THE CALENDARS HAVE TO BE WRONG; CYCLE WORLD can’t possibly be celebrating its 25th anniversary this month. Surely, 1962 was not a quarter of a century ago. Time has been good to CYCLE WORLD, though, for it consistently has been motorcycling’s most successful magazine during those 25 years.
THE SCENE IS ONE OF HIGHEST CULture: In the center of the oldest neighborhood in Helsinki, Finland, we are scrunched into the last empty pew of the oldest church in town, the Vanha Kirkka. An expectant hush falls over the huge throng jammed into the church as the conductor raises his baton.
I really enjoyed Frank Conner’s “Touring to the Max,” in your November issue. I should know, because I own a V-Max and enjoy touring on it. In 1985, The Max and I went on a 1400-mile tour through Shenandoah National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and then on as far south as Mayodan, North Carolina.
IF YOU WERE TO TRY TO COMPILE A LIST of the best-selling motorcycles in America over the past 25 years, you might end up feeling a little like Don Quixote when he first ventured out into the world—a little amused, but a lot bewildered. That’s because information such as how many of each model were sold, or why any given model sold well, is scarce for the years before 1969.
America has just discovered that the Yamaha YSR50 and the Suzuki GSX-R50 will be available in the U.S. this year. But what may be a surprise to many people in the U.S. is that these mini-roadracers have already caused a phenomenonal stir in Japan.
It’s been 25 years since a motorcycle bearing the Horex name has been offered on the market. But now, the svelte, single-cylinder machine which first appeared then disappeared after the 1984 Cologne Show has resurfaced, and looks impressive once again with its modern design and high-quality construction.
In the 1860s, pony express riders carried the mail in a mochila thrown over the saddle. These days, though, when you’re hauling the mail on your iron horse, you might want to toss a pair of BagMan’s Santa Fe bags over your saddle. Constructed of black, urethane-coated Cordura, with embossed brown leather trim, the bags feature bungee-style mounting that BagMan claims allows them to fit most bikes. The Santa Fe bags retail for $89.95 from your motorcycle dealer, or from Vetter Products Inc., Rantoul, IL 61866; (217) 893-9300.
Vetter Products Inc.
Sidewinder magnesium sprockets
Works motocross teams are known for their damn-the-dollars, cost-isno-object approach to racing. And for Honda-riding privateers who aspire to that freewheeling style of spending, Krause Racing offers its magnesium Sidewinder sprockets, patterned after those used by Team Honda riders. The Sidewinders come in Honda red in a range of tooth sizes, and if you must know how much they cost, you'll have to contact Sidewinder Products, 111 Fairbanks, Addison, IL 60101; (312) 543-6696.
Vetter Products Inc.
Torco racing oil
Is there balm in Gilead? Perhaps, but there’s certainly balm in Torco’s racing oil, at least according to the firm’s claims. Torco says the oil contains MPZ, a heat-seeking antiwear additive that heals and mends score marks as it lubricates. Torco’s racing oil comes in SAE 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 10W/30 and 20W/50 for $2.25 a quart. To find out how to anoint your engine, contact Torco USA Lubricants Corp., 12247 Lakeland Road, Santa Fe Springs, CA 90670.
Vetter Products Inc.
Answer hand armor
Answer’s Cordura hand guards might be the next best thing to a pair of 16-ounce Everlasts when it comes to counterpunching through the woods. A plastic inner liner helps the guards retain their shape, and they're available in red or blue, for $22.95 a pair. Moreover, Answer claims the guards will fit all off-road two-, threeand four-wheel vehicles. To find out more, contact Answer Products Inc., 27967 Beale Court, Valencia, CA 91355; (805) 257-4411.
Vetter Products Inc.
Windslicks fork fairings
Time was, when a gentleman put on the ritz, he did so in top hat, cane and spats. Now, the well-dressed motorcycle can have its own spats, in the form of fork fairings from Surface Explorations Inc. The ABS plastic fairings are claimed to provide improved performance, and to protect fork sliders from debris, not to mention dressing up the bike’s appearance. They’re available in white only, for $32.95 a pair, and fit most modern sportbikes. To find out more, contact Surface Explorations Inc., P.O. Box 1617, Palo Alto, CA 94301; (415) 322-1200.
