WELCOME TO THE RICKETY, NEVER-ending rollercoaster ride that is the Italian motorcycle industry. Latest to teeter on the edge is the Aprilia Group, consisting of Aprilia, Moto Guzzi and Laverda, struggling to keep out of the clutches of amministrazione controllata, the rough equivalent of our Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
“WE NEED A GOOD, LONG, BREAK-in ride for our new dirtbikes,” said Toby Kirk, rattling the ice cubes in his usual water tumbler full of Wild Turkey at our meeting of the Slimey Crud Motorcycle Gang the other night. We were all in a smoky bar in Madison, Wisconsin, eating free peanuts and listening to Bob Dylan’s “Tangled Up in Blue” on their excellent jukebox.
AS CHILDREN WE SLOSHED THE BATH-water until it splashed over the end of the tub, provoking stern parental lectures and an invitation to clean up the mess. Little did we know that this delinquent behavior contained the essence of a phenomenon that can be used to boost engine torque.
I came home from work to find my loving, knowing wife had left the June copy of CW on top of the mail. I immediately turned to coverage of the new Triumph Thruxton. In the past I owned four BMWs and adored them all, but I always wanted to give my heart to a Triumph.
What do you get when you cross a 110-cubic-inch RevTech Big Twin with a sportbike-spec inverted fork, lightweight 17-inch wheels and six-piston front brake calipers, along with other hot-rod bits? The street-fighter V, Custom Chrome's newest build-a-bike kit, that's what. Roll your own for $19,995.
Custom Chrome, Inc.
Italian boot-maker Alpinestars has upped the ante on the off-road side of things with brand-new versions of its popular Tech 8 ($330) and Tech 6 ($260). The former now features a more refined fit, revised instep and Achilles flex zones, and a dual-compound sole. The latter has the same up-dates, plus a complete internal/external going-over with new lower-profile buckles. Get’em both in a variety of colors in men’s sizes 5-16.
Custom Chrome, Inc.
Metro Air Force Blaster
Cleaning your bike blows, but now drying it is a blast-thanks to the Metro Air Force Blaster. This 4-horsepower blow dryer pushes a heated, high-power current of filtered air through a 10-foot, heavy-duty crush-proof hose. Five included attachments allow air to reach all the nooks and crannies a towel can’t, helping to eliminate water spots and cut drying time. The $230 unit comes with a one-year motor warranty.
Custom Chrome, Inc.
Dirt Tricks' heat-treated, laser-cut chromoly steel drive sprockets are swiss-cheese airy, come with a one-year guarantee and weigh just 4 ounces more than the same-size aluminum alternative. Available in a variety of sizes for most late-model dirtbikes, they retail for $89. Shock-resistant, die-steel countershaft sprockets cost $29.
Custom Chrome, Inc.
With all the 1150s and 1200s in BMW's Boxer-Twin line-up, why does the raciest of them all, the R1100S, get by with a 1085cc engine? The folks at San Jose BMW didn't think that was right either, so now offer a complete, ready-to-roll R1150S. For $17,990, customers get a 2004 R1100S Boxer Cup Prep upgraded with original-equipment 1130cc pistons and cylinders, a Remus Grand Prix stainless-steel exhaust, CC Products Superflow intake kit and a remapped Power Commander tuning module that together boost output by 15 horsepower. A billet-aluminum Paralever torque arm, fender-eliminator kit and "R1150S" graphics complete the package, which comes with a three-year/36-month warranty just like any other new BMW motorcycle.
Custom Chrome, Inc.
Got an older Japanese or European streetbike? Omar’s universal quarter-fairing mimics the classic mid-Seventies Piranha design. Available with a round 7⅛-inch headlight cutout, the fiberglass fairing is sold in black gel-coat, ready for sanding, priming and painting. Hardware is included. Suggested retail is $265. Turnsignals are a $20 option.
Custom Chrome, Inc.
What's so bitchin' about titanium? Functionally, it's light and strong, and doesn't rust like steel. But there's an aesthetic attraction, too, a magnetism that stretches beyond weights and measures. Nowhere is this more apparent than with Sato Racing's $1200 Ti exhaust. Consider this dazzling 4-into-2-into-1 system for the Kawasaki ZX-6RR: Combined with a Dynojet Power Commander, it's said to yield astonishing increases of 12 horsepower and 4.5 foot-pounds of torque. What's more, it only weighs 8 pounds (catalyzer-equipped carbon-fiber/kevlar muffler included), which is half the mass of some stock sportbike pipes. Finishing touch? A Ti pipe hanger ($109), of course.
THINK HOW BORING life would be if it were only about functionality. We're nodding off just thinking about it! Yep, style is everything, always has been, and nobody knows this better than Ducati, whose current success was built on one of the most stylish bikes of all time, Massimo Tamburini's masterpiece, the 916.
