HOW MANY DIFFERENT MOTORCYCLES did you ride last year? Well, Cycle World's collective editorial backside has lovingly massaged the saddles of 106 bikes during the past 12 months in the process of bringing you road tests, riding impressions and feature stories on everything from $60,000 oval-piston wonders to national-championship Superbikes to neon-painted Harley customs to 18-mph electric scooters.
JUST LAST WEEK, I RECEIVED A LETTER from a woman in Milwaukee who complained that I never write about British bikes, even though I have a picture of one underneath my smiling likeness at the top of this column. Me? Not talk about British bikes?
I’VE BEEN EXAMINING THE VINTAGE-racing phenomenon for several years now, and I’m finally beginning to understand its growth. Vintage racing cannot be looked at by itself, but must be seen together with several other kinds of racing. On the surface, of course, vintage racing exists to conserve what is valuable in our past.
I remember with fondness the song “Little Honda” by the Hondells that was mentioned in David Edwards’ August Up Front. It was indeed a “boppy, Beach Boys kind of tune,” but if he’s playing it at 78 rpm as he mentions in the column, it probably sounds more like Alvin and the Chipmunks.
THE GREATEST SHOW ON Earth may be the Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey Circus, but in the motorcycle business, it's the IFMA Motorcycle Exposition in Cologne, Germany, held in September of even-numbered years. This year, IFMA is generating even more than the usual amount of excitement because of the new models rumored to be making an appearance at the show, models that are surprising not only for their number, but for their variety.
FULL INJECTION MAY BE THE wave of the future, but there's life left in carburetors yet. Yoshimura's "Multi Pull-Jet System" is one example, meant to provide some of the benefits of fuel injection without the complication and expense. The system, which incorporates ideas that have been around for years, uses a standard carburetor body equipped with a thin tube in place of the standard needle.
Pauline Hailwood has announced that three racebikes once ridden by her late husband Mike Hailwood are for sale. The three, now on display at the Donington Park Motorsport Museum in England, are a pair of Honda 500cc four-cylinder racers and a 350cc Four.
IF WHAT YOU'RE LOOKING for is the ultimate Harley, and if you're the happy and satisfied owner of the ultimate bank account, Bob Dron Harley-Davidson in Oakland, California, has an item that may grab your interest. It's called the Heritage Royale, and it’s for sale.
Yamaha's slick 600cc Seca II returns for 1993 with no real changes. What does change is that for the new year Yamaha is offering a number of optional pieces with which an owner can upgrade his ride. These include a chin spoiler, tank bra and luggage rack as shown here, and an optional Corbin seat.
Kawasaki's four-stroke 650SS Twin graced the cover of the October, 1967, issue of Cycle World, though sharp-eyed readers were quick to point out that the image had been "flopped" in the printing process and was published backwards. While the photograph may have been puzzling, the consensus of the editorial staff was that the bike was "a superb all-around road machine."
MORE THAN A YEAR after it first appeared on the show circuit, Suzuki's neo-retro SW-1 scooter-bike has entered production in Japan. How does it work? Pretty well, in fact, and if nothing else, it certainly attracts attention. Some observers even guess that the SW-1 is a foreign import-one of the highest accolades any product can receive in Japan.
MOTORCYCLES ARE NO longer banned from Brockton, Massachusetts, city parks, thanks to a unanimous decision handed down by the Massachusetts Supreme Court. The decision came five years after the American Motorcyclist Association filed suit to have the ban overturned.
A FRENCH MOTORCYCLE? You'd better believe it. In fact, the Barigo 600 could hardly be more French if it wore a beret, and had a string of garlic and a loaf of bread dangling from its handlebar. The Barigo appears to have been built for that particularly French blend of pavement and dirt racing known as supermotard, right from its high-fendered, dirt-bikey stance to its fat tires, alloy frame and upside-down fork.
UP: To “MTV Sports,” for focusing its cameras on roadracing. Jamie James, Larry Schwarzbach and Colin Edwards rode their Vance & Hines- and Southwest Motorsports-sponsored Yamaha racebikes for a recent edition of the highly rated cable television series at Charlotte Motor Speedway, site of the third round of the AMA National roadrace series.
WHAT IF KAWASAKI HAD NEVER STOPPED DEVELoping its legendary Z-1, that 903cc power house introduced in 1973? Now, there's something to ponder. What if motorcycle development had never taken a turn toward the racetrack, and sportbikes had never sprouted single-shock rear suspensions and upside-down forks?
WOULD ANYONE ARGUE-COULD ANYone argue-that democracy isn't a wonderful concept? Part of what makes it so wonderful are two of its most basic tenets:· that you can freely speak your mind, and that you can any way you wish. That’s what makes Cycle World's annual Ten Best Bikes selection something that every member of the staff looks forward to.
