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23rd December 2004


Opinion: Defining Classic

Old? New? British? European? Concours or Contemporary? Martin Gelder rounds up the Real Classic Regulars and asks them the Regular Real Classic Question...

Few would argue that this isn't a Real Classic...What *is* a Classic? And what is a Real Classic? Does it have to be British? Does it have to be old? Does it have to be in immaculate condition, or even an immaculate contraption? Should it be original, or should its form follow function? Can there be such a thing as a Modern Classic, or is twenty years old the classic cut-off point? Or thirty years, or fifty?

In a predictably pointless effort to find the truth, I gave paper and pens to an assorted collection of Real Classic Regulars, and asked them to jot down their definitions of a Real Classic.

In no particular order, this is what Humbernut, Mike Powell, Emm, Steve the Toast, G&D, Paul ...although some would say that Not Being British counts against this one.G80, Frank Westworth, Rowena Hoseason, Dave Minton, myself and a couple of others came up with:

Any bike that exudes the grace of heritage and evokes the desire to ride.

Old. Two wheels. Handlebars. Seat(s). Engine if you're lucky.

Over 50 years old.

Ancient, of extraordinary value and of extraordinary excellence.

When you sit and look at it you want to ride it, and I had one of these and didn't like it, although others regard them as a definitive Japanese Classic.when you've ridden it, you want to sit and look at it some more.

RealClassic. Costs a fortune, is fun most of the time, a pain in the arse occasionally.

A pint of Bishops Finger, stored correctly in a room temperature cellar, and drawn *slowly* and tantalisingly into a Sussex jug.

RealClassic? A Range Rover. No argument. (A vast and pointless indulgence).

Classic: Something (a bike) that in your youth you thought, 'I would love to have one of those' and in old age you think, 'they were great old bikes'.

And then there's this...Old, obsolete, difficult to start; plods along fine when running. Preferably British, slightly breathless and unattractive to women; bit like me really (particularly the last bit).

Classic: A motorcycle built by idealistic engineers on poverty wages for motorcyclists whose ambition usually exceeded their affluence.

But now, it's over to you...

Footnote: Mathematicians and engineers might also like to try the formula devised by a couple of uk.rec.motorcycle newsgroup regulars.

Guess whose definition of a Real Classic this was?

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