It's amazing how much things have improved over time. From the bias-ply tires and dual leading-shoe drum brakes of yesteryear to today's multi-compound radials and radial-mount four-piston calipers, things have come a long way. To help put it all in perspective, we've tracked down some iconic originals and paired them with their contemporary counterparts.
Zero Gravity Double Bubble Windscreen
In 1989, Zero Gravity started hand-forming windscreens in crazy colors to match the flamboyant paint schemes of the day. Five years later, Yoshimura R&D approached them about a specialized screen for their Daytona Superbike, and from that collaboration the Double Bubble windscreen was born. Its superior aerodynamics, clarity and flexibility made it the screen of choice for racers, and that preference holds true today. The colors aren't so flashy anymore and the production process has been automated, but Zero Gravity screens are still made from the finest plastics and finished to exacting standards, so you're guaranteed a perfect fit. Pick one up for your sportbike for just $89.95.
Sidi Crossfire Ta Boot
The Sidi Gran Prix boot of 1969 has the distinction of being the first purpose-built off-road riding boot. Prior to that, lineman's kicks were the best a motocrosser could get. The Gran Prix was a revolutionary product: It featured buckles instead of laces, toe and heel counters, ankle and shin padding, and a gaitor to seal out mud and debris. The latest in the Sidi off-road line is the 2010 Crossfire TA, which incorporates all the technology and know-how Sidi has accumulated during 40 years of boot making. Armor plating, a fully adjustable fit system, heat shielding and other innovations have kept Sidi at the forefront of footwear. The $450 Crossfires are designed for safety, comfort, performance and durability-just like the original.
Performance Machine Wheels
Remember when Goodyear made roadracing slicks and cast hoops were cutting edge? That's how long Performance Machine has been making motorcycle wheels. The early-'80s Morris mag shown here was the hot ticket in its day, and helped put plenty of racers on the podium. Fast-forward 30 years and PM is still cranking out high-quality hoops from its Southern California factory. The company's latest offering is the Assault wheel, a forged-aluminum masterpiece that's stronger, lighter and more rigid than anything PM has made before. At $2600 per pair they're a pricey investment, but the improvement in acceleration and handing are nothing to scoff at. And who can argue with that aggressive appearance?
Aerostich Falstaff Jacket
Although the Belstaff brand is back in business, when Aerostich introduced the Falstaff jacket back in 1999 the British company had long since stopped making its famed waxed-cotton riding garments. This modern facsimile of an erstwhile design stays true to the original by using 100 percent English waxed cotton that is waterproof, durable and extremely comfortable. Aerostich has made some modifications, of course, including a full cotton lining with two huge inside pockets, a soft ultra-suede-faced collar and tastefully placed reflective panels. It has armor, too, Aerostich's acclaimed TF3 pads placed at the elbows and shoulders to boost crash protection. The Falstaff is made in the USA and is available in classic brown and black in sizes S-XXL for $397.
Bell Star Helmet
In 1967, Bell wowed the world with the first full-face helmet. And despite the Star's bulk and claustrophobic fit, that fiberglass-and-foam contraption was eagerly received by motorcycle and car racers alike. In '70 it was updated with a flip-up shield, and then in '73 the Star 120 debuted, providing an expansive 120-degree view. Today's Star bears little resemblance to its progenitor, but the desire to create a new and better product is still Bell's primary drive. The shell of the 2010 Bell Star Carbon is crafted entirely from carbon-fiber and features a multi-piece EPS liner, anti-fog face shield, removable anti-bacterial foam liner and excellent venting. Weighing in at only 1500 grams, the Star comes with a five-year warranty and meets Snell M2010 standards. It retails for $649.95-about 10 times the price of the original.
Dainese Paraschiena Wave Back Protector
Inspired by the protective carapace of the armadillo, Dainese's Paraschiena back protector is the culmination of a journey that started with the late Barry Sheene in the 1970s and continues with Valentino Rossi et al today. The original Wave used simple materials to help absorb and disperse the energy of an impact, and was hailed as a major step in rider protection. Years later, Dainese is still leading the charge with its Wave back protector. Homologated to EN 1621.2 Standard Level 2, this $239 back protector has rigid external corrugated plates on the back and shoulder blades for better impact energy distribution and a lightweight core made of aluminum honeycomb and Astrosorb. Ergonomics and riding comfort are guaranteed thanks to jointed pads, a patented lumbar-support joint and multitudinous perforations.
Alpinestars Gp Plus Glove
By today's standards, Alpinestars' original GP Plus glove is still a fantastic product. Considering the mitt has undergone nearly a decade of annual updates based on rider feedback and intensive crash analysis, the 2010 model must be nearing perfection. The current specimen retails for $189.95 and is hewn from light and strong kangaroo hide backed by a Kevlar lining. Extensive tailoring, external seams and numerous expansion panels offer the closest, most comfortable fit possible, while robust knuckle armor and myriad sliders provide track-grade impact protection. Other improvements include Alpinestars' patented finger-bridge and a large, padded, wrap-around gauntlet to cushion and support the wrist. It will be interesting to see where Alpinestars goes from here, because it doesn't get much better than this.