Suzuki's much-anticipated entry into the big-bore four-stroke motocross wars has finally broken cover. The all-new 2005 RM-Z450 was designed, developed and produced entirely by Suzuki (no "green" influence). Most notably, the twin-spar aluminum frame (using Showa suspension) has seen significant design variation and now combines welded forgings, extrusions and stampings, á la the GSX-R sportbikes.
Never mind this 112-page soft-bound handbook is only for paid ATV members of the Honda Rider's Club of America, the yearly $25 dues are well worth it. The Where to Ride Guide details riding spots in 43 states across the nation, and includes contact phone numbers for riding areas, nearest Honda dealers, relevant websites, chamber of commerce contacts, and in some cases a level of difficulty rating for rides.
BEAUTY IS BEAUTY, AN aesthetic ideal toward which creative people all strive. When your mode is essentially sculptural—in the case of motorcycles, for example—it makes perfect sense for a guitar company such as Gibson to turn toward three of the most accomplished custom motorcycle builders of our time for inspiration.
Old School is back in session this August at the 2004 Sturgis Rally. The Journey Museum in nearby Rapid City, South Dakota, is hosting "Bob's Back," a retrospective showing of chopper artist David Mann's original paintings accompanied by a dozen examples of bob-job motorcycles-everything from authentic California bobbers like the 1940 Indian Sport Scout owned by CW Editor-in-Chief David Edwards to modern interpretations by custom wizards Billy Lane, Hank Young and Chica.
A pair of Kawasaki KZ1000s swept across the cover of this issue, setting the stage for the shootout inside. Which of the "Choice 1000s" was better, the shaft-driven ST or chain-driven Mk II? The editors stopped short of making any sweeping pronouncements, but seemed to prefer the latter, labeling it "a racer's delight" and "a fine all-around motorcycle."
FOR EVERY BIG-INCH RevTech or S&S Harley-clone engine sold, you might imagine another high-performance custom about to be built. But Harley-Davidson's Parts & Accessories Division pictures something else: money it's not making. To keep its customers in the fold, not to mention keep up with the current cruiser displacement wars brought about by 2000cc-plus Kawasakis and Triumphs (see page 32), The Motor Company recently introduced two important bits of hot-rod accessory kit: a 125-horse-power, 120-cubic-inch (1967cc) Twin Cam engine that will drop into any Twin Cam chassis that uses rubber-mounts, and a new Screamin’ Eagle six-speed overdrive gearbox usable in just about every post-1991 Harley.
Have you had a little trouble cinching up your genuine Harley-Davidson belt buckle lately? Well then, here's a surefire way to get back in shape without sacrificing one iota of cruiser cool. In a rare nostalgic moment (and an even rarer recently profitable one), Schwinn has tapped into its own rich history and brought back the Sting-Ray bicycle.
UP: To Sjaak Lucassen, for grabbing the R1 by the horns. The crazy 43-year-old Dutchman has been circling the globe on his 2001 Yamaha, from the sands of the Sahara to the jungles of the Amazon. He’s even been to Timbuktu. All on a repli-racer with 17-inch wheels.
IT LOOKED LIKE A showbike when it was introduced two years ago, and it still does today—may-be more so, thanks to the tidy Von Dutch-style pinstriping atop the tank and rear fender. Yamaha's Road Star Warrior was part of 2002's power-cruiser push, joining Harley's V-Rod, Honda's VTX1800C and Kawasaki's Mean Streak as V-Twins with attitude.
WHEN THE PRODUCT PLANNERS AT REBORN British bike-maker Triumph got it into their heads to build a power-cruiser, they didn't fool around. Citing a gap in the large-bore market, they went huge—as in a segment-busting 2000cc inline-Three pumping out a staggering 120 horsepower and 120 foot-pounds of torque.
OFTEN BUSINESS AND ENGINEERING DECISIONS ARE not choices of free will. They are nudged by circumstance. Because Triumph sells into the world's largest motorcycle market, the U.S., where a large portion of sales is cruisers, it woulb be fiscally irresponsible for that company not to build a cruiser.
DOES HISTORY REPEAT ITSELF? IT WAS 1969 WHEN BSA's Don Brown invited me to redesign the original Rocket 3. Now, 35 years later, the folks at Cycle World have extended the same invitation: “What we need from you is a ‘What-If piece, as in what if Craig Vetter, among the first to recognize cruiser styling as an important American selling point, were to design a limited-edition Rocket III? What would it look like and why?” My redesign of the 1969 Rocket 3 became the Triumph X-75 Hurricane of 1973, which was later to become one of British Bike magazine’s “100 Greatest Bikes Ever,” and then was selected for the Guggenheim Museum’s “Art of the Motorcycle” worldwide display.
Toto, I don't think we're on Bracebridge Street anymore...
STARTING A MOTORCYCLE COMPANY IS BOTH ADMIRABLE and insane. History is littered with the snapped crankshafts, shattered dreams and broken men who have tried. Resurrections of storied old brands have come—and (Triumph aside) mostly gone.
