SURELY IT IS ONE OF THE SIGNS OF THE impending Apocalypse, like goats lying down with dogs or Bob Dylan appearing in a Victoria’s Secret lingerie commercial. Right there in Cobo Hall at the big Detroit Auto Show we have America’s favorite anger-management candidates, Paul and Pauler of Orange County Choppers, rolling out their latest “theme” bike, commissioned by none other than Lincoln-freakin’-Mercury, Ford’s “prestige” division.
“HERE’S A QUESTION YOU MIGHT CONsider in your column,” a motorcycle dealer said to me a few weeks ago. “Why am I selling so many bike trailers? I used to sell only one or two a year, but now the number is way up. Why do people suddenly need to haul bikes on trailers?” I have to admit I was momentarily stumped.
PISTONS FOUND AN EASY LIFE WHEN they first came into this world. Idling along at 350 rpm in horizontal steam engines, their peak back-and-forth acceleration was a few hundred times the acceleration of gravity, their operating temperature close to that of boiling water.
I just had to thank you for Kevin Cameron’s piece on Valentino Rossi (“The Best,” February, 2005). This is one of the finest pieces of motorsport journalism I’ve ever read. Valentino is so unique, so multi-faceted, yet Kevin captured the essence of this man’s true talents.
Tight parking confines calling for multi-point, back-and-forth garage maneuvers no longer pose a problem, thanks to the $90 TailSwinger. Positioned under the rear tire (max width 200mm) of any bike weighing less than 1000 pounds, the patent-pending, castaluminum design with its quartet of fixed-angle wheels “swings” left or right on any clean, hard, smooth surface. Cyoma LLC, 3601 N. Classen Blvd. #108, Oklahoma City, OK 73118; 800/871-2350; www.tailswinger.com
The newest, most luxurious modular helmet from Nolan is the $399 X-1002. Designed around a hand-laid composite-fiber shell and fitted with a removable, washable liner, the innovative flip-up design uses the Italian company’s single-handed Smart Lift opening mechanism. Brow and chin vents can be opened and closed while wearing gloves, and the removable Vision Protection System eliminates the need for a smoked shield or sunglasses. An anti-fog Pinlock insert is included. Slip one on your noggin in black, platinum, titanium or white in S-XXL sizes. Cima International, 399 Wall St. #L, Glendale Heights, IL 60139; 630/671-9710; www.nolan.it
Ready, set, ratchet! The lightweight, plastic-bodied Ready Ratchet appears to be a conventional ratchet, except the seven supplied sockets (metric or standard, your choice) are stored on a tray inside the contoured handle! Add one to your toolkit for $20. Ready Products, Inc., 5855 Olympia Fields Ct., West Chester, OH 45069; 866/942-9230; www.ready-tools.com
Might this be the elusive motor-bicycle built by Bill Harley and the Davidson brothers back in the early 1900s? Not without a clip-on engine! Seriously, the $419 1903 is part of Felt’s new cruiser bicycle line. And safe to say, you’ll feel as if you’ve been transported back in time whenever you throw a leg over this single-speed, aluminum-framed machine. Don’t dig antiques? Then try the three-speed Café, which pays homage to the XR750 dirt-tracker. Felt Bicycles, LLC, 20372 Hermana Circle; Lake Forest, CA 92630; 949/452-9050; www.feltracing.com
Pro-Series Smart Pump
Talk about a bright idea! Unlike other Harley-Davidson Evolution-type oil pumps, the Pro-Series Smart Pump routes oil to the filter before it goes to the engine. What’s more, patented three-valve technology delivers just the right amount of lube to topand bottom-end components at all rpm, including idle. Also available for 1973-83 Shovelheads. Bolt one on your bike for $360. TP Engineering, Inc., 5 Francis J Clarke Circle, Bethel, CT 06801; 203/744-4960; www.tpengineering.com
The Sorrento is yet another example of why after four decades LePera continues to impress with its fine saddles. A blend of classic and contemporary styling, the deep-dish design is nevertheless over-the-road friendly. And look at that stitching—flawless! Like other company designs, the Sorrento is available in a wide variety of exotic or traditional materials, with or without “Air Gel” or “Biker Gel” inserts. Prices start at $399. LePera Enterprises, Inc., 8207 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, CA 91605; 818/767-5110; www.lepera.com
Tweak your suspension mid-moto without tools? That’s the concept behind Ride Engineering’s patent-pending Compression Adjusters. Designed for use on any twin-chamber KYB or Showa fork, the $90 kit comes with two low-profile, anodized-aluminum adjusters, eight set screws and an Allen wrench for installation. Ride Engineering, 8195 Eastport Dr., Huntington Beach, CA 92646; 800/805-1516; www.rideengineering.com
Our own Allan Girdler is a Sportster man through and through, with 93,000 miles on a 1986 model, 40K on his current ’01 XL883, and XR750s of the street-tracker and vintage-racing persuasions. But (to borrow a Girdlerism). That doesn’t make him Harley’s Man. AG's latest book, Harley-Davidson Sportster, $35, is by no means an Officially Licensed Product. For instance, in lamenting the passing of a favorite old H-D dealership, replaced by an emporium-like superstore, Girdler writes, “...all their money is invested in T-shirts for dogs and lingerie for ladies and they’ve sold all their pre-Evo parts...” Definitely not Milwaukee-approved. Still, Girdler’s love for the Sporty comes through loud and clear. In production for almost 50 years, it’s been everything from an enduro mount to a mean-mutha street racer to the most prolific trophy-getter in competition history to a bargain-basement loss-leader, all of it documented here in Girdler’s unique voice and photographer David Dewhurst’s excellent photos. “It’s still air-cooled, it still uses pushrods and the XL engine still gets the job done,” notes Girdler. Same could be said of the author. Motorbooks International, Galtier Plaza #200, 380 Jackson St., St. Paul, MN 55101; 800/826-6600; www.motorbooks.com
HERE YAMAHA GOES playing the forbiddenfruit game with America again. Years ago, it was with the YZF600 and 1000, then the FJR1300 and now the stunning new MT01, on sale now—just not in North America! Even Europeans felt sort of lucky to get a ride on the big 1670cc V-Twin at the bike’s press introduction in South Africa late last year.
