Tag Archives: Retro/Vintage Motorcycles

Retrospective: 1960-1964 Tohatsu CA2 Runpet Sport 50cc

1962 Tohatsu Runpet Sport 50cc
1962 Tohatsu Runpet Sport 50cc. Owner: Cliff Shoening, Bremerton, Washington.

This little charmer was in the first wave of Japanese bikes to enter the U.S. market, thanks to Hap Jones, a motorcycle racer and businessman of considerable note. Hap had been selling British bikes in the 1950s, and then decided to get out of the retail business, focusing on his more profitable distribution side. And the Japanese manufacturers were just getting interested in American buying habits, with Honda opening up for business in 1959, Yamaha in 1960.

So Hap got on the phone to Japan in 1961 and had a chat with the Tohatsu suits, who were undoubtedly very happy at the thought of getting into the burgeoning U.S. market, especially with a well-known and highly respected gent like Hap Jones. They arranged for a couple of 50cc Runpet models and several 125s to be sent over, a deal was struck and Hap introduced them to the world with a full-page ad in the January 1962 issue of “Cycle” magazine…quite unusual for a start-up to spend that kind of money. Then he had the good fortune to have a rider on a Tohatsu 125 win the lightweight Sportsman road race at Daytona, which gave him great publicity. Within a few months he claimed to have 300 motorcycle dealers and a number of sporting-goods stores carrying the Tohatsu line.

What was this little Runpet Sport? And this Tohatsu Company? The word is a combination of Tokyo and “hatsudoki” (engine factory), the origins going back to 1922 and the Takata Motor Research Corp., which made its reputation by building a small motor for a highly successful rail-track car. The name was changed to Tohatsu in 1939, and the company became focused on producing military equipment, including small motors to run little generators. War came and went, the factory survived, and it began selling these little motors to other companies building motorized bicycles. “Heck, we can do that ourselves,” some executive said, and Tohatsu began selling kits for bicycle owners to mount themselves, with gas tank, exhaust system and bracketry.

1962 Tohatsu Runpet Sport 50cc
1962 Tohatsu Runpet Sport 50cc. Owner: Cliff Shoening, Bremerton, Washington.

Better yet, it would build a sturdy bicycle, with a telescopic fork. In 1953 the Puppy appeared, powered by a 58cc two-stroke. Not a very attractive vehicle, but mildly efficient. In the mid-’50s the Japanese were all desirous of personal transportation and some 80 companies were competing in the motorized two-wheeler market. By 1956 Tohatsu was the biggest of the lot, selling 70,000 motorbikes, twice the number that Honda was. But competition was getting fierce, and the serious outfits like Honda, Yamaha and Bridgestone were busy modernizing their products, while dozens of the small operations were shutting down. Unfortunately Tohatsu’s success was followed by some major financial mismanagement, with lots of borrowing going on to keep the company afloat. In 1960 the government, through something called the Rehabilitation Act, arranged for Tohatsu to be bought by the Fuji Electric Manufacturing Corporation, the presumption being that this larger concern might be able to get Tohatsu back on its financial feet.

Motorcycles were just a part of the Tohatsu Company, with marine hardware, from bilge pumps to outboard motors, being more important. However, the two-wheeler R&D boys had been hard at work with new models now at hand, including the 50cc Runpets, the Japanese advertising saying in translation, “…with the accent on having fun!”

1962 Tohatsu Runpet Sport 50cc
1962 Tohatsu Runpet Sport 50cc. Owner: Cliff Shoening, Bremerton, Washington.

The Runpet Sport was indeed a sporty creature, with a highly tuned 49cc piston-port engine, fed through a TK carburetor that, like the Amals of the day, had both a tickler and a choke. A single-disc clutch connected to a three-speed gearbox. The factory claimed it put out 6.8 horsepower at 10,800 rpm and was capable of speeds in excess of 60 mph. Quite astounding for a street-worthy little single! It should be noted that 50cc racing was quite popular back then, especially in Japan.

Unfortunately Tohatsu did not get into developing automatic oiling, and owners had to do things the un-fun way, mixing the oil with the gas. As well as kickstarting the tiny terror. Tohatsu had put an electric starter on its basic Runpet with a lower state of tune, intended for the commuter and housewife, but the Sport was to live up to its name.

Chassis was simple, with a large tubular steel backbone frame from which the engine hung, two bolts securing the head; two more were down at the back close to the swingarm pivot. A telescopic fork up front. Two pairs of arms went back from the main frame to hold the saddle and places for bolting the tops of the two shock absorbers.

1962 Tohatsu Runpet Sport 50cc
1962 Tohatsu Runpet Sport 50cc. Owner: Cliff Shoening, Bremerton, Washington.

The 17-inch wheels had drum brakes, and the distance between axles was 44.5 inches. A 100 mph speedometer (rather optimistic) sat in the headlight nacelle, and a very small windshield served to enhance the sport look. A short saddle and no passenger pegs indicated that this was a one-up ride. But you could get the groceries, as there was a small luggage rack and two tiny pannier bags, made from the hide of a Nauga. Total weight was 135 pounds.

There were several options as to presentation, and this one has the scramblerish high pipe and small skid plate. Shiny chrome fenders and nice paint on the tank and side panels enhanced the image. The company was also putting out new two-stroke models, designed with American riders in mind, like a 125 parallel twin with four gears and 15 horsepower.

All to no avail. Bankruptcy was declared in 1964 and the motorcycle side was shut down. We don’t know how many Runpet Sports were sold by the 300 dealers Hap Jones claimed were carrying the brand, but there don’t seem to be many in the used-bike lists.

1962 Tohatsu Runpet Sport 50cc
1962 Tohatsu Runpet Sport 50cc. Owner: Cliff Shoening, Bremerton, Washington.

Source: RiderMagazine.com

2019 BMW R nineT /5 | First Look Review

2019 BMW R nineT /5
BMW has announced a new R nineT /5 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of its iconic /5 (“slash five”) series. Images courtesy BMW Motorrad.

