RANDOM THOUGHTS, OBSERVATIONS and musings about the year just past as the 20th Century’s odometer gets ready to roll over: UP: To Travis Pastrana, for being too extreme for the X-Games. When the high-flyin’ freejumper capped his X-Games win with a leap (aboard his RM125, natch) into San Francisco Bay, the mamby-pams at ESPN withheld the 15-year-old’s $10,000 winnings and declined to air the splashdown.
THIS IS HOW MOTORCYCLES DIE, I THOUGHT to myself as I rode away from the repair shop. Someone looks at the complexity, the cost and the relative payoff and decides the bike just is not worth fixing. The end of the line. Why does it happen so much more often to Japanese than European or American bikes?
THE FUEL-INJECTION REVOLUTION IS sweeping over motorcycling. Increasingly, new models are delivered with injection rather than carburetors. Fuel injection has many advantages. By making fuel delivery completely flexible with respect to timing and amount, injection gives the engineer improved fueling accuracy.
So, Peter Egan is “still waiting” for the perfect sport-tourer? (Leanings, December, 1999.) That’s odd, because he used to own one. It’s Kawasaki’s still-dazzling ZX-11. Fresh out of the box, the Super Ninja is virtually perfect, though tweaking brings it perilously close to PST status.
Arai pays homage to American roadracing heroes with its Historic Replica Series. Grand Prix greats Freddie Spencer and Randy Mamola are immortalized with the high-end RX-7RR4, which also gets a new faceshield release and three-position chin vent for 2000. Stateside stars Wes Cooley and the late Jimmy Adamo, meanwhile, are commemorated with two color schemes each on the Signet GT. The venerable lid has also been updated with a redesigned fiberglass shell, dual top intake vents and more. Prices start at $422. Arai Helmets, PO. Box 9485, Daytona, FL 32120; 800/766-2724
SUPERKROME WRENCH SETS
Throw a wrench into the system, why dontcha? Heck, throw several! S&K Hand Tool has six new Super-Krome Wrench Sets. Available in metric and standard sizes, they come in eight-, 10-, 11-, 13and 15-piece sets. The corrosion-resistant wrenches come in either regular or extended lengths, and a locking rack is included. Prices start at $80. S&K Hand Tool, 3535 W. 47th St., Chicago, IL 60632; 773/523-1300
No two ways about it, getting stuck in the rain on a motorcycle is a miserable experience. Unless, that is, you’re equipped with Marsee’s Economy Rainsuit. Lined with polyester, the one-piece vinyl suit has a corduroy collar, adjustable wrists and ankles, and rear vent. Plus, there are several pockets and plenty of reflective trim. Priced at an economical (thus the name) $45, the Economy Rainsuit comes in red/black or yellow/black. Marsee, PO. Box 2588, Temecula, CA 92590; 800/293-2400
$15 to $46
After umpteen years spent racing dirt-track and Grands Prix as a rider and team owner, three-time World Champion Kenny Roberts has plenty of fans. With these folks in mind, International Racers designed a line of apparel. Featuring Roberts’ recognizable eagle logo, it ranges from baseball caps and T-shirts to sweatshirts and collared denim shirts. Show your allegiance to the King, and order up some togs. Prices range from $15 to $46. International Racers, 419 Medina Rd., Medina, OH 44256; 330/239-5100
PERIMETER BRAKE SYSTEM
This just in from Braking USA: the Perimeter Brake System. For front use only, it incorporates a Marchesini wheel and two 400mm rim rotors gripped by four-piston billet-aluminum calipers. Mounting brackets, brake pads and stainless-steel lines are included. Said to provide better feel at the lever, more progressive braking and quicker turn-in, the light-weight system fits a host of sportbikes, ranging from Yamaha’s YZF-R6 to Suzuki’s GSX1300R Hayabusa. Suggested retail price is $2180. Braking USA, 119 Independence Dr., Menlo Park, CA 94025; 650/329-8660
FRANKLIN MINT MILITARY
