Bringing you the world's best cafe racers, trackers, scramblers, bobbers & custom motorcycles.

Ian Barry’s Top 10 Bikes

Posted on August 5, 2011 by Scott in Classic, Other. 17 comments

One of our supporters and co-founder of LA’s Falcon Motorcycles recently shared his all time favorite two-wheeled machines with Architectural Digest. We guessed some of you might not be reading Architectural Digest every day, so for those that missed it, enjoy. Words by Ian Barry himself.

1923 Brough Superior SS80 “Old Bill”

Nicknamed “Old Bill” after a cartoon character popular during World War I, this was the personal sprint bike of George Brough, the founder of Brough Superior in Nottingham, England. Brough was a consummate showman who dubbed his handiwork “the Rolls-Royce of motorcycles,” and in this modified version of his SS80, he put his machine where his mouth was. This bike will be an influence in the creation of the Vespertine Falcon.

1923 BMW R32

This was BMW’s first motorcycle, produced by the company’s chief designer, Max Friz. Friz created something not only incredibly beautiful but also innovative—the bike had a boxer-twin, shaft-drive power train, a system that eliminated the need for a chain or belt and solved overheating problems. The setup continues to be used on modern BMWs.

Photo: Mick Duckworth for the National Motorcycle Museum (UK)

1930 AJS “Works” Racer

This machine is the sole survivor from a small fleet originally built in an attempt to break the land speed record. While none succeeded, one did achieve an impressive 130 m.p.h. The engine is one of the most interesting and beautiful I have ever seen. It will be my muse for the Peregrine Falcon.

Photo: Yesterdays Antique Motorcycles

Ben Bickell’s 1933 Supercharged Ariel Racer

The Ariel was considered an exotic racer when it competed at the Brooklands track in Surrey, England, in the 1930s. Ben Bickell, of Bickell and Sons in London, supercharged a four-cylinder engine, making it one of only two such engines that existed in its day. The bike (pictured here is a 1935 model) will be an inspiration for the Altai Falcon.

Photo: Courtesy of Bonhams1939 Vincent Series-A Rapide

Phil Vincent, the force behind Britain’s Vincent HRD, designed this motorcycle. It is the perfect balance of menace and mechanical art, and among the many inspirations for the Black Falcon.

Photo: Bill Phelps1947 Norton Manx

This bike marks the first year of the very successful Manx from Norton Motorcycles, a British company that has racked up its share of achievements at the Isle of Man TT race. The engine from a 1947 model will be used in the Merlin Falcon.

Photo: Giovanni Cabassi1967 Velocette Venom Thruxton

In 1967, Velocette made a handful of Venom Thruxton engines with special squish heads, sold only to select dealers, exclusively for racing. One of these engines was victorious in the Isle of Man Production TT that year. It still holds the record for averaging the fastest speed for a 500cc motor—over 100 m.p.h.—for 24 straight hours. Falcon owns one of these rare engines, and it will serve as the heart of the White Falcon.

John Britten’s V1000 and V1100

I always look to John Britten’s legacy to remind me of what is possible. He was a mechanical engineer from New Zealand who shocked the racing community when his V1000s placed second and third against the large factory teams in the Battle of the Twins at Daytona in 1991. This was an enormous feat considering that the bikes—including the engines—were entirely hand-built in his backyard. Britten made only 11 motorcycles of his own design before his death in 1995.

Photo: Ayu Yamakita

2007 Shinya Kimura’s “Spike”

I truly admire the work of Shinya Kimura, who founded Chabott Engineering, out in California. His commitment and passion have been a huge inspiration to me. The Spike, based on the 1946 Harley-Davidson Knucklehead, is his preferred bike, and each year he races it at Utah’s famous Bonneville Salt Flats, always trying to improve his personal-best top speed.

Photo: Ducati Corse

2012 Ducati Desmosedici GP12

This is the newest Moto GP bike from Ducati. Deemed the fastest racing bike in the world, it represents the pinnacle of motorcycle engineering and cutting-edge technology. What I draw from it is the spirit of taking an idea to its extreme.

What do you think of Barry’s selection? Would you add any other bikes to the list?

  • Watson

    That Ducati GP12 is only the fastest GP bike ever made because it is currently the only one in existence that is actually constructed to NEXT season's specifications (they are moving from 800cc to 1000cc). They are racing this exact bike in the current season right now, but are just using shorter conrods, de-stroking it to 800cc until next year when the new rules come in. They've tested the bike with the 1000cc engine, but only time will tell.. That Duke, while it may represent the pinnacle of arrogance and ignorance, surely does not represent the cutting edge of engineering. Ducati are STILL using the engine as a structural member in the chassis, and are the only manufacturer in the entire GP lineup doing so. If they were killing it in the standings it would be ok, but take a look at their dismal results (destroying Rossi's reign of dominance) and you start to wonder why they haven't woken up to themselves, swallowed their pride and started using a proper frame like everybody else. Just because their similar framed street bikes make them millions of dollars per year doesn't mean it's the right choice for GP. Wake up to yourselves, Ducati.

  • Stephen

    10 pieces of eye bacon in one post. Well done.

  • Everything this guy does is gold, so it's no wonder his taste is exquisite.

