Wednesday, May 27, 2009
If you saw one of these rare motorcycles on the road in the 1960s, you were either very lucky or very unlucky. It all depended upon whether that set of red lights was flashing in your rear-view mirror or someone else's.
Honda imported a mere 25 CB450 Police Specials to the United States in 1966 in an effort to crack into the law-enforcement market. So if you came into contact with one, you could certainly count it as one of the more unique bike sightings of your life.
Based on Honda's "Black Bomber" CB450, introduced in 1965, the Police Special was entirely normal in its engine and running gear. But it incorporated some nifty anti-crime devices.
The large speedometer, for instance, was calibrated in 1-mile-per-hour increments. And with a flip of a switch, Mr. Policeman could lock the speedo reading to preserve the evidence of your illegality.
Then he'd switch on the lights and pull a lever on the left handlebar that worked the unusual siren-activation system. The lever brought a rotating steel drum into contact with the rear wheel, much like those old electrical generators on bicycles. The only difference was that this drum drove a flexible steel cable that snaked forward to spin the siren.
The Police Special also came with a solo seat backed by a small metal box for carrying an officer's ticket book.
Honda's Police Special took on Harley-Davidson for a place in America's law-enforcement community…and lost badly. Even though Honda billed it as "a big bike with a big ride," the 450 couldn't make a dent in a market that had been dominated for decades by American V-twins. So the initial U.S. shipment of 25 was also the last.
This particular Police Special, previously on display in the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum in Pickerington, Ohio, is owned by Bob Logue of Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Logue says it's one of the few 450s that saw duty, having been purchased by a police force "somewhere in Pennsylvania."
It's value? As a rarity, that's hard to pin down. But you can bet it's equal to dozens of speeding tickets on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Times really do change. Today, you'd have a hard time finding a street-legal motorcycle with an engine smaller than 250cc. But through much of the '60s, the lightweight class represented a significant part of the market for the Japanese manufacturers. And this bike, Honda's CB160, was one of the machines many young riders lusted after.
Introduced in 1965, the CB160 incorporated trickle-down technology from the rest of the company's line. Honda's original offerings in this country used stamped-steel "monocoque" frames, but starting with the 250cc Hawk and 305cc Super Hawk in '61, the sport models got more modern tubular frames. With the CB160, that updated look arrived in the lightweight class.
For a list price of $530, a young rider who may have started on a step-through Honda 50 or 90 got something that looked like a true motorcycle. And the 161cc single-overhead cam, four-stroke twin delivered on that promise, spinning up to 10,000 rpm and generating 16.5 horsepower—enough, the company claimed, for a top end of 75 mph. In a road test, Cycle World even dubbed the new bike a "baby Super Hawk."
Of course, the little Honda's performance wasn't going to intimidate the owners of Harley Sportsters and British twins that dominated the big-bike market. But it managed to get through the quarter-mile in a respectable 18.6 seconds, and its four-speed powerplant, featuring a four-main-bearing crank, proved remarkably tough.
Thousands of aspiring American motorcyclists marked their passage into the fraternity of "real" motorcyclists with the purchase of a CB160. And that list includes AMA member Stephen MacMinn, the owner of this 1965 CB160, previously on display in the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum at AMA headquarters in Pickerington, Ohio.
"The first bike I ever had was a CB160 like this one," notes MacMinn. "I got it shortly after getting out of high school in 1969. I had it six months before my parents realized I'd bought it. They weren't too pleased with the idea of motorcycles at first, but they finally relented and let me ride it.
"I bought this one in 1991 in nearly original condition, and it's a rider," he adds, "I put at least a few hundred miles on it every year."
Monday, May 18, 2009
Honda Dreams weren’t exactly high-performance motorcycles. But then, they weren’t designed to be.
As one of the first models brought to the U.S. when Honda moved into the market in 1959, the 305cc Dream emphasized other elements of Honda’s approach to motorcycle-building. It was inexpensive to own, unintimidating to ride and reliable to maintain.
While those qualities may not have attracted a lot of traditional motorcyclists, they struck a chord with a new generation of riders interested in fun on two wheels. On that score, the Dream hit the mark.
There were, however, those who couldn’t ignore performance. And for them, the common Dream Touring model wouldn’t do. Instead, they sought out the rare Dream Sport, like this ’62 version owned by Pat Jones of Olive Branch, Mississippi, and previously on display in the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum at AMA headquarters in Pickerington Ohio.