How many collectors does it take to screw in a light bulb? None, they don’t care about light bulbs. They’re too busy admiring the Franklin Mint’s 1:10-scale model of a 1942 Harley-Davidson WLA Military Motorcycle. The $135 collectible is hand-painted, and has brake and shift pedals that pivot, a handlebar that steers, wheels that roll and a front fork that compresses and rebounds. We suspect damping is too much to ask for... The Franklin Mint, U.S. Route 1, Franklin Center, PA 19091; 610/459-6000
Get more grunt from your Honda XR400 with Big Gun’s exhaust system. Said to increase low and midrange power, it combines ceramic-coated, mild-steel headers with an unrestricted, race-core silencer. The $411 system accommodates stock mounting hardware as well as Big Gun’s optional slip-spark arrester. It’s also available for other off-road four-strokes. And yes, rejetting is necessary. Big Gun Exhaust Systems, 8628 Utica Ave., #500, Rancho Cucamonga, CA 91730; 909/948-7029
’51 MERCURY COUCH
So the ol’ lady put the ix-nay on showcasing your bike in the family room? Don’t get mad, get the ’51 Mercury Couch from motorcycle saddle-maker Mike Corbin. Mimicking its namesake, the $2495 hot-rod sofa has fiberglass flame-emblazoned “fenders,” and is upholstered with top-grain leather. Easily accessible storage is behind the arm rests, and incandescent taillights actually illuminate. Motorcycle-based? No, but who heard of furniture made from a BSA Gold Star? Corbin, 2360 Technology Wy., Hollister, CA 95023; 800/538-7035
IS IT JUST US, OR DOES TRIumph's new middleweight sportbike look remarkably like Honda's CBR600F4? It isn’t, and it does. The long-awaited TT600 made its international debut at Britain’s annual NEC show in Birmingham last November. Response to the bike was positive, and its specification sheet points toward class-leading performance.
Want weird? Unveiled at last fall's Tokyo Show, the concept Honda Bosscat is a two-wheeled menagerie. While cruiser (chrome headlight, pull-back handlebar, polished engine cases), scooter (step-through styling, small-diameter wheels) and sportbike (inverted fork, triple-disc brakes, underseat mufflers) influences are obvious.
Dorothy “Dot” Robinson, affectionately referred to as the “first lady of motorcycling,” has died at age 87. Born in Melbourne, Australia, to sidecar-maker James Goulding, Robinson co-founded the Motor Maids and competed regularly in endurance runs.
DOES THE WORLD NEED A French motorcycle manufacturer? Voxan thinks so. And now, so does Midual. At the moment, the Midual is complete fiction. Should all go well, it might become metal by mid-2003. The bike is the creation of Olivier and Francois Midy, with styling by Glynn Kerr.
RE-BORN NORTON IS BETTER known for “announcing” models—at last count, four all-new engine configurations in less than two years—than making them. Early last year, Britain’s Motor Cycle News reported the initial outing of the prototype Nemesis V-Eight...until a coolant leak developed.
Following in the tire tracks of the Pilot Race radials that debuted last year, Michelin has introduced a street-going version called the Pilot Sport. Like the Race, the Sport employs the French company’s patented Radial Delta rear-tire technology, which combines the zero-degree belting of contemporary street tires with the angled cross-plies of a racing slick.
Suzuki's revolutionary rotary, the RE5, hummed its way onto this issue's cover, then squared off against BMW's R90/6 and Kawasaki's Z-1B inside. Any questions left unanswered by the epic 22-page comparison test and seven-page technical essay were no doubt addressed by Suzuki's eight-page, double-gatefold advertisement.
THE THUNDERBIRD SPORT IS supposed to evoke memories of bygone British bikes, decades-old machines with endearingly quaint motors, pre-EPA exhaust notes and bicycle-like handling. Sorry, Triumph, but not quite. In reality, the bare-naked Sport is very much a modern motorcycle, with a liquid-cooled, 12-valve, dohc three-cylinder engine, fully adjustable suspension (monoshock rear, no less), radial rubber and, thank goodness, up-to-date electrics.
