Did you know?

Harley Davidson tried unsuccessfully to trademark the sound of their motorcycles. During litigation, a Yamaha spokesman countered, "There's no difference between the sound their engine makes and the sound our engine makes. The pistons go up and down. They all sound the same." There would be more than a few people who would argue that a Yamaha v-twin does not sound the same as a Harley.

IT has been said that in 2000 the major motorcycle companies of the world reached a gentlemen's agreement to end a speed war of one-upmanship to try to make the worlds fastest production bike, as they feared speeds would escalate to extremely dangerous speeds before it would end. A limit of 186 mph was agreed. If that was true, Kawasaki's H2 has certainly blown that out the door!

Ducati was a family owned business that started out in 1935. They opened their business in Bologna, Italy, and was first known for making radio parts before building motorized bicycles.

Engineering genius and owner of Brough Superior, George Brough, also wrote all of his company's advertising copy describing his motorcycles as "atmosphere disturbers". Nice one.

In 1992 Honda launched arguably the most technically complex production motorcycle ever made with the Honda NR750. The NR boasted oval pistons with two con rods and eight valves per cylinder. Designed initially as a race bike, Honda made 300 road-going versions of the NR available to the public and at the time it was considered one of the most expensive motorcycles you could buy at over $100,000.

The MV Agusta single cylinder gems

Italian beauty and simplicity

The superb proportions of the 1954 MV Agusta CSTL 175 Turismo Lusso
Image: Wikipedia

The superb red and silver MV Agusta three and four cylinder machines, ridden to prominence primarily by the great Giocomo Agostini, are what usually comes to mind when enthusiasts think of the MV Agusta name. However, it was the single cylinder race and road bikes that established MV as a motorcycle manufacturer. It was an MV 125 single that won them their first of many World Championships, in the hands of Cecil Stanford. These beautifully lean machines are highly desirable and are eagerly sought after by collectors of historical machinery.


The Harley Road Racers

The early RR250

The words, 'Harley Davidson' and 'road racing' just don't seem to fit together. There's a good reason for this. From 1969 until 1981 Harley was owned buy the misguided bowling alley manufacturer AMF. In 1981 Harley was bought by a group of 13 investors led by Vaughn Beals and Willie G. Davidson for $80 million. One of the first things they did was design a new engine. Realizing that they weren't all that well equipped to do it on their own, they turned to Porsche for help. This partnership resulted in the new 'Evo' engine. The new engine looked and performed similar to (that was the intention) the old ones, but there was one big difference, it was reliable!


The myth of anti-dive front ends

Why they don't work on the track

Innovative design is something that should be applauded. It's the way we evolve, the way we improve on what we already have. Over the years there have been many clever designers and engineers who sought to improve a motorcycle's handling characteristics. It's an ongoing process of trial and error, particularly in racing, and with racing, if something works it's used and if it doesn't work it's not, it's as simple as that. And we've come along way. We started with no suspension at all and progressed to having a sprung front end and later, the rear was suspended by twin shocks that featured damping as well. This was probably the single biggest breakthrough.


Triumph Bonneville

Classic Symmetry

The Bonnie

The new model Bonnevilles coming out of Hinckley are a good bike, they are also Triumph's bestseller, but appearance wise they could have been better. They are pretty close but they lack that purity of line and perfectly balanced visual proportions of the old Meriden bike. It's this visual purity that has, more than anything else, won this bike countless fans over the decades and is still winning them today. The tank is perfect, the seat blends in with it beautifully, the header pipes follow the line of the down tubes and the mufflers that make Triumph bikes recognizable anywhere, are slightly upswept to make a superbly proportioned package. And then there's the engine in all its British glory. One of the best looking engines made. Visual correctness, for want of a better description, is something that goes directly to the roots of passion and passion describes the emotion that enthusiasts feel when they look at the Bonnie.


