WHO'D HAVE THUNK IT? WHO WOULD have imagined, in their wildest dreams a decade ago, that in 10 years, amidst one of motorcycling's worst sales slumps ever, the most successful brand of two-wheelers sold in America would be Harley-Davidson?
PEOPLE JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND,” my friend Bill Pond said ruefully. “I don’t think we’ll ever be able to sell a real European-type sports bike in this country. Not in any numbers, at least.” It was 1976 and I had used my lunch break, as usual, to go down the street and hang around at a place called Klein-Dickert Honda.
As the owner of a 1985 V-Max, I applaud the article on the return of “Mr. Max” in your August issue. Also, thanks for the look at “Mod Max” and “Mad Max.” Even though the V-Max is an easier machine to live with in everyday traffic than many people think, sometimes, while poised at the entrance to a freeway on-ramp, I remember the words of Alexander Pope, who said: “For fools rush in where angels fear to tread.”
Shakespeare wrote, “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.” It’s a fair bet, though, that old Bill might have felt differently if he’d worn King Kenneth Lee Roberts’ crown from Shoei. The Roberts’ replica GRV hat features a fiberglass, Kevlar and carbon-fiber shell; vents at the brow and chin; a flush-fitting faceshield; and padded chin straps. It’s available in sizes XS-XL in the King’s own livery for $417.95. To find out more, contact Shoei Safety Helmet Corp. 2228 Cotner Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90064.
Shoei Safety Helmet Corp.
Ducati Superbike shirt
What’s the matter, Sparky? You say you don’t have a sufficiently glittering resumé to rate one of Ducati’s Eight-valvers? There, there; with this T-shirt, you can have the next-best thing. It’s cunningly designed with openings for your head and arms, and at $12.95 (in sizes S-XXL), it’s a mere fraction of the real thing’s $20,995 asking price. See your local Cagiva dealer to get yours.
Shoei Safety Helmet Corp.
Hindle Super Stand
You can build almost as many things with the deluxe version of Hindle’s Super Stand as with a box of Legos. Well, maybe not a model of the Washington monument, but you can assemble it into work stands that lift a motorcycle’s front or back end, then rearrange the steel and aluminum pieces to make a wheel-truing stand or even a dolly. And Hindle claims the stand fits all motorcycles and ATVs. It retails for $229 (Canadian) from Hindle Racing Products, 110 Heale Ave., Scarborough, Ontario, MIN 3Y1, Canada; (416) 267-0609.
Shoei Safety Helmet Corp.
Mikuni RS carburetors
Deal yourself a winning hand with four-of-a-kind of Mikuni’s RS carbs. With the horsepower gain the firm claims for the pre-jetted mixers’ smoothbore intake tract and radial flat-slide design, a rider might just feel the same calm confidence Mark Twain observed in a Christian holding four aces. Mikuni offers bolt-on kits for most modern inline-Fours, and the ante starts at $549.95. To get yourself into the game, see your dealer, or contact Mikuni American Corp., 8910 Mikuni Ave., North-ridge, CA 91324-3496; (818) 8851242.
Shoei Safety Helmet Corp.
"Lost... no food . . . looks like this is the end, Bruce,” gasped Chuck. “Not yet,” said Bruce, unhooking a Survival Bike from a belt loop. Using the twine in the front wheel, they trapped a nutria, cleaned it with the multi-tool in the bodywork, and cooked it over a fire started with the flint in the exhaust pipe. The compass in the fairing helped them find their way out of the woods the next day, and they flagged a bus, paying fares with money from the helmet change-holder. They rode home and vowed never to go snipe hunting again. Suggested price is $35, from YAFA, 21306 Gault St., Canoga Park, CA 91303.
Shoei Safety Helmet Corp.
PJ1 Renew & Protect
For leather, plastic and rubber, there’s never a moment’s peace. Smog, heat and ultraviolet rays dessicate and deteriorate them with a relentless persistence. But PJl’s Renew & Protect can offer at least temporary respite from such bedevilment. Water-soluble and non-toxic, the silicone-based fluid contains no petroleum distillates, and is available in 8-ounce bottles for $3.98, 16-ounce for $6.66 and l-gallon for $36.98. To find out more, see your dealer or contact PJ1 Corp., 8340 E. Raintree Dr., Scottsdale, AZ 85260; (602) 991-8002.