Fifty years ago, in 1969, the first BMW motorcycle rolled off the assembly line at BMW’s factory in Berlin Spandau. The new /5 series (pronounced “slash five”) included the R 50/5, R 60/5 and R 75/5, and sported a new chassis and engine and a fresh, modern design with a wide range of bold color options.

In honor of the 50th anniversary of the classic /5 series, BMW has announced a special R nineT /5 that evokes the look and spirit of the originals.

The 2019 R nineT /5 features black kneepads on a gorgeous Lupine Blue metallic tank, with a smoke effect, double-line pin stripe, a special 50th anniversary badge and a double seat with white piping. Other /5 details include chrome mirrors, exhaust manifold and silencer, fork gaiters and brushed aluminum engine covers, gearbox, fork tubes and wheels.

Otherwise the R nineT /5 is familiar, with its air- and oil-cooled 1,170cc opposed-twin boxer engine, spoked tube-type rims, standard ABS, ASC (automatic stability control) and heated grips and 6-speed gearbox.

Read: BMW R nineT Pure | Road Test Review

U.S. pricing and availability are TBD. Keep scrolling for more images.

2019 BMW R nineT /5
2019 BMW R nineT /5.
2019 BMW R nineT /5
2019 BMW R nineT /5.
2019 BMW R nineT /5
2019 BMW R nineT /5.

Source: RiderMagazine.com

Re-Cycling: 1992-1998 Yamaha XJ600 Seca II

Yamaha XJ600 Seca II
Nothing fancy here, just a good, honest motorcycle in the classic UJM mold–in-line four, single disc brake, tube frame.

You probably wouldn’t think that new riders looking for a cheap and unintimidating starter bike would have much in common with budget-minded veterans who neither need nor want the expense and complexity of new models. But the requirements of both often seem to converge around middleweights from the mid-1990s. At the center of this particular Venn diagram is Yamaha’s Seca II, a bike whose modest specifications belie its versatility, and whose used price is such a bargain you almost can’t afford to not buy one.

The Seca’s 599cc engine has dual overhead cams, two valves per cylinder, four 28mm Mikuni carbs and a six-speed gearbox. There’s little in that list to make a sportbike rider’s heart beat faster, but that wasn’t what Yamaha was after. With 61 horsepower on tap, the 452-pound Seca is sufficient to introduce novice riders to the heady joys of acceleration while keeping the transportation-focused ones from becoming hood ornaments on the freeway.

Yamaha XJ600 Seca II
Basic scheduled maintenance is usually all it takes to push the understressed Seca past the 50,000-mile mark.

What the Seca lacks in sheer excitement it makes up for in practicality, usually as a backup for your hot-blooded sportbike or your elephantine tourer. The Seca won’t take up much of your weekends with maintenance or repair; the understressed engine routinely sends the odometer past the 50,000-mile mark with little more than regular oil changes and the occasional chain service. Some high-mile engines sound like they have a dollar’s worth of loose change in the crankcase, but synching the carbs and adjusting the valves usually clears it up.

One very large red flag is if the starter spins without turning over the engine. A stripped idler gear might be the cause, and it’s not an easy fix–the crankcases have to be split to get at it. Leaky valve-cover and clutch-cover gaskets are common but easily fixed.

Yamaha XJ600 Seca II
The Seca II was featured on the cover of the March 1992 issue of Rider.

The Seca’s chassis mimics the engine’s no-big-deal philosophy. The tubular-steel frame has a 38mm non-adjustable front fork, a single rear shock with preload adjustment, a 320mm single disc brake and a 245mm rear. Cast wheels are shod with a 110/80-17 front tire and 130/70-18 rear. The seat is 30.3 inches off the deck and, while not actually built for touring, is tolerable for one or two riders on day rides. Mileage is typically in the 45-55 mpg range, depending on how you load the bike and how hard you flog it.

The fairing does a decent job of blunting the wind. But like all plastic parts, and especially those on older bikes, it’s expensive to replace, so look closely for cracks around the mounting points and the windscreen, and be prepared to lower your offer substantially depending on what you find. Also inspect the fuel petcock for leaks. Faulty ones let gas drain into the engine, leading to the aforementioned starter idler gear losing its teeth as it strains against flooded cylinders.

The Seca’s reputation for reliability is sometimes its downfall, as owners neglect necessary chores in favor of more road time. Check used examples for leaks, loose steering-head bearings and crash damage. Shine a light in the tank and look for rust caused by water in the gas. The Seca is notoriously cold-blooded, but if it can’t be ridden cleanly off the choke after 10 minutes something’s up. Book prices range from just under a grand for a 1992 model to $1,300 for a ’98.

Yamaha XJ600 Seca II


Pros:

A solid and reliable middleweight that won’t keep you up late at night in the garage. A learner bike worth keeping.

Cons:
All the flair of vanilla ice cream. Gets you there with little fuss, and less excitement.

Specs:
Displacement: 599cc
Final drive: Chain
Wet Weight: 452 lbs.
Fuel capacity: 4.6 gals.
Seat Height: 30.3 in.

Source: RiderMagazine.com

Retrospective: 1974-1979 Kawasaki KZ400 Twin

1976 Kawasaki KZ400
1976 Kawasaki KZ400D3. Owner: Michael Lane, Kansas City, Kansas.

Nice little bike. Great for commuting, but entirely capable of a cross-country trip. This model was an answer to problems in the global economy. The dollar was devalued in 1971, with President Nixon taking us off the gold standard, meaning we had less money to spend on foreign products. Also, Congress was upping the import tariffs on lots of things, trying to figure out how to pay for the war in Vietnam. In response, Kawasaki decided to build a factory in Lincoln, Nebraska. This was not a real manufacturing facility, but more of an assembly plant, as the import duties on bits and pieces of a motorcycle were a lot less than bringing in a whole one.

