SOMETIMES A TOURING RIDER’S BEST friend-after an electric vest and a good set of raingear-is serendipity. I was reminded of this last summer during a week’s riding vacation in Wales. My friend Charles Davis and I had talked of riding around the British Isles since college days, the original plan being a rorty three months aboard used Triumphs.
SOMETIMES IT'S NICE TO BE WRONG. NOT very often, but in this case I don't mind. Readers with vast, all-encompassing memories will recall that a few months ago I wrote a column about being turned down at a motel in Rushville, Illinois, after a long day of touring.
THE STARTING OF A MOTORCYCLE CAN be routine or it can be theater. It can be ridiculous or sublime. A well-tuned machine of the 1960s would start within a few kicks. But common trouble could transform the attempt into an exhibition of muscle, swearing and frustration.
For the past few months the Letters section has left me quite disappointed. I have come to the conclusion that too many motorcyclists are bitching, whining cry babies who apparently have nothing better to do than moan to Cycle World about profanity, sexism, cigarette ads and anti-Harley remarks.
Tourmaster's Grand Tour Elite winter riding glove is manufactured from grade-A drum-dyed leather and features a waterproof Hipora insert, 3M Thinsulate lining and a Kevlar reinforced palm. Available in a choice of three color combinations, the Grand Tour Elite comes in XS-XXL sizes and retails for $120. For more information, see your dealer or contact Tourmaster (2360 Townsgate Rd., Westlake Village, CA 91361; 805/ 373-6868).
EXCEL ANODIZED MOTOCROSS RIMS
Want to give your dirtbike that "works" appearance? Try a set of Excel aluminum-alloy rims from Sudco International (1824 East 22nd St., Los Angeles, CA 90058; 213/747-5173). These are the same rims used by the factory motocross teams, says Sudco, and are anodized to match all latemodel Japanese and KTM motocross bikes. Prices start at $98 for the front and $111 for the rear.
MOTION PRO BATTERY OVERFLOW TANK
Designed to protect paint and chrome from the effects of battery acid, the Battery Overflow Catch Tank from Motion Pro (119 Independence Dr., Menlo Park, CA 94025; 415/329-0427) traps acid overflow in a compact plastic bottle. According to Motion Pro, the catch tank can be mounted anywhere near the battery using the supplied cable ties and tubing. The Battery Overflow Catch Tank costs $5.50 from dealers.
SIMS & ROHM HARDWARE
Detail your motorcycle with the latest lightweight hardware from Sims & Rohm Performance Products (3265 Industrial Drive, Yuba City, CA 95993; 916/674-9123). Sims & Rohm says it can reproduce everything from bolts and fasteners to axles, swingarm pivots and shock mounts in your choice of aluminum, magnesium or titanium. Pricing varies depending on the application.
PRO SPORT MOTORCYCLE COVER
Protect your motorcycle from the elements with the Pro Sport motorcycle cover from Nichols Motorcycle Supply (4135 W. 126th St., Alsip, IL 60658; 708/597-3340). The polyester cover features a rainproof top half, a heat-resistant lower section and elasticized edges. It is available in large or XL sizes to fit most motorcycles and costs $51 from dealers.
EUROPEAN CYCLE TURNSIGNAL KIT
European-style turnsignals for 750, 906 and 907ie Ducati Pasos are now available from European Cycle Specialties (13851 A Better Way, Unit D, Garden Grove, CA 92643; 714/5302711). The blinkers are designed to completely replace the stock turnsignal/mirror assembly and are 3 inches narrower than stock. Available with red, blue or black trim, the Europeanstyle blinkers cost $250.
Luis AVILLEZ DEBASTO IS a yacht designer out of Miami, and he's also a motorcycle enthusiast. He took a look at Yamaha's GTS 1000, and immediately had a better idea. The illustration shown here is the result. It might be the sort of thing the GTS needs to alter its course.
For reasons known only to Honda marketeers, the resoundingly successful bike known in the United States as the CBR900RR is sold in Europe as the Fireblade. The bike not only gets a different name in Europe, it also gets a different color scheme.
THANKS TO A MID-YEAR loan of nearly $65 million, courtesy of a German bank, the near-term future of Germany's MZ (which means Motorradwerke Zschopau, or Zschopau Motorcycle Factory, after the firm's hometown) seems assured. First order of business is to get the MZ Skorpion, introduced a year ago at Britain’s Birmingham Motor Show, into production with its new Yamaha XTZ660 engine (see Roundup, Cycle World, November, 1993).
THE DUCATI MODEL. THAT BEGAN AS THE PASO 750, BECAME the Paso 900 and finallY the 907 i.e. currently is undergoing yet another stage of development, according to Massimo Bordi, chief' of' Ducati. Unnamed as yet, the new bike will bow as a 1995 model, Bordi says.