The Sport came with the same conservative leading-link front fork and stamped-steel frame of the Touring Dream. And it started with the same 305cc overhead-cam parallel-twin engine that put out a claimed 25 horsepower in the Touring version. Like the Touring model, the Sport also offered the convenience of electric starting, along with the low maintenance of an enclosed final-drive chain.
The main difference between the Dreams was in the exhaust system. The Touring model had Honda’s standard low pipes, while the Sport offered higher pipes, along with a different kickstart lever, footpegs and side covers to accommodate them.
This particular bike, says Jones, was one of a dozen bought by a Shriner motorcycle drill team in Memphis, Tennessee, then outfitted with extra equipment, including lights and crash bars.
“They apparently wanted the Sport model so they wouldn’t drag the exhaust pipes when they turned sharply,” Jones says.
By 1962, though, the Sport’s days were numbered. That year, Honda brought out the Super Hawk, with a hotted-up version of the 305 engine bolted into a more capable chassis. The Sport was dropped after 1963, having served its purpose of injecting a performance image into Honda’s growing line of motorcycles.
Friday, May 15, 2009
A performance machine it is not. The engine is a mere 98cc. It puts out all of three horsepower.
But the Dream Type D was the motorcycle that started it all for the Honda Motor Company.
After World War II ended, Soichiro Honda saw the need for reliable, basic transportation. Japans economy was limping back into shape, and the island nations transportation infrastructure, or what was left of it, was composed mainly of dirt roads.
Mr. Honda's company started by producing small engines that attached to bicycles. But by 1949, he was ready to build his first real motorcycle. With upright seating, a stamped-steel frame and a rear-mounted rack, the Dream Type D was designed above all for ease of use.
According to legend, the machines name, since associated with a variety of Honda products, was inspired by a comment made by one of Hondas employees during a company party. The workers had pushed aside the desks to toast their efforts with home-brewed sake. "It's like a dream," uttered one of the attendees. The name stuck.
This particular Dream, a 1951 model previously on display at the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum at AMA headquarters in Pickerington, Ohio, is about as rare as they get, considering that Hondas weren't imported into the U.S. market until 1959.
The bike's unofficial early arrival on these shores was the result of a complex chain of events, according to the current owner, Kay Markey of Etters, Pennsylvania.
It seems that a U.S. Navy sailor, serving in the U.S. occupation forces in 1951, saw the Type D, liked it and purchased the bike in Guam while enjoying a little R&R. When the time came for him to return to the States, he shipped the bike home with his household goods. For a tune-up, he brought the bike to his local repair shop, where it was pointed out that without spare parts, it'd be difficult to fix. Perhaps, the dealer suggested, he'd be interested in trading it on a new BSA? A deal was struck.
"The dealer just pushed it downstairs in the basement workshop," Markey says. "It sat there from 1951 until we got it in 1970." It still has only 188 kilometers—about 115 miles—on the odometer, and it even bears the Japanese license plate that the sailor was issued in 1951.
Type D Dreams may not have been performers on the street, but considering all that has come after them, their place in motorcycle history is assured. And the Dream that appeared in the museum is believed to be the oldest Honda in the U.S. All thanks to the efforts of an anonymous sailor.
Monday, May 11, 2009
For a lot of us, he was King Kenny. This was his throne.
Kenny Roberts wasted no time proving that he was something special by winning the AMA's Grand National Championship in 1973, only his second year on the circuit, then repeating that feat in '74. And even though he lost the title to Gary Scott in '75, he showed unprecedented versatility, winning at least one race from every one of the five types of competition that made up the series — mile, half-mile, short-track, TT and road race — in a single season.
But that was just the start. In 1978, Roberts went grand prix racing in Europe. The upstart rookie entered three of the most competitive classes — 250cc, 500cc and 750cc — and a third of the way through the season, he led two series and was second in the other.
Eventually, Roberts consolidated his efforts to focus on the premier 500cc class. He won it that year and repeated in 1979, overcoming a broken back suffered in a high-speed, pre-season crash.
The next year, 1980, would prove to be his last world-championship season. And this is the bike he rode that year.
