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BRIT IRON is back!
June 03, 2016

June 2016

It’s been awhile since the last issue of Brit Iron.  I sold my home in the San Francisco Bay Area and moved to the country, Northern California’s Gold Country, that is.  Got some acreage outside of town, and we’re enjoying our new life away from the city.  Lots to do and it keeps us very busy.  But I’m starting to put some time back into and this newsletter.  Thanks for hanging in there.

If you're wondering why you just got a copy of this newsletter yesterday devoid of pictures, it was a technical glitch with my website builder program. I've been struggling with it for weeks. This issue was supposed to come out in April. But, hopefully all the technical issues are behind us now and it's onward and upward.

I was approached recently by the publisher of a motorcycle magazine called Thunder Roads Mid-Atlantic.  The magazine is part of a national chain, each going out to a different area around the country.  It’s been around for many years and catering in large part to the Harley crowd.  But times are a-changing, and their readers these days are requesting articles about other kinds of bikes as well, including classic British bikes.  So, after some research, the magazine publisher, Mike “Rhino” Ryan found  The combination of our eye-popping pictures and the factual writing led him to call me to offer me a monthly column in his magazine, which is titled “From Across the Pond”.

Our first article broke in their April 2016 issue, it was about the History of Norton Motorcycles.  He gave us a 3-page spread this first time out, although I’m supposed to clip it down to 2 pages.  We’ll see how that goes.

The May issue just hit the stands with our second article, this one dedicated to the Triumph Bonneville.  And it’s still 3 pages along.  They do a very nice job of laying the articles out with graphics, photos, captions, headlines, etc.  I’m very pleased with how it’s all turning out.  I’ve already written and submitted my next article, for the June issue.  Next up: The History of BSA Motorcycles.

  You can read each article as they come out, and view all past articles on the new page on my website, just click here.

Some of the Thunder Roads magazines in other areas have already expressed an interest in running the series also, so we may be nationwide before long.  Thunder Roads-Pennsylvania has just joined Thunder Roads-Mid-Atlantic and will be carrying my column every month.  Having a regular column in a car or bike magazine has always been a dream of mine.  I guess you could say it was on my bucket list.

You can subscribe by going to their website at, print out the subscription form and mail it in with $35.  Then, write into the magazine afterwards and tell them how much you like the new column “From Across the Pond”.  And while you’re at it, visit their Facebook page and rave about the new articles on the classic British motorcycles, and how your father had one back in the day, and now you have 12 of them in your garage in various stages of restoration... no, don’t tell them all that.  Just keep it simple and show your support for these articles.  Anything is better than nothing, and it’s all greatly appreciated.  This may be the only exposure some of their readers have ever had to just how cool classic Brit bikes really are.

Part of my deal with Rhino is to get a bundle of magazines each month that I can spread around.  So, the first twenty of you who EMAIL ME HERE with your name and mailing address will receive a copy of either the April 2016 issue of Thunder Road Mid-Atlantic with the Norton article in it, or the May 2016 issue with the History of the Bonneville, free of charge, including postage & handling.     Please specify which one you prefer, if you have a preference.  There’s lots of other cool stuff in there also.  And it’s a beautifully-printed magazine with high-gloss, heavy stock pages and lots of stunning graphics.  Some good articles too.  Don’t let the scantily-clad babes fool you.


As you may recall from last year, I was approached by the show ‘American Pickers’ about providing them with pictures of Norton Commandos for one of their shows, last year.  I did so gladly, then I promoted the heck out of it on my site, and in this newsletter.  When the producers of the show found out about it, they told me that the name of the show, the logo and any pictures from the show were copyrighted material and that I couldn’t use them.  I’d made up a whole new page for my site about the show, but they made me take it down also.  By this time, I’d sent two gorgeous full color posters of a couple of nice Nortons to the two guys on the show, just as a way of showing my appreciation.  They never even acknowledged receiving them, let alone thanked me for sending them.  And their legal department told me that the credit that I was to receive on the show couldn’t be a website address.  They were already getting my pictures for free, all I wanted was some exposure for my site.  But now, even that wasn’t going to happen.  To say the least, I was very disappointed, and disenchanted with the whole thing.  Along with the show American Pickers.  After accepting my pictures free of charge, they treated me like crap.  Oh well, that’s what our world is coming to today.

As you must surely know by now, I sell motorcycle books and calendars on my website.  If you’re on a page about Triumphs, the books being offered at the bottom of that page are about Triumphs also.  It’s one of the ways I help to support the website.  So please, if you’re thinking of buying any books about your favorite Brit bikes, or you’re getting ready to subscribe to your favorite bike magazine, or buy a classic motorcycle calendar, please consider buying it through my website.  It really helps us out a lot.  We want to continue to deliver the best pictures, specs, and stories about British motorcycles free of charge to you, without cramming it with commercials and popups.  Until now, we sold books from Barnes & Noble through an affiliate program called Rakuten.  But, their selection was lacking, and some of their links didn’t work.  So, I recently switched over all my magazine, book and calendar sales to Amazon.  They’re the biggest and the best, they have the best selection, the best prices and the fastest shipping.  They also stand behind every sale with one of the best buyer protection plans in the business.  So buy with confidence and buy often.

