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British motorbikes vs the Japs. The pain

British motorbikes
ER Classics Desktop 2022

The battle of True Believers is now being waged elsewhere. And once the Japs were the enemy

. But in 1970 the matter was still in focus. When searching in the archive we found the (then) Weekblad Motor, the 58th volume, number 52 from 24 December 1971. In that edition is the reader test of the BMW / 5 models where in the drivers together 4.188.475 km rode. Everyone was very satisfied with the respective engines despite the fact that a whole row of malfunctions and repairs was noted.

There was a driving impression of the all-new Suzuki GT 750. And there were readers' letters. The nicest came from the gentleman. CJJ van Schaik, from Utrecht. We are so free to quote:


Japanese motorcycles

Let me start by saying that everyone should know for themselves whether they want to ride an English or Japanese motorcycle. I keep it English. I am not saying that you are partial on this matter, but that you have a clear preference for Japanese motorcycles. In the driving test of the Kawasaki 750 you write enthusiastically about the disc brake. Coincidentally I also read a test of the Kawasaki in the English magazine Motor Cycle. Mick Woollett wrote that he found the brakes a disappointment. The disc brake was not aggressive enough and the brake lever had to be squeezed too hard. The rear brake was clearly below average!

Moreover, he found the large steering wheel uncomfortable for long-term fast driving and, in combination with the high buddy seat, had the feeling that he was really 'on top' of the engine. You do not write anything about this in your test, but in the driving test Triumph Bonnevile calls you both arguments as disadvantages. Where does preference end and where does bias begin?

I also dispute that the push rods parallel twins with cast iron cylinders would be an outdated design. In the long-distance races, the "modern" Japanese engines are constantly "knocked" by the "outdated" English push rods two and three pitters. Jan Strijbis remained during the last standard race at Zandvoort. Two Honda four-cylinder fronts for a long time on its Velocette. At the back of the field, W. Beels beat a driver on a Honda 500 cc four-cylinder on a BSA 750 cc single-cylinder. I mean: For me, an English bicycle is still the absolute end.

The real end for those English bicycles came soon after that. The whole moving story can be read in Bert Hopwood's 'Whatever happened to the British Motorcycle Industry', the book proves that British motorcycle manufacturers did not have such good marketing people.

In the meantime, those Japanese newcomers of the time are the leading companies in motor land and their early models are now often heathen classics. Fortunately, Mr van Schaik himself said it in 1971: "Let me state first of all that everyone must know for themselves whether they want to ride an English or Japanese motorcycle."

But in their time the British bikes were pretty good. Only that usually came after a Real Enthusiast such as Mr van Schaik, had prepared the engine as the factory should have done and as 'the Japs' naturally did.

And then of course there were also Italian, American and German motorcycle brands. And from the booklets with the collected driver tests from Motor we know that they were all very satisfied with their machines. Maybe we used to be satisfied earlier ...

I myself have driven almost 50D km on my Trident. Without any problems. But that was because I was not the first owner ...

British motorbikes

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Now in store

View the 40-page preview via or a click on the cover.

The August issue, containing:

  • Fiat 127 from 1972
  • Heemskerk V-twin, the best motorcycle BSA has never built
  • Restoration Mini Traveler 1963
  • Peugeot 104, a party
  • Volkswagen Golf Country was too far ahead of its genre
  • Driving with a Yamaha R5 (1971-1972)
  • Report Wemeldinge Classic Races
  • Duplicate type designations - Part XVI
cover 8 2022 300

The perfect reading material for an evening or more of undisturbed dreaming. It is now in stores. A subscription is of course better, because then you will no longer miss a number and you are also € 27 cheaper. Not bad in these expensive times.

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