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.
Triumph's Tiger 955i may present a conundrum for the categorically obsessed. Though tall, narrow and seemingly trail-ready, it is not a dirt bike. The Tiger may be built for comfort, but it is far from a cruiser. And, while minimally terrain flexible, it will never be confused with a dual sport. The Tiger, according to the current zeitgeist of marketing buzzwords, is classified as an adventure touring bike.
Yamaha-Star devotees are no doubt familiar with Jeff Palhegyi's (pronounced pol-uh-jee) prolific imagination. Working with Yamaha's product development team, Palhegyi was instrumental in the development of the Road Star, Warrior, Roadliner and Stratoliner motorcycles. In addition to his work crafting Star production bikes, Palhegyi builds customs, concept bikes, and is responsible for hundreds of the parts found in the Yamaha accessory catalog.
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.
As a well-scrubbed youth in the 1950s, Willie G. Davidson, grandson of Motor Company co-founder William A. Davidson, headed west from Wisconsin to attend the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif. Out on the west coast, the sun was rising on the world of motorcycle customizing, with men like Ed Roth and Von Dutch on the crest of the new wave. The impact of the emergent custom scene would linger in Davidson's sketchbook as he joined Harley-Davidson's design department in 1963.
Husqvarna's departure to Italy in 1986 was a blow to devotees of Swedish motorcycles. The last major marque had departed the Scandinavian country, leaving a painful void. Seizing an opportunity, many of the native Husqvarna engineers who were left behind, aspired to preserve Sweden's position as an active player in the off-road motorcycle manufacturing game. Husaberg was founded in 1987 and, a year later, the first of many competition-worthy four-strokes was introduced to an eager off-road community.
While rumors of a sagging California real estate market abound in home sales reports, you won't find evidence of a downturn in Fabian Terracciano's garage. The Antelope Valley realtor who helped renowned designer and fabricator Mike Stafford of MGS Custom Bikes in Lancaster close the deal on his new home is the proud owner of one of Stafford's most mesmerizing creations: the lean, aqueous, orange Fabian chopper.
Despite its menacing looks and warp-speed potential, the Aprilia “Clarkie” is actually a comfortable motorcycle with balanced handling, linear power and perfect brakes that quickly inspire the rider to confidence. Builder Aaron Clarke started with Aprilia's superb Tuono platform and carefully selected parts from the European Motorcycle Accessories catalog.
In 1953 the Kronreif, Trunkenpolz, Mattighofen Motorcycle Company entered their first racing activities, the fifth running of the Gaisberg competition, and finished with first, second and third place honors. Fifty years later, KTM—as the manufacturer is now known—has emerged as a modern builder of high-quality, reliable, exceptionally well-engineered motocross, enduro and supermoto machines. They are also the motorcycle of choice by the majority of the two-wheeled field in the Paris/Dakar Rally, taking top honors the last few years in the world's ultimate endurance race.
What does the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R have in common with Spinal Tap? Although clearly not a motorcycle numbers man in the purest sense, Nigel Tufnel of Spinal Tap clearly understood that more really can be much more. When he said, “If we need that extra push over the cliff, you know what we do? [We] put it up to eleven.” he could well have been talking about Kawasaki's new Ninja ZX-10R, such is the awesome capability of this year's new, more refined machine.
Classic beauty compels the discarding of facile thoughts. Answering the market's current desire for naked retro-style motorcycles, Ducati's latest effort exhibits a profound respect for the esthetic and performance benchmarks it set in the 1970s with its coveted bevel-drive 750 GT and Sport models. The interlacing of traditional Ducati DNA with a 21st century perspective is embodied in the new SportClassic GT1000.
If hyperbolic design is the currency of the custom chopper world, Indianapolis-based Speedway Choppers chooses the contrary approach of distinguishing itself from the inside out. Its LS1 model is visually striking—low slung, clean, and whimsically aggressive—but its calling card is the purposeful hardware underneath the wild bodywork. “We make the invisible parts as good as they can be, and then go out from there,” explains Speedway's designer and builder Randy Reeves, who has been building custom street rods since the age of 15.