CRUISERS, TOUTED IN PR FLAKERY AS motorcycling's most popular market segment, are at a crossroads. We are now entering the third model year of the so-called Japanese mega-cruiser, boulevard bombers styled in the “classic American tradition,” which really is no more than thinly disguised brochure-babble for “Harley-inspired.”
JUST LAST WEEK I FOUND MYSELF ON A cross-country trip in my ancient 356 Porsche, driving along the southern edge of the Catskill Mountains in New York, right through the famous village of Woodstock. Sharing the driving with me for a few days of the trip was my old motorcycle touring buddy, Mike Cecchini, from Bethesda, Maryland.
I RECENTLY MADE MY FIRST TRIP TO Nova Scotia to attend the annual banquet of the AMCRA, a motorcycle roadracing association that operates up at the northeast end of North America, somewhere between the endless Canadian bush and the gray Atlantic.
I’ve been meaning for some time to compliment Cycle World on the editorial columns, features that bring unique voices to bear on motorcycle culture each month. In particular, and the one that finally brings me to write, is Peter Egan’s “Triumph and the Fates (December, 1997).
Air-Tech is at it again, ’glassing up alternative bodywork for Suzuki’s TL1000S sportTwin. Sure, the front fender, upper fairing and gas tank resemble their stock counterparts, but the chin fairing...the one-piece tailsection...c' est magnifique. Available separately or as a complete package for $1541, the gel-coated pieces come ready for whatever outrageous paint scheme you can imagine.
MOTORCYCLE VISA CARDS
The next time you charge it, why not bring your motorcycle into the picture—literally? Harley-Davidson, Custom Chrome and American Honda are all offering personalized Visa cards. Simply submit a photo of your bike for placement on the card. Harley card owners are eligible to win motorcycles and accessories, and Honda provides a discounted percentage rate for Honda Riders Club of America members. Go into debt with style!
V-FORCE DELTA REED VALVE
Billed as the “latest technology in reed-valve development,” Moto Tassinari’s V-Force Delta Reed Valve is designed to improve acceleration and increase horsepower. This is achieved via a three-port rubber-covered composite cage and carbon-fiber petals. Available for most late-model two-stroke dirtbikes, the reed valve costs $148.
KNOX BACK PROTECTOR
Back injury is nothing to be trifled with. That said, U.S.-based ActionStations is importing the Knox back protector from the U.K. Fashioned from foam rubber, the 21-inch-long shield has a 5.5-inch-wide flexible carbon/kevlar insert covering the spine. It also has adjustable shoulder straps, a ventilated lycra liner and an elasticized velcro belt. The roadracing-style protector shown here costs $145, and a shorter $129 touring version is available.
Behold the latest from FirstGear: soft luggage that’s wearable. No kidding, the Travel Bak System comprises three pieces, each incorporating adjustable strapping for conversion to a backpack. Included are the $30 Fanny Bak, an expandable nylon fanny pack; the $76 Scout Tail Bak, a polyurethane-coated nylon seat pack with dual-entry main compartment and zippered side pockets; and the $100 Tank Bak, an 800-denier nylon magnetic tankbag, complete with removable top case, map window and carrying handle.
It’s an unfortunate fact of life that most motorcycle locks are, well, ugly. Not so the KryptoDisc from Kryptonite. In fact, the company’s newest security measure features a sleek-looking stapler-style design. Manufactured from drop-forged steel, the chrome-plated lock weighs a little more than a pound, and its angled pin slips easily through brake rotor holes. A snap-down locking mechanism allows one-handed application. Slip one onto your motorcycle for just $45.
HARLEY EXPLORER JACKET
No longer is leather the only option for Harley-Davidson owners. Case in point: the Motor Company’s Explorer Jacket. Constructed from heavy-duty oxford-nylon, the insulated coat hangs below the hip and features large wind flaps. An adjustable, elasticized belt cinches the waist, five pockets provide storage space and zippered closures keep sleeves tight. The black jacket features orange stitching, natch, and comes in sizes XS-XL ($180) and XXL-XXXL ($190).
$104 to $160
With the new Sportmax D207 and CruiseMax tires, Dunlop has all its bases covered. Developed alongside the D207GP Supersport roadracing tire, the street-compound D207 boasts improved grip and stability over the previous D204 Sportmax II. Prices start at $137. If your battles take place on the boulevard, the CruiseMax has a new Z-groove tread pattern for improved wet-weather braking and handling. It’s available in three sidewall styles, including whitewalls. Suggested retail is $104 to $160.
WHAT’S ALL THIS THEN? Moto Guzzi meets George Jetson? Mister Spock’s starship superbike? Nope. This here is, and we quote from Honda’s hormonally charged press brochure, a “modern form injected with a pure, wild, naked sportiness.”
Time’s a wastin’ for all you border-happy tourers, as the January 17 deadline for the 23rd-annual Three Flags Classic is quickly approaching. The 2000-mile street ride starts in Mexico, is routed up the west coast of the U.S. and ends in Canada.
AN AMBITIOUS PLAN TO replicate Honda’s 18,000-rpm six-cylinder grand prix roadracer is underway in England. Classic-bike specialist George Beale, who has produced Matchless G50 knock-offs and recently sold a trio of Benelli Four clones (at $150,000 a pop!), now has his sights set on the 1967 RC174.