  • Mr. Sir

    very nice bikes indeed~~
    Just a question to Mr. first poster, how do smaller conrods "de stroke" an engine, as far as i know the stroke itself would be the same… wouldnt it just lower the compression?? but hey, im only a young'n, what would i know

    ANYWAYS, back to the bikes, love the older stuff, as has been said, Exquisite taste

  • I really like John Britten’s V1000 and V1100

  • Chris

    The Ducati comment is ridiculous. I'm sure people were saying the same thing before Rossi helped his previous sponsors develop their bikes, and if Ducatti starts winning next year or the year after as they probably will, it will be moot point. The GP12 still represents cutting edge technology, especially when related to the other bikes in the list which I'm sure was the intent. The debate of weather or not it's *actually* the fastest or the most technologically advanced in every way is for people who have nothing better to do than be grumpy, and misses the point.

  • 10 Bones

    Wake up Watson. Tube framed bikes have a known advantage for end-of-race rear tire wear. The softer/more flexible frames are much less brutal on the tires. This is a known phenomenon and part of what makes a Duc better at the end of a race. Rossi's "dismal" performance is due to Rossi wanting Ducati to conform a tube framed bike to his extruded frame style. This is also a known factor. As soon as his ego gets out of the way he'll see results. I'm not alone in that opinion.

    And +1 with Mr. Sir. Shortening con rods does NOT destroke an engine. It does a lot of other things (most of them negatively affecting engine performance), but destroking isn't one of them. The rod journals on the crankshaft must make smaller circles to destroke an engine (I can't believe I actually have to explain that HERE!).

    Watson, It appears you need to go back to that stack of magazines in the bathroom where you got your road racing education and try to learn a bit more before opening your exhaust hole!

  • 10 Bones

    Jay Leno used to own one of those bikes that is pictured at the very top. He had OCC try to make an "OCC version" of the bike. I thought the OCC version sucked eggs. Long forks, usual chopper crap that they pump out of there.

    The Britton bikes were wonderful examples of what can be done with the proper brain at the wheel. Folks tend to think that the factories are the Holy Ministers of engineering and forward thinking tech. The Britton bikes proved otherwise!

  • monkeyfumi

    "It appears you need to go back to that stack of magazines in the bathroom where you got your road racing education and try to learn a bit more before opening your exhaust hole"
    You could take a few drops of your own medicine. Ductai stopped using tube frames on their GP bikes at the end of 2008

  • GuitarSlinger

    The only choice I'd change out would be the Vincent Rapide for the Vincent Black Lightning . The ultimate expression of Phil Vincent's dream.

  • CAD

    John Britten’s V1000 uses the engine as a structural member in the chassis just like the Ducati Desmosedici GP12, funny no?

  • nice selection by a master of good taste. whenever i hear old bill mentioned i remember the image of it in vic willoughbys classic motorcycles…ill post one if anyone wants to see it.

    thanks mr barry.

  • @monkeyfumi. So my mistake on GP history is the same as professing that con rod length affects stroke? Ok. You're absolutely right, my bad. I was mainly referring to the comment on the con rods. I would have referred to my "stack of magazines" but it is covered up with my stack of trophies though. Just sayin' ;). I've built 16 race bikes in my 51 years on the rock. So I usually don't have a lot of time to research the prototypes. Again, my mistake for not having been up to speed on Ducati's frame tech. Guess I better dust off some magazines and get an education!! Haahaa!! 🙂

    I basically don't make it practice to keep up with the Jetsons on what team is using what technology. I (erroneously) just knee jerked at a comment made by a knee jerk! HaaHaa!!!

    Seriously I couldn't care any less if Ducati was using a wheelbarrow frame on their bikes. I just have a hitch for magazine educated know it alls. They flick my pissed switch. Call it a weakness. But anytime a 14 year old launches an attack on knowlege based on what he heard on the bus coming home from school one day I guess I find myself lowering to his level.

    Yup, me caveman dummy. It's probably why I have few friends. 🙂

    I'd never even dream of taking on any of the well cultured and uber experienced membership of Pipeburn on a topic of relevence. I'm basically a dumass that has been forced to build all of his own racebikes since 1973. If I crossed some line of protocol by saying that Ducati is well known for making some of the finest tube-framed bikes on the planet, please accept my sincerest apologies. I adore tube framed streetbikes and have learned how ot make some of them work for me. Just another Yankee Dinosaur.

    So perhaps I deserve "some of my own medicine" but I doubt it. But in the end, I wouldn't know … my magazines don't tell me that stuff.


  • My, we've been putting the "burn' into Pipeburn today….

  • Mattman

    I laughed my ass off when Watson stated that using the engine as a stressed member is a backward step. Im a mechanical engineering student and its pretty much where its at in terms of improving structural rigidity while making the whole chassis system simpler and lighter. Sure no other teams uses this tech still, but thats because it failed in the 80's. A single piece carbon fibre frame with the engine as the central stressed member is avionics grade tech, not too be scoffed at. guraentee if Ducati does get it right, and they probably will, the other teams will play catch up, like they did witht eh big bang firing order come the 800cc intro.
    And the Italians are experts at Carbon Fibre.

    And thank wikipedia for your mistake Wilson, their using a sleaved down version of the engine, not 'de-stoked'. as 10 Bones said, all your doing is loosing the advanteges of a spark and compression based engine. The closer you get too your valves and heads in a 4 cycle engine, the more power you'll make with compression and ignition.

    And Clearly your decades of top level motorcycle racing proves that testing a chassis and engine the season its debut before is stupid and moronic, i mean getting up test hours on the track before a new set of rules is enforced is jsut F%^ktarded. Ducati being such a new motorcycle manufacturer, and only being on the racing grid a couple of seasons now should know better. Arrogant, upstart, know nothing pigs. 🙂

  • Mattman

    Sorry for the poor grammer and spelling, i'm from the spell check gen.

  • Adam

    Pretty spot on choices of bikes I'd say.
    It is missing the falcon kestral though…