Difficult to admit, but a certain percentage of people who read my words consider the writer legitimately old. And that number keeps growing. Here’s proof: when people ask for details on the red Le Mans, starting the tale in late 1989 throws the scene into the pre-birth category…and I’ve lost them. But that’s the when, and the why remembers it as crawling out from under a divorce by sending possessions in all different directions.
Spotting an ad placed in a BMW club magazine, I called the person in Indianapolis looking to trade this 1981 CX100 for an R100RS. I had the Beemer, wanted the Guzzi, and while the Boxer had way more miles, a friendly cat named Ross England was down for an even trade. Trucking the RS, brother Nick and I pulled an all-nighter to make the exchange at a Motel 6 somewhere off Interstate 40 in Amarillo. Ross was thrilled and that’s understandable. The RS was prettier, but I was getting the better machine.
Right here is where an intelligent writer would spread the drama about lessons learned in the game of lost and found, but the truth reads different. Nick learned getting the rug pulled out from under your life has a way of pissing all over your warm, fuzzy passions, and as months turned to years the SP sat covered. The red Le Mans was sold to an enthusiastic buyer and I reasoned it by talking myself into believing I’d kept it longer than I planned. The SP would get the attention it needed soon enough. It just needs a battery and some fresh gas...
Moto Guzzi. A proud name. The brand has was been very good to me through the years, tolerating rounds of abuse and a general lack of service back when I was too young to know, care, or both. Learning bits of the mechanical ropes as I went actually allowed me to stay in two wheel game when kids were young and the bills piled high. I’ve lost count of the times I scrolled down my mental list of Guzzi contacts looking for a part or advice. They always came through. Always. It was these people who became the real prize and they still are, but time waits for no one. Still, with proper passion the Guzzi keenly (and routinely) cheats father time with a simple, mechanical brilliance I’ve yet to fully comprehend.
Credit Nick and a stack of hard earned Benjamins for the ice blue 1980 SP1000. Purchased in October of that year at (long defunct) Motorcycle City in Scottsdale, the plan was a smoke red R100RT but a test ride on the Super Protection 949cc changed it. It changed my direction too, and being the first Tonti Guzzi of my personal experience, the overwhelming, emotional epiphany from that first ride ranked the new Guzzi as the best thing I’d tried. Thirty-seven years later, that opinion holds. The years passed and while there were other bikes, these two bonded as stablemates. Preaching the roundhead gospel and delivering Nick and I on solo and joint trips, cross country or Justa Café, a few hills away. Following established tuning methods the SP was tweaked with 36mm pumpers, a performance exhaust and Ago gears. The CX100 came with those mods and more, but a crash saw it fashioned into the ever-popular Le Mans 850 copy.
I bought more bikes and Nick got another one too, both slick black multis with dual cams and far more of a modern vibe. By 2009 the economy mixed with the passing of my father and other miserable events to deliver a series of sharp, well-aimed kicks to my personal and professional testicles. In our cutting tool business we clung together, or the three of us that remained. Often working through the days in mournful silence. It was a tough time for many people, but we saw it through. Perseverance was learned, but how many times must a lesson be taught? For my brothers and I the same unspoken question was shared; had the best part come and gone, or was there still some magic to be made?
Coming back home. April 2016.
The cover came off the SP shortly after we’d pieced a new workspace together, and that process included shopping some of the bikes we’d collected, then adding a couple more. After confirming the rumor that my old CX100 Le Mans could be had again, Alex spoke up. “Dad, I really want that bike.” I wanted it too, and that surprised me a little. I’d suppressed it for many years, but the last few visits to the owner’s home revealed a strong pull for the old ‘Lemon.
I won’t bore you with the gas-soaked mechanical details. If you’ve read this far, you know what they are. We spent money, we slaved through some late nights, argued, figured stuff out and got them done, both of them. The CX100 had sat for some time too and credit goes to Alex, who always very thoughtfully showed me his work. I was more involved with the SP1000 and the pride that is felt regarding its finished condition is off the scale. These days there’s a little more smiling among the brotherhood of dudes named Leroy, Neil, Alex and Nick, and that’s the greatest accomplishment of all. Speaking of Neil, his R100S (with San Jose BMW goodies) is next up the ramp. The plan? Return it to better than ever status. Better than ever. Who would have thought that was possible. Nolan Woodbury
If you love a happy ending you’ll like how this turns out. Well, at least so far. I cherish all of the children in my life and raised them to be independent thinkers, so it’s difficult to describe the energy and talent my son Alex has infused into the company after deciding to become a part of it. The experience kindled his passion for Moto Guzzi too, and naturally skilled at whatever he decides to try (including many of the photographs seen here and in my print work) meant I had a crack new partner with which to forge ahead. Plans were made and parts were collected or purchased.
Better Than Ever
Whoever said you can’t go back was one-hundred percent correct, but that doesn’t mean you can’t pull parts of the past into the present. Such is the case with these two motorcycles, both of which were plastered across the microns here in various levels of undress for the last year. One is a family heirloom, and I suppose the other qualifies for that now. The first proved just how quickly fifteen years can pass, the other was coolly shipped out in 2002 to fund something else.
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