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Cycle World Issue 3 - 2019

America's leading motorcycle magazine since its inception in 1962, Cycle World covers all aspects of the two-wheel universe. From dirt-slingin', double-jumping motocrossers to wind-cheating, 200-mph roadracers, Team CW brings experience, credibility and excitement to the pages of the magazine each month. Get Cycle World digital magazine subscription today.

United States
Bonnier Corporation

in this issue

2 min
india rising

It was quite a first editorial meeting in May of 1999, a room full of highly experienced Cycle World staff, and wondering what job I would end up with on my first issue. I had visions of a Honda RC-45 or Yamaha YZF-R7 test. Strangely, my debut riding assignment turned out to be the 1999 Royal Enfield Bullet 500 (“Bullet Slow,” September, 1999). It was an interesting introduction to Royal Enfield. I’d had vague awareness of these British relics manufactured somewhere on the vast Indian subcontinent, and had only a little experience with actual vintage British bikes. The Bullet 500 of that time vibrated so much it made me itchy, was a highly inconsistent starter, and quite slow once it lit. It was also terribly charming and fun to ride. The…

2 min
being there

The dream, I suppose, would have been to thunder up the Coast Highway and arrive at the Quail Motorcycle Gathering on some glorious beast such as a Brough Superior or a Black Shadow. Alas, we were not astride one of those legendary bikes because, well, that would have taken a lot of money and careful planning. Instead, Barb and I rode a BMW R 1250 RT. I wasn’t sure if a civilized hightech bolide like the Beemer would be quite in the spirit of the event, but when we finally pulled into the Quail Lodge parking lot it looked as if the world’s most exquisite collection of vintage motorcycles had been infiltrated by a BMW GS owner’s club. There were lots of modern sportbikes as well. We parked next to a Ducati…

5 min
lost weight, found performance

Major elements of the motorcycle—chassis, engine, fork, wheels and tires—have become steadily lighter. This is not from substitution of expensive exotic materials such as titanium and carbon fiber, but because improved manufacturing technologies now let us use less of the usual materials—steel, aluminum, and some magnesium. Production motorcycles have gone through cycles of weight gain, then simplification and weight loss. From time to time I have felt discouraged by so many tubby motorcycles. I know from the experience of racing that lighter machines maneuver more quickly and accelerate and stop faster than heavier ones. They are easier on tires and brakes. That’s why, when Honda gave up its complex oval piston NR500 32-valve four-stroke GP racer, and turned to two-strokes in 1982, they built small, light and handy—not big, power-laden, and…

4 min
tough and pure

Stainless-steel alloys are today found on motorcycles mainly in the form of exhaust valves and exhaust systems. So well-adapted to their purpose have these alloys become that there is no longer even a memory of the exhaust-valve problems that plagued early motoring. Records of racing at England’s great Brooklands Speedway show exhaust-valve failures as third-most-frequent behind drive-belt and spark-plug trouble. The chauffeurs of moneyed early motorists attended mandatory service schools, learning to regrind valve seatings every six weeks to restore the seal steadily destroyed by intense heat and corrosion. Early engines were given exhaust valves riveted together from a castiron head—they make stoves out of iron, right?—and a carbon-steel stem. Seeking some better solution, engineering pioneer Frederick Lanchester devised a single-valve system, functioning alternately as intake and exhaust, as a means of…

5 min
arrow of change

In 1977 I knew when it was last call in the bars two miles away, for I could hear that musical three-cylinder sound of Kawasaki H1s and H2s upshifting away into the night. Today, four decades later, the sound has defaulted to Harley-Davidson Sportsters. At the end of the 1960s if we were working late in our Boston-area shop, customers would come in to describe with excited hand gestures their evenings of hunting down and smoking off Sportsters and Triumph Bonnevilles. Waiting for them, outside the local bar, The Ebb Tide. The old kings were fragile, and easily felled. Kawis ruled! Our East Coast Kawasaki service manager, Eddie Moran, showed us how: Stand over the running bike; bring up the revs; drop the clutch; and with back tire spinning, sit down…

5 min
the clutch

Unlike steam or electric powerplants, piston internal combustion engines cannot produce torque from zero rpm. That means they must first be started, and only then gradually connected—“clutched”—to the load. Although 98 percent of new U.S. autos have automatic transmissions, for motorcycles the ratio is the other way around: most bikes retain foot gearchange and a clutch operated by the left handlebar lever. Modern motorcycle engines are of unit construction: powerplant, clutch, and gearbox are in one unit, with crankshaft and clutch geared together. It wasn’t always so—British motorcycle engines and gearboxes were long separate, joined by bolting to engine plates. The clutch (mounted on the gearbox) was driven by a primary chain from a sprocket on the engine’s crankshaft. A chaincase enclosed and protected the chain. In a typical motorcycle clutch, the…