SPORTBIKES TOO RACY? TOURING BIKES TOO BIG? DUAL-PURPOSE BIKES TOO DIRTY? THEN STEP RIGHT UP, YOUR BIKES ARE HERE.
WE'VE SPENT WHAT SEEMS like weeks climbing on and off what has to be the most-disparate collection of motorcycles ever assembled, and now we’re at dinner and Mr. Editor Edwards wants to know, is the “standard” motorcycle still out there, ready and waiting?
Okay, yes. But let's not push this thing too far. \;
All three votes were cast by yours truly, who was given this job because first. Eve been riding since before the arrival of specialized motorcycles: second, two of my own machines are wildly specialized; and third, my daily ride is as basic as they namely a Harley-Davidson Sportster as included in this group, except mine has been improved, which, as we'll see. is part of the appeal of standard-style motorcycles.
Why all this description and comparison? Because once upon a time, people bought motorcycles—just motorcycles. There were big ones and small ones, cheap and expensive, imported or domestic, one cylinder or a row of 'em. No matter what the details, vou got a bike and you did what all motorcyclists did, which was ride downtown or to school, or across pastures or the continent.
Then we got dirtbikes. Then, dualpurpose bikes, followed by dressers and cruisers and sportbikes and repli-, racers, and the better each of these got at filling its own little niche, the worse it was at doing chores outside that niche. And then, when sales went into the slump from which they have yet to recover, there were those who said it wouldn't have happened if the makers still had. so to speak, standards . . . which is why the collection and group evaluation ot the 10 motorcycles here, and why the questions. Áre these the new standards, and do they do the jobs they’ve been assigned?*
This is made more complicated by a definition that works from the negative. that is, a standard bike is one that isn't specialized, just as we used to have guitars, then we got electric guitars and then we had to coin an adjective—acoustic—for guitars that weren't electric. Further, one could claim that the Moto Guz.zi defines a basic touring bike, the Harley FXRS the basic cruiser, the Honda Cß-1 the basic sports machine and so on.
So we began with arbitrary lines: no bodywork, or racing equipment, or high fenders or anything that would"enhance the model in one direction at the expense of another direction. We assembled a cross section, large and small, budget to blowthe-lottery-w in. These aren't beginner bikes, although they could serve as such, given the circumstances that could lead a new enthusiast straight to a Harley-Davidson or a BM W of some sort.
Within this middle ground, the standards divided themselves into two groups. The Harleys, the BMW. thcGuzzi and the big Suzuki are what Ed call Good Of Bikes; roomy and heftv and accommodating. The little Suzuki, the Yamaha, the Kawasaki and both Hondas are semi-sports, with smaller chassis and engines. Tighter suspension and controls. Tf there's a line between the two groups, the Hawk is closest on the one side, the Sportster on the other.
This middle ground is a new middle ground, in that when you went from a Triumph C ub to a Tiger, from a Harley Hummer to a Sportster or from a Honda CB350 to CB750, you spent more money and got more motorcycle, more meaning power and speed and room, while the style remained about the same. Now. the standards give a choice of style, space versus sport, you could say. and it's difficult to prove the Radian is better or worse than the Guzzi. As any lawyer will tell you, it all depends.
Next, do they do what they’re supposed to do?
The opinion comes from me in the first person because when this project was launched, I was the chap who owned one of the nominees, and the others all asked why.
Easy. I like to ride motorcycles.
I like to restore and maintain and modify, too. But mostly, I like to ride. And I want to just walk into the garage and throw a leg over something and go, like that.
So 1 have my dirtbike. It’s registered and has mirrors and lights and such and even an insurance policy, and I take it across the desert and in dual-purpose events. But it’s terrible on the interstate or main highway.
There’s my vintage bike, an iron XR Harley dirt-tracker, again with plates and lights and insurance, and it’s a delight on graded dirt and winding roads and in races when I have the time and the technical committee doesn't rule against me. No fenders, no luggage, no passengers, and I dare not take it out of town without checking the weather channel.
On occasion. I get the loan of some new sportbike. Nothing Compares with being shot out of a cannon on
`ft L P~I Sunday morffing~ but arf~Ean hour i so my wrists an4 aZ~nd neck and k~dt~ys ache my fingçrs ar~ numti
and I m stiJt~jIe~ from home
w uen i worKea tun-time tor a certain world-class motorcycle magazine, I had access to full-dress touring bikes, and they are just right forgoing from here to Phoenix with your favorite tapes and traveling companion. But wrestling a Gold Wine or FLT around the garage and around the parking lot soon convinces one to go shopping with the other truck, the one with doors and a roof.
Thus, when I went off the payroll and had to pay for my fun, I supplemented my collection of specialized bikes with a standard, my 883.
I couldn't get along without it. Zips around town, eats up the dirt roads on the way to my farm. Mv Significant Other wasn’t told that Sportsters aren t touring bikes, and happily spends Sundays in the saddle.
There isn't a motorcycle in this standard group that couldn't easily handle the sam e du t v.
Sure, the big ones take more care in the fast going, and the smaller ones are crowded two-up, and so what?
T he last riders in the group were fast
no matter what they were on, ditto the slower chaps, and by the same token, just as stuff expands to fill available space, so can you get along with just the gear you have room for. Even the semi-sports models are good weekenders.
Two final, related points
One, my Sportster is mine all mine, with pipes and big tank from an early Superglide (popped right on, by the way), an earlier rear wheel, and custom seat and paint. One of a standard’s advantages is that because it doesn t come with everything, you can equip it as you please.
I wo, as the photo dearly shows, my 883 is the best, trickest. finest of its kind ever. You doubt that? Good.
One of the high points of our postride dinner sessions was that no two riders had the sameopinion. Every machine here was hooted at and every machine was stoutly defended to just this side oí step-outside-and-saythat.
Just because we re in the middle doesn’t mean we can't become emotionally involved.
These aren’t sportbikes or touring bikes or cruisers or dressers.
1 hese are motorcycles.