1971 Rickman Zundapp 125MX
This is a 1971 NOS/NEW Rickman Zundapp 125MX. It is amazing that the fragile fiberglass and beautiful paint work on this bike has remained flawless after 50 years, a testament to the quality of craftsmanship that Rickman was known for. In fact, the fading tank decals are the only thing to show any signs of aging. With the exception of the front number plate, everything on this bike is original. I’ve been lucky enough to collect a few NOS bikes for the collection and they usually have a scratch or two from sitting in a garage or warehouse or from transferring from one owner to another. The fact that this bike doesn’t have a single flaw is remarkable.
In April 2023, I acquired this bike from Kaplan Cycles, a vintage mx restoration house and motorcycle dealer in Vernon, CT. It is also the location of the New England Motorcycle Museum. This bike was shipped from Rickman in England to a dealership called Vernon Cycle & Sport in Tolland, CT where the original owner purchased it. Frank DeGray, the owner of Vernon Cycle & Sport uncrated the bike, assembled it, started it, signed the Certificate of Origin and sold it to the owner. Frank also gave the buyer a slat from the wooden crate that the bike was shipped in. That wooden crate slat with the “Rickman Made in England” marking and the original Parts Manual remain with the bike to this day.
My understanding is that the original owner never rode the bike and instead decided to keep it new then sell it for a substantial gain someday. That day came in February of 2023 when a friend of Bob Holmes told him this bike was for sale. Bob is a lifelong motorcycle enthusiast, who at 76 years old still rides today. He purchased the Rickman with the intention of riding it in the woods behind his house – until he was informed by the original owner that the bike hasn’t been started since Frank DeGray started it for the first time during assembly at the dealership fifty-one years ago. Bob even took off the head to confirm the bike was never ridden. Thankfully, Bob realized he was in possession of a piece of motocross history and that the bike likely belonged in a museum or collection. He then contacted Kaplan Cycles and the New England Motorcycle Museum who purchased it from him. Franks son Peter provided an original image that he had in his archives of a ’71 Rickman Zundapp being uncrated at Vernon Cycle & Sport. It may very well be this bike.
Frank DeGray wasn’t just a motorcycle dealer; he was an accomplished trials and enduro rider winning the New England Enduro Grand Championship in 1960 and 1962. Frank established Vernon Cycle & Sport in 1964 and during his 45 years in the business, he also carried the Triumph, BMW and MZ motorcycle brands. He was also an avid collector and restorer of motorcycles and was known to have invented the first route sheet holder for enduro racing.
My contact at Kaplan Cycles was Billy Blythe a lifelong motorcycle competitor. What really brought this acquisition full circle was Billy’s connection with Frank DeGray. In the mid ‘60’s, Billy’s father would bring him to Frank’s dealership to see all the motorcycles. When Billy got older, he actually got to ride with Frank and his ISDT friends, learning early on how skilled and fast these guys really were. Billy went on to become an accomplished racer in his own right as a 4-time Isle of Man competitor and an expert level trials rider getting a factory Ossa sponsorship at 16 years old.
Although I collect these motorcycles in part to preserve the history of early 125 motocross bikes, as is the case here, the provenance can often add significant color and insight into such an exciting time in American motocross history.