MAKE NO MISTAKE, HONDA'S CBR900RR IS A BREAK-through motorcycle, a 600-sized bike with broad-based performance that puts the rest of the Open-sportbike class on the trailer. Yes, it's got horsepower, but a lot of bikes have horsepower. The CBR's is different in that it is spread over the top of the engine's rpm range as thickly, and as appetizingly, as a knife-load of your favorite chunky peanut butter slathered across a slice of bread. It's got suspension, too, perhaps the best available on any streetbike found in the U.S., and, to top things off, the CBR is lighter than a lot of 600s. It also has those tradi tional Honda virtues that include thoughtfulness of design, excellence of finish and virtuosity of feel that mean there's only one way to describe this bike: winner. In a big way.
WHAT WE HAVE HERE IS AN EBONY-BLACK example of the ripple effect. Two years ago, the Kawasaki ZX-11 won the Best Superbike category. Last year, it got bumped by the improved Yamaha FZR1000. This year, Honda tossed its CBR900RR into motorcycling's pond, and the ensuing ripples have completely redefined the Superbike category. Now, the ZX looks less like a Superbike and more like an Open Streetbike, a do-everything stallion that's as equally useful for Sunday-morning blasts as it is for commuting or for a spirited sport-tour. For general use like that, the big ZX has few serious challengers. This is a motorcycle that can jet past 170 mph with ease, but is equally at home around town or on a two-up weekend tour. In short, the big, black ZX is a very good time.
WHAT WE HAVE HERE IS AN EBONY-BLACK example of the ripple effect. Two years ago, the Kawasaki ZX-11 won the Best Superbike category. Last year, it got bumped by the improved Yamaha FZR1000. This year, Honda tossed its CBR900RR into motorcycling's pond, and the ensuing ripples have completely redefined the Superbike category.
YES, THERE'S SOMETHING SPECIAL ABOUT A 750cc motorcycle. Such a bike may, in fact, be the ideal compromise between the smallness of the 600 class and the sometimes intimidating bigness of the Open class. It's even possible to argue that this is the ideal size, that all other motorcycles are compromises. Become familiar with Honda's VFR75OF and that's a point of view you're likely to adopt. In a class dominated numerically by repli-racers, the VFR is neither replica nor racer. What it is, is a GT sporting tool, in the same sense that a Porsche 944 fills that definition in the car world. It is supremely good at what it does. It also is supremely comfortable and supremely well finished. That is why, for the third year in a row, we'll call the VFR the Best 750cc Streetbike you can buy.
THINK OF THE HONDA CBR600F2 AS A moving target. Bring the revs up and drop the clutch. It moves. And because to ride one is to need one, it also moves quickly from dealer showrooms to college parking lots, backroads and racetracks every-where. It's also the bike other Japanese manufacturers are shooting at with their own 600-class entries. But for anyone else's 600 to surpass this one, it's going to have to be lighter, more powerful, better handling, more beautifully finished and more competitively priced. So far, no other manufacturer has managed a direct hit. And that's why, for two years running, the CBR600F2 is CW's choice as Best 600cc Streetbike.
SURE, WE KNOW THAT AMERICANS love big motors, that when all is said and done, there is absolutely no substitute for cubic inches. But not all the time. Sometimes, light weight and nimbleness unite to produce a startling exception to this rule of thumb. The Kawasaki Ninja 250 is such a bike. We know, you don't believe it. And we understand, because we know first-hand this is a bike you've got to ride to believe. For starters, it may displace just 249cc, but it makes a claimed 38 horsepower, enough to supply 15-second quarter-mile times. And it weighs 334 pounds dry, which means that it's very sensitive to rider input. It's also sensitive to something else: budget-watching. With a list price of $2999, the Ninja addresses a concern held by many riders that motorcycles have gotten too darned expensive. Here's one that delivers maxi performance for a mini price.
WE GO ON RECORD HERE AS TAKING exception to the troubling notion that a touring bike, by definition, has to be as massive as Gibraltar, as heavy as a Peterbilt and as bland as pabulum. Don't get us wrong; we like traditional touring bikes. It's just that when we want to travel, we like options, especially the ones the ST1100 delivers. They aren't those of extraneous hardware; it doesn't have endless luggage space, a multi-speaker stereo, back-rests and a complete and endless supply of vents. What it has instead is a character that comfortably accommodates the bike to whatever style of riding its pilot wishes to undertake, whether that means interstate cruising or backroad bashing. We think that character is the most important option of all, one that effectively turns the ST1100-especially the version with anti-lock braking and traction control-into a bike you could easily call the "Sport Wing." Instead, we'll just call it the Best Touring Bike of the year.
