Naked SportBike, All Dressed Up
Does it surprise one for a moment that the champion of streetfighters comes from the country that originated hooliganism? That English heritage dates back to the 19th century, and is both a mark and a badge. While we decidedly pass on the destructive behavior, getting a little rowdy with the throttle inevitably seems to come with the territory when riding this particular high-performance motorcycle.
One of the world's fastest men on a motorcycle, eight-time MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi is tough to catch; nevertheless, luxury watch manufacturer Jaeger-LeCoultre caught him long enough to collaborate with Rossi on a series of "46"-themed watches.
Motorcycle racing is a brutal affair, in both the physical dangers and the elusiveness of success for its competitors. Victory and fame are dependent on the merging of raw talent, discipline, opportunity, will, and desire–not to mention capable machinery and ample luck. Among the myriad names inked into the annals of this most ephemeral of professions there are but a relative handful that have earned the status of legend. When a racer continues to garner respect and reverence years after their reign is over it is a testament of true greatness.
There is definitely something wrong with this picture. I'm bombing along a back road in Santa Paula, Calif. (aka the Citrus Capital of the World) aboard a mercilessly underpowered, somewhat skittish motorcycle that, despite being the latest offering from the company, hasn't witnessed any major design changes since Eisenhower was president. Yet, I'm having an absolute ball.
Just as the two Gallery bikes in this issue revolutionized the street motorcycle world over 30 years ago, so too did the 1968 Yamaha DT-1 250 Enduro. The famous white-tanked bike was the first street-legal motorcycle that was also a capable, lightweight, reliable and powerful off-road machine. Yamaha's newly dubbed “dual purpose” motorcycle introduced untold hundreds of thousands to the sport of motorcycle riding, and spawned an entirely new market segment.
Several years ago, the motorcycling ether was finely misted with intriguing rumors of a man in Oregon embarking on the daunting task of creating a new American motorcycle. Industry press and curious enthusiasts ruminated on what the machine might be.
As with all bikes manufactured since the dawn of motorcycling history, Kawasaki's new Ninja ZX-14 accelerates when the rider applies throttle. However, unlike any mass-produced bike before it, the ZX-14 produces horsepower that has been measured within a few clicks of the 200 mark when ram air is in effect, essentially making it the fastest motorcycle on the market, at the moment.