1976 Kawasaki KZ400
1976 Kawasaki KZ400.

Kawasaki had been looking at the success of Honda’s little four-stroke twin, the CB350, which had modest performance but all the amenities Americans seemed to like, including an electric starter. Kawasaki’s R&D backroom boys put their heads together, drew up plans and came forth with a very efficient, if rather uninspired, 398cc vertical twin, with a 360-degree crankshaft, an overhead camshaft and an electric leg. In June of 1974 the first KZ400 rolled off the assembly line in Akashi, Japan, and a number of them arrived in the United States. But that was just the beginning, as the factory was turning out a lot more parts than those assembly line workers could use. Crates of them were going to Nebraska. In January of 1975 a KZ400 rolled off the Lincoln line with “Made in the USA” on the ID plate.

One should add that the price of gas went up 45 percent between 1973 and 1975, from 39 cents per gallon to 57 cents. Could there be a better time for a 50-mpg econo-bike to hit the market?

1976 Kawasaki KZ400
1976 Kawasaki KZ400.

The frame was a simple double cradle having dual downtubes, with a big, fat backbone tube meeting up with the cradle at the swingarm pivot, a very solid affair that avoided any notion of flexiness. Front fork was by Kawasaki, very much like a Ceriani, and on the inexpensive, non-adjustable side. Five inches of travel was good, with a 27-degree rake and trail of approximately four inches offering a very middle-of-the-road stance. The swingarm ran out 20 inches, bouncing along on a cheap pair of Kawasaki shock absorbers having preload adjustability and three inches of travel. Too soft, reviewers said.

Spoked wheels were both 18 inchers, the front carrying a 3.25 tire, the rear, 3.50. Braking was done by a single 226mm (10.91-inch) disc on the front, a 180mm (7.09-inch) drum on the back. As a polite reviewer might say, adequate. But this was not intended for sporting riding like the Z-1, and the brakes worked fine for commuter use. Distance between the axles was 53.3 inches.

The wet-sump engine was straightforward, being slightly oversquare with a 64mm bore, 62mm stroke. Of minor note was the chain-driven counter-rotating balancer system down in the crankcase, called “harmonic” by one reviewer. It did not smooth out all vibrations, but for anyone happy to ride at two-thirds of redline (9,000 rpm) it was entirely adequate. Commuters, the intended buyers, were not known as rip-snorting riders.

1976 Kawasaki KZ400
1976 Kawasaki KZ400.

The four valves, two per cylinder, were pushed down by a single overhead camshaft, and 36mm Keihin CV carbs fed high-test gas (preferred) and air into the combustion chambers, where it was compressed 9:1. The engine was rated by the factory at 35 ponies, which was usually measured at the crankshaft, not the rear wheel; on a dyno it was closer to 29. Respectable; good for an honest 90 mph. In 1977, with the fuel crisis in the headlines, the carb size was reduced to 32mm to enhance mileage figures a little. And the compression was raised to 9.4:1, which served to create roughly the same power output. Ignition was by battery and single two-feed coil. Starting was by button, except a kickstarter was there as a backup, as many Americans did not yet fully trust electrically powered gizmos.

1976 Kawasaki KZ400
1976 Kawasaki KZ400.

Primary drive was via a Hy-Vo chain, and then through a wet clutch to a five-speed transmission and chain final drive. The long, flat saddle was great for one person, a bit crowded for two. Looks were OK, with shiny chrome fenders and nice paint on the 3.2-gallon gas tank and side panels. Curb weight was a shade more than 400 pounds. The only complaint seemed to be about occasional oil weepage coming from around the head.

The number of KZ400 models expanded. The D series, the essential KZ400 that we have here, went from ’74 to ’77 and cost $1,170 in ’74. The cheaper S series, with a drum front brake and no electric starter, went for $995 in ’75. And for one year, ’77, there was the A model, with small handlebar fairing, saddlebags and luggage rack.

1976 Kawasaki KZ400
1976 Kawasaki KZ400.

For ’78 the D designation became a B, with a redesign in the head, a slightly different gas tank and mufflers, an extra gear in the transmission and the fuel tap getting a diaphragm. The low-price version stayed with five speeds and had a two-into-one exhaust. And there was the stepped-saddle LTD “custom” model, with cast wheels.

This modest motorcycle was also a modest financial success. Kawasaki ran a lot of entertaining ads focused on the commuter, one saying, “More fun than any car I ever drove.” This ’76 model, in the same family since new, is quite stock except for the MAC mufflers.

For 1980 the engine was bored out to 67.5 mm, a 10 percent increase in size, and received a new KZ440 designation, giving the basic design four more years of life.

Source: RiderMagazine.com

Retrospective: 1968-1973 Honda CL350 Scrambler

1968 Honda CL350 Scrambler
1968 Honda CL350 Scrambler. Owner: Jack Wagner, Grover Beach, California.

Honda motorcycles opened for business in the American market in 1959, when the four-stroke 50cc Super Cub came on the market. And over the next 10 years the company acquired a very positive reputation, well deserved, for having high revving, hard hitting, highly dependable products, especially with its 305 series, like the CB77 Super Hawk and CL77 Scrambler.

But, as we say about horses, the 305s were getting a bit long in the tooth. What to do? Shouldn’t cost too much because lots of money was going into the carefully kept secret–the four-cylinder CB750. Having a different number would be good, from 305 to 350. The bore was increased from 60 to 64mm, the stroke reduced from 54 to 50.6mm, the true size of the “new” engine being only 325cc. No matter, as minor exaggeration is considered to be quite acceptable in the advertising world.

