I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER, OF course. The Britbike Gods are not to be trifled with. Their revenge can be swift and terrible. This episode started a couple of years ago when my friend John Bivens of Indian Engineering fame presented me with an orphaned 1958 A10 Super Rocket carcass recently hauled out of a storage bin for non-payment of rent.
As OUR PICKUP TRUCK BORED THOUGH the dark Minnesota night on I-90, returning from the dirtbike ride in South Dakota I wrote about last month, my friend Rob Himmelmann and I had lots of time to kill, so we naturally talked about motorcycles.
HISTORY UP CLOSE CAN BE REALLY low-key. It certainly was in Monza, Italy, this May, when I saw the grand-parent of all modern transverse four-cylinder sportbikes, a 1950s Gilera 500 Grand Prix bike. Part of an indoor classic display at the Italian World Superbike round, it sat quietly on its stand with no plaque to declare its vast influence.
I was surprised at Cycle World's choice for the Best Sport Tourer (“Ten Best Bikes,” July). The BMW K1200GT is a nice machine, but to vote it over Honda’s new ST1300 is an insult. Yes, the GT has heated grips/seat, cruise control and optional GPS. It also weighs more than the ST-ABS, carries less in its hard bags and can only travel 160 miles on a tank of gas.
Winner of 76 Grands Prix and nine world titles, the late Mike Hailwood is a motorcycle racing legend. Now, Vanson is commemorating the two-wheeled triumphs of “Mike the Bike” with a pair of limited-production leather jackets. Available only through the company website, the $625 garments will be produced in two styles: black with red/white striping on the sleeves reflecting the 1960s Honda years, and red/white/gold for the victorious Isle of Man TT Ducati comeback in 1978. Custom-made and with the buyer’s name embroidered on the lining, the jackets are affixed with era-appropriate sponsor patches and Hailwood’s signature over the left breast. Production is limited to 500 garments each, with a portion of the profits going to the Hailwood estate. Vanson Leathers, Inc., 951 Broadway, Fall River, MA 02724; 508/678-2000; www.vansonleathers.com
Vanson Leathers, Inc.
Backroad ace or HOV-lane commuter, Gaerne has you covered. The Shockwave RR is track-ready stuff, with a removable "Pro-Fit" ankle support system consisting of a snug neoprene sheath armored with hinged carbon-kevlar plates. In red, blue or black graphics, the RRs go for $289. More practical for the everyday rider is the ST Dry boot (not shown), sold in black only, but with Gaerne’s exclusive “Dry Tech” lining. Treat your feet for $199. Gaerne USA, 27833 Ave. Hopkins #2, Valencia, CA 91355; 800/426-0213; www.gaerneusa.com
Vanson Leathers, Inc.
Fabricated from stainless-steel and anodized aluminum, this bolt-on bike beautifier is claimed to offer an up to 6-horsepower increase on late-model Japanese sportbikes. Replaceable Silent Sport packing makes it easy to keep the $329 slip-on sounding brand-new. CHM Performance Exhaust, 7829 Fair Oaks Blvd., Carmichael, CA 95608; 916/944-8500
Vanson Leathers, Inc.
Electricmoto says its fully suspended, discbraked, knobby-tired Blade makes 18 horsepower. Not impressed? You should be. After all, the 48-volt Briggs & Stratton E-Tek electric motor that powers this “urban freestyle weapon” generates a ton of torque. In fact, initial throttle response is on par with a 500cc two-stroke-minus the ring-ding, that is. Boasting a top speed of 45 mph, the 165-pound silent screamer runs for 15-20 minutes on a single charge. Suggested retail is $5995, which includes a 1.6 kW charger. Electricmoto, 3165 E. Main St., Ashland, OR 97520; 541/488-8226; www.electricmoto.com
Vanson Leathers, Inc.
Powroll Thrust Chamber
From beer-can ignitions to stroker kits, Powroll has spent the last 40 years finding new ways to pump up Thumpers. The latest product from the Oregon-based shop is the Thrust Chamber, which is designed to increase muffler volume and therefore boost power. Neat thing is, sound is kept in check—along with the stock spark arrestor. Good for the bike, good for the ears! Available for the Honda CRF150, XR50/70/80/100, plus Yamaha’s TT-R125, the CNC-machined piece installs in minutes and comes in red, gold or silver for $40. Powroll Inc., P.O. Box 920, Redmond, OR 97756; 541/ 923-1290; www.powroll.com
Vanson Leathers, Inc.