Vetter Products Inc.
If you’re preparing to take your act on the road, but your touring rig needs new shoes, consider auditioning a pair of Michelin Hi-Tours. In fact, Michelin thinks you’ll give its M66 rear tire a standing ovation for its twin Kevlar belts and nylon cord plies. Hi-Tours are available in four front and five rear sizes, some with raised white letters, with retail prices starting at $98. To find out more, contact Michelin's agent at Michelin Tire Corp., Patewood Executive Park, P.O. Box 19001, Greenville, SC 29602-9001.
THE YEAR 1961 WAS winding to a close. John F. Kennedy was about to end the first year of his presidency; Roger Maris had hit 61 home runs, breaking Babe Ruth’s 34-year-old record of 60; John Glenn was preparing to become the first American to orbit the Earth; West Side Story won the Academy Award for Best Picture; Floyd Patterson was heavyweight champion of the world.
AUGUST, 1962: A HOT, MIDwestern summer is winding down. A burr-cut seven-year-old, dark from the Indiana sun, I soon have to report to school, and my third-grade teacher, Mrs. Christman. My summer freedom is vanishing into the orderliness of the classroom.
DESPITE the present-day trend toward small-displacement motorcycles, there is now and will very likely always be a sizable group of riders for whom nothing short of a genuine over-100mph machine is ever enough. These are the people who really enjoy the heady thrust that only comes with relatively large, powerful engines.
THE MOST SIGNIFICANT MOTORCYCLES IN CYCLE WORLD'S HISTORY
Lots of motorcycles have come and gone in the last 25 years. Some made a difference in their time. These 25 kept on making a difference long after their time.
TRIUMPH 650 BONNEVILLE
HARLEY-DAVIDSON LOW RIDER
HONDA GL1000 GOLD WING
HONDA VF750F INTERCEPTOR
MAICO 250 GP
HONDA 305 SUPER HAWK
HODAKA ACE 90
HONDA CX500 TURBO
HONDA CR250M ELSINORE
HUSQVARNA 360 CROSS
SUZUKI X-6 HUSTLER
YAMAHA DT-1 ENDURO
KAWASAKI 903cc Z-1
KAWASAKI H1 MACH III
BULTACO 125 SHERPA S
KAWASAKI KZ900 LTD
WITH THE POSSIBLE EXCEPTION OF A HARLEY-DAvidson, no motorcycle has left a more lasting impression on the sport than the Triumph 650 Bonneville. Introduced in 1958, the Bonneville won admiration first for its exploits on racetracks around the world, and later for the graceful, timeless styling that has made it one of the most beloved and copied motorcycles in history. So enduring is the Bonneville’s appeal that the same basic machine still is in production today. If ever a motorcycle were deserving of the title “classic,” the Triumph Bonneville is it.
THROUGHOUT MOST OF THE FIFTIES, ANYONE WHO wanted an all-out performance bike bought British. So Harley-Davidson, tired of all the talk of “Limey” bikes, in 1958 brought out its own idea of a performance motorcycle: the 883cc Sportster. It was a perfect motorcycle for the times, a brutish, hellaciously powerful V-Twin that gained a performance advantage over the British parallel-Twins not through subtlety, but by having almost 250cc more displacement, thus adhering to the American philosophy that “you can’t beat cubic inches.” In that sense, the Sportster was the first true American superbike in more ways than one.
HARLEY-DAVIDSON DISCOVERED-OR PERHAPS, MORE accurately, rediscovered—its true market in 1977 when it introduced the Low Rider. This lowslung Big Twin took its styling cues from H-D’s own customers, looking like something one of them might have created by customizing a more ordinary Harley. Other Harley models since have been better all-around motorcycles than the Low Rider; but by and large, they all have followed the retro-fashion and custom-styling trends set by the Low Rider.
GL1000 GOLD WING
IT'S NOT VERY OFTEN THAT ONE BIKE BEGINS A WHOLE NEW class of motorcycles, and it’s even rarer when that bike creates an entirely new class of riders, as well. Yet, that’s what Honda’s Gold Wing did after its introduction in 1975: It virtually created “American-style” touring. Half of the reason for the ’Wing’s 10-year success is that Honda had the foresight to design such a bike in the first place; the other half is that Honda has been smart enough to refine the bike over the years as the result of input gathered from the people who were buying it. No wonder it’s the world’s best over-the-road tourer.