Honda used it in three models, the 1968 CB Super Sport and CL Scrambler, and a year later the SL Motorsport. All told, more than 600,000 of these 350s were sold in the U.S. over the six years of production, which means a lot of them are probably still stashed in old barns or forgotten behind the junk in the back of the garage. Here we are dealing with the Scrambler version, better characterized as a street-scrambler, having only minor pretensions to being competent off the pavement. It was a styling thing, much like the “adventure” bikes of today, with the rider liking to think that he can dash across the Gobi Desert any time he wants. Or, more likely, he wants other people to think that.

1968 Honda CL350 Scrambler
1968 Honda CL350 Scrambler. Owner: Jack Wagner, Grover Beach, California.

The essence of the scrambler style were those upswept pipes, curving individually around the left side of the cylinders and ending up in one large muffler that held a permanent spark arrester. Which was covered by a black heat shield for the first two years, and then the shield was chromed. Interestingly, the shiny header pipes were pipes within pipes, the ostensible reason being that the owner would not have to put up with the inevitable bluing that arrived with time. A secondary reason, which should really be the primary, was that the actual pipes carrying the exhaust were quite small in order to maintain a high exhaust-gas velocity that was essential to the tuning system.

This whole CL exhaust shebang weighed a substantial 24 pounds, and was responsible for a loss of several horsepower compared to its CB sibling, which had a longer, more efficient exhaust. Power was 33 horses at 9,500 rpm in the CL, compared to the CB’s 36 at 10,500, despite the engine internals being identical. CL owners usually ignored the redline on the tachometer dial.

1968 Honda CL350 Scrambler
1968 Honda CL350 Scrambler. Owner: Jack Wagner, Grover Beach, California.

Another Scrambler notion was the larger front wheel, 19 inches as opposed to 18. This was more about looks than performance, with the more serious off-roader, the SL, having a 21-incher. Front fender was slightly abbreviated, and the gas tank held 2.4 gallons, almost a gallon less than the CB’s. There were also rubber gaiters on the CL’s fork legs, always good for the daredevil look.

Those were the differences, now for the similarities. Looking into the powertrain, the parallel twin used alloy cylinders with iron liners, and the oversquare engine had lots of possibilities for revs–10,500 of them! In 1968 street-going four-strokes were not known for spinning ten thousand times a minute, and the less knowledgeable thought that this would mean a brief lifespan. But ten grand! How did they achieve that? First, there was a single overhead camshaft, spun by an endless chain between the cylinders. And the camshaft itself was a solid piece of work, weighing some three pounds.

1968 Honda CL350 Scrambler
1968 Honda CL350 Scrambler. Owner: Jack Wagner, Grover Beach, California.

But how does one get valves to seat properly at that speed? The valves all had dual coil springs, but the springs themselves were wound progressively, so that there was relatively less tension when the valve was seated, increasing greatly as the valve got pushed down. Carburetion was a pair of 26mm Keihin constant-velocity units using neoprene diaphragms.

The crankshaft, with four main bearings, spun using a 180-degree firing order as on the 305, but was a lot smoother due to excellent balancing. Primary drive was via straight-cut “paired” gears that were both efficient and quiet. Honda knew that the popular helical gears were quiet but not overly efficient, and came up with this mildly complicated system. A multi-disc wet clutch passed power through a five-speed transmission (up a gear from the 305) and out via a chain running along the left side of the rear wheel.

The chassis was not a notable construction, but suitable for delivering a good feeling to the rider. The backbone was a pressed-steel stamping, which was falling out of aesthetic favor at the time, though inexpensive to make. Fortunately it was hidden beneath the gas tank, and the viewable bits were mostly tubular, a single tube coming down from the steering head to spread into a double cradle.

1968 Honda CL350 Scrambler
1968 Honda CL350 Scrambler. Owner: Jack Wagner, Grover Beach, California.

Suspension was adequate, with a telescoping fork at the front and a pair of DeCarbon-type shocks at the back. A 3.00-19 tire was on the front wheel, 3.50-18 at the back. A double-leading shoe drum brake did yeoman’s service at the front, a single leading shoe at the back. It had 52 inches between the axles, and a wet weight of around 370 pounds.

The saddle, about 32 inches high, was long and flat, while the upswept handlebars had the mandatory cross-brace, part of the scrambler look. The rider saw separate speedo and tach above the headlight. Fenders were chromed, with excellent paint on the gas tank and side panels. And the essential electric leg for starting.

Price was $700, less than half that of the 750 four. Which is why these middling bikes outsold the big one…though we can only presume that quite a few 350 owners upgraded to the 750.

Source: RiderMagazine.com

Retrospective: 1969-1971 Yamaha DS6-C 250cc Street Scrambler

1969 Yamaha DS6-C Street Scrambler. Owner: Ed Heckman, Paso Robles, California.
1969 Yamaha DS6-C Street Scrambler. Owner: Ed Heckman, Paso Robles, California.

For more than 10 years 250 two-stroke twins were the mainstay of the Yamaha range here in the United States, from the DS1 of 1959 (though not sold in the U.S. until 1961) to the DS7 of 1972. We have no idea what the DS stands for, but doubt that it has anything to do with the DS prefix used in Yamaha’s music department. Two-strokes were the popular engines for sporty bikes in the 1960s, being reasonably powerful and inexpensive to make. Running against this 250 DS6 were Suzuki’s Hustler and Kawasaki’s Samurai, all in the $600 range. Any college student having a few bucks in his pocket could probably arrange time payments with the local dealer…backed by Dad’s signature.

When Yamaha advertised this quarter-liter as having 30 horsepower, interest was great. And it passed the eye test as well, with high pipes, one on each side. This was styled as a dual-purpose machine–hence the C in the alpha numerology. The chassis design was much more favorable to the street rather than the trail, so the high pipes were more a styling point rather than functional.

