ROLLIE FREE STEPPED OUT OF HIS leathers and into the history books. Had the man done nothing more than set a 150.31-mph land-speed record in 1948 stripped down to his swim trunks and sneakers to cheat the wind, he’d still be one of American motorcycling’s most endearing characters.
THERE WERE SUSPICIOUS TIRE TRACKS IN the snow leading up to my workshop last Saturday when I returned home after a hard day of snow-blower shopping. Yes, our old Jacobsen unit finally bit the dust last week, so I spent the day driving around to farm-implement stores, looking for a replacement.
NOTHING'S NEW. I AM DIGGING INTO A big book I just received, Lyle Cummins’ new history of submarine diesel-engine development through 1945. I see that in 1912 oil jets were being used to cool pistons, just as they are today. Even before 1912, Frederick Lanchester had proposed such oil jets.
Will someone just say it out loud? Okay I will. The electric vehicle thing is a bust on all counts (“Electric Chair,” Up Front, February). Does anyone ever ask how much pollution is created producing the electricity to run these vehicles?
Hit the road less traveled with every thing but the kitchen sink? With the TraX Alu-Boxes, why not? These tough, 1.5mm-thick side cases, available in 37and 45-liter sizes in either black-powdercoat or raw-aluminum finishes ($300-350), are manufactured using a “holeless-rivet” system developed by German car-maker Audi for a cleaner appearance and greater water resistance Ditto the 38-liter top box ($300).
HANK GOODNESS MOTO insanity is a fully cross-cultural disease. It means that idealistic and inventive stateside maniacs like Erik Buell get to make their start building strange sportbikes in their garages using big, air-cooled American engines, and then get hired into the Bigs by none other than Harley-Davidson for mass production.
At first, it was a mere flicker, a subtle, flat-black suggestion of the coming movement. But with the introduction of the Softail Cross Bones, Harley-Davidson has hit full speed with its “Dark Custom” line. On the heels of the Fat Bob, Nightster and the rest, the $16,795 Cross Bones “recreates the bobber look in a new way,” said Senior VP and director of design Willie G. Davidson.
MOTOGIRO GETS NEARO Five days and 500-plus miles on a classic bike sound like fun? Then you’ll want to sign up for the inaugural Motogiro America, a timed rally that begins and ends in Monterey, California, July 13-17, the week leading up to the Laguna Seca USGR Patterned after Motogiro d’ltalia, itself a revival of the famous Italian town-totown races for sub200cc bikes, the American version will have more classes, including one for Twins of all makes and sizes manufactured between 1968-78, as well as a pre-’78 two-stroke scooter class and a nontimed Touring class open to any year model.
AT A TIME WHEN OFFroad riding areas are i disappearing at an alarming rate and the environment is becoming more battleground than playground, it makes sense that the country that plays well with everyone introduced a bike that could bridge the gap between Green and Mean.
Australian MotoGP star Chris Vermeulen owes a lot to his late mentor, roadracing-great Barry Sheene. In a nod to the former Suzuki star and two-time world champion, Vermeulen is bringing Sheen’s famous number 7 back to Suzuki. With Carlos Checa’s recent departure to World Superbike, the number was once again up for grabs.
The ’80s were getting into full swing and to see evidence of this you needed to look no farther . than the cover of this month’s CW a quarter-century ago. Just check out those brown leathers, those boots and that Simpson helmet. Oh, yeah, and the Honda V65 Magna on test.
BELL HELMETS, POSSIbly the most famous name in head protection in motorsports history, now under the $600 million Easton-Bell Sports umbrella, has created what it calls a “significant” step forward in motorcycle helmet design. In a nod to Bell’s own past, the new street-going design is called the Star.
DOWN: To terror, for causing the cancellation of the prestigious Dakar Rally. An earlier attack in Mauritania against a French family linked to al-Qaeda and threats against the race itself forced organizers ASO this past January to pull the plug, a first in the event’s 30year history.