I have a dream, and it is a supermoto bike trickedout with a single-sided swingarm, massive 420mm rimbrake and wide 17-inch mag wheels shod with treaded street tires. And now, thanks to TM (www.tmracing.it), you can have that dream, too. The new SMM Black Dream is just such a machine, powered by a 528cc, dohc, four-valve Single with both kickand electric-start.
Ducati’s website, www.ducati.com, overcame stiff opposition from Ferrari, Aprilia, BMW, Alfa Romeo and Toyota to top the automotive category of the seventh annual media awards presented by renowned Italian financial newspaper II Sole 24 ORE.
TAKE FOUR ITALIANS with links to Formula One racing and a passion for motocross, and what you end up with is the bike shown here. The WRM 450 (www.wrm-motorcycles.it) is a prototype powered by an ohc four-stroke Single with a composite carbon-fiber/kevlar/steel/aluminum frame and swingarm that was born because its creators wanted to push the limits of dirtbike technology.
Concept bikes are where designers get to flex their muscle. Practicality takes a second seat, and while the machinery matters, it's the thought behind it that is being showcased. Which is why this motorcycle, the Saga DSC-01, exists. Built by Ontario, California's Dreamcraft Studios as its calling-card show machine, the Saga is more industrial sculpture than motorcycle.
EVERYONE LOVES TRACK days—schools package courses, tracks sell downtime, ex-racers market their talents and stay current, students train in a safe environment. Australia's International Motorcycle Riding and Racing Academy, however, offers something more: a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
"Six Full Tests" topped this issue's cover. Inside, a broad mix of bike reviews detailed the Honda CB125 and GL1100 Gold Wing, Suzuki RM250 and GS1100, Yamaha YZ465 and Montesa Cota. • The GS1100E was proclaimed the “best superbike money can buy.”
IN CASE YOU HADN'T noticed, scooters have penetrated mainstream American moto-culture. With more makes and models currently available than we’ve seen in recent years, it’s not just the cash-strapped starving student or artist who is scootin’ around these days.
DOWN: To scam artists, for preying on good people trying to buy their dreambikes. Reports CW reader Nat Pennestri of Monreal, Canada, “I bought a Ducati 998 on eBay in November and the transaction was through an escrow service that checked out at the time.
AS THE NAME SUGGESTS, THIS BIKE IS AN OUTCAST, ALMOST villainous. Riding it is like carrying a weapon, trigger at the right handgrip. Interested? Even if big-inch Harley power isn’t your thing, the Ecosse Moto Heretic’s enticing-yet-peculiar blend of bare-fisted American muscle, Italian-inspired chassis, Swedish suspension and thug-bike riding position is difficult to resist.
Confused? The cross-cultural café-racer/biker-bar vibe will do that to you. This is the Supermanx, and it forces you to ask some strange questions. Like, does it matter that the fuel tank, oil tank and tailsection are hand-hammered aluminum in the finest English tradition?
Is the 2006 VRSCR the world's longest sportbike or a cruiser with rearsets?
Harley-Davidson Motor Co., Inc.
Harley-Davidson Motor Co., Inc.
VRSCR STREET ROD
WHAT EXACTLY IS A VRSCR Street Rod? When confronted with that question, Harley-Davidson spokesman Paul James starts his answer with a clear statement: “It’s not a sportbike.” And, no, the Street Rod doesn’t look like a sportbike. It shares its frame, twin-shock suspension design (if not components), speed-look headlight, airbox cover, 19/18-inch front/rear tire combination and many other components with Harley’s VRSC V-Rod powercruiser.
You've got to admire a guy who calls his website www.boostisgood.com. That’s “boost is good,” for those of you who have trouble with word games, and it’s an indication of Turbo Connection owner Brian Olson’s philosophy that what man made, man can make madder with a turbocharger.