IN 1983, THE 750 INTERCEPTOR SET THE MOTORCYCLING world on fire for a year. Not simply because of its performance; other 750s were close. It did so because of its fine balance of power, handling and comfort, and its new-wave, high-tech appearance. The VF750F proved that sportbikes didn’t have to fit a visual mold, and would perhaps sell better if they didn’t.
IN EVERY REVOLUTION, SOMEONE HAS TO FIRE THE FIRST shot. In the suspension revolution of the 1970s, the credit for that shot has to go to Maico. Several manufacturers introduced “long-travel” suspension on 1975-model production bikes, but it was Maico’s works motocrossers of 1973 that started the suspension-travel wars. So because the concept originated at Maico, we feel that the honor of being the first long-travel production bike rightfully belongs to that company’s 1975 250 GP.
THE RD350 WAS THE TWO-STROKE THAT WON THE PERformance wars. This reed-valved, six-speed street racer was peaky, and fouled plugs if you didn’t keep the throttle turned up, but when ridden properly would keep up with the 750s of its day. Its basic engine design has lived on as one of the mainstays in Yamaha’s lineup (amazing, considering it started life as the 1970 R5), and only the EPA and the American preference for four-strokes keeps its progeny from being sold in the U.S.
305 SUPER HAWK
A SIDE FROM BEING HONDA'S BEST-SELLING MODEL IN 1967, the 305 Super Hawk of the mid-Sixties was a pivotal machine. Until it came along, few "enthusiasts" took the Japanese seriously as motorcycle manufacturers. But the Super Hawk, which was Japan’s first adult-sized four-stroke sportbike, was good enough to make most of those enthusiasts at least consider that the Japanese might—just might—become a force to be reckoned with in the motorcycle industry.
THAT FIRST CB750 BACK IN 1969 USHERED IN A NEW AGE of motorcycling. The 750 was the first of a long progression of inline-Four production motorcycles that would become the mainstay of the industry even to this day. There’s no question that the CB750 caught the public’s fancy because it was different; but it held the public’s attention year after simply because it was a good motorcycle, one that gave its rider everything he could get on most other competitive machines—and more.
TRAILBIKES EXISTED LONG BEFORE THE HODAKA came along. But the Ace 90 transformed trail riding from a sport strictly for tough mountain-men to something an entire family could enjoy. The rugged, capable little Hodaka opened up a whole new world of off-road exploration to a whole new world of riders. And on top of that, it was still a bike that tough mountain-men could love.
UNTIL 1981, ANY SPORTBIKE WITH ANY SORT OF A FAIRing on it was called a “café racer” —and as such, was doomed to failure on the showroom floor. But that’s before the GPz550, a sport machine designed to have the look and the flair and the performance of a café racer but the feel and the comfort of a realworld streetbike. The GPz550 changed America’s mind about faired sportbikes, opening the door to the current wave of racer-replica sport machines that are so popular today.
AS FAR AS GOODNESS OR BADNESS IS CONCERNED. THE first Yamaha Virago, the XV750 of 1981, was more or less just another motorcycle, no better or no worse than any other. But in terms of significance, it was a landmark motorcycle. That’s because it was the bike that no one thought Japan would ever build: a VTwin cruiser aimed at the hallowed Harley-Davidson market. Considering the direction motorcycling has taken since, the Virago’s impact on the sport ranks it right up there as one of the most heralded machines ever.
THE 500 TURBO WAS A PROBE INTO THE OUTER LIMITS of motorcycle complexity; it’s still the most advanced machine ever offered by Honda, or by any manufacturer, for that matter. It was also a probe too far, because motorcyclists apparently weren’t ready for a 500 that weighed more than some 1000cc bikes and went only like the average 750. But for two years, the three other Japanese manufacturers followed Honda into the unexplored world of turbo technology, whether they liked it or not.