1969 Yamaha DS6-C Street Scrambler. Owner: Ed Heckman, Paso Robles, California.The history of the DS6 engine was long and had the distinct advantage of being associated with Yamaha’s racing 250, the TD1, which had great success over the previous decade. Riders could thank Yamaha’s racing shop for improvements, as the company was intent on keeping its 250 riders on the podium. And what is good on the track can be tuned down to find its place on the street. Any time the engineers improved the racer, they would try to figure out a way to adapt whatever it was to the street bike. Ads for the DS6 promoted the TD’s Daytona wins in 1967 and 1968.

The DS6 246cc engine was of piston-port design, with the 56mm bore and 50mm stroke that had been around for 10 years. This was a genuine five-porter, the ports being cast into the aluminum cylinders with cast iron liners. The new for ’69 cylinders had three transfer ports, along with intake and exhaust, allowing for a larger fuel charge to find its way into the combustion chambers faster. Compression ratio was a reliable 7.3:1, and the cylinders now had copper head gaskets to replace the earlier aluminum ones–which had a tendency to fail when pushed very hard. Naturally these new gaskets came from the racing TDs. Inside the engine were race-worthy bearings, though they would never be subjected to the 10,000-plus rpm attained by TDs. Those 30 advertised horses were said to be generated at 7,500 rpm, and were certainly taken off the crankshaft rather than the rear wheel. Road tests merely quoted the “claimed bhp.”

1969 Yamaha DS6-C Street Scrambler. Owner: Ed Heckman, Paso Robles, California.Two 26mm Mikuni VMC two-stroke carbs combined with Yamaha’s Autolube system fed the fuel/oil mixture into the crankcase. Yamaha was noted for having developed the Autolube system, using a separate container for oil rather than messily mixing it with gas in the tank. It was being used on Yamaha’s race bikes in the late ’50s, and then adapted to street machines in the early ’60s. The greatest advantage to Autolube was that it could closely regulate the amount of oil to be mixed with the gas, so instead of having a steady 20:l mixture, which could get quite smoky at times, the oil was metered by both engine speed and the opening of the throttle valves. This could diminish oil input when idling through town, and give it an almighty whack when the rider decided that a full-on accelerator rush down a country road was in order. The oil capacity was three pints, which was good for half a dozen fill-ups of the 3-gallon gas tank.

1969 Yamaha DS6-C Street Scrambler. Owner: Ed Heckman, Paso Robles, California.Crankshaft power ran back the left side via helical gears to a seven plate clutch, blessed with six torsion springs that helped to absorb even the most abrupt of gear changes. And rubber cushions in the hub helped reduce vibration. Smoothness was what the rider felt when going through the five gears. All this sat securely in a tubular steel double-cradle frame, which looked remarkably like that on a race bike.

A rather steep 34mm telescopic fork ran down to the 18-inch front wheel, where a 7-inch double-leading-shoe front brake did an excellent job of slowing things down. The rear swingarm had a pair of shocks with adjustments available for spring preload. And the wheel, another 18-incher, also had a 7-inch brake, but with a single leading shoe. The 50.8-inch wheelbase was a quick handler on the street, but would keep the sensible trail rider at a more modest pace.

1969 Yamaha DS6-C Street Scrambler. Owner: Ed Heckman, Paso Robles, California.The look was quite different from the preceding low-pipe DS5, which had a rather bulbous 4-gallon tank, and speedometer and tach built into one unit. The smaller 3-gallon teardrop tank was much more attractive in appearance, and the speedo and tach were now separate…very English. Long, flat saddle and chromed metal fenders added to the good looks, going along with the upswept pipes–which did have protective heat-shielding, but long pants were advisable. Yamaha had dropped a tooth from the DS5 countershaft sprocket, which reduced the top speed a small amount, down to 90 or so mph–depending on the weight sitting on the saddle. And a skid plate was bolted on, more for looks than the thought that this shiny fellow would ever scrape its underbelly.

The DS6-C weight was down 20 pounds on DS5, weighing 304 pounds dry. Much of that had to do with the absence of an electric starter. Firing up this baby was done the old-fashioned way…admittedly a very simple task.

The DS series was a great sales success, lasting until the RD250s took over in 1973.

1969 Yamaha DS6-C Street Scrambler. Owner: Ed Heckman, Paso Robles, California.

1969 Yamaha DS6-C Street Scrambler. Owner: Ed Heckman, Paso Robles, California.

Source: RiderMagazine.com

Retrospective: 1956-1962 Norton Dominator 99 600cc

1958 Norton Dominator 99. Owner: Cliff Schoening. Photos by Ralph Noble.
1958 Norton Dominator 99. Owner: Cliff Schoening. Photos by Ralph Noble.

This was the bike that got a lot of Americans excited about the Norton marque. Brit bikes were relatively rare in the U.S. in the early 1950s, with mainly Triumph and BSA battling it out. Yanks had long read about Norton’s racing successes, like when a 500 Manx came in second at Daytona in 1949, but were not much interested in the single-cylinder Internationals, civilianized versions of the racing Manx. What they wanted was an easy to start twin, with enough zip to run up to the semi-magical 100 mph mark. The 500cc Dominator 88 did not quite have the punch needed, but when it was bored and stroked to 600cc (actually 597cc), that stoked some serious interest.

Some people, both industry and consumers, were a little surprised that Norton had not gone to the popular 650 size, which Triumph had done in 1950 with the Thunderbird, and BSA a year later with the Golden Flash. Nortons began to be imported in 1949, and had six U.S. distributors. After the arrival of the 99 the distributors apparently got together and jointly bought the first full-page ad seen in the bike magazines–in the November ’66 “Cycle.” After a very complimentary road test in the September issue.

1958 Norton Dominator 99Norton was an old company, with James Lansdowne Norton founding the Norton Manufacturing Company at the age of 29, back in 1898, when it started manufacturing chains for the burgeoning bicycle market. But motorized bicycles were the coming thing, and JLN got right on it. His 690cc Peugeot-powered V-twin, a touring model, won the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy in 1907; success was clearly in the stars. Norton began building its own engines and prospered.

