Naked Super-Standard Bikes, BMW R1200 Hp2 Sport And More! - Up To Speed

Seventies-Style Super-Standards Rule The Streets In Japan. Are They Coming To America Next?

It's said that a visit to Tokyo-the city of bullet trains, automated toilet seats and ubiquitous vending machines that dispense everything from cold beer to hot corn chowder-is like traveling 10 years into the future. For a motorcyclist, however, seeing the bikes that are currently popular there is more akin to traveling three decades back in time.

During a recent trip to Tokyo I spent an afternoon in the hipster hot spot of Harajuku, and looking at the bikes buzzing around that neighborhood was like being transported to your favorite moto-hangout circa 1980. It seems you can't swing a chopstick in Tokyo without knocking into another Kawasaki Zephyr, still offered in Japan in three sizes from 400cc to 1100cc, all of which feature the signature teardrop tank and tail of the original, iconic Z1 900-and, for '07, even the classic green/yellow or root beer/orange paint schemes. Similarly inspired Hondas, including the late-model CB400SS (complete with stamped-steel fenders and the classic Wing logo on the two-tone tank) and CB750s decked out in red/white/blue or silver/blue graphics that recall the brand's first superbikes, are just as common. If naked standards from the glory days of naked standards are your thing, Tokyo is your place.

Is this trend headed to America next? Nostalgia is powerful currency in the motorcycle marketplace. Harley-Davidson's stratospheric sales over the past decade have been driven by boomer-aged buyers snarfing up '50s-style products that recall what their fathers rode back in the day. More recently, European manufacturers such as Triumph enjoyed popular success with a raft of '60s-style Bonnevilles and Scramblers, while Ducati's newly launched SportClassic line draws inspiration from its own '70s superbikes. Can a full-blown retro-Japanese trend be far behind? With reams of iconic bikes worthy of reproduction-and, indeed, many worthy reproductions already being built for other markets, just waiting to be homologated for American roadways-it seems a strong possibility.

This isn't unfamiliar territory for the Japanese OEMs, all of whom, at one point or another, have offered retro product to U.S. consumers, usually with less-than-stellar results. Honda played at this in the late '80s with the single-cylinder GB500 caf racer and the CB1000 super-standard, both of which withered on the sales floor but have since become valuable cult/collector bikes. In the early '90s Kawasaki offered 550, 750 and 1100cc Zephyrs in the USA to a lukewarm reception. And just a few years ago the W650 parallel-twin was likewise a dismal seller, cursed by a reputation as a rip-off of a rip-off-a copy of the mid-'60s Kawi W1, itself a copy of the BSA A7.

Was this a case of the right product at the wrong time, or is there just no market for these bikes in America? A more relevant (and more promising) data point is Kawasaki's recent experience with the ZRX1200. The nuevo Eddie Lawson Replica demonstrated that a carefully considered retro-replica, drawing on authentic history, with truly iconic style, can and will find a successful niche in the American market. There is no shortage of Japanese bikes that fit this mold, including the aforementioned Honda CB750s or the CB1300SB Super Bol d'Or (made to recall the early-'80s CB1100R endurance racer replica). Both of these are already in production, but why stop there? Imagine a modern interpretation of the '82 Suzuki Katana (yes, please) or GS1000, or the '85 Yamaha FZ750.

Honda and Kawasaki reps both declined comment, but if they aren't currently anticipating this market, they should be. Motorcycle enthusiasts are not going to want '50s-styled Vulcans and Shadows forever. Kids that grew up with images of KZs and GSs burned into their subconscious are entering their peak motorcycle-purchasing years right now, and the market is primed for machines that tap into this connection.

Are the bikes presently ripping up the streets of Tokyo representative of our future? If trends begin there and travel outward, a trip to that metropolis might indeed be like looking into the future-a future, it should be noted, that looks an awful lot like our past.

