< AllMoto's Motorcycle Investor mag


allmoto logo

Motorcycle Investor mag

Subscribe to our free email news


1970s motorcycles

That 70s Show

(from the Travels with Guido series, #364, by Guy ‘Guido’ Allen, April 2021)


Wild styling and quirky riding

Not quite sure how this all came about, but the centre of our main shed now has a serious seventies infestation. That is: Ducati 860 GT, Honda CB750-Four K1, Norton Commando 850 MkIII and Triumph T160. This wasn’t the result of some terribly clever long term plan – like much of my life, it seems to have occurred one blunder at a time.

Sure, each acquisition was the result of a very deliberate decision. Well, mostly – one or two may have also involved the consumption of substantial quantities of claret. In any case, there’s now a herd of the perishers, which is delightful if you appreciate the garish colours and bold lines from the era.

Have a look at that lot and there’s nothing subtle about it. Scanning the herd sometimes results in unreasonable urges to start wearing platform shoes, flared pants, tight shirts with big collars and gold chains. However so far we’ve resisted, as no-one is going to enjoy that spectacle.

Fashion decisions aside, one of the impacts of having a herd of transports of delight (18 this week) is they need to be exercised. So, every now and then we’ll set aside an afternoon and take a sub-set of the gang for a gallop.

Because we’re talking of old motorcycles in irregular use, that’s not a simple walk-up-and-turn-the-key exercise. Oh no. They all have their little quirks and needs.

Honda CB750-Four K1

Easiest to keep happy – and you can see how Mr Honda sold these by the boat-load – is the CB750-Four. Pump up the tyres, check the oil and give the front disc caliper a quick whack with a rubber mallet to free it up.

Whack?! Yes, I know that belting complex machinery with a mallet is far from ideal. But we’ve cleaned out the caliper, checked the pads and even applied a whisker of grease in the right places and it still seizes up a little if left for more than a week. A quick belt with the mallet to loosen things and it’s just fine.

As for the ride, it’s delightful and very seventies Japanese. Lots of power (for its day) and somewhat dubious handling, but as reliable as the proverbial hammer.

Norton Commado 850 MkIII

Next, the Norton. I’m tempted to mutter incantations over this one, but it’s okay. First task is to drop the oil which had inevitably made its way into the dry sump. While exactly the same thing doesn’t bother the Honda, running a wet-sumped Norton results in oil escaping from all sorts of interesting orifices. No matter. Undo the drain bolt and sort it out.

Though it has a working electric start (and a high-capacity modern lithium battery that greatly increases its chances), I like to give it a few kicks to prime and loosen up the engine. It does take a lot of effort to turn the monster over, so every little bit helps the somewhat under-specced starter system.

Sure enough, it’s easy to coax into life from there and the ride is unique. Handling runs rings around the Honda, while the performance is very different with four rather than five gears to surf the torquey twin.

Triumph T160

Next, the Triumph which – perhaps against expectations – is easy to get going. Check the oil, flood the carburettors, give it a couple of priming kicks and then hit the electric start. Again, it’s running a lithium battery and bursts into life with no hestitation.

For some reason the gearbox on this one takes a little warming up to properly wake up, but once it does, it’s a delightful ride. Good handling – up there with the Norton – and very accessible performance. I must admit to being a sucker for the unique growl from the pushrod triple.

Ducati 860 GT

Which brings us, finally, to the most recent entrant to the seventies glamour show – the Ducati. It’s a very recent purchase, the only one of the four with no electric leg, and we’re still at the stage of sorting out the bugs. While it runs, there are signs the near-50-year-old Ducati Electronica solid-state ignition is feeling its age and not really producing the goods. So we’re waiting on an Elektronik-Sachse aftermarket replacement from (ironically enough) Germany and see what happens from there.

I’m expecting great things, so wish us luck…

(Ed’s note: we’ll bring you more on the Ducati as we sort it out.)


More on these bikes:

Honda CB750-Four K1

Norton Commando 850 MkIII

Triumph T160

More Our Bikes stories here

See these period roads tests from Classic Two Wheels:

1970 Honda CB750-Four

1973 Norton Commando 850


See more Travels with Guido


Produced by AllMoto abn 61 400 694 722
Privacy: we do not collect cookies or any other data.

allmoto logo

Try our books...

Travels with Guido book

twitter allmoto








Email newsletter


News archive


Our Bikes stories

Travels with Guido columns


About AllMoto

Email me