A Century of Motorcycling | The 1990s

By Motorcyclist Staff, Photography by Motorcyclist Archives

We’ve cast off the goofy haircuts and senseless enthusiasm of the 1980s and are ready to enter the information age. In this decade, the Internet would turn from a curiosity to a centerpiece of modern life. Email replaces the phone call. Huge SUVs oust the station wagon from the family driveway. (And 2⁄3 of Motorcyclist’s current staff graduate from high school and college.)

In motorcycling, incremental improvements follow the huge strides—especially in sportbikes—of the ‘80s, but end in seismic shifts in performance, thanks to the Honda CBR900RR, Yamaha YZF-R1 and Suzuki GSX-R1000.

Yes, some of the fashions were odd. New ways to manufacture motorcycle gear led us away from simple designs—though the Harley contingent kept black leather around—into an era of unbounded and, yes, unfortunate stylistic enthusiasm. We’ve recovered, thanks.


The BMW K1’s overly aero bodywork and demi saddlebags were, um, innovative. We anointed it Motorcycle of the Year.

Honda radically resets the VFR750 with a single-sided swingarm and Jelly Belly bodywork.

Keith Code named 1990 Motorcyclist of the Year.

The Hubble Telescope is launched into space.


We name the Honda Nighthawk 750 the Motorcycle of the Year. Oops.

We test seven small-displacement, highway-legal bikes to see which ones could go 100 miles on a gallon of gas. Three made it: The Kawasaki KLR250 (106.2 mpg), the Honda NX250 (104.9 mpg) and the Yamaha XT350 (100.9 mpg). Kawasaki’s EX500 trailed the pack at 72.1 mpg.

Ducati entrusts us to ride its 888 FWR racer. We give the $55,000 Duck back in one piece.

Collapse of the Soviet Union.


We call the new Yamaha Seca II the best buy of ’92.

In the inevitable 600 Supersport shootout, the Honda CBR600F2—or “goof two,” as the graphics seem to suggest—beats the GSX-R600 and FZR600.

ABS put to the test on the BMW K100RS, Honda ST1100 ABS-TCS and Yamaha FJ1200A. Gasp, the Honda wins!

The Motorcycle Safety Foundation graduates its one-millionth student.

Bill Clinton is elected the 42nd president of the United States.

Honda drops the CBR900RR bomb, then breaks the mold with the oval-piston NR750. On the racetrack, the NR bombs.


Harley’s carbureted, 80-cubic-inch FLSTC Heritage Softail Classic was its best-selling model

Ducati displays the Monster. The Miguel Galluzzi-penned naked bike is an instant hit.

World Trade Center bombed.

The World Wide Web goes public.


Ducati 916 debuts. Did anything else happen that year?


Some young pup named Kent Kunitsugu penned a hop-up story about a Yamaha FZR600. Wonder where Kent is now…

Honda's CBR600 gets ram air induction, hence the F3 suffix. We're blown away.

We’re gaga over Triumph's new 1200, all 112-horsepower and 594 pounds of it.

eBay launches as an online auction house.


An irascible Aussie named Mat Mladin begins riding for Yoshimura Suzuki. Three years la2/3ter he wins his first of his seven AMA titles.

BMW introduces the R1100RT. Soon every California motorcyclist will flinch at the sight of one.


Motorcyclist magazine’s 85th anniversary.

Suzuki introduces the Bandit 1200. It’s still in Suzuki’s lineup today.

Yamanaka-san’s long-awaited CBR1100XX finally debuts in the U.S. With a top speed of 178.5 mph, it’s the fastest production bike available.

V-Twins rule the sportbike segment: Suzuki’s TL1000S and Honda’s VTR1000F are both named Bike of the Year.

Australian Mick Doohan dominates the 500cc GP season with 12 wins in 15 races.


Mr. Daytona, Scott Russell, wins the 200-miler for an unprecedented fifth time.

Former 500cc GP World Champ Kevin Schwantz returns to the track – with NASCAR! He’s from Texas, after all.

Google is founded.


Our Suzuki Hayabusa goes 189 mph in front of the radar gun. Honda’s XX suddenly seems inexcusably slow.

Our June cover story was Bang for the Buck (some topics are evergreen), with the SV650 front and center.

Ducati’s 916/996 wins Motorcycle of the Decade.

The panic over the “Y2K” bug begins.

By Motorcyclist Staff
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