DURING LAST MONTH’S l000cc STREETBIKE COMPARISON, WE had an encounter with one of motorcycling’s less-pleasant realities. Of the eight bikes we rode for the test, three got dropped. The FZR1000 suffered a zero-speed tipover in a gas station; the Hurricane was subjected to a LaughIn-style fall while making a U-turn during a photo session; and the ZX-10 went down at about 20 mph when its rider hit some gravel while braking.
The long term future of Moto Morini seemed distinctly gloomy as recently as two years ago. The family-owned company, founded in l937 by Alfonso Morini, had been run since his death in 1969 by his daughter Gabriella. Morini remained profitable through rigorous cost control and steady sales, but simply lacked the capital to finance the new generation of V-Twin engines so badly needed for the future.
OKAY, BUNKY, YOU SAY you've done it all. You’ve ridden the Blue Ridge Parkway, toured Baja, been over every road in the Rockies. You've blasted your bike down autobahns and twisted up and down every pass in the Alps. You say you're looking for something new.
TIRES AND SUSPENSIONS WORK BEST when their pressures are set like Goldilocks’ porridge—just right. Going too high or too low can turn ride and handling grim, and, in the tire’s case, shorten its life. And trying to guess how much air is in your tires, fork or shock is about as easy as guessing Rumpelstiltskin’s name.
Cycle World's 13th annual celebration of motorcycles and motorcycling
SUPERBIKE KAWASAKI ZX-10
OPEN STREETBIKE HONDA 1000 HURRICANE
750cc STREETBIKE KAWASAKI NINJA 750
650cc STREETBIKE HONDAHAWK GT
UNDER 500cc STREETBIKE KAWASAKIEX500
CRUISER HARLEY-DAVIDSON SOFTAIL CUSTOM
TOURING HONDA GL1500 GOLD WING
DUAL-PURPOSE HONDA NX650
MOTOCROSS SUZUKI RM250
ENDURO KTM350 MXC
There are some who say that the days of the true Superbike are numbered, that mind-boggling horsepower and eyeball-flattening performance will soon be things of the past, legislated right out of existence. We think that won’t happen without a major struggle, simply because we know that bikes like the Kawasaki ZX-10 are worth fighting for. And so does anyone who has ever ridden one. The big Kawasaki shows that incredible speed and awesome power can indeed be rolled into an uncommonly civilized and well-mannered package. If anything, the ZX-10 is an argument for performance, proof that a bike doesn’t have to be impractical just to be thrilling out on the open road.
Believe it or not, nowhere in the Great Book of Motorcycle Rules does it say that sport riders don’t want to be comfortable. And nowhere does it say that cross-country tourers don’t care for horsepower. But, of course, Honda 1000 Hurricane riders already know all that. The big Hurricane is one of very few motorcycles that would fit into almost any group ride in the country, from a Wing Ding in the midwest to a Rocky Mountain sport ride. What makes the Hurricane even more appealing is its striking visual appearance. With all-enclosing bodywork and a dazzling finish, the Honda is already one of the most pleasing motorcycles on Earth, before the throttle is even twisted.
Can you imagine how Gottlieb Daimler would react if you beamed him right off that first motorcycle he built in 1885 and put him on the seat of a 1988 Ninja 750? He’d probably react to the bike much the way we do: with awe. The Ninja represents 1988 motorcycle technology at its finest, a seamless package that combines near-literbike power and performance with the agility and handling of a middleweight. And while most of the other machines in the 750 class force their riders into serious compromises any time they wander outside a roadrace circuit, the Kawasaki just wants to be ridden—and it doesn’t care where. Gottlieb would be proud—and impressed.
