Harley's influential Super Glide began life in 1971 as the result of Willie G. Davidson's Frankensteinian grafting of the Sportster's slinky front end to the muscular frame and powertrain of the Electra Glide. Willie G's chopper-inspired cut-and-paste resulted in the birth of the (seemingly) oxymoronic “factory-custom” genre. For customers looking for a trick ride with a factory warranty and without a hefty aftermarket accessory tab, the Super Glide hammered a persuasive power chord that is still ringing throughout the industry.
For whatever reasons you choose to believe, the Japanese cannot (or will not) compete with Harley-Davidson when it comes to building a cruiser. If you demand the raw experience of an air-cooled Harley, you will forever be disappointed in metric cruisers.
Tucked in behind the windscreen of the NCR Millona One Shot, rapidly reeling in blurring pavement on the steep banking of Fontana's California Speedway, my peripheral vision caught the flashing red shift indicator light. Having not counted the shifts and traveling at this speed, I assumed all the available gears had been exhausted. Out of curiosity, I chopped the throttle for a millisecond and tapped the shifter. My inquisitiveness revealed that sixth gear was still virgin territory.
Phoenix-based Bourget's Bike Works has elevated the oft-derided three-wheeled genre through intelligent engineering, original design, and a fastidious attention to detail.
In ancient Rome, the Cathedrals of Racing were not just Circus Maximus and the Coliseum; there was also the Hippodrome of Milan. As many as twelve chariots, drawn by four horses apiece, would careen around the immense stadium for the pleasure of both Caesar and the local citizenship tifose. It was a dangerous sport and arguably the origin of the Italians' great passion for all things racing.
The Harley-Davidson Sportster hit the Big Five-O this year, and the senior-most Harley nameplate is showing its age. Graying and sedate compared to the big Twin-Cam 96 powered studs roaring out of Milwaukee these days, the middle-aged Sporty has been in need of a wardrobe consultant and a handful of Viagra for some time. Fortunately, the brooding, black-clad Nightster has swaggered into the Sportster's Golden Jubilee, fashionably late and looking for trouble.
I can admit it without apology--I love the look of the Harley-Davidson springer front suspension. When it comes to establishing a retro styling for a motorcycle, a pair of external springs in the vicinity of the steering stem is tough to beat. Never mind that Harley rediscovered the springer in 1988 after a 40-year hiatus; the exploitatively mechanical front suspension has tremendous nostalgia-invoking power.
HONDA'S ACCESSORY DEPARTMENT CREATES A BAGGER
When presented with the Honda Genuine Accessories bagger version of the new-for-'07 Shadow Spirit 750 C2, I will admit I wasn't all that excited. Every time I've gotten on a touring bike it seemed too big, too heavy, and a bit unwieldy. At the same time, this mini-bagger didn't seem too big when I sat on it, and I certainly wasn't concerned about it being too powerful, so I wasn't sure what to expect. As it turned out, my rides on the Kawasaki Vulcan 900 Custom reminded me that an open mind is a good thing.
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.
The venerable P-51 Mustang fighter plane represents one of the most strikingly recognizable physiques in aviation. The single-seat warbird that played a crucial role in WWII has been honored in countless films and written histories. When Tom Hicks of Southern California Motorcycles decided to commemorate the Air Force's winged horse with a tribute bike, he didn't have far to look for inspiration.
Well, this one almost slipped by us. When Kawasaki announced the new-for-'07 Vulcan 900 Custom, it's safe to say that there wasn't a staff-wide arm wrestling sudden-death tournament to determine who got to ride it first. But, at Kawasaki's urging that I was really missing something, I skeptically agreed to give the 900 Custom a shot. Really, how exciting could a sub-liter metric cruiser be?
Suzuki's GSX-R lineup changed the world upon its debut. Well, the motorcycling world anyway. Launched (literally) in 1985/86, the first year saw the debut of a blue-and-white 750cc machine. Radically different from anything up until then, it matched a stunningly light weight with a high horsepower engine and a racer's ergonomics. In 1987, Suzuki brought forth a sibling--the 1100cc version complete with electronic anti-dive suspension and even more power.
Chalk one up for the power of the Internet. After learning I'd be the lucky long term tester of a 2007 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-14, I immediately logged on to the manufacturer's website to become better acquainted with my options before embarking upon what will hopefully be a beautiful relationship with the “it” bike of speed fanatics everywhere. Months ago, I enjoyed quality time with a “Passion Red” 2006 ZX-14, which led me to wonder what sort of styling cues might befit its extraordinary performance capabilities.