YOU'RE NOT AS GOOD A MOTORCYCLE rider as you could be. Neither am I. Nobody is. Better riding was the subject du jour recently when I lunched with two officials of the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, a good organization unfortunately saddled with a name that carries two of the most colorless words in the English language.
JUST WEST OF BROADUS, MONTANA, on Highway 212, we rode from cheerful sunlight into dark shadow as a large storm moved over the Custer National Forest. In the hills just ahead, pitchfork lightning flung itself out of the black clouds, zapping the hilltops.
BACK NEAR THE TURN OF THE CENTURY, the mechanization of human slaughter took a great step forward with the design of the French 75mm Model 1897 field gun—the "French 75." When previous weapons were fired, the entire cannon leaped back, forcing its crew to stand clear, then laboriously lever it back into firing position and re-aim before reloading and firing again.
Cycle World's article on bargain classics ("Second Coming: Japan's Collectible Classics," December, 1991) really hit home with me. I'm 40 and have been riding bikes since the eighth grade, beginning with an old Honda 90. Currently, my wife rides a Honda Pacific Coast and I ride a Kawasaki ZX-10, but I recently located a 1976 Honda CB750F in a barn in Indiana, where it had been sitting for three years.
Barnett's new Kevlar clutch plates are claimed to be lighter and stronger than asbestos and semi-metallic plates. Additionally, they last up to 12 times longer than friction plates made of other materials, according to Barnett. Prices for the Kevlar plates start at $10 each, and they are available for all popular models of Japanese and Harley-Davidson streetbikes. Get them at motorcycle dealers or contact Barnett Tool and Engineering (9920 Freeman Ave., Santa Fe Springs, CA 90670; 213/941-1 284).
Barnett Tool and Engineering
White Power streetbike fork
Inverted forks will, eventually, become standard equipment on most high-performance streetbikes. Until that time, it's possible to update almost any late-model bike with the White Power Roma inverted cartridge fork, although some machining and bracket fabrication will be necessary. Featuring externally adjustable compression and rebound damping, the fork costs $1260 from White Bros. (14241 Commerce Dr., Garden Grove, CA 92643; 714/554-9442).
Barnett Tool and Engineering
Nady PRC-8 two-way radio
Irked by the sounds of silence when you ride with a passenger? If so, the Nady PRC-8 two-way radio (Flanders Co., 340 S. Fairoaks Dr., Pasadena, CA 91109; 818/792-7384) may be just what you need. This is an integrated FM radio/intercom system that allows rider and passenger to tune into their favorite FM stations, and to carry on conversations while under way. The system retails for $115 and comes with an earphone/boom-mike assembly that can be adapted for use in open-face and full-face helmets.
Barnett Tool and Engineering
Works Performance Guts Transplant
A bent shock shaft on your off-road motorcycle or ATV doesn't have to spell doom for the complete shock. Just ship the shock to Works Performance (8730 Shirley Ave., Northridge, CA 91324; 818/7019043). The company's $199 Guts Transplant includes a new, stronger shaft, a new damping piston, new valving, and all labor and fluids. An Adjustable Guts system featuring 18position adjustable rebound damping goes for an additional $100.
Barnett Tool and Engineering
Avon ST23 radial tire
$107 to $120
Designed for rim widths of S to 6 inches, Avon's ST23 radial now comes in an extra-wide 1 90/50ZR 17 size. Avon Tires (Hoppe & Associates, Inc., P.O. Box 336, Edmonds, WA 98020; 206/771-2257) claims that its specialized construc tion of one 90-degree rayon ply and twin Kevlar belts provides superior road-shock absorption and a smoother ride. The ST23 is available at motorcycle dealers in various front and rear sizes, with fronts priced from $107 to $120, rears from $140 to $162.
Barnett Tool and Engineering
Motorcycle Classics 1992 calendar
A must for every classic motorcycle enthusiast, this high-quality, 24-page calendar features 15 motorcycles, each displayed in full color on an 11 x 17-inch page. Two detail pictures and a short history of the make and model of each month's featured bike add to this calendar's appeal. Beau tifully photographed by Roy Kidney, the Motorcycle Classics 1992 calen dar costs $15. To order, contact Howell Press, Inc., 1147 River Road, Bay 2, Charlottesville, VA 22901; 804/977-4066 or 800/868-4512.
Barnett's new Kevlar clutch plates are claimed to be lighter and stronger than asbestos and semi-metallic plates. Additionally, they last up to 12 times longer than friction plates made of other materials, according to Barnett. Prices for the Kevlar plates start at $10 each, and they are available for all popular models of Japanese and Harley-Davidson streetbikes.
Tradition can be rested against or it can be built upon, and BMW, a company with a deep reservoir of tradition, wisely has chosen the latter course. BMW built an enviable reputation using its Boxer Twin as a foundation, and the company has developed a wide and loyal following for its two-cylindered machines.
THE LATEST JUMP IN MOTORCYCLE engine technology is already at work on a 400cc Suzuki streetbike in Japan. When it comes to motorcycle design, small is good. Small means light. Light is easier to stop, accelerate and turn than heavy. But small engines tend to make small horsepower.
