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2nd December 2005

Opinion: Classico

We have enough trouble deciding amongst ourselves which motorcycles are classic, without dragging the rest of the world into the argument. Martin Gelder stirs things up with his collection of exotic foreign magazines...

What *is* a classic bike?

Is it one that's British? Of course, but not exclusively or we'd be ruling out Laverda SF750s and that would never do.

Is it one that's old? Well, there are a quite few modern classics; MV Agusta F4, anyone?

Is it one with some historical significance? Possibly, but we wouldn't want to rule out all the popular but workaday bikes that were the staple of the fifties and sixties.

Is it one that isn't Japanese, or that doesn't have four cylinders? Now we're being negative, and what about the Ariel Square Four, or the Honda CB750?

To be honest I could fill the screen with definitions of classic, and with perfectly valid exceptions that disproved my rule.

And that's before we even start worrying about what a RealClassic is

Instead, it might be interesting to take a look at what our foreign chums consider to be a classic. Luckily enough, I just happen to have a collection of classic bike magazines gathered at random from airports and motorway service stations around the world as I here and there doing the day job. So let's prize apart the sticky pages and see what the rest of the world is up to:

Motociclismo d'Epoca

Moto Ciclismo d'Epoca - Italy

Bikes Featured: Vincent Black Shadow, 1950's Honda Scooters, Moto Morini Corsaro Country 125, Ossa Explora 250, Guazzoni Competizione 50, Bianchi twin cylinder GP bikes, Segoni endurance racers, and losts and lots of indeterminate Italian lightweights.

A big, thick, heavy magazine with 190 or so pages and a lot of stuff inside. Real quality, and a joy to read, even if it is one word at a time with a dictionary.

The Japanese take on the Velo LE?
Motorrad Classic

Motorrad Classic - Germany

Bikes Featured: 1970's Yamaha RD250/350s, Laverda V6 racer, Harley Davidson knucklehead, Honda CB1100R, 1933 NSU 251 OSL, Suzuki GT750, BSA Gold Star, Motom moped.

More bikes, less riding and racer reminiscences than the Italians, but the Germans have a better line in snappy headlines; Sechs Bombe for the Laverda, Wasserbueffel for the Suzuki GT750.

Yamaha RD350 - You can't beat 70's metalflake paint.
Moto Clasica

Moto Clasica - Spain

Bikes Featured: Laverda V6 racer, Laverda 750SFC, Vincent V-twins, BMW K1200R, Harley Davidson VRSCR, Montesa Impala.

The Laverda story isn't a translation of the same story in the German magazine, and the Vincent one isn't a translation of the one in the Italian job. Strange coincidence though, and more evidence that Vincents and Laverdas are classics...

More emphasis on modern bikes than the others, and less meat to the magazine.

Young Machine

Young Machine - Japan

Bikes Featured: Kawasaki Z1, Suzuki GS1000, Yamaha XS1100, Honda CB750F, Suzuki Katana 1100, Kawasaki Z1000R, Honda VF1000R, Yamaha FZR, Yamaha V-Max.

I think this was a special edition about bikes from the 70s and 80s rather than a pure "classic" bike magazine. Some very weird cartoons, a free DVD on the cover, and more adverts than you can shake a short pointy chopstick at.

Completely impenetrable but strangely fascinating.

Caption compo, anyone?
China Motornews

China Motornews - China

I couldn't find a Chinese classic bike magazine, and I suspect there isn't one; asking locals about "old motorbike magazines" descended into confusion when I pointed out that I didn't want to buy a previously enjoyed scooter or even some previously enjoyed magazines about scooters.

China Motornews is very glossy and concentrates on both local and western racing with the odd scooter roadtest thrown in.


So there you have it. Completely conclusive proof that, errr… Anyway.

A lot of British bikes, even more Italian bikes, and quite a few that you wouldn't expect to see in the classic mags on the shelves of WH Smith.

If there has to be a conclusion, it would be that next time you're stuck in a foreign airport, have a browse round the magazine stands; you might be surprised a what you find. This is even more true of the magazines on sale in German service stations, ahem.

And the international definition of a classic motorcycle? I was chatting to an Italian journalist about bikes, and he let slip that he had a 750 Honda.

I asked if it was an old one or a newer one, and he replied, "Ees an old one, ees a Joe Bar bike."

Random Laverda on


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