The Road

You know what it's like, it happens almost from the start. When you put it into gear. But it's probably more like about two kilometers down the road until it finally sinks in. When you've actually been moving for a little while. It's more a combination of something sinking in and something lifting at the same time. You get this overwhelming feeling of joy as a burden lifts from your shoulders. You don't think about where it went, or if it might come back, you don't care. At the same time you realise that no matter what the world throws at you, if you've got a bike you can ride, you've got the abilty to clear your head. It doesn't matter how many times you do it, it's still just as effective. If you were feeling good before you started, your just going to feel better. It's a constant, it's always there, but sometimes things get so hectic you can forget about it temporarily and kick yourself for not doing it sooner, after your'e on the bike. It's the sort of thing that is implanted in some closely guarded recess of your mind. To be called upon when a shadowy day needs lifting. You've tried to explain this at times, until you realise that it's a waste of time. You've got to know it, you can't explain it. Everyone needs something wonderful in their life, that they can't explain.


Massimo Tamburini

The Master

Massimo Tamburini

Rimini was a motorcycling enthusiast's town. It was near the Benelli factory and after 1969 it housed the Misano World Circuit that later became Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli. It was the site of many road races following World War II. Later, nearby in a small town called Tavullia a young motorcycle racer called Graziano Rossi was to have a son called Valentino. That story is history that is still being written. It has a thriving motorcycle culture today and for many, that's the way it has always been.

Massimo Tamburini was born into a farming family from Rimini on November 28, 1943. His family couldn't afford to send him to university, instead he attended the Istituto Tecnico Industriale di Rimini, a technical school in Rimini. He left the technical school early and not yet knowing how he could make a career from motorcycles, he began working at the age of 18 on heating ductwork.


The Rotary Nortons

Unlikely successors

Norton Rotary at the Isle of Man in John player colours
Image: Wiz Norton Racing

Rotary engines are sometimes seen as a sort of half way point between two and four-strokes. Apart from the combustion chamber, which is radically different to both, its characteristics are more aligned with the two-stroke. The bikes sound like a cross between a two-stroke and a four-stroke, a little closer to a two-stroke. Rotaries control intake and exhaust flow timing via ports, as well. Without the need for conventional pistons, conrods, cams and valves, the engine is small and light. The eccentric shaft's main bearings and the inlet manifolds are fed by oil-injection, and the fuel-air mix also carries a residual mist of oil from the interior of the rotors, which lubricates the rotor tips. Also like a two-stroke, further large scale development was halted with encroaching emission laws. The original Rotary engine was invented by German engineer Felix Wankel in 1924.



It looks a bit like a MotoGP bike from a distance,
but the sound will be similar to what you are hearing now.

The sound of a V4 could be heard in the distance. More than one and they were miles away. The spectators strained forward anticipating a flash of colour. The noise got loader and suddenly they appeared. It was the two silver Nortons in the lead followed by a gaggle of others. The sound was melodious as the gear changes echoed off the buildings. It felt like the ground was shaking. The engines almost shrieked as they went up through the gears, disappearing into the distance. Someone said, "The TT Zero is up next." "Yeah" was all his friend replied.


John Player Norton

John Player Norton early version

It was 1973 and the riders were lining up for the Trans-Atlantic Match Races. The Easter Trans-Atlantic Match Races were a big deal at the time drawing huge crowds and television coverage. They would have races Friday, Saturday and then skip Sunday and then race again on Monday at three different tracks, Brands Hatch, Mallory Park and Oulton Park. The John Player Special of Peter Williams wasn't given much of a chance. No one doubted his riding ability but the bike was powered by a primitive Norton air cooled pushrod engine with a separate gearbox and he was up against the three cylinder two strokes of Kawasaki and Suzuki as well as the British BSA and Triumph triples. Williams and the bike were outstanding. He won three races and finished first overall.


Ducati 750/900SS

Italian style and performance

The 750SS

Although the superb 750ss was the first of the Super Sports Ducatis, it was the 900 that really established Ducati as a big bike player in the marketplace. This was mostly due to the fact that it could offer more performance for not a lot more money, the two bikes were virtually identical otherwise. Kawasaki had also introduced the 900cc Z1, upping the capacity stakes to a new level. The original 750ss is absolutely beautiful, with its sleek half fairing, curvaceous fibreglass tank with see through panel, imposing round case engine, gorgeous upswept Conti mufflers and unique silver and blue-green colour scheme, it vies with very few others for the title of best looking bike of all time. This hand built and blueprinted gem is the most coveted of all Ducatis and collectors will pay more than $130,000 to get one. The 750ss is rare, it was only made in small numbers (400 I believe), the 900, while not common, is easier to get hold of.

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