Maxxis Goldspeed Tires
MAXXIS IS SERIOUS ABOUT SUPERMOTO. THE FIRST TIRE-MAKER to market rubber designed specifically for this type of racing, it even sponsors the Supermotard European Championship. The new Goldspeed series—three 17-inch fronts and three 17-inch rears—attends to all sorts of track conditions. The treaded M6118 front and M6119 rear, for example, are offered in medium, soft and ultrasoft compounds, while the wet-weather-specific M6131 front and M6132 rear come in ultra-soft only. And the M6109 slicks? Medium and soft. Prices start at $134 for fronts and $181 for rears. Recently, Assistant Editor Mark Cernicky sampled the M6109s on his race-prepped Honda CRF450R at the nearby Lake Perris kart track, where Jeremy McGrath, Jeff Ward and Mike Metzger hone their pavement skills. Despite scorching track temperatures, Cernicky reported that the tires gripped tenaciously and wore evenly. Maxxis International-USA, 545 Old Peachtree Rd., Suwanee, GA 30024; 800/462-9947; www.maxxis.com
Winner of 76 Grands Prix and nine world titles, the late Mike Hailwood is a motorcycle racing legend. Now, Vanson is commemorating the two-wheeled triumphs of “Mike the Bike” with a pair of limited-production leather jackets.
CAN SUPERMOTO—THE fashionable European offshoot of the early-Eighties made-for-television American Superbikers series—save single-cylinder streetbikes? Enthusiasm for this form of racing is nearing epidemic levels, but whether it will translate to success in the showroom is uncertain.
VICTORY IS ON THE GAS. The gracefully styled, second-generation, 92-cubic-inch Vee-motored Vegas is a rousing success, dealers are energized and sales are up. Question is, what’s next? More of the same. Company higher-ups recently pulled the wraps off the Minnesota-based bike-maker’s 2004 lineup, and in doing so revealed five models: three new releases and two carryovers.
In the muscle-bound world of bruiser-cruisers, Yamaha's Road Star 1600 was starting to look a little puny, particularly compared to Honda's heavyweight champion, the VTX1800. So for 2004, the Tuning Fork Folks upped both the Road Star's displacement and power output.
Attention servicemen and women: If you are a Buell or Harley-Davidson owner currently deployed with coalition forces in Afghanistan or Iraq, and your bike is still under warranty, The Motor Company will extend the warranty by the number of days you are deployed.
HARLEY-Davidson’s 100th birthday party pretty much spans 2003 with events worldwide, but the core of the celebration—where it’s easiest to understand how and why H-D still makes motorcycles after all these years and where it simply feels right to sing while they blow out the candles—is a show called the “Heroes of Harley-Davidson.”
What do you do with 40 years of two-stroke R&D if the world goes four-stroke? You apply that knowledge to a clean, fuel-efficient, trendy diesel engine. This is what Yamaha has done to create its 1-liter SD diesel Twin. Because the engine is a crankcase-scavenged two-stroke, all those years of Grand Prix transfer-port design have immediate application.
It was "Happy Trails and Carefree Camping" with four dual-purpose machines used for "Bikepacking." A Honda XL250, Kawasaki KL250, Suzuki SP370 and Yamaha XT500 were loaded like mules with tents, stoves, sleeping bags and willing riders to take on terrain from freeways to mountain trails.
THIS PAST SPRING, DUNLOP debuted a new tire, the previously factory-racer-only D756RR. Offered in limited quantities and costing more than the standard D756, the Race Replica features a softer, stickier compound and a reinforced carcass, the latter allowing for reduced air pressure and a larger footprint.
When it debuted in 1999, Suzuki’s GSX1300R Hayabusa put a face to the phrase “Sick Excess.” For racing roofer Rad Greaves, however, sick excess is not enough. Which is why the so-called RadBusa exists. Inspired by Greaves’ own “GP Busa III” AMA Formula Xtreme racer (see “Winged Devil,” CW, August), this modified monster is a product of his new company, Rad’s Radical Rides (www.teamhayabusa.com).
DOWN: To Death, for claiming one of roadracing’s greats. David Jeffries, nine-time Isle of Man TT winner, crashed his Suzuki GSX-R1000 this past May during practice for the 2003 event, suffering fatal injuries. The 30-year-old Brit held the outright lap record around the 37.73-mile public-roads circuit.
THIRTY-THOUSAND-DOLLAR Ducatis are like $25,000 Harleys, right? A gross exaggeration, soon to be discredited in a Peter Egan column? Uh, no. The Ducati 999R shown here does indeed sell for $29,995. And that’s without any extras. Of course, as the homologation model for Ducati’s entry into the World Superbike Championship, it's got all the good stuff already.
Every decade or so, Honda flexes its muscles and kicks sand in the face of its competition. This time around, though, it's not with engine technology.
THE CB750. THE CBX. THE CX500 Turbo. The NR750. Every so often, Honda produces a motorcycle that is pure corporate testosterone, a declaration about who is really at the top of the two-wheel food chain. "See this bike and quake," is the statement to its competitors.