Late in 1945, after WWII, Norton went back to building civilian motorcycles, both a side valve and an OHV 500 single, along with a very few OHC 350 and 500 Internationals. Triumph was hitting the advertising pages big time, promoting its sleek T100 Tiger 500cc twin, and that was getting a lot of attention. So Norton did the logical thing and hired a designer named Bert Hopwood, who had worked at Triumph before the war when the T100 first came to light. He joined Norton in 1947, improved the singles, and then worked on developing a parallel twin. In November of 1948 the Dominator Model 7 showed up at the annual Earl’s Court motorcycle show, with a vertical twin engine mounted in a Norton frame with a telescopic fork and a plunger rear suspension. Unfortunately, at 440 pounds it was 75 pounds heavier than the Triumph. In 1949 Hopwood moved on to the BSA company, assigned to the task of making BSA’s 500 twin into a 650.

1958 Norton Dominator 99Norton went to work bringing the Dominator 7’s weight down, and the big innovation was the advent of the Featherbed frame, originally intended for the racing Manxes. Previous frames had been complicated and heavy, whereas the Featherbed was essentially two one-piece loops that was both lighter and stronger, using expensive Reynolds 531 manganese-molybdenum, mild-carbon steel tubing. Since everything passes through the steering head, the backbone tubes were welded to the bottom of the head, while the downtubes actually ran between the backbone tubes and then welded to the top of the head. All suitably braced.

Norton then went about making a roadster edition of the frame, using less expensive steel. Initially the saddle-supporting rear section was bolted on, but soon was welded, as that was a lighter approach. Norton also saw fit to give the frame its own name, plus a secondary description, which began with Wideline, and then Slimline (1960), referring to the width of the frame beneath the forward part of the saddle. The 99 used an oil-damped Roadholder fork and a swingarm rear end with a pair of Girling shock absorbers. When the 500 Domi 7 twin got the Featherbed, the bike received new numeration: Domi 88.

1958 Norton Dominator 99Move forward to 1955, and we find Mr. Hopwood being invited to rejoin the Norton Company. And soon the 497cc 88 had a larger sibling, the 597cc 99, the 100cc gained by using an even longer stroke…the 88 having a 66 x 72.6mm bore and stroke, the 99, 66 x 82mm.

Nothing exceptional about the dry-sump engine. The crankcase was split vertically, the cylinders were iron, the head aluminum alloy. The camshaft was up at the front of the engine with four light-alloy pushrods operating the four valves. A single Amal Monobloc fed the fuel to the combustion chamber, having a modest compression ratio of 7.6:1.

A single-row primary chain ran in an oil bath from the crank to clutch, which had little rubber shock absorbers. This was all done inside a sheet-metal primary case. And if the cork gasket was in good shape, the oil stayed inside. The four-speed transmission was made by Norton, and in best British tradition, the shift was on the right side, up for first.

1958 Norton Dominator 99The bike weighed some 410 pounds wet, and put out 31 horsepower. It had a comfortable seat, slightly Americanized handlebars and a 4.4-gallon tank–test write-ups said the 99 got more than 50 mpg. The headlight shell held a speedometer, ammeter and light switch. Initially a Lucas magneto sparked the plugs and a dynamo lit the seven-inch headlight, but in 1958 a crankshaft-driven alternator and distributor did both tasks. Petcock on, choke if cold, tickle the carb, fold out the starter and a healthy kick or two would get the engine going.

That “Cycle” road test reported a top speed of 114 mph–impressive. And a quarter-mile time of 14.61 seconds. Equally impressive.

The years went on. In 1961 the 99SS version appeared, with twin carbs. Last official year for the 99 and 99SS was 1962, replaced by the 650SS, now stroked to 89mm to get the additional 50cc.

Source: RiderMagazine.com

Moto Guzzi Announces V7III Racer Limited Edition for North America Only

2020 Moto Guzzi V7III Racer Limited Edition.
2020 Moto Guzzi V7III Racer Limited Edition.

Moto Guzzi has announced the release of a limited edition V7III Racer, arriving this summer exclusively to the U.S. and Canada. This factory custom will be available in June in the U.S. for $9,950 and July in Canada for $11,590.

Check out our First Look Review of the 2019 Moto Guzzi V85 TT here.

The V7III Racer Limited Edition has its own unique livery that includes gloss white paint with red accents, including the frame, reminiscent of the first 1971 V7 Sport series that was nicknamed “telaio rosso” (“red frame”). A brown leather accent strap embossed with the words “Moto Guzzi” covers the center of the gas tank and wraps around the fuel filler cap, and it matches the diamond quilted seat.

2020 Moto Guzzi V7III Racer Limited Edition.
2020 Moto Guzzi V7III Racer Limited Edition.

As tradition dictates, the V7III Racer Limited Edition sports clip-on handlebars and a classic humped seat, although it also has passenger pegs; removing the seat cover allows for passenger accommodations.

Other premium components include spoked wheels with red accents, rearset machined billet footpegs, a lightened steering stem and steering yoke guard, and fully adjustable rear Öhlins shocks.

For more information and to reserve your V7III Racer Limited Edition, see your Moto Guzzi dealer or visit motoguzzi.com.

Source: RiderMagazine.com

Nmoto Nostalgia BMW Motorcycle Enters Limited Production

The Nmoto Nostalgia is based on the BMW R nineT. Photo courtesy Nmoto.
The Nmoto Nostalgia is based on the BMW R nineT. Photo courtesy Nmoto.

After its successful debut at the New York International Motorcycle Show in December, the Nmoto Nostalgia project is now entering limited production.

The Nmoto Nostalgia is a one-of-a-kind endeavor to capture the ambition of the legendary BMW R7. With the comfortable suspension and unique steering mechanisms encased in a canonical design inspired by the BMW R7 pre-war prototype, the Nostalgia motorcycle gives enthusiasts a slice of the past without sacrificing performance or rider experience.

