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Comeback Kids

Stylish old marques are seducing the motorcycle world once again.
By Bill Stermer

I CAN STILL REMEMBER those Triumphs. There must have been 10 of them in a row at the dealerships that day in 1968. These were Bonnevilles, agile 650cc twins that could reach a thrilling 110 mph. As a college student, I vowed that I would scrape up the $1,375 by any means necessary and own one someday.
      But instead, Honda's watershed 750 four cylinder stunned the motorcycle world the following year, and soon the superior engineering and production facilities of the East were submerging the classic marques. Many familiar brands crashed and burned, victims of their own inability to change, adapt, and compete. Triumph, MV Agusta, Norton, Laverda, Benelli and others joined the ancient names of Excelsior-Henderson and Indian on motorcycling's scrap heap.
     Fortunately, the death of these marques are only the beginning of our story. Each of these once-defunct brands has either returned to production or is on the verge of doing so. With some fast footwork, you could own four historic marques by evening.
     Many riders fondly recall the bike brands they owned-or wished they had-many years ago. The siren call of youth and nostalgia intertwine with the marquee's own mystique to conjure up a sepia-toned haze of memories, or pseudo memories, that convinces the rider that it can all be like it once was.
     As for the manufacturers, a company can buy into an authentic, romantic history that start-up brands cannot offer. Still, these comeback kids are not tooling and musty blueprints. Rather, they are state-of-the-art machines that reflect design and technology changes as if they had never disappeared from the scene. Each manufacturer has attempted to be true to the machine's roots, the machine's roots, and that's where we return to our story.