DOWN: To lightning, for almost striking twice. When roadracer Stewart Goddard crashed during the Aprilia Cup series round at Pocono Raceway this past summer, he very nearly became a quadriplegic. Thing is, he’s already a paraplegic, who nonetheless manages to race competitively with the aid of an electric shifter and a thumb brake.
THE MODERN RETROGRADE MOTORCYCLE HAS ALMOST become a parody, a cartoonish exaggeration of old-timey, two-wheeled mechanical elements. Seemingly ever larger, heavier and more complex, a new/old bike’s true mechanical nature is often utterly at odds with the spiritual essence of what the manufacturer is trying to accomplish—which is to pander to our desire for simpler machines and simpler times.
THE NEW/OLD W650 MAY INDEED BE A BETTER Bonneville, but this isn’t Kawasaki’s first foray down Retro Road. Witness the W2SS Commander 650, sold in this country during the swingin’ Sixties. You are forgiven for not knowing about the SS—not very many were purchased and even fewer have survived intact.
THERE WERE ELEMENTS OF FEAR BROUGHT ABOUT BY THIS SIMPLE ASSIGNMENT: Take the 2000 Kawasaki W650 on the biggest all-British motorcycle ride in Southern California to find out what The Faithful thought of this unabashed Triumph-style Twin.
CYCLE WORLD HAS HAD A long love affair with the Triumph Sprint 900. The original version was named Best Open Streetbike in our 1995 Ten Best awards, and the second-generation Sprint ST copped last year’s inaugural Best Sport-Touring Bike award after it topped our “GT Experience” shootout (CW, March, 1999).
THERE ARE PLENTY OF GOOD THINGS shakin’ at H-D these days. What’s no longer shakin’ (and we mean this in a good way) is the thoroughly updated Softail family— darling of which is the all-new FXSTD Deuce. At the heart of the Deuce, as with ail 2000-model Softails, beats the counter-balanced Twin Cam 88B engine.
FORGET WHAT YOU THOUGHT about boring old-style standards. Kawasaki’s new-for-2000 ZR-7 is further proof that standard-style motorcycles don’t have to be sedate. In fact, the thing is downright sexy, especially in Candy Lightning Blue.
ONCE IN A GREAT WHILE, A motorcycle comes along that threatens to turn your perceptions upside-down. Where previously you needed a garageful of bikes, each with a specific purpose, you suddenly realize that you just might be able to get by with one versatile, do-it-all machine.
I ARRIVED AT THE TRACK PROMPTLY at 8 a.m. as instructed. Stepping out of my truck, I was greeted by Motoman’s owner, Pete Vetrano. “Hi, Jimmy, I'm Pete and these are the guys from VOR,” and they all stuck out their left hands for a shake!_ Well, I should have known, ’cause if there’s anything a VOR isn’t, it’s normal.
KING OF THE HILL, Top DOG, Numero Uno—all the while waiting for someone to come along and knock you off. Such is the predicament of Yamaha's YZ400F, the mid-sized four-stroke that creamed everybody the last two years. But hungry things like KTM's new competition Thumpers, the new and eagerly awaited (still!) Cannondale, specialty Singles such as the VOR, as well as regular premix-consuming motocrossers await.
THE DOWNSIDE OF RIDING THIS GPR 50R is that I was acting like a freak and looking like a Shriner. The upside is that I was having so much fun I didn't care. The pair of little 245-pound two-strokes sent to us by importers Cosmopolitan Motors brought out the unlicensed 15-year-old in me.
DUCATI DOMINATED WORLD Superbike (again) last season but played a comparatively minor role in World Supersport. With the latter series gaining in popularity, both among fans and manufacturers, the Bologna-based bike-maker felt it important to try harder.
