A NEW AGE OF MOTORCYCLE DESIGN is upon us. Surprisingly, it has nothing to do with center-hub steering, or oval pistons, or active suspension, or radial-tire technology. Don’t look now, nut thin is in. Light is right. The indications are all around us and getting stronger.
MR. SOICHIRO HONDA IS NO LONGER with us. I read in the papers he died on August 5th, in Tokyo. The story said he was born in 1906, that he was 84 years old. That’s eight years older than my father. Is this possible? The overlap of generations—and the effect of one generation on an-other—is a strange thing.
AT THE RECENT TOPEKA, KANSAS. AMA National, I was handed the fuel tank from a 250 Aprilia. Now, I'm used to the light-gauge aluminum tanks on Yamaha 250 roadracers. but I wasn't ready for the non-weight of a carbon-fiber tank. It was like being handed a balloon—nothing but bulk and color.
I was faced with a dilemma. I had $6000 and my trusty Kawasaki KLR600 as trade-in, and wanted to buy the Perfect-Do-It-All-Bike. So I began reading motorcycle magazines to see what my choices were. One day I would drool over the Honda CBR600F2, the next day it was the BMW R100GS, then I would see a Harley FXRS-SP and my head would spin.
SUZUKI APPARENTLY WILL REplace its venerable GSX-R750 with a greatly revised bike, powered by a liquid-cooled engine, to be sold in Europe in very limited numbers in the 1992 model year. According to a report in the French magazine Molo Revue, in addition to its new engine, the bike features a strengthened frame and swingarm.
THOSE WHO HAVE KEPT A CAREful eye cocked toward the weird end of the motorcycle spectrum will recall the Rokon. a strange and wonderful two-wheel-drive utility piece that prowled the fringes of the motorcycle scene in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
LOOKS CAN BE DECEIVING, AS IS the case with Yamaha’s Euro-market XTZ660 Ténéré. Ignore the Paris-to-Dakar styling, the mildly knobbed tires and the long-travel suspension, and you’ll see the XTZ for what it really is—a roadbike capable of generating more grins than a roomful of newborn babies.
SURELY, THIS ISSUE'S COVER, which showed a Hodaka Ace 90 splashing across a Baja creek, stirred the adrenal glands ofCW's readers. Inside, we detailed the cross-country exploits of Frank Wheeler and Marvin Foster, as told in the feature “Baja and Back."
LONG-TIME WASHINGTON RESidents often tell jokes about interminable rain in the Evergreen state, and about their fond hope that the constant threat of torrential downpour will keep tourists from residing permanently in their state.
UP: To Bubba Shobert, three-time grand national champion, for burying the hatchet. Shobert has returned to racing as a team owner/ manager and has hired Terry Poovey as his rider. Historians will remember that Shobert and Poovey came to fisticuffs several years ago in an incident that resulted in a fine, suspension and eventual loss of the national championship for Shobert.
A BODY-HUGGING LEATHER RIDING suit is considered a necessity by serious sportbike riders. Tucker-Rocky Distributing (1175 Hurd Dr., Irvine, TX 75038; 214/580-0555) sells several street suits that are designed for sportbike riders.
HONDA HAS SEEN THE ENEMY. AND IT IS WEIGHT. Cycle World has seen what Honda’s vision has wrought. And it is a dream come true. It is a motorcycle that promises to change forever the way big-bore sportbikes are conceived and built. It is capable of the awesome engine performance that only a literbike can provide, yet it is as light and as agile as the very finest middleweights.
As we predicted in the October issue, Honda will be back in the bigbore dual-purpose market for 1992. The XR650L mates an XR600 off-road chassis with the electric-start engine previously used in the late, unlamented NX650. The 650L weighs about 40 pounds more than the XR, and its springing and damping rates have been stiffened accordingly. Retail price had not been set as of presstime, though it should be under $4000. The XR250L will be back unchanged in ’92, priced at $3299.
Voted Best 750cc Streetbike in Cycle World’s Ten Best Bikes voting in 1990 and 1991, the VFR750F is an important player in the company’s new-year lineup. Improvements include firmed-up suspension rates, and engine retuning that adds a few more peak horsepower. The fork now has spring-preload adjusters, and the shock gets a rebound-damping adjuster to complement its spring-preload and compression-damping adjustments. Gone is the all-red bodywork of the ’90 and ’91 models, replaced by black. Price is up slightly to $7299.
For the first half of 1991, Honda reported a 25-percent retail-sales increase, largely attributable to the success of the CBR600F2. And after getting off to a slow start, sales of the CB750 Nighthawk picked up. Both models are back largely unchanged for ’92. On the dirt side, the revamped XR600 sold out quickly, and the ’92 model is already in showrooms. New graphics and slightly wider footpegs are the only differences from ’91.
