I think we would all agree that motorcycles, in general, are a good idea. Sometimes however something goes haywire in the brains of the designers or riders and something terrible happens and what otherwise might be a beautiful machine is defaced. This post is dedicated to some of these crimes against motorcycling…
Kawasaki 750 triple
I would love to own one of these because I don’t believe all of what is written about it. The KH750H2 was the fastest bike of its time, but it suffered from journalism and because we listened to the “experts” we missed out on the development of a possibly great bike. I am sure it probably did have an engine that was too powerful for the brakes and frame, but then again so did most of the “high performance” bikes of the time, especially if you compare them to anything remotely modern. Of course, any bike given the nickname “Widow maker” is going to gain a cult following, just look at Suzuki’s TL1000, but in reality it was as good a bike as any you could buy and better than most. In a back to back test in 1973 it ran against a CB750, a Norton Commando, a Harley 1000cc Sportster and a Z1 amongst others. By the end of the test it had not only out accelerated everything over the quarter mile but it had also posted the fastest lap time and the shortest stopping distance. This seems to me to be quite a surprising result coming from a bike whose handling and braking had been compared to that of the ships that Kawasaki also built.
Honda Hawk Hondamatic
Otherwise known as the CB400A or the Variomatic was an example of taking a great bike and making it next to useless. The CB400F was launched in 1971 and has gained a cult following. A 400cc in line four engine that produced 37bhp, could do the quarter mile in just over 14 seconds and topped out at 104mph was impressive for the time. It was not as quick as Kawasaki’s two strokes but it handled better and looked beautiful. So why then did Honda think it would be a good idea to castrate it by sticking a pseudo automatic gear box onto it?
Doing this meant that the poor little 400 dropped in power to 26.5 bhp and its quarter mile time rose to nearly 18 seconds and the speedo only went up to 100mph…says a lot really. The gear box was replaced by a variable drive system that sat in “1st” gear until 50mph and then changed automatically to “2nd” whether you wanted to or not. I suppose Honda thought they could make riding bikes easier for those that were challenged by the idea of gear boxes and co-ordination, but honestly do you really want those people on the road with you? The Hondamatic was just horrible, I know, I rode one for a mile once. It is something I remember for all the wrong reasons.
Ape hangers, really, honestly, why? I have read the stories, stories that tell of them being made to protect bikers from wires stretched across the road by people who took exception to their way of life back in the 60’s but I can’t find any documented cases of this actually happening. I know it happened on farm tracks around where I live to stop some trail riders, but the farmer who did it was put in prison and it soon stopped. On a public highway I would imagine the wire would have been broken by a car or truck rather than a biker, even back in the 60’s when there was a lot less traffic.
Personally I think they were just a fashion, created by a group of guys who thought they looked good on their bikes. Each one tried to outdo the other until their Ape’s went from aesthetic enhancement to full on giggle fest for most of us.
I can understand custom builders doing it, they are creating art and art has no boundaries, but a motorcycle is for riding and having giant, flexible bars really cannot enhance that riding experience, and I don’t care what you say about comfort, there is no way putting your arms up in the air for an hour or more can be comfortable. The guys who invented them should have done it, once, laughed, pulled the piss out of each other and then gone back to the fridge, cracked open a beer and then put some sensible bars on their bikes….they have a lot to answer for!
I am off to put rubber mount my clip-ons on the Zxr, perhaps the extra flex will enhance the handling?