IN THE EARLY SEVENTIES. THE SPORT OF MOTOCROSS TOOK America by storm. A few years later, the Honda Elsinores took motocross by storm. The 1973 CR250, followed by the CR125, was the first Japanese MX bike built from the ground-up for the express purpose of winning motocross races. It marked the beginning of a new era in the sport, an era of Japanese domination—an era that still hasn’t ended.
EVERY TYPE OF RACING HAS ITS “YARDSTICK” MOTORcycle, a class-standard by which every other machine is measured. In motocross and off-road racing, that standard for years was the Husqvarna 360. The Husky was introduced in to the U.S. as a 360 in 1967, and became a 400 in 1969. It was a factor not only in the desert and on the track, but—in different forms—it dominated enduros, as well. And the 360/400 Husqvarna made the entire motorcycle industry think again about how a competitive dirt bike ought to perform.
AN ENTIRE CHAPTER IN THE BOOK OF AMERICAN Motorcycling opened and closed between the midSixties and the early Eighties, a chapter called “High-performance two-stroke streetbikes.” And the first two-stroke roadster built with a distinct performance-above-all philosophy was the 1966 Suzuki X-6 Hustler. If not for this landmark two-stroke, six-speed Twin, that chapter might not ever have been written.
IF EVER A MOTORCYCLE DESERVED TO BE CALLED ubiquitious, the CB350 is it. Sold between 1968 and 1973, the CB350s (along with CL350/SL350 stablemates) seemed to be everywhere. Many, in fact, are still in use today. But it’s easy to understand why these bikes were so popular: They offered big-bike performance in a small-bike package, all for a small-bike price. So it’s not surprising that the Honda 350 may well be the bestselling full-sized motorcycle of all time.
DUAL-PURPOSE BIKES WERE POSSIBLY THE MOST IMPORtant type of motorcycle in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Not because they were highly sophisticated or particularly good, but because they put a large part of an entire generation on two wheels. And no dual-purpose bike was more significant than the Yamaha DT-1 Enduro, introduced in l968. It was the right bike at the right time, and proved to be the forerunner of dual-purpose machines as we know them today.
GIVEN AMERICAS PREDILECTION FOR CUBIC INCHES and raw horsepower, a motorcycle like the Kawasaki Z-1 was inevitable. That Kawasaki saw fit to build it first is to that company’s credit. And, indeed, although the Z-1 was marketed worldwide, it was designed first and foremost to satisfy the cravings of power-mad motorcyclists in America. From its introduction in 1973 until 1978, the Z-1, or one of its offspring, was the meanest thing on the streets, the standard of twowheel performance on planet Earth.
IN THE EARLY SIXTIES, HONDA BEGAN ITS EXEMPLARY AND extraordinarily successful “You meet the nicest people on a Honda” advertising campaign, building it around the innocuous little C100 step-through 50. The C100 was the first model offered for sale by Honda in this country, and it, perhaps more than any other machine, is what began the Japanese takeover of the motorcycle market.
H1 MACH III
NO MACHINE EVER EMBODIED THE BEST AND THE worst of Japanese motorcycles more graphically than the Kawasaki H-1 Mach III, the 500cc twostroke Triple that was introduced in 1969 and became a legend almost immediately thereafter. Thanks to its wild performance claims—some of which it couldn’t live up to but most of which it could, and did—the H1 firmly established Kawasaki as the purveyor of lightningquick motorcycles. The bike also clearly demonstrated an all-important fact: that in America, engine performance sells, even if it comes in a less-than-spectacular chassis.
BIMOTA IS A SMALL COMPANY, EMPLOYING ONLY about 30 employees and producing just a few hundred bikes a year. But this outfit’s hand-built, beautifully crafted machines have had an impact far beyond their meager numbers, for they have affected the design and styling of many of today’s most sophisticated sportbikes. The best example is the KB2, a tiny, perimeter frame wrapped around a Kawasaki GPz550 engine and carried by 16-inch wheels at both ends; it’s no coincidence that one of the most successful sportbikes ever, the Ninja 600, followed the pattern set by the KB2.
