ON THE WHOLE, MOTORCYCLISTS ARE an imaginative lot. You can see strong evidence of their imagination in chopper magazines, custom-bike shows and touring rallies, or if you just sit alongside a well-traveled road and observe the creative ways in which so many riders dress themselves and their machines.
THE ENEMY IS BEING DRIVEN BACK. Slowly, painfully, sometimes in steps so small you can hardly see them, but still, we’re advancing and the enemy is retreating. The enemy is ignorance. Of all the things that bedevil motorcycling, none so consistently ruins it for all of us as ignorance.
After reading Mr. Dean’s attempt to define a motorcycle’s “soul” as an emotion-filled exhaust emission, a mental image passed through my mind. Dean, astride his favorite VTwin, on the centerstand in the driveway of a Southern California tract home, eyes blissfully closed, listening in total rapture to his idling engine while his wife unsuccessfully tries to tell him supper is ready.
WE'RE JUST LIKE KIDS AT CHRISTMAS after all of the presents have been opened: We start wondering what we’re going to get next year. So we’re going to go out on a limb and make some predictions concerning the motorcycles we think the coming year will bring.
Turbocharging keeps reappearing, and sometimes in the least expected places. Like in a custom shop in Japan, which has built a turbocharged Yamaha for F1 roadracing. FIM regulations limit displacement of turbocharged engines to half that of normally aspirated engines competing in the same class.
The Spanish JJ Cobas team, after surviving a shaky track debut at the ’84 Barcelona 24 Horas endurance race when both bikes suffered electronic teething problems, ultimately swept Spain’s Superbike championship last year with eight straight victories on a BMW KlOO-powered racer.
MOST MODERN MOTORCYCLES seem designed to give instant gratification. You can sample their best qualities—their awesome power, their racer-like agility, their lightningquick throttle response—in about as much time as it takes to run through the gears.
WHAT DO YOU CALL A BIKE THAT WAS created with horsepower as its only reason for being? A motorcycle that wasn’t made for touring, cruising or racing, but just for accelerating? How do you categorize a motorcycle that will demolish any speed limit in the country in first gear, that has more low-end, mid-range and top-end power than any other two-wheeled device you can buy? What distinction can you give a machine that flaunts its power by leaving behind piles of smoking rubber every time its throttle is wrenched open? Would you call it exciting, impressive or merely excessive? Yamaha calls it the V-Max. But we’ll just call it the best Superbike of 1985.
CURRENTLY THERE ARE EIGHT DIFFERent 250cc motocross bikes for sale in this country. We know all about them; we tested them all. And of those eight bikes, there’s one that has at least a slight edge on the others in practically every category, offering more power, and better suspension and handling than any of the others. That one bike not only won a fourway comparison between the Japanese 250s, but went on to defeat all four European models in a second comparison. The bike? Kawasaki’s KX250. After taking on seven different contenders, the KX is an undisputed winner. And winning is what motocross is all about.
THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS A SHOO-IN when it comes to motocross bikes. Especially 125cc motocross bikes. In the ever-changing, ultracompetitive world of the 125 MXer, the newest and the best are most often one and the same. But in 1984, Kawasaki’s KX125 was so good that it just might have been able to do the impossible: It might have been able in 1985 to return, absolutely unchanged, and still be the best. It would have been a close contest, but the KX might have pulled it off. It’s a moot point, however, because that’s not what happened. The KX motored into 1985 with even more power and better suspension. The result: The KX125 is once again the winningest machine available in the 125 class.
YAMAHA’S FZ750 WASN’T CHOSEN THE winner in this category because it’s the first normally aspirated 750 sold in this country which produces over 100 horsepower—although it is. It wasn’t chosen because it’s capable of winning AMA Superbike races in nearly stock form—although it is. The FZ wasn’t picked because it ushers in a new age of 750s that offer liter-class performance—although it does. No, none of those facts made the FZ a winner. Instead, the real reason the FZ wins is that it’s a pleasant, comfortable, versatile motorcycle despite all those facts. The FZ750 proves that you don’t have to sacrifice everything else just to have ultrahigh performance.
RIDING MOST DUAL-PURPOSE MOTORcycles is a lot like going shopping withyourgrandmother: It’s all right as long as no one sees you. Being seen on a Honda XL350R, though, is something you can be proud of. Because chances are that you’re having more fun than anyone who happens to see you. This bike, you see, is just the right size: It’s big enough to outrun the door-slammers on the freeway, and yet small enough to be a real kick to ride in the dirt. So while it’s true that the owner of an XL350R might not have the fastest, most expensive or most prestigious bike on his block, there’s a good chance that his machine is more fun than anything else in his entire neighborhood.
WHEN KAWASAKI UNVEILED ITS 1985 motocross bikes, the word spread quickly among the berm-shooters in the company: This would be the year of the big bike. This would be the year in which Kawasaki would finally have a contender in Open-class motocross. But they were wrong. As it turned out, the KX500 isn’t just a contender, it’s the Open bike. It has more power, more blistering acceleration than any dirt bike ever made. Sure, horsepower by itself is never enough, but the KX also has the suspension and handling to make sure that it stays in front well past the start straight. In one giant step, Kawasaki not only caught up to the rest of the Open class, but passed it.