There’s a growing insurgence among American sport riders, an underground movement tired of lookalike racer-replicas that all seem woven of the same fabric. This is a radical group desperately fighting for a lessradical sportbike; and its first victory has come in the form of the Honda Hawk GT. On one hand, the Hawk is every bit as much of a technological standout as any racebike, with its single-sided swingarm and inboard rear disc brake. But it also has some distinctly anti-racebike factors mixed into its personality, like a V-Twin engine and the absence of a fairing. And chances are that this one-of-a-kind sportbike will soon have company. That’s the way revolutions begin.
1988 will go down as the year in which America remembered that there is life under 600cc. For so long, motorcycling in this country has meant, well, big motorcycling. But, now there’s a full class of motorcycles below 500cc, with all four Japanese manufacturers offering small streetbikes, most of them sportoriented. But what’s amazing is that the Kawasaki EX500, last year’s winner in this smallish-bore class, still is the best value of them all. It’s a 500 competing in the same price range as the better 250s, making it one of motorcycling’s best buys in terms of performance per dollar. So, for the second year in a row, the EX500 wins. But this time, it’s not by default.
Here’s something you already know, but something you still need to remind yourself of every now and then: The main reason motorcycles exist is because they’re fun. Never mind the gas mileage or the parking benefits; that’s just the stuff you tell skeptical wives and parents. Motorcycles are fun. Period. The folks at Harley-Davidson try never to forget that important fact, and the Softail Custom shows it. Everything about the bike appeals to the fun-seeking instincts in most riders, from its quaking exhaust rumble to its dazzling finish. So, when we say the FXSTC is fun, we can think of no higher praise.
GL1500 GOLD WING
You hear people say it all the time, cute little phrases like “enough is enough,” “good things come in small packages,” and “bigger isn’t better.” Wrong, wrong and wrong again. Enough is hardly ever enough, and here’s proof: the Honda Gold Wing Six. The four-cylinder Gold Wing Aspencade already was last year’s best touring bike—which would have been enough for some people, but not for Honda. This new GL is more than just two more cylinders and 300 more cc, though; it is a fabulously smooth, powerful, comfortable touring bike. Sure, it’s astonishingly big and complicated, but it makes no apologies for that. It’s so good it doesn’t have to.
What kind of award do you give a motorcycle that is a throwback to the days when you could enter the same machine in an enduro and a roadrace on the same weekend? How do you honor a bike that appeals equally to beginners and seasoned riders, one that’s rekindling America’s interest in a type of motorcycling that had been almost forgotten? How do you do justice to a bike like the Honda NX650 that offers the best of so many worlds? In many ways, the NX650 is a marvel among motorcycles, a machine that some people might call the best bike of the year. But for now, the Honda NX650 will have to be content with simply being labeled the Best Dual-Purpose Bike of 1988.
Motocross forgets quickly. The sport has already forgotten that just two years ago, Honda’s CR250R was unbeatable while the Suzuki RM250 was a perfectly insignificant and forgettable motorcycle. All is forgiven now. Because the 1988 RM250 is not only the best motocrosser in the 250 class, it’s the best motocrosser available of any size. On the average track, there’s simply no way to get from the start to the finish faster. And when you consider how versatile the bike is, that, in a modified state, one is currently leading the national enduro point standings, the RM could easily be considered the best dirt bike currently available. Period.
Now, hold on. Before you scramble for those back issues, we’ll make it easy on you and confess: We’ve never tested a 1988 KTM 350. Those machines sold out so quickly that we simply couldn’t get ahold of one. But we’ve ridden them extensively and know all about them. Indeed, how could we not know about essentially the only bike available in this country that’s capable of winning enduros as it comes, right out of the crate. Sure, some Japanese MXers are winning, but only after extensive modification. Even ATKs and Husqvarnas aren’t entirely enduro-ready in stock form. But with its bulletproof engine and impeccable trail manners, the KTM 350 is not only the best choice in the enduro category, it’s damn near the only choice.
THE FESTIVITIES ALWAYS GO something like this: The guests casually stroll in, smiling and greeting their counterparts with the same kind of chilly courtesy that wives show to ex-wives. Once settled inside, each guest surveys the room, noting who’s there and, just as importantly, who isn't there.