125 SHERPA S
IN THE SIXTIES, ONE BRAND OF MOTORCYCLE REVOLUTION ized most types of off-road competition almost singlehandedly: Bultaco. And the most significant model in that revolution was the first Bultaco sold here, the 1962 Sherpa S 125, also available in 200cc and 175cc versions shortly thereafter. Employing the then-new concept of mating an ultra-high-output two-stroke engine with an ultra-lightweight chassis, Sherpas dominated their classes in TT scrambles, European scrambles and shorttrack. And ultimately, they proved to be the prototypes for the modern generation of two-stroke dirt racebikes.
IF YOU ASK 30-YEAR-OLD-OR-UNDER MOTORCYCLISTS WHAT two-wheeler they first rode, many of them will have the same answer: the Honda Mini-Trail. Introduced in 1968, this little 50cc kidbike was an immediate sales success, with Honda dealers having difficulty keeping them in stock during the pre-Christmas months. Basically a sophisticated version of the classic Briggs-andStratton-powered mini-bike, the Mini-Trail has likely introduced more people to motorcycling than any other single model before or since.
NO ONE, NOT EVEN KAWASAKI, QUITE UNDERSTOOD the importance of what had happened. It was December of 1975, and Kawasaki had just introduced the 900 LTD, a new idea in production motorcycles. Starting with a stock KZ900, the factory installed, among other things, a smaller gas tank, a stepped seat, a fat, 16-inch rear tire, shorter fenders and custom paint, along with shocks and an exhaust system plucked from the aftermarket. The result was the first factory-customized “custom,” and the forerunner of today’s supersuccessful genre of custom/cruiser motorcycles.
The staff looks back on the good times, the good rides, and the bikes that made them so good
Paul Dean: 1966 BSA 650 Lightning
Peter Egan: 1966 Honda Super 90
Camron Bussard: 1969-1978 Honda CB750
Ron Griewe: 1951 Velocette Mac
Ron Lawson: Suzuki X-6 Hustler
Charles Everitt: 1983 Honda CX650 Turbo
Steve Anderson: 1982-1983 Suzuki GS1100E
Jim Hansen: 1980 Maico 450
David Edwards: 1963 BSA Gold Star
Steven L. Thompson: Once and future Britbikes
FROM THE VERY FIRST INSTANT I LAID EYES ON ONE, I just knew I had to have it, no matter what my checkbook, my credit standing or my wife might say to the contrary. Most BSA Twins of that era were extremely attractive, but the ’66 Lightning was especially memorable. In my mind’s eye, it looked more like modern mechanical art than it did a motorcycle, with proportions so utterly perfect that no amount of restyling could have improved them. The candy-red-and-chrome gas tank had a tidier, more classic profile than any earlier or later versions; 1966 also was the first year in which BSA seats had a slight roadrace-style kickup at the rear, and the last year in which BSA Twins had a fully polished rocker-box cover, a nicely valanced rear fender and a tidy, unobtrusive taillight housing. All of these factors, along with a few others, combined to make this particular BSA one of the most lithe and graceful motorcycles of all time. That it was also one of the quickest bikes of its era was only icing on the cake. I sold the Lightning in a moment of financial need after two years and 13,000 wonderful miles. That was one of the biggest mistakes I’ve ever made.
A BRITISH-BIKE FAN, MY KNEE-JERK REACTION WAS to single out some Triumph as the bike of the past 25 years I miss most. There truly is a place for a light, agile, all-purpose bike with real chrome plating, accessible technology and good looks. But I don’t want to sound like a stuck record, so I won’t even mention Triumphs. What does that leave? Looking back over my stack of expired registration slips, I discovered a bike I was very fond of, and for which there seems to be no exact replacement: my silver-and-black 1966 Honda Super 90. The S-90 was an entry-level, high-school-kid-affordable ($340 new, $180 slightly used) bike that managed to look, sound and feel remarkably like an adult motorcycle, rather than some gawkish moped that only the class nerd could love. It had a nice, thumping exhaust note, a real gearbox, and a gas tank where gas tanks belong. And it went fast enough to ride on the highway in the company of cars, so on the weekend you could visit your girlfriend 60 miles away. These days, when I see kids on mopeds and small scooters, they somehow always look as though their mothers have dressed them—and maybe picked out their trans-portation. The S-90 balanced on that fine edge: just slow enough for parental approval, yet just enough of a machine to allow those rebellious illusions of grandeur, of being a real by-god motorcyclist who could go anywhere on the open road. Even if it wasn’t a Triumph.
