Top 10 Ultimate Vintage Dirt Bike Collection

May. 12, 2016 By Rick Sieman
What if you could have the top ten vintage dirt bike collection in your garage?  Makes you stop and think. Here are our thoughts on the subject:

10.) 1968 BULTACO 360 BANDITO
This was the original bad boy of dirt bikes. It had more horsepower than any other bike of the period, and it was all BAD HORSEPOWER. It hit like turning on a light switch, and the plumbing-pipe frame twisted and flexed like a licorice stick. However, it was heart-breakingly beautiful (when new) and was a thrill-and-a-half to ride. Since it shared the same bottom end and gearbox as the 250, reliability was about 50% less than the 250, and the 250 was a hand-grenade!

Quite possibly one of the most beautiful bikes ever built, clean copies of this unit are worth their weight in gold. John Gregory (President of JT/USA) has a pristine Victor/Metisse on display in his office. He's turned down offers of $10,000 for it. The only color to have is the Metisse Blue. This bike is a joy to ride, even though it has a "hinge-in-the-middle" feel when pushed hard at high speeds. The power from the four-stroke single is truly amazing!

8.) '72/73 501 MAICO
The largest two-stroke ever made (at the time) became almost legendary. In stock configuration, it wasn't all that powerful, but with minimal modifications it would put out over 50 hp at the rear wheel. Handling was typically Maico; it went straight as a dragster and turned like a scalded cat. Those Maicos had great forks, a fabulous frame, and turned novices into experts.

J.N. Roberts was the King of the Desert in the late '60s and early '70s, and he did his best rides on the 8-speed 400 Huskies. The stock Huskies of that era moved around a lot, and most savvy shops extended the swing arm a bit to stabilize the Swedish machines at higher speeds. The 8-speed bike was actually a 4-speed with a 2-speed splitter, giving J.N. two complete ranges to work with. The bike was slim and trim, with a high pipe that burned the rider's leg, but went where it was pointed and had a great power-band. And that chromed-panel gas tank was truly a classic!

6.) 1967 thru 1969 YAMAHA DT-1
The first of the "do-it-all" dirt bikes from Japan, the 250cc 'Dit-One' was a truly reliable, low cost, never-break, first-kick-start machine that made dirt biking easy and fun. And guess what? If you sling a leg over a Dit-One and take it for a trail ride, you'll find a great power-band, easy-to-ride machine that can sit in a garage for two months and still start on the first kick.

In the late '60s and early '70s, the British singles and twins were the hot setup. There are those who would complain about the fact that a BSA Goldstar isn't in this list. Those complainers probably never slung a leg over a Norton 750 P-11 Twin. This wondrous bike had a beautifully curved set of mid-pipes that tucked in nicely. The power delivery was close to awesome! Once, I watched Andy "The Brown Devil," a Lost Angels M.C. member, pitch his P-11 sideways on a dry lake bed, the exhaust howling like banshees. I promised to myself that one day I'd own one of those great bikes. Andy let me ride the P-11, and I was hooked! Some day ...

4.) 1974 OSSA 250 PHANTOM
I entered a stock Phantom in a night MX race at Indian Dunes in 1974 and pulled three easy hole-shots without even trying. The Phantom weighed in at an actual 197 pounds, sans gas, and felt even lighter. It was a truly beautiful bike, with good forks, average shocks, and fragile fiberglass body parts, when everyone else was going to plastic.

3.) 1972/1973 YANKEE TWIN
A brain-child of John Taylor (Yankee Motors) and Dick Mann, the Yankee Twin had an engine built from twin-OSSA singles, sandwiched into an unbelievably strong twin tube frame. Finished in tones of gray/silver gray, the Yankee was a handsome machine that was the fore-runner of the street/trail do-it-all dirt machine. It could cruise comfortably at 80 plus, and still tackle a deep sand-wash. The twin-cylinder engine pulled off the bottom like a train and revved out like a road racer. Nothing could bog it down! The Yankees are becoming a real collectors item.

Built in the late '60s and through the mid '70s, the enduro-version of the Bul was blessed with a phenomenal power band, light weight, good handling, a supple suspension and a gear box that had a cog for every need.

Even though there are many desirable examples of stunning Triumph Metisse bikes around, I like the idea of a more-or-less standard bike from that period.

In fact, sitting in my garage right now, is a 1959, 650 TR-6. It has twin open pipes, a fiberglass racing tank, a Bates TT saddle, and all the street stuff has been removed. Up front, I've installed a set of 1984 works YZ forks that have been shortened to 7 inches of travel. At the rear, Works Performance shocks will get installed, coughing up about 5 inches of travel.

The bike won't be vintage legal, but I don't care. Because every once in while, I'm going to fire it up and go riding around the bad lands of Baja on it, with a few friends.

The bike looks pretty good right now, but it's not a showpiece by any means. However, the true beauty of this dirt bike is that it has the capability of taking me back about 30 years in time to simpler days. At least for a few hours. And that, my friends, is the difference between a dirt bike...

... and a dream bike! Newsletter
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