In cruising's War of the Retros, Kawasaki just unholstered a very big gun. Scheduled for sale later this year is a restyled Vulcan 1500 V-Twin that looks for all the world like a 1953 Indian Chief. A surprise roll-out at the recent Kawasaki new-model show, the bike drew rave reviews (“The dealers went bonkers,” one attendee relates) and will make it into the lineup as a limited-edition 1999 model.
Prototype streetbikes were the featured topic this month, as Benelli’s six-cylinder 750 Sei, Motobecane’s two-stroke three-cylinder 350 and Yamaha’s rotary-engine RZ201 were all previewed. Of the three, only the latter failed to make it into production—though the “RZ” designation lived on in the company’s mid-’80s two-stroke sportbikes.
UP: To Barbie, for gettin’ an attitude! Dissatisfied with her reputation for being a typical beach bimbo, Barbie has donned leathers—with a little help from the Motor Company. Outfitted in authentic H-D apparel, this limited-edition Harley Barbie comes complete with sunglasses, a leatherette saddle-bag and chain-festooned belt buckle (no mention, though, of optional tattoos).
HOW DO YOU IMPROVE ON a motorcycle that Cycle World voted the Best Open-Class Streetbike of 1995? If you’re Triumph, and the bike in question is the Sprint 900, you do it by giving customers what they want. In selling the Sprint since 1993, the reborn British manufacturer has identified two types of buyers: those who intend to use their bikes in a sporting manner, and those who intend to use them for sport-touring.
WATCHING THE EARLY-morning sunrise cast a pinkish hue across the thin cloud layer hanging above the Mediterranean Sea helps to alleviate my jet lag. The steady percussion of surf crashing upon rocks 100 feet below my hotel-room balcony melds with the morning song of birds nested among the dense foliage of this grand Spanish estate.
ASK TADAO BABA, PROJECT LEADER FOR THE HONDA CBR900RR, what makes the 1998 model better than its predecessors, and you get an unusual reply. Probably because he’s more comfortable with his mechanical drawing skills than his English, instead of simply answering your question, he grabs pen and paper and sketches a graph.
TWO YEARS AGO, WE CALLED YAmaha’s YZF600R one of the Ten Best Bikes in America, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be improved upon. The “wrists” on staff wanted to firm up the suspension, over the protestations of the rest of us, who liked the YZF’s plushness.
Harley-Davidson XL1200S Sportster Sport vs. Triumph Thunderbird Sport
THE SIXTIES KEEP SNEAKING BACK UP ON US. Have you noticed the sideburns sprouting on David Duchovny of the “X-Files,” or on George Clooney of “ER”? Or the brown knit pullovers with pale-blue racing stripes, right out of a 1969 Hang Ten ad, that are filling the shelves of trendy clothing stores?
BACK IN THE DARK DAYS JUST AFTER WORLD WAR II, when food and fuel were still rationed in England, one bright spot in the otherwise gloomy picture was motorcycle exports. The Triumph Speed Twin was a breath of fresh air to many Americans, a light, powerful and handy motorcycle quite unlike the Harley and Indian behemoths they were accustomed to.
SCOTT SUMMERS IS A LATTER-DAY ALCHEMIST, turning lead into gold. The lead in this case is Honda’s XR600, seen by many as an overweight, if amiable, trail bike. The gold is the impressive assortment of off-road national championships—nine in all—that Summers and his supposedly outgunned Thumper have brought back home.
I WENT TO RACE A GRAND NATIONAL CROSS COUNTRY; the second-to-last one of the season, in fact, in Lisbon, Ohio. Scott Summers paved the way, putting me up at his training ranch for a week, letting me loose on his motocross track and cross-country trails.
If this is the world’s first motorcycle, and that’s what the evidence suggests, why doesn’t anybody know about it?
WHAT THE PHILOSOPHERS LEFT OUT, WHEN THEY TOLD US THAT there’s nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come, is that there’s no quicker route to the ashcan of history than to have an idea for which the world is not yet ready. As in, ever heard of Daimler and Benz?
JUST AS SYLVESTER ROPER’S STEAM-powered velocipede might have been the world’s first motorcycle, the Vincent-Indian hybrid shown here might have been the savior of its respective marques. Built in 1949, the “Vindian” was basically a stock Indian Chief chassis overflowing with modified Vincent Rapide engine.
WHEN IT COMES TO BIKE HAULING, shortbed pickups don’t measure up. That is, if you’re packing a couple of cowtrailers plus gas cans and gear, you’ll likely find yourself longing for the extra length—and tailgate-closed security—of a longbed.
LET’S FACE IT, PROPERLY MAINTAINING a motorcycle’s appearance is time-consuming. All that washing, waxing and polishing, only to be repeated again the following week—frankly, it can be a real pain in the patootie. Fortunately, the folks at JJP Enterprises (P.O. Box 4017, Mission Viejo, CA 92690; 714/348-0968) are trying to refine this process somewhat.
WHO THE HELL IS GREG HANCOCK? That’s a legitimate question. He’s the world champion you’ve never heard of. In the roundy-round world of speedway racing , the 27-year-old Californian has clawed his way to the sport’s highest rung, establishing himself as one of the best ever.
For the better part of the last decade, John Myers and Dave Schultz have dominated NHRA Pro Stock drag racing. In fact, the last time someone other than Myers or Schultz won the championship was way back in 1989, when “Pizza John” Mafaro took home the title.
I have a 1983 Suzuki GS1100GL with an annoying problem: The electrical system apparently is running on the battery alone. The battery was bought new this past spring, and it will accept and hold a charge. About three years ago, this same problem occurred, and a service technician replaced the voltage regulator.
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.