The Bike That Changed My Life
1979 Kawasaki KZ1300
Rider: Rickey Gadson
Now: Eight-time AMA Drag-Racing Champion
Then: 15-year-old High-School Freshman

I've been riding forever. When I was 9 months old, my dad, Richard "Suicide" Gadson, actually took me from Philadelphia to New York City on his bike, tucked inside his coat. The tollbooth workers were freakin': "Is that a baby in your jacket?!" My dad died in 1979 in a motorcycle accident on his Kawasaki KZ1300. His friends fixed the bike up and my mom gave it to me in '83 when I turned 15 and got my license. I was real short then, maybe 5-foot-6, and even with the seat cut down and the suspension lowered I could only get one foot down. And it must have weighed 700 pounds, easy. I went to the dragstrip for the first time on that bike when I was 15 and I'll never forget it: I ran a 12.20 and was hooked! But I also blew up the bike that day. I told my mom it blew up on the street because I didn't want her to worry about me racing. She found out later when one of my buddies let it slip. "Why didn't you tell me?" she asked. "If that's what you want to do, we'll get you a bike for the track." So we sold the 1300 and bought an '84 Suzuki GS1150ES, the NMRA AA Super Stock record holder, for $5K. It ran 9.90s with the stock wheelbase, and we went down South street racing and made sooo much money with that bike. No one expected a stock-wheelbase bike to go that fast!

Back In Black Is Back - First Look
A Production Homage To Jeff Nash's Texas Outlaw

Remember Jeff Nash's nuevo retro Back in Black Ducati Sport 1000 from back in our January issue? The Ducati guys do. Evidently the bike generated enough showroom turbulence to justify a limited-edition factory version. Make that very limited: According to Ducati North America, Italy will crank out 100 of the Darmah-inspired monoposto twins-90 for the U.S. and 10 for Canada-for the same $11,495 you'd pay for a standard, twin-shock biposto version.

You don't get all the tasty Jeff Nash motor mods, -hlins suspension or AC/DC logos at that price. But you do get a dry clutch-'07 Sport 1000s get wet ones-along with the obligatory numbered plaque. Announcements had just gone out to Ducati dealers as we were going to press, so the only bit of bad news is if you're name isn't already on the list, it could be too late.

5 Questions With...
AMA Road Race Director Keith Kizer

Though he spent the last 18 years as owner and operator of the AMA/Prostar motorcycle drag-racing series, Keith Kizer is well versed in all forms of two-wheeled competition. At age 11 he raced flat-track in Houston, Texas (where he later worked alongside Kevin Schwantz at Hurst Yamaha and Marine), and he also dabbled in amateur roadracing before being lured into drag racing by his brother, Terry "Mr. Turbo" Kizer. Now he returns to his roots to fill the newly created AMA Road Race Director position.
1.How's the new job? Any surprises?
"I love it! I absolutely love it! One thing that did surprise me, though, was how badly the roadrace program needed a new management style. Morgan Broadhead [new AMA Road Race Manager] and I have turned it 180 degrees, I believe. We started by asking every racer, team and track owner what they disliked about the AMA and took it from there. Everybody who enters the paddock is our customer, and we treat them like that now."
2. There have been many personnel changes inside AMA Pro Racing over the last year. Do you have the right team in place now?
"The personnel changes we've made have been excellent. It's the perfect team, and honestly, it came together much sooner than I expected."
3. Do you have any big plans for the AMA Superbike series in the near future?
"My first concern is rider safety, and the Rider's Safety council has made huge changes this year. I can't take credit for that; it's been driven by the riders. I'll continue to work with them to help to pinpoint safety changes that need to be made to the tracks so we can make racing safer for them. We're also working on revamping our class structure-we're committed to the current structure through 2008, but we're working on new classes and rules for '09."
4. AMA has a broad mission with its three Rs: Rights, Riding and Racing. How important is racing to the AMA's larger mission?
"Racing is very important to the AMA, which is why it's invested in a complete overhaul of the racing department. All three Rs are equally important, but racing is what most people think about when they think about the AMA. Racing gets the most exposure-and the most criticism, too."
5. What was the best moment for you so far in your new position?
"The best moment so far was seeing the last checkered flag fly at Daytona. That event was very controversial in '06, and we came into it this year with a completely new staff and new people in every key position. All eyes were on us, and they were looking for us to make a mistake. We had some challenges, but when the event was over we made the right decisions, held our ground and put on a great event."

Bare-Knuckle Boxer
Bmw's R1200 Hp2 Sport Prototype Is Out In The Open From the look of this one, those of us who've been waiting for something sportier than BMW's current R1200S won't be waiting too much longer. Official sources say this carbon-skinned prototype is a test mule to evaluate various hot-rod parts in open-class European endurance racing. But since the HP2 Uber Enduro broke cover at the races, you may well be looking at the foundation for the first pure pavement member of the HP family.