Careful readers probably noticed a few changes on the Cycle World masthead this month. They are the names of our new staff members: Brenda Buttner, Feature Editor, and Robert Hough, News Editor. Brenda, 32, may be the first Rhodes Scholar to consider motorcycling a vocation and avocation.
DON'T WORRY THAT Husqvarna's 1994 twostroke dirtbikes, available in WXC cross-country and WXE enduro forms, show minor technical improvements over the 1993 line. Those changes yield substantial gains. Foremost is in the 45mm Showa fork, which got a valving change that results in a much plusher ride this fixed the biggest problem detracting from the otherwise excellent package presented by the Husky 360.
A PARTNERSHIP' THAT INVOLVES ONE OF WESTERN CANADA'S most controversial businessmen apparently has obtained control of England's Norton Motorcycles Limited. Wildrose Ventures. Inc. is the buyer of record of Norton motorcycles. But the deal is clouded by controversy.
If you liked doin' it in the dirt, this special motocross issue was for you. It began with publisher Joe Parkhurst's Roundup interview of Don Rickman, an accomplished racer who, with brother Derek, manufactured Rickman racing machines.
PRAGUE, THE SHOWCASE city of the Czech Republic, is a town some visitors think is beautiful enough, and graceful enough, to be compared to Paris. When you go there you expect to find kielbasa and great beer. And now you can expect to find Harley-Davidsons.
IN SPITE OF THE ECONOMIC problems of Moto Guzzi parent company DeTomaso Industries, and in spite of a deepening European recession that has seen 40 percent of Italy's motorcycle market disappear, things are happening at Moto Guzzi.
BLAME IT ON BELGARDA, the company that imports Yamahas into Italy. Belgarda's brass determined that customers wanted something different in a dualpurpose mount. So the company conjured up the Belgarda Yamaha TT600. The bike’s engine is the same found in the TT and XT600s sold here from 1984 through 1989, and so is its frame.
UP: To dragracer Steve Johnson, for using his talents to promote education. The NHRA Pro Stock racer regularly appears at elementary schools around the country with his Slick 50-sponsored Suzuki, stressing the importance of safety and setting goals, in addition to the dangers of alcohol and drug abuse.
MISSING WITH SUCCESS IS TRICKY BUSINESS. Fixing something that ain't broke has obvious pitfalls. Then again, in an arena as competitive as motorcycle marketing. staying the same is a sure way to fall behind. This was the dilemma Honda faced with the tour-year-old VFR75OF. Since its introduction in 1990, the VFR750 has been voted “Best 750 Streetbike” each and every year in Cycle World's annual “Ten Best Bikes” voting.
"WIN ON SUNDAY, SELL on Monday,” is an old NASCAR battle cry that has moved a lot of Monte Carlos, Thunderbirds and Luminas out of dealer showrooms. Motorcycle-makers know this sales strategy, too, though from time to time some seem to forget it.
ONCE UPON A TIME THERE WERE CRUISERS. THEY bloomed, as a popular production type in the late 1970s, from the bob-jobs and choppers crafted-yes. and cobbled, too-decades earlier by individual American riders out of individual pieces of Arnencan iron.
IT COMES AS A SHOCK TO CASUAL observers. Yet there it is, splashed right out in plain sight on the back of the Honda Shadow's pillion seat: "Made in USA," it says. Indeed, though its suspension and drivetrain are built in Japan and shipped here ready-to-go, the Shadow is assembled at Honda's plant in Marysville, Ohio, with everything else sourced and built here.
AH, YES, THERE IS INDEED NO substitute for cubic inches. Bigger, and louder, and faster, is always better. The Vulcan 1500, assembled in Lincoln, Nebraska, is big, loud and fast. That "1500" designation is real stuff. Mr. Vulcan forges his horsepower in a great brute of an engine that displaces 1470cc.
HEY, THIS IS A SHOVELHEAD. IT feels crude and raw. It vibrates. Its suspension is real stiff." Believe it or not, that's an accolade. It came from our resident HarleyDavidson buff, a man who likes the big Intruder a lot. We like it too, partly because of its visceral nature, and partly because of its beauty.
HERE'S A CRUISER WITH A SPLIT personality. A twin Twin, you might call it. But neither side of this bike is an evil twin, so call those personalities Dr. Jekyll and, well, Dr. Jekyll. The Virago loves to be ridden briskly. Though not the largest of the four maxi-cruisers, its motor revs quickly and pulls strongly.
HONDA MAGNAS HAVE always been radically styled, performance-oriented machines, and the latest version does nothing to belie that image. The Magna 750, introduced last year as a '94 model, is propelled by a 748cc, 16-valve, dohc V-Four, essentially a detuned and detailed VFR75O powerplant.
