Buell has an enviable skill of making the most of limited resources. The company clearly isn't set to make each machine completely unique and independent, so they carefully peruse the parts bin to come up with something "new" and interesting. Case in point is the Lightning Super TT, a streetfighter/supermoto hybrid that delivers much more than you might expect at first consideration.
In the stillness of a high desert afternoon, we can hear the Yamaha YZF-R6 clearly as it makes a test run toward us. Considering the bike is still at some distance, the high-pitched wail cuts through the air with amazing clarity, and the gearshifts come in quick succession as the 599cc engine rips through the top end of its rev range in each gear. Close-ratio transmissions make that possible, and they are invariably fitted to high-revving engines, where the power band is comparatively narrow and crowded into the top end of the engine's usable rev range.
Seasoned riders will remember the Cushman scooters that inexpensively transported people and cargo from the 1930s until the mid-'60s. Yamaha has tapped the spirit of the Cushman for its all-new 2007 C3, which is something of a replacement for the best-selling Zuma scooter, as the friendly two-stroke has fallen victim to EPA emissions regulations. Christened the C3 (cargo cubed) due to its nine gallons of cubic storage space, the scooter is powered by a fuel-injected, three-valve, SOHC, air-cooled 49cc motor.
With motocrossers' designs in a maturation phase, the big changes in the dirt are happening off the closed courses. These three bikes reflect that reality.
As dated as the air-cooled boxer twin motor may seem to the unconverted, BMW certainly feels there's a bit more that can be squeezed out of the configuration it debuted in the 1920s, even as we settle into the 21st century. Certainly, no one can argue that BMW hasn't successfully updated the concept. As tuned for the new R 1200 R upright Roadster, the flat twin now boasts four valves per cylinder, electronic fuel injection and 1170cc.
Moto Guzzi is once more taking the plunge into the fully faired sport touring market with the new Norge 1200. Powered by Guzzi's traditional transversely mounted air-cooled, two-valve, pushrod motor, the 1133cc Norge is a grand touring bike, with the expected accoutrements—a 6-speed transmission with shaft drive, 6-gallon fuel tank, electronically adjustable windshield, ABS and dual saddlebags.
Harley-Davidson fired a 1340cc silver bullet into the marketplace when it introduced the Softail Fat Boy in 1990. Crafted as a high-caliber response to the low-cost Japanese imports that swamped the U.S. market, the imposing “Gray Ghost”—with its metallic paint, winged USAF-inspired tank logo and solid disc wheels—made a muscular and unapologetically American statement. It helped Harley-Davidson recapture the sales leader mantle in the 750cc-and-up heavyweight division.
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.
New Orleans never labored beneath the austere Puritan ethos imposed elsewhere in the United States; rather, the Crescent City's French-derived Creole and Cajun population embraced the relaxed philosophy of laissez les bons temps rouler—let the good times roll.
Motorcycles are visceral things. They ignite the same kind of irrational passions that fuel amorous feelings between two people. They fill the devout enthusiasts with irrepressible euphoria, inspiring them to almost ridiculous impulsiveness. How fitting that Italy, a country renowned for its amoré—almost an official national treasure—would also be the romantic epicenter of motorcycling, producing some of the world's most alluring examples of two-wheel lust.
“We lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies,” thus spake Jack Kerouac in 1957's On the Road. That same year, Harley-Davidson gave pilgrims a soon-to-be-classic motorcycle to lean forward on—the venerable Sportster, which celebrates its golden jubilee in 2007 with a 2,000-run Limited Edition 1200cc tribute. A serialized nameplate and a gold badge on the tank are among many touches that commemorate Harley's versatile classic.
My introduction to BMW motorcycles occured in the summer of 1975. I was 17 years old and had exuberantly nailed a job at a Honda/BMW dealership, indenturing myself to uncrating motorcycles. A perception of BMW elitism was immediately instilled simply by virtue of how the German machines were boxed up at the factory. Unlike their Japanese counterparts, the BMWs came fully assembled. All that needed to be done was raise the handlebars and attach the mirrors.
In the Middle Ages, the alchemist's goal was to turn a base metal into gold. If there is a modern day equivalent of a base metal in the motorcycle world, it is quite possibly the Harley-Davidson powerplant. Designed for appearance over performance, the big V-twins from Milwaukee surely excel at their jobs as successfully as a Kawasaki Ninja ZX-14 powerplant. But then, there are the alchemists. The men who strive to defy physics.
At the beginning of the 20th century, there were literally hundreds of companies around the world building motor-cycles, all vying to capitalize on the burgeoning new industry of powered, two-wheel transportation.