The man who served as Editor-in-Chief of Cycle World for a couple of decades, until October, 2009, and one of the finest people I ever had the privilege of working for, was always into classic motorcycles in a big way. That knowledge and experience segued nicely into working as a consultant for Bonhams Auctions for the last ten years. Now that that business is on temporary hiatus thanks to the global pandemic, David found a little time to post this 1985 memory on Facebook the other day:
Gixxer Throwback Photo: How can this be 35 years ago? That’s me in my Vanson leathers (that, sadly, don’t have a hope in hell of fitting today), astride a first-gen Suzuki GSX-R750 at the Ryuyo test track in Japan. The day before I’d selected this blue Gixxer and a matching red model from the production line at Suzuki’s nearby Hamamatsu factory, then wired and lead-sealed the cylinder head to the block, and the engine itself to the frame. Back in the U.S., both bikes would be run flat-out in a Cycle World magazine attempt to set the 24-hour world speed record for motorcycles, and we wanted to prove that the GSX-Rs – at the time, ground-breaking for their lightness and power – remained bone stock.
Suzuki laid on some shakedown laps at Ryuyo the next day. At 4 miles long, the company test circuit had a fearsomely fast 1.5-mile back straight and precious little runoff room. Orientation laps in a car were a bit sobering. My guide was none other than Mitsuo Ito, the only Japanese rider (still) to take a win at the Isle of Man TT. His 1963 victory in the Ultra Lightweight class helped put Suzuki on the world map of motorcycling and ushered in a racing heritage that continues to shape the company. A lifelong Suzuki employee who went on to direct the race program, Ito helped design Ryuyo in 1964 and had logged countless laps there. When he pointed to a battered foam wall a few yards off the track and implored that I shouldn’t crash here, he had my full attention.
Suited up and on the bikes, I followed Ito for a couple of warm-up laps, at which point he looked back, nodded and buried the throttle, jetting away in his all-black leathers, sitting bolt upright in the saddle and never putting a knee out, until he was just a speck in the distance.
Mr. Ito passed away last year at age 82. It was an honor sharing the track with you, sir – if only for a short time.
Wow, those are the kind of big-deal stories the big magazines used to be able to get away with before the www existed, and nobody had to be bothered making a video of the whole thing either. David Edwards was there for the best part of the bike-magazine era, leading for most of that time what billed itself as the World’s Biggest. A year or two later, CW‘s arch-enemy Motorcyclist broke the same 24-hour record with the new 1986 Honda VFR750F.
In any case, Mr. Edwards is still comfortably living the Southern California dream, and happily reports that though the auction biz is in the dumpster for now, sales on his eBay site, MotoViejo Store, are up 200% compared to this time last year.