by Shawn Downey
What the hell is the matter with you people? Retro, old school, ode to the past…My ass is an ode to the past for chrissakes.
Every time I throw my neighbor’s dead cat it seems to get stuck on some magazine shootout boasting the latest and greatest retro offering from the big motorcycle manufacturers. Okay, I admit it, I thought it was kind of funny when everybody took an evolutionary U-turn and started producing those laughable cruisers. That was funny. I used to laugh my arse off imagining the day Japan decided to embark on producing the new-old cruiser. “Okay Mr. Ching, stop working on those EPA friendly two-strokes and get your skinny little butt down to the Harley shop. Pick up a couple of pairs of leather chaps and an Easy Rider video. We need to work on the potato sound.” And what made me laugh even harder is when Harley attempted to copyright the sound of a potato. I would have loved to been on the Grand Jury for that briefing, “Your Honor, what we, the Plaintiffs, intend to do is copyright the sound of flatulence. Not just any flatulence, but flatulence derived from eating deep-fried cheese curds and drinking light beer from Miller.” But this whole let’s-roll-out-the-poseurs-posing-as-poseurs thing is not funny. They are robbing the heart and soul of yesteryear and replacing it with Mr. Roboto and it just plain sucks.
Up until now, riders have been offered two riding positions. The ever popular cruiser “Yes, I am here for my annual OBGYN visit,” position and the “Look at me! Look at me! I look like a racer!” Or a monkey-humping-a-football sport bike position. Poseurs and riders alike have determined that they are just too damn young to be on a first name basis with their chiropractors and they began to look longingly towards those old guys flitting about town on their upright steeds from the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s. And that’s cool. If you want to pull out your old Suzuki GS1000 or your Kawasaki Z1 and bounce the engine off the rev-limiter, by golly you go right ahead. I might even help you pay your disorderly conduct fine for that smokey burnout ? NOT, but I will applaud and make woo-woo noises. Pull those V7 sports out of your dining room, rebuild that Bonnie, make a Street-tracker out of that Yamaha XS 650, but for chrissakes do not fall victim to this re-manufactured crap being passed off as an ode to yesteryear for you will be riding a lie. Case in point:
Kawasaki W650: Are you friggin kidding me? Am I the only one who views this as blasphemy? It may be a testament to the Japanese motorcycle manufacturer’s creativity, i.e. they have none, and it echoes their past practices of stealing an appealing design and making it reliable. But who cares? This is supposed to recreate the experience of riding a Triumph Bonneville? I have ridden a multitude of Triumph Bonnevilles and let me tell you, you ain’t getting the same experience. You take the W650 and I’ll take a 1970 Bonneville, let’s run them side by side until we hit the ton and use our grins as a testament to the fun factor. You lose sucker.
Triumph Bonneville: Why is this bike slower than a 1979 Triumph Bonneville?
Kawasaki ZRX1200R: This is supposed to provide an experience similar to the fabled Z1 or more directly to the Eddie Lawson Replica. I got news for you, it ain’t. The majority of the Eddie Lawson replicas are stashed in collector’s/stodgy old guys, living rooms under the confines of protective Plexiglas. Therefore, the closest you are going to get to the Superbike version is the Z1 and we all know Z1’s are supposed to look and ride like the bikes from the original Mad Max movie. They should be painted flat black in your backyard and their frames should flex like a Salsa Dancer’s hips when you throw it into a corner. Take two riders, one on a ZRX and one on a Z1, shake well, and roll down a twisty road for 30 minutes. At the end of the road, one is giddy and one is comatose. Guess which is which?
Suzuki GS1100: Coming soon to a dealer near you. This is supposed to invoke memories of the early 80’s and late 70’s GS’s. Not. The old GS’s may have had faults in the regulator department but it oozed character. Make mine black with the sportbike/drag bars, a Kerker header, and an indestructible lower end. The original power plants are still being contested successfully at the drag strips as the lower-ends are indestructible and allow all kinds of fun when you disconnect the rev limiter. Ah, the thrill of watching the tach needle bounce past redline while plumes of smoke rise from the rear wheel. These bikes were so damn stable and over-motored for the frame that Barry Sheene used to break handlebars trying to get the bike over to the desired lean angle in the corners. Literally. I freakin’ love it.
Moto Guzzi V11 Sport: No doubt a fine motorcycle but if I see one more advertisement with the original green V7 Sport in the background, I am going to smack that old lady that sits next to me on the bus. I will probably smack her anyways because she is always blowing her nose on my shirt sleeve but that’s besides the point. I have seen the V7 and I have seen the V11 and I can tell you this: the similarities stop at the tank badge. The true Sport is leaner, meaner, and from what I can tell, a helluva lot more stable. After all, I never saw a V7 with a leaky gas tank.
Harley Davidson Buell: Eleven years and eleven hundred recalls. I do not know if this thing is supposed to be retro or just plain stupid. Either way, I thought I would take the opportunity to bitch about this poor excuse of an American motorcycle. The great USA surpasses so many technological boundaries and this is what we offer up as a state of the art standard motorcycle? Geez!
I am all for the resurgence of the “naked” and “standard” bikes as I have always believed they offer real world capabilities. You can flog, commute, do a 500 mile ride, and still walk away with your ass below your head. The Suzuki Bandit, the Yamaha YZ thingie, the Triumph Speed Triple, and even the Ducati Monster S4 are all valid motorcycles in my book. They are original and their purpose is to offer a motorcycling experience unlike any other motorcycle. The rest of that crap? Must be for poseurs posing as poseurs. To quote the retro 1980’s phrase, “Get real.”