THE NOTION OF MAKING PROGRESS BY looking to the past may seem contradictory. But that is what Kawasaki has done with the ZR1100, at least on the surface. It's a brand-new bike that looks just like the bikes sold a decade or more ago. Scratch the surface, through, and you'll find that contemporary technology has trickled down to the brakes, suspension, tires, wheels and Kawasaki's approach to the combustion process as it takes place in the huge bores of the ZR's 1100cc air-cooled engine. Add it all up, and what you get is a bike that's as stone-aged as an ax-one built, maybe, of magnesium and carbon-fiber. It is this bike's mix of classic styling, sensible ergonomics, nimble feel, stable handling and broad-based power that helps it set new standards for standards, and makes it a shoo-in as the Best Standard of 1992.
OTHER BIKE-MAKERS HAVE PRODUCED dual-purpose machines based on dirtbikes. Other bike-makers have produced dual-purpose machines with electric starting. But it was Honda that combined the two approaches with the just-released XR65OL. Basically, this is the off-road-only XR600 chassis fitted with the electric-start Single from the discontinued NX650 rally-style bike. (Does the L in the bike's name mean 'Lectric? Naw, couldn't be.) The result is a motorcycle that can go just about any where and do just about anything, whether that be negotiating tight trails, blasting down a twisting section of asphalt or commuting to campus. For more than a decade now, dual-purpose bikes have been in decline, if any bike can, the XR650L may put an end to the class' downward spiral. That's why it's this year's Best Dual-Purpose Bike and may be the most fun you can have on two wheels.
LOOKING FOR A SPECIALIST DIRTBIKE THAT'S ALSO a generalist? Then what you want is a bike designed to excel in enduro events, which throw a wide range of conditions, terrain and obstacles at a machine. Traditionally, two-strokes take the prime positions in this category, but Husqvarna's 610 four-stroke comes out on top this year. The Husky's big, four-valve Single is as fluid and friendly at 5 mph with a beginner at the controls as it is at 100 mph with a Pro racer calling the shots. Its suspension works smoothly over a wide variety of terrain, smoothing every impact thrown at it, no matter what the speed. And it does all this with-wonder of won ders-a quiet, 82-decibel exhaust system. This is a full-on racebike that needs no modification at all to be a winner, yet it is quite happy simply serving as an off-road play-bike. It's also one of 1992's Ten Best Bikes.
GOTTA RACE MOTOCROSS, AND gotta win? Then here is our recommendation: Buy yourself one of these. After several years spent languishing in the middle of the 250 MX pack in this magazine's comparisons, the Kawasaki KX250 smoked its rivals this year, surprising us by winning the category by a wide margin and by unanimous vote. The KX's suspension is the best of the bunch, because it is beautifully calibrated and because it provides a range of adjustability that allows the bike to be adapted to riders of all levels, techniques and styles. Its engine is a muscle-bound two-stroke that feels more like a four-stroke, so it maintains traction on the hardest and crummiest of tracks, making the bike less tiring to ride than the machines it competes against. Like spinach and broccoli, the KX250 is something green that's good for you. That's why it's our choice for Best Motocross Bike.
YOU'RE A HAUL-EVERYTHING, GO-everywhere kind of guy? Well, so are we, sometimes. And that's why the Honda Gold Wing, in its various forms, has remained firmly under our skin. Clearly, the zillion-pound-billion-option-full-boat-luxo-tourer concept doesn't suit the widest spectrum of touring riders the way a slightly lighter, more nimble bike might. But if that concept is what defines motorcycling for you, if you're after a horizon chaser par excellence, there is no better bike than the Gold Wing.
IN THE MINDS OF MANY ENTHUSIASTS, when it comes to touring, more is better. To some extent, we'd agree, and that's why we're so fond of the BMW K1100LT. it is more BMW than we've seen in a long time. Its engine, punched out to 1086cc, packs a wonderful wallop, its integrated luggage packs lots of traveling essentials, and its thoughtfully designed seat packs pilot and passenger in comfort. if you've a weakness for luxo-touring, yet want something a little different, this is a bike you should be looking at.
WE'RE NOT TERRIBLY SURE just which category the Yamaha Seca II falls into, but we are sure of this: It's a lot of bike for the money. It's list price is $3799, and while that isn't exactly dirt cheap, what you get for your loot is a nimble, comfortable motorcycle that looks good, will rocket from 0 to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds, and sip fuel at a miserly rate. There are faster, more exotic 600s to be had, but there aren't many that offer as much versatility or as much value.
WHAT'S OUR FAVORITE MOTORCYCLE? TOUGH question, but we do note this: When there's a Yamaha FJ1200 in our test fleet, it never, ever, gathers dust sitting in the garage. People ride the wheels off these things, and with good reason. They're fun, comfortable and have terrific engines. The addition of ABS as an option for 1992 has made a good bike even better. With us since 1984. the big FJ may be getting a little long of tooth, but it's still one of the most enjoyable motorcycles on the market.
