ACTOR CARY GRANT, SMOOTH AND suave as he was, never won an Academy Award. Slugger Ted Williams, baseball’s best batman, never played for a World Series-winning team. O.J. Simpson, holder of numerous NFL rushing records, retired without a Super Bowl ring.
IN THE BARREN WASTES OF THE desert, the wine-red BMW R100RT stood riderless on its centerstand. As we approached in my old Dodge camper van, I scanned the areas next to the interstate for the bike’s rider. But all the way up the road to the little rise that loomed like Everest in the stark Arizona flatland, not a soul was in sight.
"A HOVERCRAFT WOULD BE NICE,” Hank said. “We could ride the bikes over to Ventura, get on a boat and hover on down the coast. Maybe have a drink in the bar and watch the lights of Los Angeles and Long Beach pass by. When we got to Newport Beach we could unload the bikes and ride the last few miles home.” “A helicopter wouldn’t be bad, either,” Doug said.
As professional motorcycle drag racers, we are offended at, disappointed in and neglected by your publication’s lack of coverage of motorcycle drag racing. Your articles on Dave Schultz (“King of Quick,” CW, November, 1988) and Terry Vance (“An Era Comes to an End,” same issue) were well done.
THE 1990 MODELS ARE HERE! Well, at least the dirtbikes are. While announcements of their new streetbikes are still months away, all of the Japanese manufacturers have already released information on next year’s motocrossers, and, as always, the 250cc class looks like a hotbed of competition.
THERE MAY BE WEEPING AND gnashing of teeth going on in some motorcycle plants, but observers are hearing only contentment from that certain factory in Milwaukee, where sales and marketing executives are as happy as—well—as happy as hogs in mud.
EVER GET THE FEELING YOU'RE being stared at? Usually it’s not a good sensation—either you’re unbuttoned somewhere or you’re wearing something you should have eaten. But when you ride Dan Wilson's Classified 883, you get used to being stared at.
TWENTY-FIVE YEARS AGO, Cycle World's cover was a spin-off of the then-popular theme, "You meet the nicest people on a Honda.” The cover photo portrayed a nice-looking man and woman, dressed in sweaters, casual pants and white tennis shoes—no helmets—riding a small Honda on a sandy beach with waves breaking behind them.
ONE HUNDRED YEARS AGO, there were plenty of reasons to go to Idaho City in the mountains north of the Boise Basin. First and foremost, there was gold, discovered there by H.D. Fogus in 1862. That discovery lead to an infusion of miners, businessmen, gamblers, preachers and thieves, making Idaho City the largest population center of the Northwest by 1866.
DOWN: To comedian Rick Ducommun, whose one-hour comedy special recently aired on the cable-TV network Home Box Office. During his monologue, Ducommun expressed his opinion of California’s lane-splitting motorcyclists, who ease between traffic lanes on congested freeways, a maneuver that is legal in the Golden State.
PSSST! WANNA GO FAST-REALLY FAST? THEN SHAKE hands with four motorcycles built for speed. Conventional wisdom’s good, gray logic, which demands “Don’t fiddle with it," will take you only so far when you’re looking for speed, because without fiddling, you can't know what’s possible.
I AM STREAKING ACROSS EL MIRAGE AT 235 FEET PER second, my concentration so fiercely directed to the task at hand I'm unsure, afterward, whether my ride lasted 30 seconds or 30 minutes. On my left is the line of traffic cones which demarks our course.
AH, CONFIDENCE. WE LIKE TO SEE IT. WE ESPEcially like to see it when it’s associated with a flat-out, double-throwdown monster street-bike like this one, placed into our hands by Vance & Hines Racing (14010 Marquardt Ave., Santa Fe Springs, CA 90670; 213/921-7461).
THE MOTORCYCLE BEFORE YOU COMES AS CLOSE to being the two-wheeled world’s equivalent of Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde as anything we’ve seen. While puttering around town, it’s well-mannered and manageable. But crank open its throttle blade, bring it up on boost and thumb the nitrous-oxide button, and it becomes a yowling brute which flexes its frame and distorts its swingarm as it lofts its front wheel and spins its rear tire—yes, even in fourth gear—on its way to developing more than 250 horsepower.