GO AHEAD, BE BRAVE. CRUISE into your favorite Harleys-only hangout on this Not-A-Hog, and get ready for the smart remarks when your pals see that its tank lettering reads "Shadow." Shadow? Of what? Real made-in-Milwaukee, American-iron?
WHY IS IT THAT TRIUMPHS always look so damn nice as magazine coverbikes? This issue's T100R Daytona 500, which the editors labeled "a café racer's dream," certainly is no exception. Peruse the ads in this issue and it's clear that some manufacturers were on a power kick.
If you're looking for the oldest city in the USA, forget the northern Atlantic coast of the Pilgrims, and head to the southern Atlantic coast of the Spanish explorers. Saint Augustine, about 40 miles south of Jacksonville and about 75 miles north of Daytona Beach, was established by Juan Menendez de Aviles in 1565 and remained under the rule of Imperial Spain until 1821, when it finally became American territory.
UP: To Sports Car International, for including motorcycles in its pages. The October, 1991, issue featured a two-page column on Bimota, focusing on the Dieci and Bellaria models. Introducing the column, SCI Editor and former Cycle World intern Mark Ewing wrote, "Certain motorcycles are complimentary to our current editorial content...
IN THE LABEL-INTENSIVE WORLD OF NICHE MOTORCYCLING, there exists a category that defies description, a class that can't be classified. Even those intent on pigeonholing can't agree on a name; they refer to these motorcycles as entry-level bikes.
THAT THE YAMAHA SECA II FINISHED first in this comparison should come as no surprise. After all, it's the only brand-new model here, and Yamaha obviously looked at its competition before designing this motorcycle. As such, the Seca II combines some of the best features of its rivals: a half-fairing like the Kawasaki EX500's, styling resembling the Suzuki Bandit's, and an air-cooled, two-valve-per-cylinder motor that is easy to work on like the Suzuki GS500E's.
WERE IT NOT FOR THE YAMAHA Seca II, the Suzuki Bandit could have its cake and eat it too. Few motorcycles possess this bike's combination of speed and handling. In fact, when we originally tested it last year, it so endeared itself to our staff that we voted it the Best Under-500cc Streetbike.
TRUTH BE TOLD. WE FEEL BAD about ranking the EX500 third. A long-time favorite of the Cycle World staff, it's been voted the Best Under-500cc Streetbike four times in our annual Ten Best voting. But its loss of that title to the Suzuki Bandit last year was a precursor to the results of this comparison.
THE WORST THING ABOUT A comparison test is that there has to be a last-place finisher. And, in the case of the Suzuki GS500E, there could not be a more undeserved one. Because as bad as we feel about giving the Kawasaki EX500 third place, we feel even worse about giving the GS fourth.
A great motorcycle that never found an audience. Powered by a willing, liquid-cooled, 16-valve Four, it also has wide wheels, a single-shock rear suspension and impressive brakes. But it was overpriced and has very compact ergonomics, which meant it languished in showrooms. Still, for smaller riders, the 399cc CB-1 is perfect for dissecting a twisty backroad or doubling as a capable commuter. Victims of a difficult market, 1990 CB-1s have been reduced $600 to $3700.
If British styling in a solid, nearly maintenance-free package is your cup of tea, look no farther than the GB500. Powered by an aircooled, 499cc, electric-start Single, the GB offers all of the performance and none of the hassles of the English marques its styling emulates. Unfortunately, not too many people were interested in the $4200 neoclassic when it was introduced in 1989. Now, GB500s can be bought for as little as $3100, with 1990-issue bikes bringing about $300 more.
Without a doubt, this is one of the best buys in the non-current market. With its liquid-cooled V-Twin, aluminum frame and single-sided swingarm, the 647cc GT is good-looking and technically advanced. At $4200, the Hawk was initially overpriced and got off to a slow start. Today, there are plenty of '89, '90 and '91 models around, waiting to be snapped up. Prices start at $3400 for 1989 models.
The Transalp may look just like a Paris-to-Dakar replica, but even with its semi-knobbed tires and long-travel suspension, it's a bike best suited to the street. The torquey, 583cc, liquid-cooled V-Twin provides plenty of performance, and a small fairing and windshield add to the Transalp's long-distance comfort. Dealers are especially willing to bargain on leftover '89s, initially costing $4500. The best price we found for a 1989 Transalp was $3500, with 1990 models tagged several hundred dollars higher.
Though more dated than most non-currents, the NX650 is a sure best buy. Its air-cooled, 644cc Single provides plenty of punch, and its long-travel suspension keeps the chassis in line both on and off the road. Electric starting and a luggage rack are nice touches. Leftover '89 models are priced at $3300, $700 under retail, while '88 models are even cheaper, but more difficult to find.
If the Zephyr 550 reminds you of the late, great KZ550, that's no accident: From its air-cooled, fourcylinder engine to its sculpted tail-section, the Zephyr bears a striking resemblance to the early-'80s KZ series. Updated suspension, tires and brakes ensure current-level performance, though. Unfortunately, this latest 550 didn't sell as well as its predecessor and has been discontinued, though '91 models are still readily available. And with its $300 discount, the Zephyr 550 carries a $3700 price tag that is a full $1000 less than the 750cc Zephyr's.