As you may recall, we offered a free 11X17 full color poster download of the most gorgeous Egli-Vincent I’ve ever seen...and they’re all gorgeous!  In case you never got yours, here’s the link to it:


This is a high-resolution, large-format image that is made to be printed poster-size.  It will look great.  All you do is download the file, then print it on a large-format color printer.  If you don’t have one of those, you can go to a local printer, or a UPS Store, FedEx Kinko’s or the like, and they can print it for you.  It’s usually very cheap, but spend the extra money to get it on good quality glossy poster paper.  We will be doing a new poster for this year that will be even larger and more stunning.  More on that soon...

Just remember the fine print. This is not yours to share or print multiple copies of, or sell in any way. I am granting you a license to print one poster for yourself free of charge. Sorry, but I'm supposed to say that.

ABOVE, L-R: Ron Clawson, his lovely wife Caroline and their son Arman at their shop, Tulare Kawasaki-Suzuki in 2014.

Ron Clawson, of Tulare CA passed away last October of cancer.  Ron was my first real boss.  He gave himself the nickname “The Claw”, he was a legend in his own mind.  I started working at Clawon’s Motorcycle Shop in Hanford CA in my sophomore year of high school, in about 1970.  I had a cobbled-together ’64 TR6 bobber at the time and he worked on British bikes.  That’s what got me there to begin with, and I was there so much, he decided he might as well hire me.  Ron taught me how to work on bikes, taught me about sales, life, motocross (although I was never very good) and made me laugh... a lot.  Sometimes at my own expense.  He started with a hodgepodge of minor brands like Hodaka and Bridgestone (no, not the tires, they were Japanese motorcycles that no one had heard of), then graduated up to BMW and Moto Guzzi (at a time when no one had heard of them either, remember this was 1971), and finally captured the holy grail in Ron’s eyes, a Triumph-BSA-Norton franchise... just as they started sliding downhill.  We got the first Oil-in-frame Bonnevilles, with saddles so tall I couldn’t touch the ground.  But oh, the Tridents!  At one point, I recall making the observation that we had every franchise there was except the 5 big ones: Harley, Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki and Suzuki.

ABOVE:  This is what the old Clawson’s Motorcycle Shop looks like today.  In the early 1970s, this was a bustling Triumph, BSA, Norton, BMW, Moto Guzzi, Carabela and Bridgestone dealership.  Ron and his family lived next door (on left).

He lived right next door to the shop and his lovely wife Caroline and his baby daughter were around often.  We lost touch in the late 70s when I moved to the Bay Area to pursue my real estate career.  In 2012, when I came to town to cover the Hanford Motorcycle Show for my website, my wife and I drove over to Tulare to visit Ron at his new (new to me) shop, Tulare Kawasaki-Suzuki.  It was great seeing him and Caroline again, and their grown up son Arman (who wasn’t even born yet, when I knew them).  Their shop is modern and yet appropriately old school and reminded me very much of the good old days.  But now it was Japanese bikes, although there was still some ancient Brit iron lingering in the shadows.  It was in his blood.

I saw him again in 2014 on a Saturday.  The next day he was going to race age 71!  Sure, it was the old-timers class, but some of those guys still kick serious ass!  And I’m sure Ron was among the best of them.  He looked strong and sharp. We talked about the days, back in about 1972 when we’d throw our two Carabellas (Mexican motocrossers that Ron had a franchise for, yet another unknown brand) in the back of his old Ford pickup and we’d drive to Santa Maria, or Lake Elsinor and sleep under the truck in sleeping bags.  Not like the $100,000 RVs they stay in, these days.  We had a lot of fun together, he took me under his wing for about two years, and I felt like one of the family.  All these years later, they recalled that feeling also, and it felt very good.  Having just so recently rediscovered him, I wish I would have made more trips to see him.  He represents to me an entire chapter of my life.  I will miss him very much.

BELOW: Ron and me chest-deep in parts bikes...typical!

The weather’s changing, those of us out west believe the drought is over, and it’s coming on riding season.  Use these last few cold weekends to get your bike in shape.  If it’s an old Brit bike, then it probably needs to be sorted out now.  There are organized rides and club events all year long. Get with some friends and enjoy the best part of our sport.  Be safe.  Have fun.  All the best.  See you soon.

Yer’ ridin’ buddy,

BELOW: Me and Yellow Bike at Alice's Restaurant on a sunny day in the Santa Cruz Mountains CA.

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