SPECIALIZATION IS A WONDERFUL THING, AND Sandy Kosman, major domo of Kosman Racing (340 Fell St., San Francisco, CA 94102; 415/861-4262) knows that very well. Kosman specializes in building drag-racing chassis, leaving the art of engine building to others.
POTENTIAL IS A WONDERFUL THING, UNLESS IT isn’t met. Then it’s about as useful as a motorcycle that isn’t ridden, as music that isn’t played. So it is with the turbocharged, intercooled Yamaha V-Max delivered to us by RB Racing (1625 W. 134th St., Gardena, CA 90249; 213/515-5720).
SPEED IS ITS OWN REWARD, AND THESE 10 ADDICTS-LED BY DON VESCO, THE FASTEST, AND ELMER TRETT, THE QUICKEST-BELIEVE YOU CAN NEVER GET ENOUGH OF IT
CAMRON E. BUSSARD
A GRAY-HAIRED DON VESCO SETTLES INTO A worn, vinyl rocker and spins around reluctantly to answer the phone at his race shop in Temecula, California. Cosworth Indy-car engines surround him; there’s a retired Offenhauser sitting in the middle of the room and several motorcycle and boat engines consume any remaining bench space.
For the 14th straight year, Cycle World answers the 10 toughest questions in motorcycling
UNDER 500CC STREETBIKE
A MOTORCYCLE DOESN’T HAVE TO BE the fastest to get our Best Superbike award. It doesn’t have to be the quickest or the best handling, either. It does have to be the most-exciting machine on two wheels, the bike most likely to push your pulse to red-line and bust an adrenal gland or two. It just so happens the best super-bike of’89 also is the fastest, quickest and best handling: The Yamaha FZR1000. Nothing else comes close.
THE ONLY PROBLEM WITH SPECIALIZAtion is that it’s so damned specialized. Take sportbikes, for example. On one hand, today’s bikes are faster and better handling than ever. On the other, they are more narrowly focused and uncomfortable than ever. That’s why the Katana stands out. It’s a bike that does everything well. Some might call it a standard, but that implies compromise. And that’s something the Katana doesn’t do.
WE’VE HEARD PEOPLE SAY HORSEpower isn’t everything. We can’t figure out what in the world they’re talking about. Horsepower is one of the better things in life, and it’s especially good when it comes in a bike as superb in handling and design as is the Yamaha FZR600. In motorcycling’s toughest class, Yamaha simply kicked butt, easily overpowering the class. Score one for horsepower groupies; zero for the opposition.
IT WAS A CASE OF BAD TIMING. BACK IN 1984, everyone on earth agreed that the Yamaha FJ1100 was the best large-displacement streetbike. But back then, Cycle World didn’t have an Open Streetbike category. And by the time we did, the FJ was gone. Injustice rectified. For 1989, the FJ is back as a 1200 and it’s better than ever. So now we bestow our belated honors on a legend reborn. The FJ might be the best big bike ever.
WHO WOULD HAVE THOUGHT BACK IN 1986, when Kawasaki reaimed its small cruiser, the company would be creating the best small sportbike of the Eighties? Since then, the EX500 has been unchallenged in both price and performance, and has dominated it’s class in Cycle World's Ten Best awards. With virtually no changes in three years, the Kawasaki remains the best performance buy in motorcycling. Who would have thought?
THERE'S A REASON HARLEY-DAVID-sons are the best-selling big motorcycles in America. There’s a reason why, in a somewhat depressed market, Harley has grown stronger every year. It’s because Harley makes motorcycles like the Springer Softail. The Springer is a motorcycle that doubles as art; a bike that’s as much fun to look at as it is to ride. With bikes like the Springer, H-D should be successful—it only stands to reason.