Mert Lawwill and the street-tracker Harley should have built...but won’t
WAY BACK WHEN, WE WERE KIDS enthralled by On Any Sunday, the best motorcycle movie ever made, while Mert Lawwill was going fast, having fun and trying new ideas in his shop, so he could go faster and have more fun. That was then. Now we former kids are racing in the Geezer class or tuning for our kids and grand-kids or telling them how fast we used to be, while Mert Lawwill, one-time movie star and 1969 Grand National Champion, is still having fun and trying new ideas...doesn’t seem fair, does it?
Henry Ford made his name building race cars and when he built faster than he wished to drive, he hired a daring bicycle rider, fellow named Barney Oldfield, and together they made history. Years later, the two elderly legends were on a podium accepting some honors, so the story goes, and Ford turned to Oldfield and said, “Barney, I made you and you made me,” to which Oldfield replied, “Yes, and I did a damn site better job.”
Roger Goldammer’s homage to board-tracking wins the inaugural World Championship of Custom Bike Building
Never mind the hype on The Chopper Channel (coming soon to a cable network near you?), not all custom bikes are made for television. It’s even possible to have a custom bike-building contest where the builders aren’t followed around by video cameras.
CHOPPERS, CHOPPERS EVERYWHERE, YET NOT A SINGLE one that can be ridden. Not hard, not fast and not far, at least. Make ’em hot and flashy, never mind the physics of actually riding one of these things. Thankfully, this One Big Flaw of the niche is changing, and changing rapidly.
In the 1970s, Steve Baker beat King Kenny, dominated Daytona and became the first-ever American roadracing world champion. Then he faded away.
VERY FEW RIDERS EVER TRULY TAMED Yamaha’s humongous beast of a roadracer, the notorious and head-shaking two-stroke, four-pipe, liquid-cooled monster TZ750. Getting a grip on the TZ, first unleashed in 1974, took the likes of King Kenny Roberts, Gene “Burritto” Romero and, perhaps least likely of all, the soft-spoken and diminutive Steve Baker, who at 5-foot-6 and 120 pounds should have turned and run at the shrieking sound of Satan’s own 140-horsepower chainsaw.
IT’S AN AGE-OLD CLICHÉ BUT JUST AS true today as ever: You can’t beat cubic inches. Cams and valves, carbs and compression, pipes and ignition all add punch to a motor’s output, usually more in one rpm range than another; but when you add inches, the power program steps up everywhere.
THE WAIT IS OVER. WELL, JUST ABOUT, anyway. It’s been three years since the CRF450R was introduced, and now Honda has taken the number-one motocross bike (a Cycle World Ten Best winner three years running) and turned it into a full-fledged enduro machine.
"SUZUKI CLAIMS THE ULTIMATE FOUR-STROKE WEAPON." Uh, easy on the brochure-babble, guys. As the past tells us about the future, all modern motocross bikes are so close in performance, reliability and price that a statement like that could be made by every manufacturer.
IT SAYS SO RIGHT ON THE TAG: “DEsigned in England by Frank Thomas Limited,” and then in much smaller type, “Made in Pakistan.” Which largely explains how this two-piece, zip-together leather suit can retail for under $500: $299 for the jacket, $199 for the pants.
There are more than 700 photographs—most of them in full color—in French moto-journalist Xavier Audouard's new, 208-page, hardcover coffee-table book, The Great History of Supercross. Better yet, these images are purported to have previously appeared in only three French publications—Moto Revue, Moto Verte and MX—so they've never been seen by American fans.
THIS YEAR'S DAYTONA RACES WILL see the most changes since the 200 moved from the beach to the Speedway. Two high-speed tire failures in prerace testing a year ago—and fear of worse to come as Superbikes become ever faster—drove the race-format change.
Ben Bostrom wants to be world champion. Which is why the 31-year-old Californian will be racing World Superbike on a Renegade Honda CBR1000RR this season. It’s just the shot in the arm the series needs. In WSB’s formative years, grids were filled with street-based machines anyone could buy, tune and race on a global level.
I’m curious to know something not touched on in the January Service department concerning the art and science of performance downshifting (“Sequential or rapid-fire?”). I recently recovered from a rash of coolness, but one thing bothered me while I was in rehab: The ruffians I used to go cruising with (they made the Girl Scouts look like Hell’s Angels) all practiced a downshift method wherein the clutch is never released between shifts.
I can't tell you how many times I've climbed aboard a privately owned motorcycle and been greeted by handlebar control levers that apparently were adjusted to suit some bizarrely shaped extraterrestrial rather than a human. Sometimes the levers aim up at the sky, sometimes they dangle down toward the ground, sometimes there’s one pointed in each direction.
Paul Dean’s answer about the wisdom of mounting car tires on motorcycles (October, 2004) was right on track, especially regarding rubber compound, construction and the changing effective diameter when a bike is leaned into a corner.
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