FROM TERRY CUNNINGHAM TO STEVE McQueen, from Malcolm Smith to Dick Burleson, America’s bestknown enduro riders have always been associated with Husqvarna. To a certain extent, enduro riding in this country is Husqvarna. So it shouldn’t be surprising that the best enduro bike of 1985 is the Husqvarna 400WRX. From coast to coast, there’s virtually no terrain that the WRX can’t handle, and handle in winning style. It has a torquey motor that makes it a natural in the east, and its long-travel suspension makes it well-suited to the west. Of course, the 400WRX isn’t guaranteed to turn you into a Cunningham, a Burleson, a Smith or a McQueen; but on the other hand, if anything can do it, the WRX can.
WHEN YOU’RE ON THE ROAD SOMEwhere between Reno and Winnemucca, you want to have some good company. And if 10 years and millions of miles have proven anything, it’s that the Honda Gold Wing is good company. Other touring bikes have come and gone, and several have, in some aspects, surpassed the Gold Wing. But anytime the competition even comes close to outdoing the ’Wing, the Honda returns a year later as a better motorcycle. That’s why this year’s Gold Wings are the best ever. And of the three models (Interstate, Aspencade and Limited Edition), the Aspencade gets our nod as the most motorcycle for the price. But all three are tops when it comes to transforming a long ride into a vacation on the open road.
WHEN AUTUMN COMES TO THE MOTORcycle industry, there’s little time for looking back; it’s full speed ahead into the upcoming year. It’s time for manufacturers to begin the building of their latest and greatest products, and for riders— and motorcycle magazines—to begin thinking about what might be waiting for them in the year ahead.
WHOEVER COINED THE PHRASE, “PRETTY GOOD FOR A FIRST-YEAR effort,” as though that faint praise were some kind of consolation, never rode a Suzuki Cavalcade. If he had. he would have understood just how good a first-year effort could be. The Cavalcade is arguably the most comfortable motorcycle made. From its plush seat to its spacious ergonomics, from its magnificently compliant suspension to its velvety smooth engine, the Suzuki demonstrates just how luxurious a crosscountry ride can be. It’s a first-year touring act that is so good, it’ll be hard even for next year’s Cavalcade to follow.
CAN A SINGLE MOTORCYCLE REJUVENATE SAGGING MOTORCYCLE sales? Is there any bike out there that can bring new riders into the sport just as the SuperHawk and various other Honda models did in the Sixties? That's a pretty big order; but so far, the Rebel seems to be filling it, if its glowing sales numbers are any indication. The Rebel seems to have just the right combination of high style and low price to make it more attractive to first-time buyers than any bike that's appeared in the last decade. This is one rebel with a very definite cause.
IF LOOKS COULD KILL, KAWASAKI'S BABY NINJA WOULD HAVE murdered every other sportbike in America the day it was first introduced. Even a lot of full-on GP racebikes don’t look half as deadly as this Kawasaki. What's more, the Ninja 600 has the sporting performance to back up its looks, including more horsepower than any 750 could have boasted just a few years ago. Trouble is, the Ninja is such a take-no-prisoners sport racer that its overall streetability is compromised—not seriously, but enough to prevent the bike from winning in the under-600cc category.
SOME RIDERS LOOK AT EUROPEAN BIKES AND SEE EXPENSIVE, UNreliable, slow relics from days gone by. Others look at Japanese bikes and see mass-produced clone-bikes that have no more personality than an electric toaster. But if they’re paying attention, most people who look at a Cagiva Alazzurra will see a machine that offers the best of both worlds. The 650cc V-Twin has the immaculately finished appearance of a Japanese bike, yet it exudes an individuality and personality that is typical of most European motorcycles. That combination enables the Cagiva to be one of the most intriguing mid-size bikes sold in the U.S., no matter who's looking at it.
SOMETIMES YOU GET THE BEAR, SOMETIMES THE BEAR GETS YOU
Editor’s Note: You probably don't know Joe Parkhurst, but you do know his most significant contribution to the motorcycle industry: this magazine. Parkhurst founded Cycle World back in 1962, served as its Editor/Publisher until 1968, and as Publisher until late in 1976.
DUAL PURPOSE, THAT'S A MISleadingconcept, a will-o'the-wisp that attempts to motorcycle that clearly have more than two functions. Dual-purpose machines can serve competently as city bikes, touring bikes, explorer bikes, dirt playbikes, enduro bikes, secondary road sportbikes, all-around fun bikes.
TIME WAITS FOR NO MANUfacturer of motocross bikes. Especially in the highly combative 125 class. Put last year's totally new, awesome-everything, almost-unbeatable 125 in this year's races, and it will have a hard time staying out of last place.
RANDY MAMOLA AND KENNY ROBERTS were playing. Playing, that is, if your idea of fun is a through-the-gears wheelie up to 120 miles an hour along Laguna Seca’s front straight. In Roberts’ 15 years of professional racing, he has made the wheelie his trademark.
Will Ford Motor Company sponsor a Kenny Roberts motorcycle race program in 1986? The answer could be yes, if one small addition to Roberts’ YZR500 at Laguna Seca was any indication. Stuck on the bike’s fairing, alongside decals from chain, tire, sparkplug and oil companies, was a Ford sticker.
As an owner of a FJ1100 motorcycle, I would like to be able to lift my front wheel off the pavement without popping the clutch. Would a header allow me to do this? Darwin Gore Gouverneur, New York We're not completely sure of the wisdom of making throttle-only wheelies easier, but an exhaust system change by itself is unlikely to have that effect.
We need your photos for Slipstream. We’re looking for photos that make us smile because they say something about motorcycling. Submissions should be made to Slipstream, Cycle World, 1499 Monrovia, Newport Beach, Calif. 92663. Only black and white prints, 8 by 10 in., should be sent.