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Rare and cutting-edge: Bridgestone motorcycles

July 11, 2014

By Jim Witters
Photo by Halley Miller

The folks in the Bridgestone Motorcycle Club are keeping alive a little-known and often-neglected Japanese marque that was sold in the United States between 1962 and 1971.

Bridgestone is one of the classic motorcycle clubs with bikes on display at AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days, featuring Indian Motorcycle, at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Complex near Lexington, Ohio.

Also participating are Louisville Vintage Motorworks, Café Racer magazine, the Indian 4 Cylinder Club, the Kawasaki ZL Owners Association and the Cincinnati Classic British Motorcycle Owners.

Bridgestone member Larry Young says the marque was well known in the United Kingdom and elsewhere, but few people in American are aware that the company known for its tires once built and sold cutting-edge motorcycles, as well.

Larry Young

“In its class, and in its day, it this was a very advanced motorcycle,” Young says. “It was a good bike.”

Young, who lives near Syracuse, N.Y., owns more than 20 Bridgestones and a barn full of parts.

“In the 1968 race at Daytona, Bridgestones took first, second, fourth and fifth in the 175 class,” he says. “And in 1967, when Bridgestone introduced its 350cc model, it woke up the other manufacturers. And, after that, the other Japanese companies knew that Americans wanted bigger bikes.”

The Rockford Scooter Co. of Rockford, Ill., was Bridgestone’s sole importer and U.S. distributor, Young says.

When the manufacturer decided to drop its motorcycle line in the early 1970s, Rockford took over, continuing to sell the mini-bikes and small-displacement motorcycles.

“If they had stuck with the bigger bikes and let the small ones go, I think they would have held their position in the market,” Young says. “Instead, they kept the 350 as their biggest bike. Americans wanted the bigger ones.”

Today, the Bridgestone Motorcycle Club continues to promote the marque at bike shows. The club presented a seminar at AMA Vintage Motorcycle days on the Restoration and History of Bridgestone Motorcycles.

And the club plans to make AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days a regular feature of its summers.

“We are very happy to be back here,” Young says. “It is great to be able to display the bikes and talk to people about what a great brand this was.”

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