OSCAR WILDE, IN THE IMPORtance of Being Earnest, wrote that "In matters of great importance, style, not sincerity, is the vital thing." When designing its Vulcan 750, Kawasaki apparently did not subscribe to Wilde's philosophy, which might explain why testers ranked the Vulcan's appearance at the bottom of their respective lists.
IF THERE WAS AN AWARD FOR the slickest-looking, most integrated V-Twin-powered cruisers, the Suzuki Intruders would win hands down. The Intruder 800 has many slick styling cues, such as its sculpted fuel tank, rich paint and excellent attention to detail.
YAMAHA'S VIRAGO 750 LOOKS like a cruiser should. It has the signature teardrop tank, a buckhorn handlebar, a stepped seat, dual exhaust pipes and acres of deep, rich chrome. Introduced in 1981, the Virago 750 was the first Japanese cruiser to take on Milwaukee.
WOW," SAID THE GAS STATION attendant as he reset the gas pump, "that's one smooth Har..., Ha..., er, Honda." A quick glance at the logo on the bike's gas tank had saved him from major embarrassment and greatly diminished pump-jockey credibility.
DID YOU SAY "HORSEPOWER" and "mini-cruiser" in the same sentence? If so, you must be talking about the Vulcan 500. That's good, because the bike gets no kudos for its styling. This is supposed to be a VTwin class, so the little inline-Twin Vulcan doesn't exactly fit.
THE VIRAGO 535 SPECIAL IS meant to stand out in a crowd. Some $300 more expensive than the base 535, it sports what Yamaha calls its "custom-cruiser look," which includes a two-tone paint scheme and some added chrome. The strategy works. The aura of this smallest of the V-Twin Yamahas is of cruiser bits surrounding a greatlooking hunk of motor.
IF THAT'S WHAT YOU'RE THINKING, just hang on a minute. You're out of step with one of motorcycling's most basic notions. That notion allows you to ride whatever you please, and suggests that it's wise to allow the next guy to do the same.
IT'S THE INSIDER'S SIGNATURE. WHENever you see someone wearing an Aerostich Roadcrafter oneor twopiece suit, its seems they work either for a motorcycle company, write for a bike magazine, or simply ride a bizillion miles a year.
OUTDRAWING REALITY ITSELF AT THE RECENT Tokyo Motor Show was Honda's ES21 futuretech idea bike. Do you like food for thought? Here's a whole meal. Let's dine. The scanty official info says ES21 is powered by a hydrogen-fuel battery that drives a super-conducting electric motor.
NOSTALGIA IS A POWERFUL TOOL. ITS ROSE-TINTed glasses do a great job of filtering out the painful truth of yesterdays when anything Made in Japan could be expected to fall apart in days, when Triumph motorcycles leaked oil on your girlfriend's dad's driveway, and when every other ride aboard anything British resulted in shorted-out electrics and a long push home.
THERE'S NO QUESTION IT HAS CHARACter. It can compete in the charisma sweepstakes with any bold BMW Boxer, flashy Ducati V-Twin, or gutsy Triumph Triple. It has as much-if not more-personality as these European favorites. "It" is Yamaha's 10-valve parallel-Twin, the only Japanese engine in production that comes close to displaying such a disposition.
INBREEDING, I THINK. THAT'S THE problem. Gotta be. Inbreeding, see, gets you cats with six toes on each foot, and human beings with diminished mental capacities. So, what do you get when you breed a car with a motorcycle? You get the American Thunder Tryke.
LOOKING FOR PROOF THAT FANNY PACKS are just as evolved as the rest of today's off-road gear? Look no farther than the Ultimate Off-Road Pack, a modern-day example of the standard leather belt cinched around a sack full of survival items. Manufactured by Songdog Packs (11090 Rockside Court, San Diego, CA 92126) the Ultimate OffRoad Pack is a mini-survival package for the off-road, dual-purpose or even streetbike enthusiast.
IT'S CALLED SUPERMOTO AND IT ATtracts riders from all motorcycle racing disciplines for a spark-slinging affair combining the tastiest elements of dirt-track and roadracing. Riders like four-time 500 GP champ Eddie Lawson and Supercross-champturned-roadracer Jean-Michel Bayle come to Paris for high fun and low-pressure competition on modified Open-class dirtbikes.
Kawasaki’s Ty Davis aboard the team’s Baja 1000-winning KX500.
The big question in AMA racing is whether Harley-Davidson’s long-awaited V-Twin-powered Superbike will make it to the starting line this year. At presstime, the company was very close to signing former Muzzy Kawasaki rider Miguel DuHamel.
I own a 1985 Kawasaki 900 Ninja that has about 40,000 miles on the odometer. While I have maintained it immaculately, it needs a new cam chain. My Kawasaki dealer tells me it will be necessary to drop the engine and split the cases, despite the chain being mounted on the left side of the engine.