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Big Sid Listens to His Engines

Big Sid Biberman has been tuning motorcycle engines for well over 50 years. He has a deep knowledge of Vincent bikes, an interest that began in 1950. He would own a Rapide in 1951 and tour the Vincent factory in 1953. Later, he’d develop a friendship with Phil Irving, Vincent’s chief engineer and designer of the Black Shadow.

We ran into Big Sid at an event held at Restoration Werks, the classic motorcycle workshop in Louisville, KY. He’s a friend and colleague of the shop’s owner, Stephen Pate. Among talk of his travels, Sid briefly touched on the current topic of electric motorcycles, a realm that’s far different from his mastery of internal combustion engines.

This video is kinda like a time capsule; will we chuckle when we open it decades from now and say, “Man, remember when people used to fiddle with needles and flammable liquid to get a bike to run?” Gotta say though, we’re betting there will be a lot of old-timers reminiscing about the days of open pipes and high compression. We’ll sure miss it.


UPDATE: This video has sparked some opinions on the polarizing topic of electric motors vs internal combustion engines; we wanted to add some additional thoughts to this article:

We kind of liken this to the transition of hand-set typography to computer graphics. We know some old typesetters who were completely phased out of a craft that the world no longer depended on. While we ourselves enjoy the fruits of where computers have taken graphic design, we still admire and respect the days where craftsmen got their hands dirty with metal, wood and ink when flowing type. The world of motorcycling will advance, but there will no doubt be some romance lost for many folks as internal combustion is phased out. We’ve got a ways still, but when electric bikes are the norm, a new generation of motorcycle “tuners” will have established what will later be replaced and looked upon as old technology. Back to Sid’s perspective; we believe he is completely aware of the benefits of new technology, but sees himself as a keeper of a lost language. As we type this, there is a young person somewhere out there, similar to Sid, who will learn to ‘listen’ to his electric motor with the same passion and respect for the machine. From our point of view, this is going to be an exciting time for motorcycling. Of course, when we’re 80 years old we’ll smile and probably laugh thinking back to when Dad, armed with only a flat screwdriver, would carefully dial in the fuel-air mixture on our finicky two-stroke engines.

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