Special Thanks to Jay Ubelhart a great guy and a regular attendee at Backfire Motorcycle Night for writing this post about his 1968 Greeves Ranger.
Photos by Sean Westlake
My bike is a 1968 Greeves Ranger with a 250 cc 2-stoke engine. It is the factory street legal model with headlight, speedo, & taillight. The unique color and distinctive front forks attracted me immediately. It’s a fun ride but geared pretty low for any highway driving. I found the bike this year and was pleasantly surprised at its condition and how well it runs. The 48-year-old Villiers/Greeves engine runs well and starts in one kick when I am by myself, and 30 kicks when anyone is watching. The best part of having a vintage machine like this one is riding it. Go find an old bike, fix it, and ride it.
Greeves motorcycles began as a manufacturer of 3-wheeled cars for the disabled, Invacar. Motorcycles were produced in Thundersley in Essex from 1953 to 1976. Bert Greeves was a motorcycle enthusiast who designed the machines and introduced his first units in 1954, one a trials bike, the other a scrambler model, powered by Villiers 200cc two strokes engines. They were easily identified by two unique Greeves features: the leading link front fork and the cast aluminum "down beam". The bikes were exclusively two-stroke powered, using engines from Villiers and Anzani. In 1962, Greeves introduced a new Villiers powerplant featuring a Greeves designed cylinder head and barrel. The new cylinder featured revised porting for better power and the familiar Greeves "square barrel" look.
In 1958, Greeves traveled to the Europe to compete in the FIM 250cc motocross class and was shaken to discover that the British were "regarded as rather a second-rate race in sporting spheres". Greeves redoubled the company's racing efforts and the commitment paid off quickly, with Brian Stonebridge garnering two second place finishes in the championship standings in the ensuing two years. Following the tragic death of Stonebridge, the company hired Dave Bickers as their rider. With a new motorcycle punched out to 246cc, Dave Bickers won the European championship in both 1960 and 1961. Greeves were successful in competition, with wins in the European Motocross Championship, the Manx Grand Prix, the European Trials Championship and the Scottish Six Days Trial, and with Gold medals in the ISDT and ACU 250cc Road Race and Motocross Stars.
It was about this time that Greeves motorcycles began to show up in western states desert races. The little silver and blue Hawkstones began to change peoples’ ideas about what kind of hardware was needed to win. Before the Greeves, lightweight bikes were a joke.
For a ten year stretch, from 1959 to 1969, Greeves motorcycles became the ones to beat. These were the first two-strokes to de-thrown the ruling BSA, Matchless, Triumph, four stroke thumpers both in European motocross, and the big four stroke 'desert sleds' in California.
Greeves was very successful in the USA and can be credited with helping awaken the off-road biking scene there, and with the invention, as early as the mid-sixties, of the trail bike with their road legal off-roader, the Ranger.
(most of the historical facts from the Greeves owners site, http://www.greeves-riders.org.uk/history and http://www.greevesguru.com/history.html )
Usually we post them a few weeks after each event. This set of photos by Todd Werny got lost for a while, but here it is now. If you would like to see more photos from Backfiremoto #64 just click here to go to facebook .
Eric and his better half rolling up on his BSA.
A Great example of a local Suzuki Boulevard S40 with Ryca bobber conversion ( minus the Tank) . You don't see a lot of these Ryca bikes here in seattle. The Ryca scrambler , tracker and Cafe racer are worth taking a look at too.
Haha .... Looks like she is taking a nice ride in the Swiss Alps .....
A nice Motobike showed up ....
Just had to include these two Yamaha 650s that showed up . Beautiful bikes. I am not sure who built them . Great job!
Nice Harley Cafe racer . I think this one is owned by a local rock-star.
Well we cant put all the photos up here on the blog but please go to our facebook page to see all the rest from this event soon. Looking forward to getting the pics from Backfiremoto #66 up from last summer too. Expect them next week ... Till then, Cheers T.W.
A short history of Backfire Moto :
The first event was August 13th in 2008. We held it at what is now the home of The Shelter Lounge. At the time it was "The Station Bistro " And it was a Service station / gas station converted into a bar. You can still see the three garage bays inside. It was the perfect atmosphere for a small gathering of Bikes.
Even the first Backfire had a great turnout for the time. We had advertised for 2 months ahead of time in the Newspaper , Stranger , Craigslist , weekly , wooden nickle , and spent a few months putting flyers on every bike we ran across.
