What Bob would ride from the Mecum motorcycle auction

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An antique Thor single greets guest entering the South Point Resort and Casino | Bob Golfen photos

Triumph motorcycles from Great Britain are my longtime favorites, especially the 650cc Bonnevilles that pretty much defined sport bikes in the ‘60s. And never have I seen such a vast array of great Triumphs as there are this weekend at Mecum’s motorcycle auction in Las Vegas.

This is Mecum Auctions’ second Vegas motorcycle sale this year, and the first time the company is holding one in June. There are around 600 bikes crowding the floor of a huge meeting hall at the South Point Resort and Casino, where Mecum also holds its January motorcycle sales.

Plenty of Triumphs waiting for buyers

It seems that Triumphs – many from a single renowned collection – outnumber any other brands on the floor, including Harley-Davidson and Indian, which also has a strong number ready to cross the block. They all come up for auction today and Saturday.

The plethora of Triumphs, ranging from a Speed Twin from 1938 through some of the modern versions of the classic models –- and lots of ’60s Bonnevilles –- threw me off my game in choosing favorites among the two-wheeled horde. Everywhere I looked, it seemed, there was another cool Triumph to catch my eye.

But yeah, there were plenty of others to choose from: Harleys, Vincents, Indians, Nortons, BMWS, the handsome antiques and the many dirt bikes, including a group of Husqvarnas that were ridden back in the day by a gaggle of Hollywood stars, most notably Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson and Lee Marvin.

Really, I could have put dozens of bikes on this list. But of the many motorcycles that I lusted over, here are the ones I picked out:

1931 Indian Four
This beauty is one of the stars of the auction, a spectacular example of big-bike motoring from the 1930s. As noted in the auction description, these Indians with their 78 cid straight-4 engines, were popular with police departments.
Indian
Indian
1966 BMW R69S
This brawny Bimmer is the most-practical bike on my list, a sturdy cruising machine for long road trips. BMWs from this era had the full sidecar-adaptable frames with the Earl’s Forks front ends that geometrically eliminated brake dive. The R69S was BMW’s best model from that time, and there’s also another nice one at this auction.
BMW
BMW
1948 Vincent/HRD Rapide
This is a lot less practical, but I dig it because it’s so stunningly beautiful. Just look at that glorious engine, a 1,000cc V-twin that was among the most-powerful of its time. The rich red color really sets it off. Love it.
Vincent/HRD
Vincent/HRD
Triumph Bonnevilles
OK, I failed to single out an absolute favorite among the many examples of these British beasts, but here are a couple of super nice ones, one from 1964 and one from 1965. Both have raised exhausts, which look cool but can be hazardous.
Triumphs
Triumphs
1976 Yamaha DT-400
There are huge number of incredible dirt bikes from many iconic names in off-road mayhem up for sale. But this Yamaha enduro just did it for me, with its powerful 400cc 2-cycle engine and road-ready equipment so you could ride it out to the boonies.
Yamaha
Yamaha
1909 Pierce Four
One of the most-significant of antique motorcycles, the Pierce was a technological marvel as well as being so great looking. Produced by the son of the owner of Pierce-Arrow motorcars, the bike cost too much to build, and the endeavor only lasted a few years. I’d park it in my living room.
Pierce
Pierce
1914 Excelsior Twin
Another important early American motorcycle, with a style that still excites onlookers. This one looks pretty good but it’s been sitting for a long time and needs to be mechanically restored. I know it would be challenging, but I’d love to fix it up and ride it.
Excelsior
Excelsior
1971 Norton Combat Commando 750
Despite sounding like it’s ready to go to war, the Commando was a sophisticated sport bike that went fast and handled great. They were known for having their engines suspended within the frames with fluid-filled rubber spheres to reduce vibration. One of the greatest British bikes.
Norton
Norton
1938 Triumph Speed Twin
Not only is this one of the coolest of 1930s motorcycles, it was once owned by Steve McQueen, according to Mecum. This bike has the stolid look of British pre-war machines, and should make any anglophile happy. It would do it for me.
Triumph
Triumph
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Bob Golfen is a longtime automotive writer and editor, focusing on new vehicles, collector cars, car culture and the automotive lifestyle. He is the former automotive writer and editor for The Arizona Republic and SPEED.com, the website for the SPEED motorsports channel. He has written free-lance articles for a number of publications, including Autoweek, The New York Times and Barrett-Jackson auction catalogs. A collector car enthusiast with a wide range of knowledge about the old cars that we all love and desire, Bob enjoys tinkering with archaic machinery. His current obsession is a 1962 Porsche 356 Super coupe.