IF YOU LISTEN TO WHAT SOME PEOPLE are saying, it's all over but the mourning. As far as they're concerned, motorcycling is dead, and we're all desperately hanging onto a memory of what once was, prolonging the final act of slipping the withered remains six feet under.
STANDING ON A STREET CORNER WITH a couple of longtime riders the other day, a funny thing happened. A Norton Commando burbled past us and nobody said anything about it. When I realized that we had all just ignored what was a very nicely restored motorcycle, I wondered aloud why.
I WOKE UP IN THE NIGHT FEELING UNeasy, half dreaming something in the house was wrong. It was an odor. The human nose has a way of sending wake-up calls to the brain, probably dating back to the cave man's fear and loathing of wolf breath, and mine had phoned a message that something was not quite right.
Peter Egan's return to Cycle World was long overdue. The man is a poet, and his words add to the quality of your magazine. I hope his column, Leanings, is for the longterm. Louis Thelen Eugene, Oregon After years of subscribing to carenthusiast magazines only, I have finally added yours to my coffee table.
THE WAR OF THE ENGINES WOULD SEEM TO BE OVER. THE four-stroke piston engine controls the American streetbike market, is used in more and more dirt bikes, and is gaining popularity even in Japan, where two-strokes have a long tradition. Looking at that success, you could only assume that the average motorcycle 10 years from now will be four-stroke powered.
All the Japanese companies are continuing to produce very special motorcycles for special markets. Honda's latest is for Europe only, and is a near-ultimate Paris-Dakar-style profile machine: the Africa Twin. Based loosely on the XLV600 TransAlp (available in Canada and Europe, but not the U.S.), this new 650 V-Twin offers a closer resemblance to the works Honda NXR780 that has won the last two Paris-Dakar races.
Auckland, New Zealand's Ken McIntosh is his small country's only manufacturer of steetbikes. He builds a wide range of chassis, including one-offs for everything from Honda Fours to Harley V-Twins to Norton Singles, but his main business is the production of road-legal replicas of the Suzuki-powered McIntosh machine made famous at the annual Bathurst race meeting.
Daytona Beach, Florida YOU SAY THAT SPECTATing at Daytona is a bummer because you can't get close enough to all those leather-clad, knee-scuffing heroes that you read about in the magazines? Well, fear not, because Gene's Steak House is the next-best thing to a lifetime Daytona paddock pass, and you won't even have to deal with the credential-Nazis at the speedway press office to gain admittance.
HONDA COULD HAVE NAMED IT JUST ABOUT ANYthing. It could have been called the Anti-Replica, as it was dubbed on an early, hastily translated technical report that came from the factory in Japan. Or it could have been called the UC650, because other documents referred to it as an "unclassified motorcycle."
Honda's Hawk GT is a neat machine, but will it play in Peoria? Three Cycle World readers take it for a ride and answer the question.
LETTERS. Boy, DO WE GET LETTERS. EVERYTHING from hand-scrawled one-liners asking if you can have our test bikes when we're through with them (no), to single-spaced, margin-to-margin epistles lamenting the state of the sport and asking us if we think motorcycling will still be here in the year 2001 (yes).
IN SHOW BUSINESS, THERE'S A SCHOOL OF THOUGHT that says you've got to make them wait, otherwise they won't appreciate you. But the flip side of that coin says that the longer you keep them waiting, the more they expect. KTM apparently believes in the first part of that philosophy.
IT SEEMS THAT UNCTUOUS BUSINESSman in "The Graduate" was right when he told Dustin Hoffman that plastics were the key to financial security. And if you have any doubts, some of these prices for OEM replacement windshields ought to convince you—and stop your heart in the bargain: Honda GL1500, $182.40; '87 Suzuki GSXR-750, $137.78; Kawasaki ZX600, $163.20.
Meet Arlen Ness, King of The Motorcycle Customizers
IT'S UNFORTUNATE THAT A MOVIE CALLED "MAGNIFIcent Obsession" has already been made; that would be a perfect title for Arlen Ness's life story. Because Ness is a man truly obsessed with building some of the world's most magnificent motorized creations, one-of-a-kind custom showbikes that are the embodiment of his incredibly fertile imagination.
How's it look? Baaaad. How's it sound? Baaaad. How's it work? Not bad at all.
ARLEN NESS IS A MAN WITH A VISION. ACTUALLY, two visions. One is an ideal, a belief that show-quality customs ought also to be reasonably practical streetbikes; the other is a motorcycle called "Vision," a show-quality custom that indeed is a reasonably practical streetbike.
KEVIN SCHWANTZ HAS NEVER HAD A PROBLEM DOMInating big races. Domination, though, is a lot different from victory, as the 23-year-old Texan knows only too well. With fast-qualifier Freddie Spencer sidelined after a practice crash, Schwantz has the race well in hand.
BUBBA SHOBERT EXPECTED TO BE THE RACER CHALlenging Kevin Schwantz for bragging rights to the 1988 Daytona 200. Schwantz had won the pole position, but Shobert was slotted right beside him in the number two spot on the grid. But, as it turned out, Shobert didn't have a chance from the moment the flag dropped to start the race; his Honda had stalled in Turn One during the warm-up lap.
DOUG POLEN RAN A PERFECT DAYTONA 200: HE FINished second. Going into the race, Polen knew that if all went well with Kevin Schwantz, the best he could hope for was a second-place finish. Equipment alone put Polen at a disadvantage: He was riding one of Yoshimura's 1987 GSX-R750 racers, while Schwantz was on a slicker, quicker 1988 version.
You had to feel for Scott Gray at Daytona. As part of the Yoshimura Suzuki team, he had a competitive motorcycle, and with a legitimate shot at the Superbike title this year, he has learned to subdue his sometimes-harum-scarum riding style.
WHOEVER SAID THAT THE BEST THINGS IN LIFE ARE free obviously wasn't referring to today's designer mentality. That part of society is founded on the belief that nothing is worth-while unless it's expensive, that bigger is necessarily better, that anything wearing an "economy" label is mundane, boring and should be avoided at all costs.
CYCLE WEEK IS AN APPROPRIate name for Daytona's annual motorcycle festivities: Each year, for more than nine consecutive days early in March, that famous tourist town on the eastern coast of Florida becomes the capitol of American motorcycle sport.
"I have been racing hard for the better part of 20 years. It's time I gave my body a rest." With those words, Freddie Spencer, probably the most talented motorcycle racer of our time, retired. The primary reason behind his surprise decision was the reoccurrence of severe tendonitis in his right wrist.
I've got the wobbling blues. I just put a K&N Filtercharger kit and a 4-into-1 Kerker pipe on my 1982 Suzuki GS1100E. It now goes like a rocket ship, but when I reach 100 mph the handlebars wobble almost out of my hands. My dealer says I could add a fork brace or a steering damper but that they still might not correct the problem.
We need your photos for Slipstream. We're looking for photos that make us smile because they say something about motorcyling. Submissions should be made to Slipstream, Cycle World, 1499 Monrovia, Newport Beach, CA 92663. Only black and white prints, 8 by 10 inches, should be sent.