The core of the Nostalgia is a modern BMW R Nine T, outfitted with 96 handcrafted pieces. This includes more than 11 premium parts from reputable aftermarket companies. Constructed primarily of aircraft-grade aluminum, the Nostalgia motorcycles are lighter than a stock R Nine T and the original 1934 prototype. Modern technology also provides more power and maneuverability so riders get the best of both worlds – Art Deco design and looks with contemporary performance and reliability.

The Nmoto Nostalgia is based on the BMW R nineT. Photo courtesy Nmoto.Enthusiasts and collectors know that vintage motorcycles require constant maintenance and attention, which is why they are more often kept as collectibles than for utility. Nmoto believes that the primary pleasure in motorcycle ownership is in riding, which is why they created the Nmoto Nostalgia. Beyond just being beautiful and wholly distinct, it’s reliable, safe and comfortable enough to ride every single day.
“The response in New York was tremendous,” said Nmoto founder Alexander Niznik. “We had a lot of interest from the public and the media, a lot of positive feedback, and we’re already taking orders, including from famed musician Billy Joel and renowned BMW historian Peter Nettesheim.”
Available in a limited production series, orders are now being taken with a finished base price of $49,500 and an expected wait time of 3 to 6 months. For more details and information, visit nmoto.com.

Source: RiderMagazine.com

2019 Honda Super Cub C125 ABS | First Ride Review

Honda Super Cub
The original Honda Super Cub C100, in the Japanese “sea and sky” livery. Photo courtesy Honda.

“You meet the nicest people on a Honda.”

The year was 1963 and American Honda, which opened its doors in Los Angeles barely four years prior with eight employees, wanted to change the way car-loving Americans saw motorcycles. When Honda came to the United States in 1959, fewer than 60,000 motorcycles were sold here annually, with most of those being domestic and European models larger than 500cc.

Dealers were skeptical of this bold, upstart new Japanese company, essentially telling 39-year-old General Manager Kihachiro Kawashima, “Good luck, but you’re just splitting a small pie into even smaller pieces.” Undaunted, Kawashima responded: Fine, we’ll make the pie bigger on our own. And the key to that bigger pie was the 50cc CA100, the “nifty, thrifty Honda Fifty,” known in Japan as the Super Cub.


“To succeed in the U.S. is to succeed worldwide. To take up the challenge of the American market may be the most difficult thing to do, but it’s a critical step in expanding the export of our products.” –Takeo Fujisawa, Senior Managing Director and co-founder of Honda Motor Co., Ltd.


 

Honda Super Cub
Honda’s “You meet the nicest people” ad campaign has become the stuff of legend, and it almost single-handedly changed the American motorcycle industry forever. Image courtesy Honda.

The Super Cub was designed to be accessible: a bike anyone could ride, rugged enough to handle the rough unpaved Japanese roads and with a quiet, fuel-efficient engine. Honda fitted it with its first-ever semi-automatic centrifugal clutch transmission, meaning gear changes were initiated by simply toeing the gearshift lever, no clutch required. The Japanese model was painted a lovely “sea and sky” combination of dark and light blue with a contrasting red single seat, reportedly inspired by Mr. Honda’s penchant for wearing a red shirt and driving a red sports car.

The American version, meanwhile, had two-up seating and a bright, toy-like red and white paint job that reflected American Honda’s strategy of marketing the Super Cub as something fun and unthreatening, the perfect accessory for modern youths of the Jet Age. It was a marked departure from the image most Americans had of motorcycles and “bikers” in general, personified by somewhat dangerous, black leather-clad young men, a la Marlon Brando in “The Wild One.”

And it was a booming success. In 1961 Honda sold 17,000, in 1962 35,000 and in 1963, the year of the “You meet the nicest people” campaign, 90,000 CA100s were sold in the States.


The Super Cub’s new image was “unlike anything that Americans had imagined before. It was that of a completely new vehicle; a motorcycle that simply didn’t seem like one.” –Kihachiro Kawashima, General Manager, American Honda Motor Co., Ltd.


 

Honda Super Cub
American Honda Motor Company got off to a humble start at this small, unassuming building on Pico Blvd. west of downtown Los Angeles. The building is still there, albeit with a new owner. Photo courtesy Honda.

Unfortunately, like most booms the Super Cub ran its course in the U.S., with sales peaking in 1965 and then declining until the model was retired in 1974. It was replaced by the larger displacement C90 and C70 Passport, the last step-through Honda motorcycles sold in the States, which themselves disappeared from our shores after the 1983 model year.

The Super Cub lived on elsewhere, however, especially in Southeast Asia, where reliable, efficient, rugged and inexpensive two-wheeled transportation is a necessity. As of October 2017, more than 100 million Super Cubs had been sold worldwide, the most by far of any motorized vehicle in history. Meanwhile, the unassuming Super Cub had started a revolution, introducing Japanese motorcycles to the American masses and throwing the door wide open for the “Japanese Invasion” that swept the U.S. motorcycle and automotive markets in the late 1960s and beyond.

Honda Super Cub
The 2019 Honda Super Cub is just as much time machine as it is motorcycle. At a glance it can be hard to differentiate between old and new. Photo by Drew Ruiz.

Return of the Super Cub

The year 2019 marks American Honda’s 60th anniversary and also the return of its breakthrough model, now dubbed the Super Cub C125. Based around the air-cooled 125cc single used in the Grom and the Monkey, the 2019 Super Cub is almost as much a time machine as it is a motorcycle.

Fuel injection replaces the carburetor, 17-inch wheels are cast rather than spoked and carry modern tubeless tires, the front disc brake has standard ABS, there’s no kickstarter and the instrument is a combination LCD fuel gauge/odometer/tripmeter/gear indicator with analog speedometer. But the bike still uses that same semi-automatic centrifugal clutch–since utilized in everything from Honda’s mini dirt bikes to ATVs–and it looks almost exactly the way it did 60 years ago, in the classic Japanese “sea and sky” livery.