By then, Roberts was the favorite. But that season would be no victory march. Suzuki wanted the title bad, sending waves of riders after Roberts, including American Randy Mamola.
Yamaha built a number of new tricks into Roberts' machine. The engine was derived from the same inline four-cylinder two-stroke that had carried him to his first two titles. But the frame, painted black to avoid attention, was made of square-section aluminum tubing, a first for Yamaha.
The fork options included a set with hydraulic anti-dive, but Roberts favored the type on this machine, with externally adjustable rebound and compression damping and no anti-dive.
The engine in this machine features the standard cylinder arrangement of the previous two years, but midway through the season, the team tried reversing the outside two cylinders -- placing the intake in front and the exhaust at the rear — with two silencers on each side of the bike instead of three and one.
Roberts rode this machine to victory in the first three races of the 1980 season, then hung on as Suzuki swept four of the last five rounds. In the end, he held off Mamola to win his final championship.
Saturday, May 9, 2009
This may be one of the most awe-inspiring motorcycles ever built. In fact, even now, 26 years later, it is legendary as the bike that caused King Kenny Roberts to say: "They don’t pay me enough to ride that thing." Here’s the story: Roberts had won the 1973 and ’74 AMA Grand National Championships using twin-cylinder, four-stroke Yamahas on the dirt. But by ’75, Harley-Davidson’s XR750 had left the Yamaha behind in performance.
So Yamaha tuners pulled the TZ750 two-stroke, four-cylinder motor out of the road-racer that Roberts used to win Laguna Seca that year, and stuffed it into a dirt-track frame. The engine pumped out 125 horsepower, 50 more than a Yamaha twin. But the question was whether anyone would be able to control the beast.
Roberts tried it for the first time at the Indianapolis Mile, where he quickly discovered that brute power led to a bit of wheel spin. "Finding grip was a problem,’’ is the understated way Roberts explains it today.
The TZ could hit about 150 mph at the end of each straight. But balancing throttle and traction in the corners wasn’t easy.
Somehow, Roberts qualified for the 25-lap final. And off the line, he put himself in sixth place. But he admits that keeping the bike on the track took every bit of skill he possessed.
"In the main," Roberts recalls, "the cushion went right up to the hay bales. After the race, I had baling wire on the bike" from bouncing off the bales.
In spite of all that, Roberts closed on the leaders: Harley riders Rex Beauchamp, Corky Keener and Jay Springsteen. Then, on the last lap, "I got a terrific drive off turn three. I have no idea why. The tire was almost gone, three-quarters chunked.
"Coming off the last corner, I definitely had third, and I thought I could get second. I hit fifth gear and it was less than a quarter mile at 145, so everything happened quickly."
Somehow, Roberts got the TZ hooked up, and in the final feet of the race, blew past the Harley trio for the win.
It was a spectacular debut, but it was also the bike’s only moment of glory. Roberts tried to ride it at two more races, but reverted to his twin both times. At the end of the season, the AMA wrote new safety rules outlawing such machines in the future.
Eventually, this incredible motorcycle came into the hands of historian Steve Wright. It was previously on display at the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum at AMA headquarters in Pickerington, Ohio.
Thursday, May 7, 2009
1972 Yamaha TR3
Bigger is not always better, even on the high banks of Daytona International Speedway.
In 1972, Don Emde proved that by winning America’s biggest motorcycle race, the Daytona 200, riding this 350cc two-stroke Yamaha TR3 against a field of bikes as big as 750cc.
Emde’s Daytona 200 win was the first for a two-stroke, and it was accomplished on the smallest bike ever to win the race. The victory was also Yamaha’s first in the 200, the first for a son of a Daytona 200 winner (Emde’s father, Floyd, won in 1948), and the first in Yamaha’s record streak of 13 consecutive Daytona wins.
For Emde, it also was the pinnacle of his road-racing career. An up-and-coming racer from Southern California, Emde earned a ride on the BSA team for 1971. But despite good results, he was a victim of budget cuts after just one season.
For the ’72 season, Emde found support from Team Motorcycle Weekly and Yamaha dealer Mel Dinesen. Dinesen had backed Emde before the BSA ride, and owned the TR3 Emde raced that year.
The bike, a production model, was fairly close to stock for a racebike. It had an extended swingarm, an aftermarket seat, a more aerodynamic fairing, Koni shocks, and some porting work.
