UNLESS YOU’VE BEEN LIVING UNDER A flat rock in Fiji or are just back from an extended vacation on Pluto, you probably know about the crisis the motorcycle industry is facing: Bike sales over the past few years have gone flatter than a week-old beer.
I would like to respond to an article by Jon Thompson in the August issue that praises the merits of the first real mini-bike, the Mustang. While the article was quite good as far as it went, Thompson made several statements that are not correct.
A STRIDE A BLACK KAWASAKI 1000 and resplendent in matching black-and-red leathers, the German couple arrives in Cologne. They live in a suburb of Munich, 350 miles to the southeast, but the big GPz (a Ninja in the U.S.) has polished off that distance in just over four hours, thanks to the speed-limitless auto-bahn.
They took the lead at the start; eight hours later, they crossed the finish line first. “They” were Wayne Gardner, Dominique Sarron and a very special Honda RVF750 racebike. This trio teamed up to win the Suzuka 8-Hour endurance race without ever giving up the top position to a rival team throughout the event.
It’s only a prototype. But those at the Bol d’Or 24-hour race will see the Ducati engine on which future models will be based. Ing. Massimo Bordi, now chief engineer of the Cagiva-owned Bologna firm following the retirement of the legendary Dr. Fabio Taglioni, designed the new engine.
MOTORCYCLE FRONT-END WORK WAS never meant to be a high-risk, contact sport. But if things go wrong and the bike slips off its stand, it’s possible to find yourself with a wheel in one hand and the full weight of the motorcycle in the other, leaving you feeling like you’ve taken the brunt of the Chicago Bears’ 46 defense.
You DON’T PUT WESSON OIL IN YOUR bike’s engine just because it’s cheaper than motor oil; that’s false economy. But so is wearing most anything other than a made-for-motorcyclists riding jacket, because on the first ride it usually bares its heritage—and your anatomy—as the hem hikes up past your waist, the cuffs slide to your elbows and the collar slaps you around like you were the victim of a 1920s-style police grilling.
NINETEEN EIGHTY-SEVEN IS SHAPING UP TO BE A banner year for motorcycles, with more new models being released than at any time since the Honda-Yamaha wars of the early 1980s. Yamaha is charging into 1987 with a megapowered, liter-class FZ, along with a limited-production 750-class streetbike/roadracer, plus revised cruisers and the world's most unusual dual-purpose bike.
FOR 1987, YAMAHA HAS launched assaults at both ends of the motorcycling spectrum. With its new FZRs, Yamaha seeks performance-bike crowns; the FZR1000 seems likely to break the 160-mph barrier, and the FZR750R will certainly take a run at winning Daytona.
HONDA KEEPS SECRETS WELL; Number One's American model lineup for 1987 will remain a mystery until its dealer convention in mid-November. But Honda's European distributors have let a few cats out of the bag at the Cologne and Paris motorcycle shows.
KAWASAKI HAS ALWAYS thought big. Its 903cc Z1 was the biggest Japanese streetbike of its day; the KZ1300 Six was the most imposing bike of the late Seventies; and the 1300 Voyager weighs nearly as much as some small cars. So it should come as little surprise that for 1987, Kawasaki is at it again with the world's biggest cruiser.
WHEN SUZUKI SPOKESmen say they have big news for 1987, they mean it: Their main attraction next year will be the grandiose Intruder 1400 V-Twin, which should hit the streets sometime in December. Suzuki had hoped that, at 1360cc, the big Intruder would earn the title of the largest-displacement production motorcycle built outside of Brazil (only the 1600cc Amazonas is bigger); but because Kawasaki will also be releasing its own monster V-Twin probably in February, the Intruder will hold that distinction for a short time.
ROLL OPEN THE THROTTLE at 30 mph in top gear on this motorcycle, and it leaps forward. Each power impulse is clearly felt, harsh and metallic—Thump! Thump! Thump!—but much, much more rapidly, as if the bike were powered by a machine-gun burst hitting against paddles on the rear wheel.