IN THE END, WHAT A THING REPRESENTS IS MORE IMPORtant than the thing itself. In 1969, I saw the Honda CB750 Four in the magazines for the first time and thought the machine more than a motorcycle; it was the veritable bike of God. Of course, I was only 14 at the time. But at the very least, the first CB750 exploded the existing notions of what a street motorcycle was all about; and during the next 10 years, the single-cam 750 Four evolved into one of the all-time great motorcycles. No doubt about it, the CB750 could do almost anything. It was a touring bike; it was a cruiser; and it was one hell of a performance motorcycle. Its versatility helped make it Honda’s overall best seller from 1973 to 1979. This from a relatively simple, inline-Four engine and a none-too-spectacular chassis. Just as important, because the bike was slowly improved rather than radically changed, you could count on your dealer having parts. By 1978, the original design was showing its age, so an all-new 750 Four was introduced for 1979. But it’s sad that no amount of refinement was able to keep the singlecammer from becoming a martyr for versatility in an increasingly specialized market.
1951 Velocette Mac
WITH 34 YEARS OF MOTORCYCLING BEHIND ME, picking the one bike I miss the most wasn’t easy. I’ve owned and ridden a lot of machinery during my lifetime of two-wheeling. Even so, I’ll never forget my first “real” motorcycle, a 1951 Velocette Mac. I know that this bike predates the creation of CYCLE WORLD, but I feel it qualifies anyway, since Velos were built into the Sixties, after the inaugural issue of this magazine. I’d had two years of experience on a Salsbury scooter when I got the urge for a real motorcycle. I went to Joe Koons BSA in Long Beach, California, who had a good supply of used bikes, and he soon sold me on the two-year-old, 350cc Velocette Single. The “cherry” used Velo was black with gold pinstriping and had a “bitchin’ ” chrome-plated, fish-tail muffler. For a mere $250 I couldn't go wrong. I used the bike for commuting to school and work, and even had a lot of fun running it on dirt fireroads in the mountains. But best of all, that Velocette was responsible for getting me involved in the world’s most exciting activity—motorcycling—for a lifetime. That’s why it’s the bike I’ll never forget.
I’M NOT SO MAUDLIN ABOUT IT THAT MY MEMORY HAS been affected. Two-stroke streetbikes were noisy, pipey, buzzy, boggy, smoggy and tinny. They represented mass-manufactured Japanese streetbikes at their stamped-out and spot-welded worst. But God, I miss them. There was one in particular, the Suzuki Hustler 250—or X-6, to the older crowd—that still has a special spot reserved on the list of bikes I miss the most. There was something about a small bike with a quick-revving engine and a thin powerband that was just too much fun to be forgotten in the back pages of motorcycle history. There were lots of bikes I grew up wanting to own. The Suzuki was one of the few that was realistic. I never did own one, though, and today there is absolutely no bike to take the Hustler’s place. Even the Kawasaki Ninja 250 isn’t close. The era of the two-stroke streetbike is probably gone forever. Some might say that motorcycling is better for it. But I miss them for what they were. And I also miss them for what they would have been by now.
ANY STAR WARS FAN WILL KNOW WHY I MOURNED THE passing of Honda’s CX650 Turbo. Because if you got even the slightest thrill out of watching the Millenium Falcon blast into hyperspace, then you intuitively know what’s it like to pull the trigger on Honda’s 1983-model high-tech wonder, the 650 Turbo. After you hit the throttle, it took a second for things to begin to happen. (“Got to make the time/distance calculations, kid.”) Then, as the boost built, a shuddering started deep down inside the motorcycle, continuing outward until the mirrors themselves were almost fluttering, and then K-Pow! (“Punch it, Chewie!”) The bike would fling itself forward, turbocharger whistling, and you could easily mistake the blur of passing scenery for the blur of a Doppler shift as you reached terminal velocity. It was high drama every time you twisted the throttle, a kinesthetic delight punctuated by the V-Twin’s staccato exhaust beat. There have been faster motorcycles since then, but to my mind, not one of them has made speed so entertaining, so sensuous. And we’re all the poorer for it. Especially me.
