’s a tune you don’t hear every day.
This is music from a vintage motor, and it’ll always make you smile.
And this beautiful noise is not just a symphony for the garage.
It’s also useful out on the road.
The pounding rhythm of a vintage bike can be a legitimate safety feature.
It may help car drivers to open their eyes and actually see you.
6. You can work on a vintage motorcycle yourself
To fix a modern motorcycle at home, you need your own tame IT nerd.
You’d have to set him up in the garage with a crate of lukewarm Red Bull, 3 or 4 computers, 25 miles of tangled cable, and dozens of troubleshooting programs uploaded and ready to go.
But most of us keep motorcycles rather than nerds in the garage.
So if you have a modern motorcycle, you’ll have to take your beloved machine into a bike shop instead.
You ride in, smile bravely, and put your motorcycle in their hands.
And then you wait.
And call to check what’s taking so long.
And then wait some more.
Eventually your motorcycle is ready to pick up.
Hopefully that annoying engine warning light is now firmly off.
But be ready to dial 911, because you’ve arrived home with a new issue.
The invoice from the bike shop will probably trigger a heart attack.
Happily, this life-threatening scenario is less likely with a classic motorcycle.
You can probably do most of the work yourself.
And you won’t need to call your bike shop every few days to see if they’ve forgotten about you.
Or pay them to import specialist diagnostic software from Europe.
With a classic bike, all you need are some spanners, a large box of bandaids, and the patience of a saint.
Oh, and beer.
If you’re still in the shed several hours later, it’s probably time for something stronger.
7. The retro styling is real on vintage motorcycles
Vintage motorcycles are not modern bikes with some pretty heritage styling.
This is where classic motorcycle style BEGAN.
It doesn’t get more genuine than this.
And if you need more proof, you only need to check your riding gear.
Yep, you’re covered in oil and petrol, and you haven’t even left the shed yet.
This is what the real deal looks, feels (and smells) like.
8. Vintage motorcycles engage all your senses
Vintage motorcycles are not sterile machines where everything works smoothly and cleanly.
They demand that you engage with them – using all of your senses.
For a start, they’re a feast for the eyes.
The classic lines, those gorgeous original colors.
Then there’s the unique sound of the motor: it’s raw, and clatters proudly.
This is a motorcycle that’s yearning to get out on the road, and she’s not shy about saying so.
The handlebars shake up your sense of touch.
You’ll need to hold on tight as the bike shakes and shudders under your grip.
And, of course, there’s the smell.
Oil and petrol, and plenty of both!
There’s one more sense to consider here: your sense of taste.
Vintage motorcycles have that covered, too.
No matter how much you wash your hands, you’ll be tasting that cocktail of garage fluids when you eat your lunch.
9. Vintage motorcycles are people magnets
Just try taking a classic motorcycle out on the road, and not getting into a conversation with a complete stranger.
I dare you.
It really can’t be done.
Yes, these bikes are loud and eye-catching.
And yes, people are always surprised to see old school motorcycles out on the road, and working for a living.
But there’s an emotional pull here that draws people to the motorcycle like a magnet.
So when you stop at a gas station, make sure you’re not in a hurry.
A guy in his 70s will come rushing over to shake your hand.
Turns out, he had the same classic bike as yours, but he bought it new in the 70s.
He still misses it.
As the memories flow, so might the tears of joy at this surprise reunion.
It’s a heart-warming moment.
Make sure you have some tissues on hand.
10. Vintage motorcycles may even be an investment opportunity
Classic bikes are automatically limited editions.
No-one’s making them anymore.
And because they’re relatively rare, they’re often more valuable.
If you buy a new motorcycle, you’ll lose thousands of dollars the moment you start the engine, and ride it out of the dealer’s.
But that doesn’t happen with vintage bikes.
It’s amazing the prices that some of these motorcycles can fetch.
I’m not talking about pristine, shiny models right out of a museum, either.
Even tattier bikes with some dings in the gas tank and some rust on the suspension can demand an impressive price.
If you’ve ever wanted to justify investing in motorcycles, this is your chance.
11. Vintage motorcycle parts are mostly cheap
Buying a part or accessory online for a modern motorcycle can be painfully expensive.
The price (even before shipping) will often make you gasp out loud.
I’ve been horrified at the cost of some of the Triumph parts we’ve needed.
I guess modern motorcycle manufacturers have to pay for marketing.
They need to maintain flashy websites, and pay models to take test rides in the sun and look pretty.
And so they charge for everything like an angry rhinoceros.
But it’s a different story when you need a part for a vintage motorcycle.
The websites which sell them look like they were made about the same time as the bikes.
Things are pretty basic.
There are no pictures of gorgeous people in top-to-toe leather posing on glittering bikes.
And that’s a refreshing change, quite frankly.
These websites are essentially online catalogs.
The well-organized ones make it easy to find what you need.
Their prices are reasonable.
Shipping costs are up-front and clear.
And they’re great to deal with, because they’re run by real people with a genuine love of old motorcycles.
12. On-road costs are less with vintage motorcycles
Here in New Zealand, a modern motorcycle costs around $500 a year to register for the road.
It’s not cheap.
And when you have more than one bike, this adds up real quick.
But a vintage motorcycle costs more like $50 to register.
What a bargain!
It’s practically SAVING you money.
13. Vintage motorcycles are a design masterclass
The design details of vintage motorcycles are astonishing.
Just take a step back from gazing at the whole beast for a second, and look at the component parts.
Every little part has a story to tell, and a detail to admire:
- The shapes of the tanks are sculpted, and reflect their era.
- The traditional colors are simple and classic (like the famous Indian red).
- Tank badges are original versions of logos before they morphed into something slicker in the present day.
- You can probably see some wires: visible workings are part of the look.
- The seats are often large, rectangular and endearingly clunky.
These design elements are classically beautiful.
No wonder they’re the inspiration for modern motorcycles.
14. Vintage motorcycles simplify the riding experience
The mechanics of classic motorcycles are not exactly sophisticated.
And yes, that can make for a more, well, primal ride.
It’s not like relaxing on the couch watching Netflix.
But there’s a big upside to the stripped back experience of vintage motorcycles.
They’re lighter, and easier to handle.
For a start, they tend to be smaller than some of the modern monsters you see on the road today.
Our modern Triumph Thunderbird, for example, weighs about 310 kg dry, compared to the 1970s Norton, which is more like 190 kg.
That’s a massive difference!
And that’s because there’s not two tons of technology weighing them down.
There are some pretty basic mechanics happening here:
- There’s no catalytic converter
- No starter motor
- The electrics are simpler
- The battery’s smaller, and
- The pipes are lighter.
So you can flick a vintage motorcycle around on the road with much less effort.
She’s light as a feather.
15. Hollywood icons started the vintage motorcycle trend
It’s not just simple folk like us who are into classic motorcycles.
There’s a long list of iconic stars from the movie and music business who loved vintage motorcycles.
- Jack Nicholson
- Clint Eastwood
- Bob Dylan
- Steve McQueen
- Elvis Presley
- Paul Newman
- James Dean.
These guys were all about being cooler than everyone else.
They thought that motorcycles would help.
And they were right.
What was cool to them back in the day is just as cool to us right now.
Only now, it’s vintage as well.
This is Why Vintage Motorcycles are Cool
Clearly, vintage motorcycles are even cooler than keeping a pet dragon in the garage.
You’ve always suspected it.
But now you know why.
Of course, all this knowledge leads to one inevitable conclusion, doesn’t it?
Now you probably need a vintage motorcycle of your own.
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