Honda Super Cub
Analog speedometer and LCD gear indicator/odometer/tripmeters/clock/fuel gauge. Photo by Drew Ruiz.

Since every story must start at the beginning, our press launch ride started at the original location of the American Honda Motor Company, a small, nondescript white building on Pico Blvd. west of downtown Los Angeles, where we swung a leg over our time machine–er, motorcycle.

The first clue this is a 2019 model, not a ’62, is the key–or lack thereof. The proximity-sensing fob locks and unlocks the side cover storage (large enough to hold the owner’s manual and not much else) and seat, under which are two helmet lock hooks and the fuel filler, and enables the ignition. Turn the ignition knob to “on,” thumb the starter button and the Super Cub purrs to life.

Honda Super Cub
The new Super Cub’s keyless ignition lets you remotely lock/unlock the seat and side cover. As long as you’re in close proximity it enables the ignition as well; simply push the knob to activate, then turn it to the “on” position and thumb the starter. Photo by Drew Ruiz.

For a rider used to clutching or even Honda’s own automatic DCT transmission, it takes a bit to get used to the lack of a clutch lever while continuing to toe a shifter. Neutral is at the bottom, then it’s all up from there, gears one through four. The lever itself is a heel-and-toe design, and a couple of testers remarked that it was easier to push the heel plate for upshifts, especially with thick boots on.

The transmission uses a centrifugal clutch and a standard spring-loaded clutch plate; when you toe (or heel) the shifter the clutch plate pulls away, the gear changes and the plate returns. The system responds best to an easy-going pace, befitting the Super Cub’s personality. I found that pushing rather than jabbing the lever and operating the throttle just like I would on a traditional bike–rolling it closed slightly during shifts–resulted in the smoothest operation.

Honda Super Cub
Wheeee! You won’t win any drag races, but the 125cc single has enough get-up-and-go to keep up with traffic…up to about 55 mph, that is. Photo by Drew Ruiz.

Like the Grom and Monkey, the Super Cub isn’t designed for speed–55 mph is about the most you’ll comfortably do, and 45 is even better–but the larger 17-inch hoops bestow a stability the other two lack and make it feel more like a “real” motorcycle. Our test ride meandered south and west, including plenty of impatient L.A. traffic, hills, road construction and even a police escort along the sandy boardwalk in Redondo Beach. The Super Cub handled it all with charm and grace, coaxing smiles from scowling, gridlocked drivers like a lion tamer soothing a roaring beast.

Honda Super Cub
Modern LED headlight is highly visible for daytime riding. Traditional front fairing design allows some wind protection for those chilly mornings. Photo by Drew Ruiz.

The little single, which probably generates 10 horsepower on a good day, feels smooth and comfortable, thanks at least partially to rubber pads on the rigid-mounted footpegs and the thickly padded red solo saddle. There is no adjustability to either the 26mm inverted front fork or the twin rear shocks, and no passenger accommodations (Honda does offer a nice accessory chrome luggage rack, however). Parking involves dismounting while holding the 240-pound bike upright, then lifting it onto its centerstand (there is no sidestand, nor is there a parking brake).

Honda Super Cub
Our pack of Super Cubs got a police escort onto the pier at Redondo Beach, where tourists and locals alike gawked at the stylish blue-on-blue motorcycles. We just grinned back. Photo by Drew Ruiz.

After rolling through the green hills of Palos Verdes, we turned our backs to the sea and cruised to the Honda North America campus. Our time machines had brought us full circle, from 1959’s single, humble storefront with eight employees to the sprawling, 101-acre North American headquarters of the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world. Honda had one more surprise for us, however.

Blocks away from the main campus, it maintains a private collection of cars and motorcycles, from the first Civic to milestone motorcycles to the latest IndyCar racecars. There they wheeled two bikes out of the museum, a 1961 Japanese-spec C100 Honda 50 and a 1980 C70 Passport, and let us take them for a quick spin. Pull the choke knob and give it a kick–the smooth purr feels immediately familiar. Three gears instead of four, a drum brake up front, but otherwise these were the same fun, easy to ride motorcycles we’d been traveling on all day. The circle closed, the story begins again.

Honda Super Cub
The author takes a spin on a 1980 C70 Passport, the last step-through Honda motorcycle model to be sold in the U.S. Honda North America’s Jon Seidel rides just behind her on the new Super Cub. Photo by Drew Ruiz.

The Super Cub represents everything Honda was and has become, especially in the U.S. where it, aided by some deft marketing moves by American Honda, almost single-handedly altered American motorcycling culture forever. We’re happy to see it again, and maybe it will even inspire a whole new generation of “nice people” to take up two wheels.

 

Honda Super Cub
2019 Honda Super Cub C125 ABS. Photo by Drew Ruiz.

2019 Honda Super Cub C125 ABS Specs

Base Price: $3,599
Website: powersports.honda.com
Engine Type: Air-cooled single, SOHC, 2 valves
Displacement: 125cc
Bore x Stroke: 52.4 x 57.9mm
Transmission: 4-speed, semi-automatic centrifugal clutch
Final Drive: Chain
Wheelbase: 48.9 in.
Rake/Trail: 26.5 degrees/2.8 in.
Seat Height: 30.7 in.
Claimed Wet Weight: 240 lbs.
Fuel Capacity: 1.0 gal.
Avg. MPG: NA

Honda Super Cub
2019 Honda Super Cub C125 ABS. Photo by Drew Ruiz.
Honda Super Cub
Side cover holds small tool kit and not much else. Photo by Drew Ruiz.
Honda Super Cub
2019 Honda Super Cub C125 ABS. Photo by Drew Ruiz.
Honda Super Cub
Heel/toe shifter is designed to be easily used in anything from thick riding boots to slick dress shoes. Photo by Drew Ruiz.

Source: RiderMagazine.com