Cycle World's staff believes that the best in class isn't always closest to the heart
Jim Hansen, Publisher Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Classic
Paul Dean, Editor Honda 1000 Hurricane
Steve Anderson, Executive Editor BMW R100GS
Ron Lawson, Managing Editor Suzuki RM250
Ron Griewe, Senior Editor Husqvarna 510 Cross Country
David Edwards, Feature Editor BMW R100GS
Camron E. Bussard, Associate Editor Honda NX650
Charles Everitt, Products Editor BMW K75S
Peter Egan, Columnist BMW R100RS
Doug Toland, Testing Consultant Kawasaki ZX-10
I’ve never been a fan of touring bikes. But after logging some cross-country time recently on a Harley Electra Glide Classic, I’ve fallen in love with the thing. It has all the touring accouterments, but never lets me forget that I’m traveling by motorcycle.
The most influential people in American motorcycling today
Ed Burke: Yamaha
Willie G. Davidson: Harley-Davidson
Malcolm Forbes: Capitalist
Takeo Fukui: Honda
Jay Leno: Comedian
Brian O’Neil IIHS
Massimo Tamburini: Cagiva/Ducati
Kenny Roberts: Race team manager
Etsuo Yokouchi: Suzuki
Ed Youngblood: AMA
Yamaha’s Ed Burke goes about being one of the industry’s biggest movers and shakers in a very quiet, behindthe-scenes fashion. But as Corporate Manager of Product Planning and Assistant Division Manager of Engineering at the world’s second-largest motorcycle company, Burke has major input into most models from inception to production, exerting more direct influence over his firm’s lineup than any other American does at any other Japanese motorcycle company. Among the models he has brought to life are the first Virago V-Twins, the Venture Royale, the V-Max, the 700 Fazer and the 600 Radian. You can bet, then, that when the solutions to today’s motorcycleindustry sales slump are finally found. Ed Burke will be right in the thick of things.
Harley-Davidson’s current success can be credited to many people, not the least of which is Vaughn Beals, the architect of the company’s acquisition from AMF. But when it comes to the actual product, the individual Harley models that have been selling so well, no one deserves more credit than Willie G. Davidson, grandson of the company’s co-founder. Willie G. employs the most simplistic-but perhaps the most effective—of marketing techniques: He gets direct input from the buying public by riding with them, either through participation in rallies and other events, or by taking to the highways and spending time with riders he encounters on the road. That approach has worked so well that if a proposed new model has Willie G.’s blessing, it goes into production; if it doesn’t, it goes into the wastebasket.
“I had a deprived childhood,” says Malcolm Forbes, “because I was never exposed to motorcycles.” It’s hard to believe that one of the world’s richest men ever wanted for anything, but that statement reveals the passion Forbes has for motorcycles. He also believes that motorcycling is a social event, so when he takes a hundred or so of his closest friends out for one of his now-famous rides, the whole affair becomes a national media event. Whether the group is riding for charity or just for fun, the sight of 100 motorcycle riders led by Forbes leaves a strong impression, especially when his co-rider is Elizabeth Taylor. At the least, Forbes’ rides combat the image problem that has dogged the sport for generations. Motorcycling would be hard-pressed to find a better friend or stronger ally.
It’s difficult to pinpoint the most influential person at Honda, a company structured to encourage and reward group achievements rather than individual successes. But every so often, a high-ranking officer is able to transcend that group mentality and exert tremendous influence on the company’s products. One such man is Takeo Fukui, who became the Director of Honda Research and Development in June of this year. Fukui formerly was the Director of Honda Racing Corporation (HRC), where his main accomplishments were the NR500 in 1979 and the 1987 NR 750 endurance racer, both of which used oval pistons. Fukui clearly is the driving force behind Honda’s ongoing involvement with oval pistons, and his appointment at HRD raises the tantalizing question of how soon we will see them—and other equally advanced technologyin production street machines.