As the only non-current, bigger-than-250cc model selling for under $3000, Suzuki's GS500E is a real bargain. Availability may vary, but we were able to find '91 models for just $2800. Powered by an aircooled, dohc Twin, the GS500E weighs 400 pounds dry and has a comfortable, 31-inch seat height. An optional quarter-fairing and engine cowl offer additional flair for this sporty Suzuki.
The VX800 combines the broad performance of a V-Twin engine with shaft drive and comfortable ergonomics. Although its suspension components are a bit soft for serious sport riding, the VX800 is well-suited for everything else, from commuting to light, two-up touring. And at $3800-$900 below its unrealistic 1991 asking price-the VX is an excellent non-current purchase.
Over the past few years, the XT350 has seen few changes, but that hasn't hurt its road, or Off-road, worthiness. Though it's not a serious dirtbike, the $3200 XT350 ($300 below list) behaves well in both environments, and its air-cooled, 346cc four-stroke Single is easy to start and maintain. Additionally, an XT350 is inexpensive to insure and a blast to ride. Prudent buyers might be able to find leftover '89 or '90 XTs at even lower prices, but '91s will be the most common.
$3800 and $4400
The XT600 offers a good blend of street and off-road capabilities. With its convenient electric starting, counterbalanced, single-cylinder motor and semi-knobbed tires, the XT is capable of handling just about anything a dual-purpose rider is willing to throw its way. And backroad riders will be surprised at its ability to carve up a twisty stretch of blacktop. Prices for 1990 XT600s have been cut to $3400, with '91 models selling for about $600 more. Those bikes originally sold for $3800 and $4400, respectively.
AT CYCLE WORLD. WE OFTEN find ourselves tucked behind the bubbles of the fastest, most exotic and expensive motorcycles in the world. And while there's no denying that Bimota Tesis, Ducati Roche Replicas and Honda NR750s are incredibly exciting, most of us spend our own money on more affordable machinery.
ALTHOUGH TAKING A RIDE ON A HOT summer's day can be quite refreshing, there is a harsh reality related to warm-weather motorcycling: Riders tend to throw caution to the wind by leaving their protective leather jackets at home. There is, however, an alternative to this dilemma: Cool-Tech's ventilated Traveler and Excalibur leather jackets.
FINALLY, AFTER YEARS OF HYperbole, there is action. Honda's long-anticipated NR 750, known by unbelievers as the "Never-Ready 750," finally has arrived. And it is as stunning as all the pre-production hype has suggested it would be, even if it does offer slightly less performance than expected.
In motorcycling's infatuation with high technology, have the sport's most elemental and important pleasures been lost? Careful, now, that's a trick question. How you answer it might depend upon whether you've seen the latest prototype and production offerings from the Japanese and European motorcycle manufacturers.
THE SUBTLE SENSATION OF THE Tokyo Motor Show was one feature of Yamaha's Morpho II showbike: two-wheel steering. Do I hear a few "so whats" and "ho-hums?" I wouldn't blame you. The auto industry, with vast ballyhoo, introduced four-wheel steering a couple of years ago, but the results have been substantially less than revolutionary.
DIRTBIKE RIDERS KNOW A GOOD THING WHEN THEY see it. KTM's 300cc lineup, in enduro, motocross and desert/cross country models, was an instant hit when introduced in 1990. The only real problem with the 300s was availability—most were bought and paid for before hitting dealer's floors.
When it comes to racing Top Fuel dragbikes, mere mortals need not apply.
On the surface, drag racing is as simple as motorsports get: When the green light flashes, you gas it. Whoever crosses the finish line first wins. But that simplicity is a paradox, because while drag racing's rules are uncomplicated, its machines are as complex as any motorcycles on the face of the earth.
"DO WHAT YA GOTTA DO," says Jon Marchman in an easy southern drawl. Giving me a firm pat on the shoulder, the tall man from Houston then steps aside, leaving me alone to tame the wildly shaking beast I'm astride. Reluctantly, I inch the bike forward, spurred on by the steely gaze of the few spectators on hand.
Bayle captures 500cc MX crown, completes hat trick
In a bitter end to a triumphant season that brought the U.S. its 11th 500cc world roadracing championship in the last 14 years, both newly crowned world champion Wayne Rainey and Kevin Schwantz were injured during testing prior to the season-ending Malaysian GP. Rainey was hurt the worst, despite falling at relatively low speed when he ran off the racing line trying to pass Scotsman Niall Mackenzie.
Can automatic transmission fluid be used as a substitute for motor oil in the gearboxes of older Japanese two-strokes? I've tried it in several of my old streetbikes and I like the clutch action—it's much smoother. But I worry that the ATF might not provide adequate lubrication.
We need your photos for Slipstream. We're looking for photos that make us smile because they say something about motorcycling. Submissions should be made to Slipstream, Cycle World, 1499 Monrovia Avenue, Newport Beach, CA 92663. To be returned, the photographs must be accompanied by a self-addressed, stamped envelope.