OH, WE KNOW THE PROBLEM. THE town fat cats have snapped up the only available Runes, their deposits sitting in the Honda shop-keep's safe for six months or more. So, how else for the discriminating cruiser rider to stand out in a sea of 100th Anniversary Hogs and row upon row of metric hopefuls?
The modern sporting V-Twin owes its existence to one Italian company saving itself from oblivion 30 years ago
IT WAS LIKE ELECTRIC ARCS WERE FLASHING BETWEEN THE TWO BIKES, across the decades. It was as if this candy-blue Suzuki SV1000 was channeling the spirit of this superbly preserved Ducati 750 GT, the original modern V-Twin sportbike, which happened to be sitting next to it due to some weird confluence of events—like commuting.
Ducati's 750 GT and the birth of the comparison test
IN THE BEGINNING, THE DUCATI 750 V-TWIN CON-founded what I knew to be true. And I wasn't alone in my confusion. Since the introduction of the Honda CB750 in 1969, anyone who could count the number of moving parts in his slide rule understood the new and future engine-format for big performance bikes: the transverse four-cylinder four-stroke.
Thought the XB9 Firebolt and Lightning were wonderful but underpowered? Erik Buell has the bikes for you
THERE'S LITTLE DOUBT THAT THE SHORT, STIFF AND innovative chassis of Buell's XB series defines state-of-the-art. In last year's "World's Best Streetbike" shootout, an XB9R Firebolt lapped our low-speed handling course essentially as quickly as a Honda CBR600F4i, a bike that out-accelerated it by about a second in the quartermile.
WITH THE NUTS AND bolts of the new Buell XB12 series untorqued and explained in this issue's tech preview, I drew the choice assignment of assessing on-track performance at the press launch. Is this a great job or what? Buell served up a day of play at Road America, a scenic and challenging circuit carved out of the wooded rolling hills of Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.
I ALREADY KNOW YOUR first question vis-á-vis this big Burgman scooter: Will it do a rolling smoky burnout? The answer is Yes. All's ya need to do is punch it into "M" for manual with your left thumb, which drops 'er into first gear, clamp on the front brake, stand up and feed gas.
SOME THINGS IN LIFE IMPROVE with age. Such is the case with our long-term Honda Interceptor. After 14,000-plus miles, the fuel-injected V-Four runs better and shifts more smoothly than when we first took possession of it. And that's saying a lot, because when the all-new machine was introduced in 2002, the ABS version topped our "World's Best Streetbike" shootout and was deemed "Best Open-Class Streetbike" in our annual Ten Best Bikes voting.
Cycle World's Rolling Concours attracts the True Believers
A MAN WILL DO A LOT OF THINGS FOR A free donut and a bottle of wine.Up to and including rolling out his finely restored classic motorcycle in the pouring rain with the prospect of a 50-mile ride ahead. Yes, by their very nature, Cycle World Rolling Concours types are a durable sort, hearty souls unafraid of the odd bit of drizzle.
Soaking up the ambiance at one of the East's big classic motorcycle gatherings
David C. Walsh
OKAY, CHILLY LATE-MAY SQUALLS are supposed to happen in the U.K. and Europe; in the States, not! But if D. Edwards & Co. can endure a splish-splash in California wine country, we of the Other Coast might at least fill our boot-cleats with a little Maryland mud while browsing old two-wheelers.
OLDER, MORE EXPERIENCED DIRTBIKE riders are always on the lookout for new products that promise improved performance and enhanced comfort. One such invention is Fasst Company's FleXX handlebar. What makes the four-piece, pivoting aluminum design so special?
In case anybody forgot, Ducati knows a thing or two about four-stroke roadracing motorcycles
THIS IS A GRAND PRIX SEASON OF SURPRISES. DUCATI, which last competed in GPs more than 40 years ago, fielded its 990cc V-Four Desmosedici for the first time and was instantly competitive. Factory riders Loris Capirossi and Troy Bayliss have led races, set pole times, broken 200 mph and, in just the team's sixth Grand Prix, Capirossi gave Ducati its first MotoGP victory.
Just as Ducati’s sudden MotoGP success refreshes that series, so the new presence of the Suzuki GSX-R1000 restores some lost vitality to World Superbike. Over recent seasons, teams running 750cc Fours have complained of a performance shortfall versus the 1000cc Twins—not surprising considering that Fours have won only 20 percent of WSB titles.
Could you please tell me the best way to polish a frame? I have a bone-stock Kawasaki ZX-9R, and instead of spending $10 grand on a new bike, I am going to freshen this one up a bit. Is there a polishing tool of some kind I can buy and attach to my air compressor?
Your explanation about Rich Miller’s problem with his leaky Harley-Davidson Evo rockerbox assembly (“Leak of the week,” July issue) was very good. I have an aftermarket shop, and we have found that not all gaskets are created equal. Some brands are a little thinner in the cross-section than others, which tends to allow them to leak, even when the middle rocker cover is not distorted.
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