IT’S SUCH A SHAME. FOR TWO YEARS. 1982 AND 1983, SUZUki made the best motorcycle ever. Then, in 1984, its replacement was such a step backward that you could only wonder if Suzuki’s designers even understood what they'd had. The one that was right was the GS1100E. It may have been a UJM, a Universal Japanese Motorcycle, but if so, it was the ultimate refinement of that concept. Dressed in a stylish set of Hans Muth clothes, it looked good. But its bodywork wasn’t what made the GS1100 great; balance did. Its engine, reliable as a hammer, combined great peak power with record-setting mid-range and tractability. Handling, at both low speeds and high, was excellent. Its riding position was right for going anywhere, doing anything, and its seat comfortable enough to sit on all day. That riding position, especially with the 1100E’s fairly high and wide handlebar, drew some complaints in road tests, but I loved it. It felt like a big (really big) dirt bike, and it responded best if you rode it like one. With the leverage provided by the wide bar, you could just pitch the 1100 into corners, and if the rear tire got a little loose when accelerating out, well, no big deal. I miss the 1100E; so much so that I find it hard to look at the GSX-R1100 without seeing an E-model lurking within. If Suzuki would just trim that fairing, and lower the pegs, and fit a different handlebar . . ..
1980 Maico 450
MAICO-BREAKO.” MY RIDING BUDDIES USED TO SAY every time I unloaded my favorite mount, a 1980 Maico 450. It was a motocrosser, but I modified it exclusively for trail use and cross-country riding. The “Breako” nickname was well-deserved, since Maicos had a habit of shedding parts with regularity. But one of the great things about these bikes was that, to be able to trust one out on the trail, its owner had to make a real commitment to preventive maintenance. You and the bike had to become partners of sorts. My 450s (I owned three through the years) proved very reliable if I looked after them and performed major tinkering between rides, and they would reward my tender loving care by being the most confidence-inspiring dirt bikes I’ve ever owned. Maicos of the late Seventies and early Eighties invented something that mainstream dirt bikes just recently began to get serious about: Handling. When dialed-in, the big, red 450 could make any rider feel like he could do no wrong. But although the 450 was, unlike today’s bullet-proof bikes, in constant need of attention, it was kind of like a good dog: All I had to do was feed it and pet it, and it would provide faithful service and fond memories long beyond its lifetime. I still miss Old Red.
SHAKESPEARE SAID IT A LONG TIME AGO: "THAT ISland of England breeds very valiant creatures." The same, I think, can be said about that country’s mechanical creations. Oh, there’s none of the stylish elegance that the Italians are famous for, and so too is the Germans’ cool technical prowess missing; and anyone who’s cursed in the dark of night at Lucas electrics knows that the British can't hold a candle to the Japanese in terms of efficiency. But every once in a while, England just plain gets it right. I’m thinking of the Supermarine Spitfire, to my eyes the most beautiful airplane ever built, and the Jaguar E-type, the most sensual sports car ever to turn a spoked wheel. I'm also thinking of the BSA Gold Star. The last Gold Star rolled off the Birmingham assembly line in 1963, one year after CYCLE WORLD first hit the newsstands. I was 8 years old at the time. Even now, 23 years and hundreds of motorcycles later. I've never actually ridden one of those big Singles. I have one, though, a $100 basket case that I bought nine years ago. I'd seen Gold Stars in the magazines and at rallies, and to me they were what a motorcycle was supposed to look like. They were simple, direct and honest, centered around a massive, multi-faceted slab of an engine with cooling fins that went on forever. I’m in the process of restoring my Gold Star, and when it’s done I’m sure I'll take it out for the occasional Sunday afternoon stroll. More often, though, I see myself going out to the garage, pulling up a lawn chair, popping the tab on a wet-and-cold one and just letting my eyes wander over the Goldie for a half-hour. You see, someone once said that there will always be an England. That may be true, but there will never be another Gold Star.