Leno burst onto the American comedy scene about a decade ago with his offbeat humor and quick wit. Those talents have enabled him to become Johnny Carson’s regular fillin host of “TheTonightShow,”the nation’s most popular late-night program. Leno, who makes no bones about being an enthusiastic motorcyclist, takes every opportunity to talk about bikes on the show and in his comedy routines. He has done comedy bits with a bike on stage, and even used a motorcycle as a prop for a Doritos commercial. But his involvement with motorcycling goes further than telling jokes and making the sport look like a reasonable activity. He was instrumental, for example, in getting California’s recent mandatory-helmet bill defeated, using his celebrity to give him access to key people who could help him argue for freedom of choice for California riders.
Brian O’Neill, president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, contends that motorcycling is not a sport, but a “serious highway safety problem.” Thus, the IIHS has undertaken an aggressive crusade to rid the nation’s highways of motorcycles. Last year’s ill-conceived Motorcycle Safety Act, introduced by Senator Danforth at the urging of the IIHS, was just the opening salvo; and if the IIHS cannot force legislation in its favor, it will exert its power directly on the insurance companies, many of which already refuse to insure certain bikes, regardless of who rides them. Ultimately, that may be a more serious threat than any attempts to dispose of motorcycles through legislation. Which makes Brian O’Neill Public Enemy Number One for motorcyclists.
Tamburini has the touch. He takes common, everyday materials and transforms them into art, rolling sculptures that happen also to be motorcycles. Formerly chief designer at Bimota, Tamburini was hired by Cagiva/Ducati to take that company to the forefront of motorcycle design. His first major work was the stunning Paso, introduced in the fall of 1986, and it had an immediate impact on motorcycle design. Several Japanese bikes that followed, Kawasaki’s EX500 in particular, had shapes and silhouettes that were remarkably similar to the Paso’s. Add to that Bimota’s considerable influence on the sport (dating back to Tamburini’s involvement there), and there is only one logical conclusion: Massimo Tamburini is the most influential presence in the styling and design of today’s sport machines. when you talk to Kenny Roberts, you get the feeling he will not tolerate a foolish question, that he’s a man who does not suffer incompetence lightly. When he retired from racing, he wasn’t content to drop out of sight, so he took to managing his own roadrace team. Since then, Team Lucky Strike/Roberts has evolved from being little more than a farm team for the factory Yamaha/Marlboro team to a first-class contender for the world championship. But Roberts’ influence goes beyond what takes place on the racetracks of Europe, as evidenced by the over 80,000 fans who attended the USGP in April at Laguna Seca. Roberts was instrumental in getting a GP held in the States, and it is certain that without his persistence, the race would never have come about.
In the Japanese way of doing things, it is very difficult for a single individual to have much control; this makes Etsuo Yokouchi, head of Suzuki engineering, a rare exception. Often standing alone against great internal resistance, Yokouchi was the driving force behind the revolutionary GSX-R series of motorcycles, bikes that appeared in 1985 and made Suzuki a dominant force in the sportbike arena, rendering all other sport machines obsolete. He also did the impossible with the 700 Intruder, finding a way to manufacture a production-line machine intended to look like a one-off custom. And he’s the man who gave us the LT80, the most remarkable and fun-loving four-wheeled ATV ever built. Overall, Yokouchi hasn’t simply changed the way people design and build motorcycles; he has changed the way people think about motorcycles.
The biggest threats to motorcycling today are the insurance companies and the government. And were it not for the American Motorcyclist Association, headed by Ed Youngblood, motorcycling would already have been legislated to death, and insurance rates would be more absurd than they already are. The top man at the AMA since 1981, Youngblood has, just in the last year, initiated action that rescued motorcycling from Senator Danforth’s Motorcycle Safety Act of 1987, and challenged the accuracy of a motorcycle-accident study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Motorcycling is not out of those woods yet; but based on recent events, the organization most likely to lead the way will be the AMA, under the guidance of Ed Youngblood.