HERE IS A BIKE THAT'S AS RARE AS A LOTTERY win and as exotic as a Parisian mistress. The Ducati 851 is a close and direct descendant of the Italian firm's hand-built World Superbike-winning racers, differing from them only in details of engine specification and in its use of street-legal exhaust, lights and components that are machine-made from non-exotic metals. Who cares? It's fast, red, race-bred and beautiful, If you get the chance to ride one, don't pass it up.
OUR VOTE FOR LEAST changed, most improved would go to the Suzuki RMX250, which up until this year was an enduro bike that felt as through it had taken a wrong turn from a stadium motocross event. It was super-quick to change directions, and, at speed, spooky in its feel and ride. But no longer. With slower steering and revised suspension, it has evolved into a competitive enduro mount. We like it a lot.
BIKE OF THE YEAR: Honda CBR900RR BEST SUPERBIKE: Yamaha FZR 1000 • BEST OPEN-CLASS STREETBIKE: Triumph Trident 900 • BEST 750cc STREETBIKE: Honda CB750 (the European cousin of the 750 Nighthawk, with upgraded shocks, dual front brakes and different fuel tank than seen on the U.S. version).
HARLEY-DAVIDSON'S EIGHT-VALVE RACER DOMINATED THEN DISAPPEARED
RACING WASN’T PART OF THE ORIGINAL HARLEY-Davidson plan. Competition, surely: Founders and family took part in reliability runs and other amateur contests when getting from A to B was an achievement, never mind how long it took. But for the first 10 years of the company’s history, during the time competition grew from two guys headed the same direction on the same road to fully professional contests, Harley-Davidson took no official part in racing.
TAKE A LOOK AT THIS BIKE. IT IS important, the latest in a line of recent machines that makes it possible to argue that the pendulum of motorcycle development is swinging away from Japan and back towards Europe. Here’s evidence. Ducati's production facilities are lagging so far behind the international demand for its products that dealers have had their presold allocations cut in half; Triumph has staged a very successful return from oblivion; BMW is about to give a new lease on life to its beloved Boxer Twin; Moto Guzzi finally has begun deliveries of its long-overdue Daytona 1000; and Bimota-pushing technological frontiers as ever-is selling the first streetbike of the modern era with alternative chassis and suspension design.
MOTO LAVERDA’S LATEST 650 Twin isn’t the first limited-edition repli-racer to leave the Italian company’s manufacturing facility. Between 1971 and 1976, enthusiasts could purchase the SF Competizione, Laverda’s answer to the original Ducati 750SS. Only 550 of the SFCs were built during that five-year period.
YOU WOULDN'T PUT A LOADed gun into the hands of a child. It's unwise to step into a lion's cage without first receiving a few words of advice from the trainer. Even hot-shot fighter jocks get checked out by a flight instructor before logging their first hour in a new airframe.
FIRST LOOK 1993: HARLEYS AND HONDAS FOR THE NEW YEAR
WHAT'S OLD IS NEW, AND VICE-VERSA FOR HARLEY-Davidson's 1993 lineup. For the most part, the line is composed of the familiar Harley players, with just a few exceptions. There are two new models: the Dyna Wide Glide and the Dyna Low Rider. Six anniversary models with special paint commemorate the 90 years Harley-Davidson has built motorcycles.
AN ALL-NEW XR600R HAS BEEN EXPECTED FOR A COUPLE of years, but for '93 the big Thumper's only changes are new graphics and a larger-diameter front axle. Otherwise, it's unchanged, save for a slight price increase to $3999. Also unchanged for '93 are the XR250R ($3299), XR100R ($1699) and Z50R ($969).
Damon Bradshaw searches for the elusive Supercross championship
PRIOR TO THE START OF THE MAIN event at the Los Angeles Supercross, Damon Bradshaw knew that if Honda-mounted rival Jeff Stanton won the race, he would have to finish at least third to secure the 1992 AMA Supercross Championship. But as the Yamaha factory rider blipped the throttle on his YZ250, placing third was the last thing on his mind.
Australian Michael Doohan's dominant season took a dramatic turn for the worse when the 500cc world championship points leader crashed during qualifying for the Dutch TT at Assen in the Netherlands. The 26year-old Rothmans Honda pilot broke his right leg in two places when the rear tire of his NSR500 suddenly lost grip and spun out, even though he was taking it easy while scrubbing-in the new tire.
My question concerns the warm-up of air-cooled engines. How long should they run before being ridden away, and how long should the choke stay on? Also, is it better for the engine if the idle speed is temporarily increased to cut down on the use of the choke?
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.