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Possibly a design fault, exacerbated by the design of the shifter cam. You see, when you shift, the cam moves the forks, which move the gears, which need to mesh. It's possible the dogs aren't in perfect order to mesh, which gives you a neutral.

The other part is that the shifter cam is a 'face cam' design, rather than the 'star wheel' design in current use near-universally. With a face cam, it is possible and easy to land 'inbetween gears' such that the mechanism will not move the shift drum further, thereby giving you a 'false' neutral. With a 'star wheel' shift cam it is not practically possible to halt the shift drum in such a way that the cam indexing will not move the drum further, thus completing a shift.

Best option: hold the shifter until the shift is completed. Call it an idiosyncracy of the older bikes.

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