Emde says that despite having little time to shake down the bike, he had high expectations.
“I actually was very confident—maybe in a naive way,” Emde says. “I expected to be competitive with the 750cc Kawasakis and Suzukis, which were having early season reliability problems.”
And that’s exactly what happened.
With attrition hitting the race’s early front-runners—Kel Carruthers crashed and Kenny Roberts got a flat tire—Emde kept a steady pace, moving into the lead for good with five laps to go.
You can see this piece of pre-mix-burning history in the Hall of Legends at the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum in Pickerington, Ohio.
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
On the other hand, due to the increasing popularity of motorcycles, rapid growth in the number of motorcycle accidents has resulted. Each year, at least five percent of all road accident casualties are attributed to motorcycle crashes. As we clearly perceive, motorcyclists are considerably unprotected in a motorcycle since it has no protective metal cage to ensure the safety of the rider. In addition, motorcycles also lack any safety gadgets such as air bags, windshields and safety belts. Thus, it has no match to a fearsome trucks or any other four-wheeler.
To lessen the possibility of being involved in a motorcycle accident than can cause serious personal injuries, the riders may follow these tips:
- Be courteous and respectful to other motorist who uses the roads
- Never practice tailgating
- Avoid riding a motorcycle when you are under the influence of liquor
- Do not ride between slow moving vehicles
- Recognize and follow the traffic rules and ordinances
- Reduce the noise produced by the motorcycle
- Utilize signals whenever necessary
- Be cautious especially at road intersections
- Always check the side mirrors for possible upcoming vehicles
- Be watchful on road hazards and defects as well as traffic problems ahead
- Always be on the road position where the other motorists clearly see you
- Maintain a safe speed that you are most comfortable of and with consistency to your driving capability and road conditions
- Have a complete check up on your motorcycle especially the brakes
- Wear your protective gears such as a helmet, jackets, proper footwear and gloves
There are still other ways to prevent motorcycle accidents and injuries. These can be well understood if you will try to attend a motorcycle-riding training. However, if you are already engaged in these accidents, do not accept the fault
better consult a motorcycle accident attorney to determine if you have a case to pursue. Your legal counsel will evaluate the incident. Then, if he finds a liability or fault on the other party, he will help you in recovering damages against the
defendant. Keep in mind that the law entitles all the motorists with such protection that they are worthy of. We just have to know how to utilize those rights.
Saturday, May 2, 2009
Gary Nixon’s Daytona winner
Imagine Mat Mladin winning this year’s Daytona 200 on a Suzuki two days after winning the Superstock race on a Honda.
Today, it would be. But back in 1967, two-time Grand National Champion Gary Nixon did the equivalent of that, winning the two biggest road races of Daytona Bike Week riding for two different factories.
Nixon won the Daytona 200 for Triumph the day after riding this factory-spec Yamaha to victory in the 100-mile “lightweight” race at the same track.
“Things were just different back then,” he explains. “Both Yamaha and Triumph wanted a rider for Daytona. I think I got $1,000 to ride the Yamaha, and $300 to ride the Triumph.”
Nixon notes that he rode this Yamaha two-stroke 250cc machine for the first time in practice sessions at Daytona. And, he says, it was a certified screamer.
“It was a great little 250,” he says. “That thing ran 148 mph.”
The bike was the product of two worlds. It combined the frame of Yamaha’s RD56 grand-prix bike with an AMA-legal motor from a TD1C production racer. And Nixon says the combination worked perfectly at Daytona—except for one part.
“I think my clutch cable broke on the first lap,” he says, adding that the bike was so good he could still run at the front, holding off Dick Hammer, riding a factory Suzuki, for the win.
The next morning, Nixon and Hammer were teammates on the Triumph squad, riding 500cc Triumph T100/Rs. The two again battled for the lead until a pit-stop mistake caused Hammer’s bike to slow, and he crashed trying to make up ground.
That left Nixon to cruise to victory in what he still recalls as his favorite Daytona.
“Man, that was a great two races—the highlight of my career, really,” he says. “After the race, I celebrated by counting all the money. And then I think I gathered it all up and took a picture of it.”
The bike that took him to the first half of that Daytona double, now owned by Rick Soles, is on display in the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum at AMA headquarters in Pickerington, Ohio.