What’s not to like? Ducati takes its liquid-cooled, four-valve, L-twin Testastretta motor pumping out 130 hp and drops it into a trellis-framed naked bike with a semi-upright rider’s position, then tops it off with the paint scheme from the Italian flag (or the nearest pizza joint), carbon fiber here, there and everywhere, plus distinctive dual mufflers stacked high on the right.
Ever try to put lipstick on a Pitbull? It's a hazardous enterprise. Blood is spilled. Fingers vanish. Michael Vick leaves nasty messages on your voicemail. Ignoring the obvious peril, the brave souls at Big Dog Motorcycles have given their vicious, 10-year-old Pitbull a complete makeover for 2008. Admirers of the ill-tempered street dog need not fear—this is no Queer Eye, metrosexual de-fanging.
When asked how long he has wanted to build a water-cooled production sportbike, it takes a moment for a telling expression to wash over Erik Buell's face. A nearby engineer overhears the question and erupts with knowing laughter—yet another unspoken confirmation that a large part of Buell's nearly quarter-century of bike building has been tinged with a bit of unconsummated technological craving.
Accessing the growing market of riders who want a custom-style motorcycle from traditional manufacturers, Star is introducing the Raider for 2008. Available in two trim lines, each with two color choices, with the power coming from the same motor that moves the Roadliners and Stratoliners.
The Raider focuses on both the raked look that custom riders prefer—it stretches forward at a nearly 40 degree angle—while still retaining the handling that metric cruisers are known for. Metzeler is supplying the tires, with a wide 120mm front and a reasonable 210 rear.
Do-it-all motorcycles, with styling reminiscent of a Dakar rally bike, but only the slightest pretence of off-road capabilities, generally come from Europe—with offerings from marques such as BMW, Ducati and Triumph—where the styling and performance have great appeal.
American Superbike, Euro Motor
At a press conference, Erik Buell brushed aside questions about the use of non-Harley powerplants in Buell motorcycles. He pointed to the marketing advantage of the Harley-Davidson motor, and, of course, Buell (the brand, not the man) is owned by the Motor Company.
The chopper brings out the animal in us. No matter how self-effacing or demure we may claim to be, the presence and defiance of these motorcycles stirs the renegade within. With the bikes elongated crouches, they are like Dobermans ready to pounce, packages of barely controlled violence balanced on the edge of beauty and lethality. Baring their teeth, their engines growl the challenge to us: command them, or live forever in fear of them.
Vespa LX 150
Vespa, the wasp-like icon of Italian mobility, was originally designed by Corradino D'Ascanio to meet the personal transportation needs of the people of Italy in the years following the Second World War.
Those in the market for stylish, big-bore baggers will have a good deal of whisker scratching to do in 2008. Just as the touring demographic is expanding, so are its options. Hot on the tailpipes of the Victory Vision's intergalactic funk come a new machine as disparate in their styling as their origins. For the metrically inclined, there is a powerful tourer with classic good looks from a Japanese manufacturing titan.
As I was riding down Nacimiento-Fergusson Road, which joins the central California's El Camino Real (aka US 101) with the Cabrillo Highway (aka California State Route 1), I suddenly realized I had forgotten I was on a motorcycle.
The name Husqvarna was ushered into the American motorcycling vernacular in the 1960s with the Swedish manufacturers' exotic machines serving as ambassadors for the freshly imported sport of motocross. The marque (renowned for proudly displaying its nation's flag) was sold to Italian Cagiva in 1986. Thankfully, the new owners maintained Husqvarna's revered off-road presence, launching an equally formidable assault on the burgeoning arena of supermoto.
For two of our recent off-road tests--2007 Yamaha WRs (April/May 2007 issue) and 2008 Kawasaki KLR650 (in our August/September 2007 issue)--we were outfitted with Shift Racing off-road apparel.
No neutral observer of the titanic on-track battles and off-track spats between Max Biaggi and Valentino Rossi can fail to regard Biaggi as a genuine superstar—a man who has displayed skill and courage in garnering 42 Grand Prix race victories, four successive 250cc GP world titles, and three runner-up slots in the MotoGP premier class series.