WHAT'S THE BEST-KEPT SECRET IN MOTORCYCLING? AARON YATES' ANGER-management strategies? Indian's blueprint for marque revival? Honda's rationale for letting Valentino Rossi and Ricky Carmichael slip away in the same year? Legitimate candidates, to be sure.
IT HAS TO RANK AS ONE OF MY TOP TEN RIDING experiences. I planned it as another nothin' trip, a Jimmy-&-Company-go-riding adventure, like so many others. This time, Honda's Johnny Campbell, winner of a bunch of Baja l000s, came along. Add one dose of star power.
WHY? WHY DO I own a Honda XR400R and ride it so much when I can mainline the latest, greatest and trickest dirtbikes on the market? Do I like to suffer? Or do I just really hate bike maintenance? Surely, it isn't because the XR handles so great or has sooo much power.
SECOND ACTS ARE A BITCH. Nobody wants to be a one-hit wonder. Just ask Debbie Boone, Billy Ray Cyrus and Iron Butterfly—and hey, how’s that for the Vegas Lounge Act From Hell? So, what to do if you’re HRA, American Honda’s in-house design studio, and your last big concept bike actually made it from clay mockup to assembly line virtually intact?
SOMETIMES, ANGLOPHILES are a little touchy about mixing components from other lands with those of the Empire. Not the Brit lover who built this Honda CB750-powered BSA "Rocket 4." in fact, frame and fuel tank are the only bits that survive from the old Beezer Triple.
A nitrous-injected Harley with a Dale Earnhardt Jr. paint scheme? Now that's an American Flyer!
IT'S HARD TO KEEP A straight face when a Harley-riding NASCAR fan boasts that his American Flyer goes 200 mph. It's only when you realize he's talking about one of his company's model-airplane engines—a diminutive .4-cubic-inch contraption that revs to 32,000 rpm and makes 5 horsepower—that your bemusement turns to amusement.
INSPIRATION IS A WONderful thing. Just ask Larry Pearson, a rock-radio DJ in Spokane, Washing-ton, who relates the story of his super-trick 1976 Honda CB550F Super Sport café special. “The machinist I bought the bike from, Tom Rasp, started to build this 550 as a vintage racer using a couple of Cycle World issues he had from the late Seventies for inspiration.
HOW DO YOU TRICK OUT a plain-Jane dirtbike? Look no farther than Andre and Ricardo Barbosa's totally tarted-up 2003 KTM 450 for one very definitive answer. Living stateside for the last 25 years, the Brazilian-born brothers have their fingers on the pulse of the SoCal motorcycling scene.
They said it was springtime, but climbing up the wet and steep Rimutaka Pass, switchback after switchback in fog and wind, it didn't feel like it. Surely, snow would soon start falling, If it did, at least I had a windshield to keep the flakes from clinging to my beard, big fenders to catch the icy rooster tails, and fat tires that worked hard to keep me on the road.
WHEN LAST WE UPDATED OUR long-term Kawasaki Z1000, we vowed to seek cures for our saddle sores and tingly fingers. To that end (sorry), we first contacted the folks at Corbin (www.corbin.com) and ordered up one of their color-matched seats ($259).
NOTHING BETTER THAN THE WIND IN your hair on the open road, but helmet laws have largely put an end to that. How about wind in the hair...on your chest? The Hein Gericke Triton’s 11 separate zippered vents (with internal color accents in red or silver mesh) ensure ample airflow.
IF YOU HAD TO CHOOSE BETWEEN PUTting on a pair of boots that felt like casts or wearing casts on your feet for six weeks, you'd choose option one, wouldn't you? That's a fair description of the new D-Axial roadracing boots from Dainese.
An inside look at Kenny Roberts’ ongoing battle against the MotoGP establishment
KENNY ROBERTS SR. WAS AMA GRAND NATIONAL CHAMPION IN 1973 AND '74, then 500cc World Champion in 1978, '79 and '80. In "retirement," he managed Yamaha's Grand Prix team in Europe until political issues ended the relationship. As he did as a rider, he found a way forward.
Ben Spies looked exhausted. His face was flushed, body drenched in perspiration. The nearby monitor indicated his heart was thumping along at a lofty 184 beats per minute. “Go, Ben, go!” encouraged a pretty blond technician. “C’mon, just 15 more seconds!” Nose pinched off and a ventilator stuck in his mouth, the 19-year-old factory Suzuki roadracer was furiously pedaling a stationary bicycle at the University of California-Davis performance lab in Sacramento testing his “VO2 max.”
I went down to my local Harley-Davidson dealer, found the model I wanted and proceeded to check out the price tag. The base price on the bike was shown as $1000 over the MSRP, plus the cost of an alarm, an EFI computer upgrade, along with sales tax, license, California smog, etc., etc., right on down to $750 for “dealer prep.”