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.
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.
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.
To the disappointment of a number of adherents, the K 1200 GT vanished from the BMW motorcycle lineup in 2005. Striving to satisfy the open-class sport touring enthusiasts, BMW has revived the K 1200 GT designation, assigning it to a wholly redesigned machine. A close cousin of the K 1200 S sportbike, the new GT shares its in-line 4-cylinder motor (albeit in a torquier state of tune), frame, and suspension components with the S.
Whenever I see riders in tennis shoes, I wince. Even on a bike with floorboards and heel-toe shifting, I like to wear substantial footwear. On a sport bike, that means something from Sidi, usually. But, on a cruiser, I want less flash and more attitude. The Red Wing 968 boots is a boot that relies on understated toughness to get its point across.
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.
When compared to many other machines that have achieved classic status, the BSA Gold Star seems rather innocuous at first glance. It does not look as if it would intimidate its rider, or even generate all that much speed; nor does it bristle with unique technological or design features that set it apart from a myriad of other single-cylinder British motorcycles.
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.
In the concrete cocoon of Ecosse Moto Works' Denver warehouse, Donald Atchison forges his industrial art, spurred by his deal with the demons that drive him and stoked by the inspiration of his heroes and icons. One is met at the entrance by neat rows of classic bikes, from Nortons to Velocettes. Upon a diamond-plate dais, the Heretic Ti holds court.
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.