A Quarter-Century Thrill Ride | Emeritus

Considering our sport’s relatively young age, Motorcyclist’s 100th birthday is amazing. But what shocks me as I look over my shoulder—and what makes me feel really old—is that I’ve been involved with this publication for a quarter of its life—and half of my own. That thought would have been inconceivable when I joined the Motorcyclist staff in 1985.

To kick off MC’s centennial celebration, Editor Catterson asked me to recount my favorite happenings. I told him I’d be happy to—as long as I could remember them!

Honda VF1000R 24-hour test, August ’85
I’d read a couple of Motorcyclist’s 24-hour tests, but here I was taking part, lapping Willow Springs Raceway on the beautiful-but-burly V4 Honda every few hours and watching Superbike phenom Kevin Schwantz test tires for an accompanying story. Those mammoth goose bumps remain visible today.

BMW K75 intro, September ’85
Ten days in Germany and Austria, wined, dined and Alpen-toured the whole way on BMW’s smooth and comfortable laydown triple. For a 23-year-old international-travel rookie, the trek couldn’t have been cooler.

Honda VFR world record attempt, April ’86
Honda introduces its new-think VFR750 by using it to—get this—beat the 24-hour average speed record of 128.3 mph held by Cycle World on a Suzuki GSX-R750. Fellow staffer Nick Ienatsch and I are invited to a 5-mile banked oval in Laredo, Texas, along with a handful of racer-editors. Stints are full-throttle at 160 mph for 36 minutes, from noon to midnight to noon again. Badgers and other animals are torpedoed, tires chunk at speed and the engine on the first VFR grenades after 5 hours. But we set five world records—the best of them a 143.18-mph average speed covering 3436.3 miles.

Honda Hurricane intro, October ’86
Honda invited editors to not only sample the new CBR600 and 1000, but also tour HRC and its Asaka R&D skunkworks. We rode the banked oval and road course, checked out the dyno rooms, ate sushi and got a glimpse into what made Soichiro’s boys so good. Being young, I didn’t fully recognize how sacred that ground was: The CB750, GL1000, CBX, V45 and VFR750F had all been developed in those rooms and on that asphalt. Getting so close to that brilliance is part of what led me to work for Honda from ’89 to ’92.

Daytona 750cc Supersport race, March ’89
My first-ever AMA National: I rode a fairly stock Suzuki GSX-R750 (only changes were exhaust, tires and suspension), finishing 13th in a packed field. Jamie James, Scott Russell and Dave Sadowski were way out front, but they didn’t lap me—a victory in itself.

Daytona vintage races, March ’95
Six years later I tried AHRMA vintage roadracing at Daytona aboard a Drixton-framed Honda 500 built by Patrick Bodden and Todd Henning. Problem was, the bike wasn’t ready by Bike Week, and an ungodly thrash ensued. Which is why it was amazing that I got third in Premier 500 behind Chuck Hunnicutt and Henning after starting from the back row.

Goodwood Revival, September ’03
You can’t get into the paddock without period (’50s-’60s) attire and a tie. Racebikes are period-only, as well: Matchless G50s, Norton Manxes, MV Agustas, Benellis, etc. Wayne Gardner and Barry Sheene were the chief attractions, but it was being able to race against “Bazza” in what would be his last-ever race that has stuck with me—he passed away three months later.

Mid-Ohio Vintage Motorcycle Days, July ’07
The idea behind MOMBA was audacious: Build an AHRMA vintage roadracer from nothing but swap-meet parts. The goal was to find a Kawasaki GPz550, but the only bike available was a KZ550 LTD. Ugh. After 48 hours of all-day and all-night wrenching, we got it on track and finished eighth, wobbling and smoking the whole way.

It's been a helluva ride!

Mitch Boehm started at Motorcyclist in 1985, and was Editor-in-Chief from '93-'07. He is now editor/publisher of Moto Retro Illustrated, a quarterly magazine covering vintage motorcycles from the ’60s through the ’80s.

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