FOR SOME 20 YEARS, Piaggio has been toying with the idea of an Ultimate Scooter. Through that time, the project had moved forward, then been killed, then brought back only to get killed again. Finally, though, with Aprilia’s new V-Twin 750 and 1200 engines (the smaller as fitted in the Shiver) the company thought it had the right powerplant to use as a basis for a production machine.
Tired of losing in the showroom and on the racetrack, Honda unveils an all-new Super CBR1000RR
WHOA, THIS CAN’T BE GOOD! THE REAR TIRE BREAKS loose and spins up rapidly with several thousand rpm of meaty torque remaining in the upper rev range. It quickly gets away from me as I find myself in a crossed-up, full-lock power-slide driving off the apex of Turn 4, one of the fastest bends at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
THIS IS A STORY ABOUT A SHOWBIKE that went 155 mph at Bonneville on one cylinder. The story is always more important than the numbers. We may read the numbers on new bikes-quarter-mile time, weight, speeds in gears, etc.-but what makes up our minds is the story, the legend surrounding the bike we choose.
BMW gets serious about performance with the HP2 Sport
ONCE A BASTION OF TWO-WHEEL CONSERVATISM KNOWN PRIMARILY for sensible, durable touring bikes with superior saddlebags and high technology, BMW has done something strange: It’s added plastic sliders to the cylinder heads of its latest, most performance-oriented bike ever.
THE WORDS “FACTORY BMW racebike” haven’t been spoken in a long time, especially in reference to roadracing. The Bavarian company has recently been involved in its own Euro-based BoxerCup and PowerCup spec-racing series and also in the MOTO-ST championship here in the States, but it had been 50 years since the company was seriously involved in roadracing at the factory level.
Marines use them on the battlefield but civilians may soon get this diesel motorcycle for urban combat
FROM JET PROPULSION TO THE INTERNET, INNOVATION that begins its life as military technology seems to find a way of trickling down to the civilian world. Some products, like amphibious assault vehicles, you may not have a use for. But how about an unstoppable mil-spec two-wheeler that can get 100 mpg and doesn’t look or perform like a moped?
You’RE A SNIPER AND HAVE TO sneak up on a target you’ve been assigned to eliminate. You have a long distance to travel and must go undetected by the enemy for some 200 miles to the target’s last known sighting. You’ve parachuted into hostile territory and have no ground support except for the HDT M1030M1 diesel-powered motorcycle that made the air-drop with you.
A SOLITARY BEEP ALERTED ME TO AN INCOMING text. I flipped open my phone. “Message from Tom McComas.” “Has Rapp told you about our Australia trip?” “No,” I thumbed back. “What’s up?” “We’re going to Australia to ride Kawasaki’s new KLX450R and catch the MotoGP race at Phillip Island,” McComas replied.
Retracing the very real route of the fictional Don Quixote
THAT IS HOW MIGUEL DE CERVANTES INTRODUCED Don Quixote to the world in 1605. In scribing those words, Cervantes ushered in one of the most treasured and enduring fictional characters in literature. The resulting manuscript, Don Quixote de La Mancha, is regarded as the first modern novel and changed the landscape of publishing.
RIDING A MOTORCYCLE IS A EUPHORIC, liberating experience. For too many people, however, that euphoria is replaced by anger, frustration and helplessness when they return to the spot where they parked their bike only to discover it has been stolen.
KUSHITANI GOT INTO THE RACING-leathers business more than six decades ago, and business decisions made today by the Japanese family-owned-and-operated company are based on that rich experience. Rather than follow trends, it instead sticks to what it knows.
WHO WILL BE MOTOGP’S NEXT STAR? BEN SPIES IS ONE POSsibility. He has made clear his desire to move from domestic AMA racing, where he is an established two-time Superbike champion, to the politically charged international world of GP racing.
Q Have you ever heard of instant battery failure on a motorcycle? In the past 15 years, this has happened twice to my 1986 Yamaha Maxim X. Both times, the battery has given no signs of imminent failure, always starting the engine just fine.
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