Racier Telelever suspension leads the way, along with a set of Superbike-spec Brembo radial-mount calipers. Though the photo doesn't show anything Munich doesn't want you to see, the steel-tube space frame is a more resolute piece, carrying the rider on a carbon-fiber tailsection that negates the traditional subframe. Changes to the respiratory system should produce horsepower numbers well beyond the 122 BMW claims for the current R1200S. If the rumor mill is right, brace yourself for a 138-horse R1200 HP2 Sport that tips the scales a notch or two past 400 pounds complete with life-giving fluids. Expect to pay a bit more than you would for Ducati's $24,995 1098S Tricolore when the bike goes on sale late this year.

Whatever Happened To
Following successful experiments by automakers at the time, not least in Formula 1, the word "turbo" was everywhere in the early 1980s-on cologne bottles, tennis shoes and "turbocharged" personal computers. And, of course, there were turbo bikes from all four Japanese manufacturers. First came the Honda CX500TC and Yamaha Seca Turbo in 1982, followed by the Suzuki XN85 Turbo in '83 and the Kawasaki ZX750 E1 Turbo in '84.

Turbocharging is a simple concept. A small turbine, driven by exhaust gases, force-feeds pressurized air into the combustion chamber to substantially boost power. Manufacturers viewed this as free horsepower and a foolproof way to get big-bike acceleration from small-bike packages. It mostly worked: Kawasaki's 750 produced a stout 112 horsepower at the rear wheel, and turbocharging Honda's workhorse CX500 put it on par with a CB900F inline-four.

These factory turbos were exceptionally advanced for the time. Three of the four featured electronic fuel-injection (only the Yamaha was carbureted), and the Honda carried not one, but two on-board computers to monitor the EFI and ignition timing. Unfortunately, this complexity was one reason the factory turbos were short-lived, along with the unmitigated turbo lag that made the bikes difficult to ride in sport-riding situations.

By the end of the 1985 model year, after disappointing sales across the board, all of these factory turbo bikes had been discontinued and none have been produced since. Turbocharged motorcycles haven't completely disappeared, however: Modern streetbike drag racing is ruled by 500-bhp turbocharged Hayabusas, and major advancements in digital engine management and new technology such as progressive boost controllers have made turbos more user-friendly than ever. We're thinking now is a fine time for the OEMs to try turbocharging again. How's a 350-pound, 400cc, 175-bhp turbo sportbike sound to you?

Aprilia 'Hypermotard' On The Way?
If So, Sources Say It Will Be Powered By A 1200cc 90-Degree V-TwinPrilia is developing a large-displacement supermoto-styled machine similar to Ducati's wildly popular Hypermotard, claims a source within the Italian company. But instead of being powered by the tried-and-true 60-degree liquid-cooled V-twin from the firm's RSV and Tuono open-classers, the new bike is rumored to be motivated by a 1200cc version of the 90-degree V-twin powering the newly released SL750 Shiver naked bike. "It suits the bike better," the source said, though he didn't elaborate on why.

It's possible the 1200cc 90-degree Vee can match the power of the older 60-degree mill, but it's unclear if the new engine would be used in future RSV or Tuono models that may result from the soon-to-be-decided 1200cc twin rule in the World Superbike Championship. Aprilia will only say it will produce V-twin and V-Four Machines Going Forward.

Our cleverly designed and computer-aided digital image shows what such a machine might look like. Though details are sketchy, many parts could come straight from the Shiver, whose engine acts as a stressed member and which features a rear suspension design similar to that of Kawasaki's new Ninja 650. Look for an announcement on this and other new Aprilia models at this fall's Milan Show.

Strip-Show ST - Wild File
Butch Demerle wanted a lighter Honda ST1300. He got it.We've heard of folks removing ancillary parts to lighten their bikes, but this is ridiculous. This, folks, is a stripped-down Honda ST1300. When we first laid eyeballs on the thing at the 2006 AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days at Mid-Ohio, it took us 10 full seconds to ID it.

"I ride an ST1300 as daily transportation," owner Butch Demerle of Ohio told me, "and I wanted a lighter version. I bought a wrecked ST on eBay, yanked off the bodywork and subframe and just stared at it." Demerle wanted the bike to have exposed air cleaners, which meant the upper fuel tank had to go. A friend of his, Jon Cain, does CNC machine work, and helped him design the single-seat subframe, which contains a 1-gallon fuel cell,giving 3.4 gallons total. Other bits include an R6 seat, Pro Taper handlebar, CBR1100XX front fender and CBR600 radiator.

"The bike is lighter by more than 200 pounds," Demerle proclaims with a smile, "which helps it handle great and feel almost supercharged." He's right about that, as my 7-minute ride around the Mid-Ohio grounds attested.

More importantly, it's a hugely unique piece: "No one has one like it...yet!"