We first met master-tuner Sid Biberman, widely known as ‘Big Sid’, and his son Matthew Biberman author of ‘Big Sid’s Vincati’ during a chance phone call back in early 2013. The call later led to a weekend spent with the both of them along with their impressive stable of Vincent motorcycles, which included the storied Vincati (read up on the story in Issue 9 of Iron & Air Magazine).
Sadly, Sid passed away shortly thereafter but his legacy certainly lives on. The following words from Matthew documents the story of their Series C Vincent Black Shadow, the last motorcycle Sid and Matthew would work on together. - GSCo
Big Sid's Black Shadow
Words: Matthew Biberman Photography: Rob Haynes
The bike is a Series C Vincent Black Shadow. Club records state that it left Stevenage in January 1951 and arrived in New Orleans to be sold by Vincent's American importer, the Indian Sales Corporation. My dad, Big Sid, found it in a barn in outside of Louisville, KY.
I was mowing my lawn for the first time after returning from Bonneville in 2011. A car pulled up and a gentleman got out and went in to speak with Sid. He showed up unannounced every once in a while to pick Sid's brain about a Shadow he had. This time when he left he said to me, “you need to go in and talk to your dad”. It turns out that his doctor had diagnosed him with a degenerative spinal condition and had told him to give up riding. Now he wanted to sell the bike to Sid to be a part of the Big Sid story.
We bought the bike from him and dispatched the motor to Steve Hamel shortly before New Years 2012. Life intervened and the project languished until the summer of 2013. I thought Sid and I would have one last summer working on this project but it was not to be. Sid went into the hospital in mid-June and began to spiral downward. I did what I could to help him, which wasn’t much beyond being with him so that he did not die alone. I would return home from the hospital and go into the garage and work furiously as if Sid's life depended on the resurrection of this basket case. One evening I brought him a box of parts, newly cleaned and ready for assembly. His mind still sharp, Sid looked at them appreciatively and then said to me, "You are going to build this one on your own." I didn't argue with him. He died a few days later.
For the next year I struggled to find the motivation to pick up a wrench and resume work on this project. Finally in November 2014, with the assistance Logan Robison, I began work again. We traveled up to Steve Hamel's shop in Minneapolis and retrieved the motor, with the lower end finished and the heads done. Over the next few months we built up the rest of the motor and then began the assembly of the entire bicycle.
In doing the work, I have been guided by my dad's philosophy. The major components have been repainted, but the remaining pieces and hardware have been cleaned and made mechanically sound without altering their cosmetic appearance. My plan is to take the bike up to Shadow Lake Canada for the 2015 North American Rally this July and then sell the bike at auction out in Vegas next January. It is the last Vincent I will ever restore that I worked on with my father.
Just when I thought that I was finished with wrenches, this bike revived my interest. I hope to do more Vincents in the future, but that remains to be seen. What is certain is that someone out there is soon going to own this bike, and with it quite a legacy.
For more on Sid and the motorcycle that brought him back to life, pick up a copy of ‘Big Sid’s Vincati’ here.