In the late Sixties and early Seventies, if you didn’t own an $800 Honda 350, you probably had three friends who did
DEPENDING ON YOUR point of view, my garage is either too small or contains too many motorcycles. The garage could be magnificently expanded into the rose garden, but the Goddess of the Garden and Protectress of All Plants on that Hallowed Ground resolutely dictates the status quo.
IN PUTTING MY CB350 HONDA BACK IN FULL RUNNING order, I knew what I was doing but was unsure what to call it. My goal was a completely roadworthy motorcycle that would be as functional and reliable as the day its new-bike warranty expired. But the bike had to be something more than a mechanically resplendent Motor Roach.
BMW returns to the desert with a rally-racer version of the R1150GS
BMW HAS A LOT OF HISTORY WITH ITS FLAT-TWIN Boxer motor, first penned by ol' Max Friz back in 1923 and never out of the lineup since. Surprisingly, for a company that doesn't make a "real" dirtbike, some of the Boxer's biggest glories have come in the off-road arena.
DON’T HATE US FOR BEING BASED IN Southern California, where beautiful, sunny days succeed one another much like naked supermodels at a tanline fashion show. Just when you think you’ve seen the best, well, there’s another. So imagine our dilemma when faced with testing Aerostich Drybag Saddlebags.
BRAKES ARE A BITCH. BLEEDING them, that is. Which explains why air filters and engine oil and spark-plugs get changed like clockwork, but brake fluid sits. And sits. “My, that’s a delightful shade of brown...” In a sense, then, Russell Speedbleeders have all but revolutionized brake bleeding.
ORDINARILY, when you damage your dirtbike’s exhaust pipe, you seize the opportunity to replace it with a high-performance aftermarket unit. But what do you do if you damage the replacement? Or worse, what do you do if no replacement exists?
JUST LIKE DUSTIN HOFFMAN’S HAPLESS character in The Graduate, if you want off-road body armor, ya gotta get into plastics. In the case of the EVS Ballistic Jersey shown here, make that nylon and foam and elastic and plastic. Sort of like one-stop shopping for upper-torso protection, the company’s BJ2 model is basically a zip-front, vented-nylon underjersey with foam impact panels at the front, back, shoulders and elbows/forearms topped by .08-inch-thick plastic shields.
YAMAHA’S YZF-R1 IS ONE OF those rare models that evokes love at first sight. After all, with its seductive styling and titillating performance, what’s not to like? The bike attracts loads of attention from non-motorcyclists, too, while netting respect and admiration from those who do ride.
Should dirty Superbikes join flat-track’s one-brand band?
ALL WAS RIGHT WITH THE WORLD. SCOTT PARKER, THE 38-YEAR-OLD ICON OF AMA Grand National Dirt Track racing, was facing his final regularseason challenge from 18-year-old upstart Nicky Hayden. In classic mile style, it was down to the last lap after a race full of draft passes and lead changes.
Micklessness was marvelous in 1999. Robbed of the dominant figure in the 500cc Grands Prix, the best of the rest feasted on close competition and fun finishes that were hailed as a revival of the world’s premier motorcycle racing class.
It wasn’t the winner-take-all battle that many had hoped for, but it was darn close. Matt Hines and Angelle Seeling, two of the most popular young stars on the NHRA Winston Drag Racing circuit, headed into the season-ending event in Pomona, California, in a virtual deadlock for the Winston Pro Stock Bike championship.
I bought a 1999 Suzuki Hayabusa a couple of months ago, and as soon as it got 1000 miles on it, I opened her up to see what she’d do. I took it out to a secret place I know not too far from here, a dead-straight, level road where you can run wide-open for almost 5 miles with no cops, no cattle, no intersections and no traffic.
Editorial offices are located at 1499 Monrovia Ave., Newport Beach, CA 92663. Editorial contributions are welcomed, but must be guaranteed exclusive to Cycle World. We are not responsible for the return of un-solicited material unless accompanied with a self-addressed, stamped envelope.