Honda’s big-bruiser cruiser is back on the books after a year’s rest. Mechanically, the Shadow 1100 is identical to previous models; what’s new is a choice of paint schemes. Buyers will be able to pick from 14 different color combinations, including solids and two-tones. Depending on the paint job, the 1100’s price will range between $6299 and $6699. While the Shadow 1100 is back in the lineup, there are some omissions for 1992. Gone is the XR80, the Hawk GT and the CBR1000
That Honda’s sport-touring ST1100 returns for 1992, priced at $9199 and available in Candy Red, isn’t news. What is noteworthy is that a special version will be coming in the spring of ’92 with anti-lock braking and a traction-control system. Honda is being very tight-lipped about the traction-control arrangement, other than to say that it is plumbed into the rear anti-lock system and is designed to minimize wheelspin in slick conditions.
Return of the super scooter. After a four-year layoff, the Helix, complete with liquid-cooled, 244cc, four-stroke engine, sofa-like seat and lockable rear-storage compartment, is back. It’s picked up cast wheels in the process, and an increase in price to $3299.
WHAT'S NEW EROM THE LAND of Fahrvegnügen, you ask? Well, according to BMW, not a whole lot—although what the German manufacturer does have in the way of new offerings promises to be rather exciting. There’s only one new model in BMW's 1992 lineup, and it comes at the expense of another.
FIDING A CANDIDATE FOR a hot-rod project is easy: Just scare up a Japanese sportbike, install a batch of aftermarket speed equipment, and you’re on your way. All of which ignores the fact that Harley-Davidson has clamped its V-Twin padlock on today’s large-displacement motorcycle market.
A cross-country rally for the hard of posterior and short of sleep
NOT LONG AGO. I WAS LYING ON THE BEACH WITH MY girlfriend Jane, sipping an icy gin and tonic-an-other perfect day on the Pacific. I rolled over and said to her words to the effect that I couldn't believe my life had become so good. SO easy, that something awful must be about to happen.
Japan’s collectible classics: It’s déjà vu all over again
1967 Bridgestone 350GTR
1961-68 Honda CB/CL77, Super Hawk, or Scrambler
1963-69 Honda CA72/77 Dream
1969 Honda CB750
1959-62 Honda CB92 Benly
1969 Kawasaki H1
1973 Kawasaki Z1
1966-67 Suzuki X6 Hustler
1959-66 Yamaha YDT1/YDS
1964-66 Yamaha Big Bear Scrambler
Fast, smooth, comfortable and reliable, these top-of-the-line bikes came and went as Bridgestone first got into the motorcycle biz, and then opted to stick with the slightly less competitive, much more reliable tire business. Tough to find parts, but worth the effort, especially if you want something just a little different from the more common vintage Japanese rides. Price—$500 to $2000.
The Hondas of legend, the ones upon which a generation of riders began their riding careers. By now, most are lovingly cared for. If you find a junky one, buy it in spite of its condition. Restoration will be easy and relatively cheap. Because they were the first of the line, the CB/CL72 250s are especially desirable. The 305s, however, are more common and more usable. Price for a complete, unrestored bike with an unseized engine should go from $200 to $1000.
Unlovely beasts, with strange styling and leading-link front suspension. There exists growing demand for these, especially from distaff riders/collectors. This may be the sleeper of collectible Hondas. Again, the 250 is the more desirable of the two, while the 305 is the more roadworthy. Price—$200 to $1000.
The most desirable classic Honda? Might just be this one. For a CB750 Four to be truly collectible, however, it’s got to have the original sand-cast engine cases instead of the later die-cast versions, and it's got to be a stocker. Definitely worth looking for. Price$1000 to $5000.
Not terribly fast, not terribly reliable, this bike, with its magnesium hubs and aluminum tank and sidepanels, nevertheless was Honda's first production sportbike. Expect to pay important money for a good one, especially if it’s a CB92R, complete with megaphone and racing seat. Price—$2000 to $8000.
Terrible handling, worse brakes, but what a motor! This bike’s 500cc, two-stroke Triple could smoke—both literally and figuratively—just about any other stock bike it came up against. A very entertaining ride. Production ran through 1976, but the first year’s version is the one to collect. Price—$600 to $800.
The first superbike? Perhaps. Certainly the first machine to successfully challenge the performance and sales supremacy of Honda’s wonderful CB750, and the bike upon which Kawasaki's four-stroke performance image was built. Production ran through 1975, but the 1973 model is the one collectors will want. Price— $800 to $1000.
The bike that put Suzuki in the performance business, this is a 250cc Twin with a six-speed transmission and a chassis that knows how to deal with corners. The bikes are rare and parts are tough to find, but a restoration will be worth the effort. Price—$400 to $600.
A family of two-stroke Twins with more similarities than differences. These similarities include oil injection and a challenging unavailability of parts. These will be tough to find and even tougher to restore, but very satisfying when the job is complete. Price—$300 to $1000.
Big Bear Scrambler
Yamaha’s answer to Honda’s justly famed 305 Scramblers, these early dual-purpose machines wore high pipes, knobby tires and were balls of fun to ride. Not for motocross, and because of the difficulty of finding parts, also not for those who lack patience. Price—$400 to $1200.