We invited all our friends and hoped for the best. The goal of the event was to unite the disenfranchised generas of the NW motorcycle scene and provide a meet up for them.
Cafe Racers were much less commonplace at the time and so were today's version of the bobber on vintage Japanese bikes.
Ratbikes were around but less developed in terms of purposeful patina and tastefully preserved rust. Originally we invited the vintage Vespa and Moped enthusiasts to show and they have been a big part of our turnout from the start.
Stock vintage restored bikes have always made a big showing even from the first event. One big difference today is the emergence of "retro" new throwback style cafe and streetfighter bikes by Triumph , Ducati , Royal Enfield ,other bike companies. The first event pulled in about 40 bikes if I remember correctly. And then the word got out.
Seattle was hungry for an alternative motorcycle mecca and numbers grew quickly. Then The Station Bistro closed and we moved our headquarters to The Bit Saloon.
Next the Shelter Lounge opened up so we combined the two locations. Eventually the Bit closed for a while and changed ownership so it was back to the Shelter only for a while until The 2bit saloon opened their doors again. Next Hilliards Beer opened up shop and the Northwest Peaks Brewery too. This year we saw The 2 Bit close to become the new home of NW Peaks "The Bergschrund". Currently , The Hilliards Beer location changed hands and has temporarily closed down for the fall.
This is a pic of the very first Backfire Moto Shirt . Since then we have designed dozens of shirts that in the end was a great way to get the word out. Click here to see our shirt gallery and order one .
Heading into our 9th year we now see hundreds of bikes each event and a more varied turnout.
Yes, at times there are more generic bikes in the line up than we all would like to see but try to remember that these are riders coming out to see the interesting and unique bikes that Backfiremoto draws and it’s better that they ride out rather than drive out. Our mission statement remains the same. Everyone is welcome to show up and support our brand of bikes which is centered around the Cafe racer, rat bike and vintage categories.
Going into the future we hope to keep up the same goals of remaining a grass roots , DIY encouraging community that helps to bring attention to the alternative bike community in the PNW. We really don't want to change anything. Once again , THANKS! To all the great people who have been so supportive over the years and thanks to the venues who welcome us each month.
Sincerely, Todd, Sean and Sean at Backfiremoto.com
Early Backfire moto
Backfiremoto Number 4
November 19th 2008
The first few Backfiremoto events were quite small compared to the current turnout of hundreds of bikes each month. This winter has been pretty harsh so far in many ways . Reminiscing about those early events took me back to the first Backfire Winter when we kept it going through December in the snow, wind , rain and icy road conditions. A smaller core of us showed up to huddle around burn barrels to keep warm in the parking lot of “The Station” which is now “The shelter Lounge”. I was wishing that I had some pictures that captured the spirit of the early events when I remembered that a talented photographer and motorcycle enthusiast Darren Beatty had documented Backfire 4 . After searching through our old Myspace account and ancient e-mails , I was able to contact Darren and download the photos from his web site. http://www.darrenbeattyphotography.com/ . This is a great shot Darren took of the smoke of the burn barrel mixing with the people and the bikes.
We don’t do the burn barrel anymore but those days were fun. Actually it melted a hole in The Station’s asphalt parking lot .
Coincidentally , The Shelter Lounge now has a cozy gas fireplace in the same location that we used to have the burn barrels.
The following photos are more of Darren Beatty’s photo collection and then a few photos by Todd Werny and a pic of the Poster and the T-shirt from Backfire #4 . If you click on the shirt it will take you to our t-shirt shop if you would like to buy one.
Blonde dynamite !
We had some nice cafed mopeds show up that night….
Thanks again Mr. Beatty for the great shots of a classic moment in Backfiremoto history. Although Backfire is a lot larger now , usually if you stay late at one of the venues you can experience the camaraderie and conversation with other PNW riders who share similar motorcycle interests .
Backfiremoto winds down as someone kickstarts their bike on that cold night.
And now a few shots by Todd Werny and a pic of the T-shirt from Backfire#4 and the poster.
Chris hops on his bike….
Yours Truly on the left ….
Pic of the “Bit Saloon” before it was the “Two Bit “ and now the “Bergstrund”.
Nice walk down memory lane ! See you in the spring! Todd , Sean , and Sean at www.BackfireMoto.com
Todd Werny, Sean Westlake and Sean Dunlap.