HARLEY-DAVIDSON PRIDES itself on being different. And in most respects, the company and the way it builds motorcycles are unique. Harley-Davidsons, you see, are hybrids-that is, rather than developing and building new models from scratch, Harley most often takes the best and most successful elements from one bike and integrates them into another, making a distinctly different motorcycle.
NO MATTER HOW THEY HAVE been styled, BMW motorcycles have maintained a remarkably consistent touring emphasis down through the years. Apparently, BMW knows better than to change a good thing. So it's not surprising that BMW's 1987 lineup further expands on the company's strong predilection for touring motorcycles.
Does a sporting BMW ever stop being a touring bike?
IT TOOK NEARLY A YEAR. FIRST came the K75C, then the K75T, and now, finally, the K75S. With it, BMW's K75 model line is complete. And according to BMW, this new S-model is targeted as a pure sportbike, while the C-model K75 is designed as a sport-tourer and the T is the standard model.
FOR THE CAGIVA/DUCATI/ Husqvarna combine, 1987 will be a year of consolidation and growth. Two years ago Cagiva bought Ducati; last year it acquired Husky. Now the results of those acquisitions, and Cagiva's aggressive expansion in the U.S., are starting to be felt.
KTM, THE SMALL, AUSTRIAN firm that specializes in dirt bikes, continues to pursue an evolutionary path rather than a revolutionary one. Returning for 1987 are motocross and enduro machines in 125, 250 and 500cc engine classes, as well as a 350cc enduro bike, and all can boast numerous important improvements.
ELIMINATING THE NEGATIVE, BY ACCENTUATING THE POSITIVE
IF LAST YEAR'S 900 ELIMINATOR HAD any drag-racing pretensions, they quickly disappeared in the smoke of the first burnout staged by a Yamaha V-Max. Because in reality, that original Eliminator was only an image bike, a photocopy of something Kawasaki had seen on various American dragstrips.
They called him Lawrence of Arabia. He was a soldier, an artist, an enigma. And how he loved motorcycles.
TO THIS DAY, EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENED ON THE morning of May 13, 1935, remains a mystery. According to eyewitness accounts, the accident occurred on a lonely stretch of English road between the East Dorset villages of Wool and Clouds Hill. Corporal Earnest Catchpole, the principal witness, said he saw a black car, two bicycles and a motorcycle simultaneously enter a series of rises and depressions that follow the contour of the Clouds Hill end.
IN HIS 20 YEARS AS A MANUfacturer of motorcycles, George Brough sold only 3000 machines; he was hardly the pre-war equivalent of Soichiro Honda. But Brough was not concerned with quantity. He built exclusive products for aristocrats of speed who thought nothing of packing 700 miles a day on the empty roads of the 1920s and ’30s.
NEVER MIND WHAT WEBSTER says. Don't pay any attention to the Department of Transportation, the instructor at the high school Driver's Ed class, or what it says on the registration, either; scooters aren't motorcycles. A machine has to have more than just two wheels and an engine before it truly can be called a motorcycle.
Does the key to motorcycling’s future lay in its past?
YOU'LL FIND THEM IN ENGland. Of course. They're a little strange. Of course. And they think they've got a better way of building a motorcycle. Of course. They are Feet-Firsters, a name derived from the kind of motorcycles these enthusiasts build and ride.
IT WAS A GRIM PICTURE. KURT Hough was standing along an obscure dirt road somewhere in the mountains of northern Italy beside a quiet Honda CR250R. It was raining. The bike was missing its rear fender, its handlebar was twisted hopelessly out of shape, and every inch of both the machine and the rider was covered with thick mud.
Recently, I was on the last leg of a 4000-mile tour and found myself, and my FJ1100 Yamaha, in Barstow, California, in the middle of the Mojave desert, where temperatures were above 110 degrees. When I wasn’t wondering if my clothes would catch fire, I was wondering what effect the heat was having on my beloved FJ. I realized that I didn’t even know what the symptoms of overheating would be.
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 Ave., Newport Beach, CA 92663. Only black and white prints, 8 by 10 inches should be sent.