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.
Asserting a Porsche-inspired six-cylinder boxermotor and a seating cocoon that recalls Eero Saarinen's epochal Womb chair, the Honda Gold Wing GL1800 is the undisputed king of luxury motorcycle touring. Even in its basic stock configuration, the Gold Wing secures enough bells and whistles to assemble a Rose Parade marching band. Opportunely for riders and passengers desiring the ultimate in touring efficiency, comfort and form, Honda's Genuine Accessories arm provides dozens of garnishes, allowing you to season your Wing to taste.
My first impression of the Boss Hoss hit me on a Sunday morning when Jay Leno, in typically larger-than-life fashion, pulled up on the massive bike at the Rock Store. The strange conveyance brought to mind the Hooters corporate slogan: “Delightfully tacky yet unrefined.” In the Venn diagram of my mind, the hot wings and cleavage section doesn't typically overlap with the motorcycle category, but “typical” bikes aren't powered by small block Chevy V-8s, either.
Surely, every ride on a motorcycle is an adventure. It is a rediscovery of the temperature of the atmosphere, the intensity of the breeze, the angle of the sun and the texture of the highway. How, then, is it possible that some motorcycles have the title “Adventure Bike” conferred upon them, as if they provide an exclusive insight into an excursion?
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.
Yamaha has launched another industry first on the FJR1300AE, its excellent supersport-tourer. A computer-operated clutch with electronic shift actuators that entirely eliminate the clutch lever means that the electric-shift five-speed transmission can make ultra-smooth gear changes using either the left bar-mounted paddles or the traditional foot-operated lever.
While the Japanese manufacturers set superbike standards with lightweight, high-horsepower production motorcycles showcasing futuristic technology developed on the racetrack, Italian bike builders created a signature niche with handmade, race-inspired motorcycles that fit like exquisitely tailored suits. But German BMW long scoffed at the crotch rocket tradition, declining to engage in such two-wheeled games. Until now. BMW has finally entered the high-speed fray with the introduction of its new K 1200 S.
Few motorcycles can claim a longer life span or more loyal following than Honda's 30-year-old flagship tourer, the Gold Wing. As I give the 2005 Honda Gold Wing a stationary once over, it becomes rapidly apparent that the fit and finish of the machine is first rate.