THE BIKE I MISS THE MOST ISN'T A BIKE, IT'S A WHOLE nation of bikes: Britbikes. I miss some of the Britbikes that were, and all of those that should have been—but never were. Some that were built after 1962 were just no good. The BSA 441 Victor, for instance, vibrated so badly that we in the motorcycle press decided in 1973 that it defined the extreme limits of human endurance, and so christened our unofficial standard of measurement for vibration in test bikes “the Victor Vibro Scale.” But the Victor was England's worst, not her best. She had the means to make brilliant motorcycles. What she lacked was key men with the will. And so the Japanese inherited the earth. For this legacy of motorcycle genius to turn to dust because of the foolishness, incapacity, laziness and greed of a few captains of British industry is the signal tragedy of our community over the last 25 years. That’s why I lament not the passing of any bike I ever rode, but those I never got to ride—and, sadly, never will.
Not gone and not forgotten: We track down 25 of motorcycling’s closest friends.
ROGER DE COSTER
DICK “BUGS” MANN
MOST LIKELY, NEITHER THE MOTORCYCLE YOU CURrently own nor the magazine you’re reading right now would exist if it weren’t for Soichiro Honda, the man who started it all. His inventiveness, his perseverance, and most of all, his vision of a world on two wheels were the driving forces in the motorcycling revolution of the Sixties.
It took 25 years to produce these questions How quickly can you answer them?
1 Hodaka motorcycles were imported to the U.S. by PABATCO. What does PABATCO stand for? 2 Today's Yamaha Big Wheel and Honda Fat Cat were preceded by a similarly styled machine. What company made it? What was its name and the year it was produced?
AND THEY SAID I WOULD NEVER BECOME A famous motorcycle rider,” thought Ted. “I guess I showed them.” Ted has, in fact, shown everyone quite a lot during his years on staff at CYCLE WORLD. He’s shown us how to highside, lowside, chase field mice and build kit bikes, all as the infamous star of Slipstream.
SHORTCUTS TANTALIZE. BY THEIR very nature, they offer an easier, simpler—though not necessarily more direct-path from A to B. And to a motorcyclist, a shortcut to improved performance has all the appeal of free money. One product that fits that description is ACP’s Balance Plus (distributed by PJI, 8340 E. Raintree Drive, Scottsdale, AZ 85260;  9918420).
TEN YEARS AGO, AMERICA wasn’t such a different place. Gas cost about a buck a gallon, “Charlie’s Angels” was one of the most popular ways to spend an evening, and AMF Harley-Davidson, the only American motorcycle company, was struggling against stiff Japanese competition.
WHEN YOU START WITH A GREAT BIKE AND TRY TO improve it,you have tobecareful; the changes you make might back fire and turn a wonderful motorcycle into a mediocre one. Which is exactly what happened when Honda took the 1984 CR250R—unquestionably the best machine in its class that year—and “improved” it for 1985: The result was a brand-new motocross bike clearly inferior to the older one.
A PPARENTLY, AMERICAN HONda thinks that bad weather is the ticket to good sales performance next year. Because in the company’s 1987 street-bike lineup, which has just been officially announced, are two all-new motorcycles named “Hurricane.” These pure-sport models are the same basic machines referred to in the Honda section of our ’87 Preview issue last month.
One small company takes possession of motorcycling’s most valuable real estate: the quarter-mile
THE TWO MOTORCYCLES ARE two-thirds of the way down the dragstrip when a puff of smoke erupts between them and pieces of what once was an expensive racing engine careen across the pavement. It’s impossible to tell which bike is in front at the time; they’re too far from the starting line and running too close together.
"ONE SIZE FITS ALL.” THAT’S RARELY the case, whether you’re talking about clothing or handlebars. Yet while no one seriously expects a jockey’s clothes to fit a basketball player, modern bikes’ handlebars—often bolted and pinned firmly into one position—are expected to accommodate everyone.
RACERS AND HARD-CORE SPORT RIDers often pick and choose their gear by a simple credo: If it helps you go faster, then grab onto it with both hands. And when it comes to gloves, more control-feel is almost always better, because the more precise the information you get from the handlebars and front brake, the easier it is to make rapid decisions and control-inputs.
What exactly are rake and trail, and how do they affect a bike’s handling? Judging from the variety of different answers to this question, I’m not the only one who does not know, although I may be the only one to admit it. Chris Pfeiffer Los Gatos, California Rake is the angle between a motorcycle's steering axis (the centerline through its steering head) and a vertical line.