There is definitely something wrong with this picture. I'm bombing along a back road in Santa Paula, Calif. (aka the Citrus Capital of the World) aboard a mercilessly underpowered, somewhat skittish motorcycle that, despite being the latest offering from the company, hasn't witnessed any major design changes since Eisenhower was president. Yet, I'm having an absolute ball.
Motorcyclists treasure those moments of solitude when our mounts transport us to uncharted places. But it may be difficult to imagine traveling across five countries on dangerous dirt tracks, rocky roads, and some of the most brutal desert landscapes in the world for 15 sleepless days, just to say, “I did it.” However, that is precisely what the intrepid competitors who undertake the legendary Dakar Rally set out to do.
Just as the two Gallery bikes in this issue revolutionized the street motorcycle world over 30 years ago, so too did the 1968 Yamaha DT-1 250 Enduro. The famous white-tanked bike was the first street-legal motorcycle that was also a capable, lightweight, reliable and powerful off-road machine. Yamaha's newly dubbed “dual purpose” motorcycle introduced untold hundreds of thousands to the sport of motorcycle riding, and spawned an entirely new market segment.
Harley-Davidson, that inimitable icon of Americana, has once again succeeded in bringing dreams to life through the experience of motorcycling and the irresistible Harley lifestyle.
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.
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.
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.
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.