Our Picks for the 10 best motorcycle races ever seen
1921 Brooklands 500-mile race
1959 Ascot Half-Mile
1958 San Jose Mile
1967 Isle of Man Senior TT
1971 Loudon Roadrace
1975 Indy Mile
1977 Sears Point
1983 Spanish GP
1986 Anaheim Supercross
Brooklands was the first purpose-built racetrack in the world, and it was Freddie Dixon’s gritty performance there that made this particular event memorable. In practice, Dixon found his 989cc Vee-Twin Harley so difficult to ride that he stuck a sheet of emery paper to the seat just so he could stay in the saddle.
On the track, in the showrooms and on the newsstands, they waged two wars: one against all competition, and a separate battle against one another
Hannah vs Howerton
Harley-Davidson vs. The British
Harley-Davidson vs. The Japanese
Harley-Davidson vs. Indian
Johnson vs. Ward
Roberts vs. Scott
Americans vs. Europeans
Honda vs. Yamaha
Cycle World vs. Cycle
Hailwood vs. Agostini
Bob "Hurricane" Hannah never had to look very far for a rival; anyone in second place was enemy enough. But in 1981, while attempting a comeback after breaking his leg in a water-skiing accident, Hannah battled moto after moto with Kent Howerton for the 250cc National Championship, banging and bumping throughout the season.
Tracing 10 turning points in the history of motocycling
1885 Daimler: The first motorcycle
1909 Harley-Davidson V-Twin: The birth of a legend
1894 Hildebrand & WolfmÜller: An industry awakens.
1950 Norton Manx: Single-handed dominance
1958 Honda Super Cub: "You meet the nicest people..."
1961 MZ 125: Different strokes
1938 Triumph Speed Twin: The pride of England
1968 Yamaha DT-1: An American love affair
1969 Honda CB750 Four: The first Superbike.
1980 Honda Interstate: Luxury comes to motorcycling
The date was November 10, 1885. Paul Daimler wheeled his father’s two-wheeled project out of the workshop and rode it about seven miles, making him the first motorcyclist in history. The motorcycle was a monstrous wooden creation that Gottlieb Daimler built primarily to showcase his compact, high-rpm, internal-combustion engine.
Without these inventions, motorcycling wouldn't be what it is today
Clutch and gearbox
Aerodynamic plastic bodywork
Rolling-element bearings preceded motorcycling, but necessarily. When they became affordable in the 1860s, ball bearings used in wheel hubs and steering heads reduced friction enough to make the bicycle usable; soon a bicycle boom followed.
Rediscovering motorcycling — and the glories of wretched excess
I PLAY THE SAXOPHONE, AND I OWN AND CHERISH A 1966 Selmer Mark VI tenor. The Mark VI is a classic horn, handmade in Paris, so that each one is unique, with the attendant strengths and weaknesses that human craftsmanship implies. The French build saxophones much like the British used to build motorcycles, with a lot of personal involvement on the part of the craftsmen.
A sportbike you can live with—instead of one you have to live for
ALL RIGHT, LISTEN UP. THIS IS A QUIZ: JUST HOW important is it for you to have the ultimate high-tech, take-no-prisoners sportbike? And just how fast do you really want to hoof it down a winding road? It’s okay; there are no right or wrong answers.
Team Cycle World goes wheel-to-wheel with the road warriors of Oz
STEVEN L. THOMPSON
THE SLIDE WAS SHORT, PUNCTUATED BY A STACCATO sequence of noises no racer likes to hear. The fingernails-on-a-blackboard screech of too much metal in contact with the unyielding road. An unloaded engine screaming. A helmet hammering the tarmac.
After getting thoroughly beaten at the 500 USGP of Motocross in Hollister, California, the United States made a rather impressive comeback. Rick Johnson positively walked away with both motos of the 250 USGP at Unadilla, New York. Second place?
I own a 1978 Suzuki GS750 with an R.C. pipe, new jetting, K&Ns, and a new head and valves. The problem is: I gas-foul plugs like crazy. Part of the problem is a faulty petcock, which 1 replaced. Still, when the bike sits for more than 10 minutes, the gas in the fuel line, from the fuel filter to the carbs, vanishes into the carburetors, but nothing comes out the overflow lines.