SUDDENLY, THERE’S A 250 ENDURO class. Suddenly, KTM isn’t the only company offering an out-of-the-crate enduro bike in America. But it’s one thing to build an enduro bike and quite another to build one as good as the KTM 250. The KTM is ready to win as it is—virtually nothing has to be changed or modified. In time, other enduro bikes might be as good as the KTM. For now, though, those others are learning what KTM has known for years.
GL1500 Gold Wing
ANSWER: GARY HART AND DONNA Rice; Crosby; the Honda GL1500. Question: Name a fling, a Bing and a king. The third part of the answer shouldn’t need explaining. The GL1500 is the undisputed monarch of touring, just as its ancestors were before it. Gold Wings have been on top so long it doesn’t take Carnac the Magnificent to predict that the GL once again is the Best Touring Bike.
OKAY, IT'S NOT REALLY A DIRTBIKE. But it’s not entirely a streetbike, either. So what would you call the Honda Transalp 600? We just know it’s good. Real good. We also know it’s a pure pleasure to ride, and it guarantees a smile from anyone who swings a leg over it. Is it a dual-purpose bike, though? Perhaps not in the traditional sense, but times are changing. For now, we’re only sure that the ’Alp is a winner.
LET'S SEE IF THERE’S A PATTERN DEVELoping here. Between national motocrosses and supercrosses, Honda has won 12 250cc championships in the last eight years. And over the years, the Honda CR250R has won a Cycle World Ten Best award a total of six times. Conclusion? The Honda CR250R is a winner, now more than ever. It’s not just the best motocross machine of the year. It’s far and away the best dirtbike of the decade.
CLEAR YOUR DESK AND GET A PENCIL READY. THIS IS A pop quiz. Quickly, name the best musician of all time. Okay, now name the best painting. The best sculpture. The best playwright. And while you’re at it, name the best athlete of all time.What's that? These aren't fair questions, you say? You think they need to be more specific, that we need to define what type of music or sculpture we're talking about? Hell, we even need to define what we mean by “best?”
Now you’re getting the idea.
Whether you're after trailside giggles or enduro-racing gold, look no farther
RIDING ALMOST ANY DIRTBIKE IS GREAT AMUSEMENT, but for the ultimate in off-road entertainment, nothing tops an outing on a motorcycle with a 250cc engine and motocross-derived chassis. Most 250s produce enough power and torque to scale the gnarliest hills; yet they are light and quick-handling enough to be able to thread their way past trees and rocks like Walter Payton scampering through NFL defenses.
SIMPLE ENOUGH, RIGHT? BIG MOTORCYCLE PLUS FAIRing, saddlebags and tail-trunk equals touring bike. And this is where you expect to read a short essay on how touring bikes effortlessly gobble up the miles. How, after a long day of interstate travel, they make you feel as if you’d been snoozing in a hammock, swinging lazily in the cool-green shade, rather than suffering the aftereffects of whipping a motorcycle from sunup to sundown.
Randy Mamola has been winning races for years. Now he sets his goals on something higher.
Incas Rally, take three
Flying Fred Merkel flies home
IT SEEMS STRANGE, BUT RANDY Mamola, one of the most-talented motorcycle racers in the world, has almost forgotten what it’s like to win a race. And it isn't because he's over the hill or reaching the end of his career. Indeed, many observers consider him as fast now as he’s ever been.
WHEN THE STAFF OF Cycle World REcently purchased five used motorcycles (“Want-Ad Wonders,” August 1989), the bikes were in various states of disrepair, but one area of simple neglect on a couple of the machines was expensive to fix: worn tires.
I own a 1983 Suzuki GS1100E. I’m thinking about buying a set of aftermarket wheels (wider, tubeless). What would be the effect of changing the front wheel from the stock 19-inch to a 17-or 18-inch rim? C. Roper Honolulu, Hawaii In addition to 17-or 18-inch wheels being smaller in diameter than the Stockers, the modern tires that fit them have lower profiles than your Suzuki's original tall and narrow 19-incher.