JON F. THOMPSON
NEVER MIND THAT THE BRITish-bike-collecting craze has peaked. If you've still got a yen for an old bike, you'll be glad to learn that suddenly it's cool — and yes, sometimes profitable—to ride and collect vintage Japanese motorcycles.
THE VERY MOST COLLECTible Japanese motorcycle? Easy. Any race Honda ridden by the great Mike Hailwood. But after that, the bike you see here just might qualify. This is a 1953 Honda 3E Dream. It is owned by Japanese collector Yasuo Watanabe, and is in the United States under the control and care of one Jerry Guidroz, a 41-year-old vintage Honda enthusiast who makes his living in Southern California’s construction trades.
YOU CAN TALK ABOUT your Hondas and Yamahas and Bridgestones. but if you want to collect Japanese bikes that are as strange and rare as quarks, please direct your attention to the Lilac and the Marusho. Lilac? Marusho? You'll be forgiven if these are names that somehow managed to avoid becoming embedded in your Motorcycle Recognition Banks.
A clutch of Japanese bikes most likely to become collectible
1983 Honda Interceptor 750
1979-82 Honda CBX
1982 Honda CX500 Turbo
1975-76 Honda CB400F
1975 Suzuki RE5
1982 Suzuki Katana 1000
1973-75 Yamaha RD350
Honda’s first V-Four may be stuck with that odd, flat drone of an exhaust note, but its introduction redefined performance in the 750cc class and marked the beginning of the current sportbike wars. A comfortable bike that’s still a great street ride. Price—$1400 to $2000.
The Six. Relatively heavy, with spindly fork legs, the emphasis was on smoothness rather than on all-out performance. Early models came in standard guise, later ones came dressed as sport-touring mounts, with nicely crafted fairings. You haven’t lived until you’ve heard the full-throttle exhaust yowl of one of these. Price— $800 to $3000.
An odd mix of the mundane and the exotic, the CX500 Turbo wedded a V-Twin pushrod engine with turbocharging and fuel injection. The result was a very powerful, very rideable motorcycle that likely will be worth some bucks with the passage of time. Actually, any factory turbo likely will be worth finding. But we think this one will be the most collectible. Price—$2000 to $3000.
This bike carried the Little Engine That Could, and has become motorcycling’s equivalent of the Holy Grail to a cult of enthusiasts whose dedication to this model is almost unparalleled. It doesn’t really matter which year you buy, as long as it’s complete, right down to the stock exhaust system. We prefer the red ones over the yellow, though color matters less than condition. Price—$600 to $1500.
The bike that should erase any doubts about Suzuki's willingness to experiment. Powered by a 497cc, single-rotor, rotary engine that was hung amid avant garde bodywork, the bike was not a great success. Though it was priced competitively, other bikes in its class were more reliable, more comfortable and lighter in weight. Suzuki spokesmen say the company still stocks parts for these. Price—$1000 to $1500.
The Wizard of Weird, motorcycle division. The Katana, from designer Hans Muth, made the rounds of the 1980 show scene and appeared here as a 1982 model with a 16-valve motor and styling odd enough to make your eyes water. If you've got one of these, and if you've kept it stock and in mint condition, you've done good. Price-$1500 to $3000.
Rriiing-ding-ding-ding! A two-wheeled, street-legal rocketship that made that infamous sound, and the progenitor of the RD400 and the later RZ350. They’re all great fun to ride. The ’79 RD400 Daytona Special eventually might have some value, but our best guess is that the early RDs will be the ones to collect. Lay in a supply of ignition parts, rings, pistons and crankcase seals while you still can. Price—$400 to $1000.
WE'RE NOT SEERS. BUT THAT isn’t going to stop us from conjuring up a list of almost-contemporary bikes we think are likely to become collectible. These bikes are special cases because each not only has its own kind of importance, but because parts for most of them will be readily available, and also because nearly all came from designs that insure their continued usability as daily mounts.
Young Kenny Roberts Jr. follows in his father’s footsteps
CLOSE YOUR EYES, LISTEN TO him talk. Not only does his voice sound familiar, so do the things he says. The cockiness, the air of self-assuredness, the win-or-die-trying attitude that is an integral part of any successful racer's mental makeup.
Team Marlboro Roberts Yamaha’s Wayne Rainey reconfirmed his status as the world’s best motorcycle roadracer by clinching the 500cc world championship for the second consecutive time with a third-place finish in the Grand Prix de Vitesse de Le Mans in France.
A VIATOR-STYLE JACKETS HAVE LONG been a traditional part of the motorcyclist's wardrobe. And thanks to films like Top Gun, Memphis Belle and Hot Shots, fashion-conscious movie-goers have picked up on the stylish look, as well. But, as popular as patch-covered leather jackets may be, few meet the real-world requirements of today's motorcyclist.
According to the owner's manual, my 1991 Honda Nighthawk 750 can safely carry 355 pounds in rider, passenger and accessory weight. How conservative is this rating, and can the motorcycle be easily modified by tire and suspension changes so that 450 pounds can be carried safely?