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Kraftwerk on LSD


August 22, 2017: I have to admit to having a soft spot for BMW's K1, a true orphan in the corporate cattledog, but nevertheless an interesting bit of gear.

It was the first bike in the line-up to run the 16-valve K-series head, had a much-stiffened frame and bodywork that claimed a super-low drag coefficient (for a motorcycle) of 0.38.

That meant the humble 100 horses could comfortably punt it through to a top speed of 240km/h, and it could probably hold closer to 180 all day.

The engines ae very tough and a well-maintained one with 100k on the clock is still pretty fresh.

Getting one with good bodywork is crucial - the panels can be fragile and were prone to vibration damage over time.

The architecture is a little weird. I remember a bike dealer ringing when I left one for a service, asking how do you get the seat off? There is a trigger in one of the mini panniers at the rear.

These days it qualifies as a conversation-piece, though there's no reason why you couldn't use one as a comfortable solo tourer.

Back in 1989-90, when they were launched, they cost a scary $17,400 plus ORC, when a one-litre CBR Honda was $10k less.

The early nineties style is a real shocker - Kraftwerk meets psychedelic recreational chemicals. That's for the first series, either red or blue with near-fluoro yellow graphics. The company then toned down the graphics for the second series.

What's one worth now? We're not seeing any on the market...

Laverda SFC1000

Big Italian brute

Laverda sfc1000

August 20, 2017: You don’t see a lot of these getting around, and there’s good reason for that. Laverda by the mid 1980s was struggling financially and on the verge of collapse.

Sadly its agricultural equipment arm – which was the real cash generator – was no longer part of the business, having been picked up by Fiat.

That left the motorcycle company on its own, during a worldwide downturn in the market and some seriously hot competition coming out of Japan, with good handling, heaps of power, good reliability and much lower prices.

Laverdas seem to have mixed reputation for reliability, with the issues generally surrounding the electrics rather than the mechanicals. In fact the engine/gearbox combos generally have a good record.

We like this model because of its rarity and the fact it points to where modern sports-tourers were heading.

Reports on how many were made vary, but the owner of this 1986 example says it was 400 – which is in the ballpark. In any case, it’s a rare piece of machinery.

The demand for these things has never been huge, but they definitely have an audience and a well-maintained one should hold its value and keep up with inflation. It may even eventually do better, given where the prices of exotic classics have been heading in recent years.

This one is for sale at Bikesales.

A breeding pair of Fizzers

Guido gets stuck in some sort of weird mechanical groundhog day

yamaha fzr1000

August 19, 2017: There’s growing evidence that it would be a smart move to flog off the contents of the garage, cancel all my email and internet subscriptions, set fire to the mobile phone, and move away. A long way. That, and get new friends.

You see last issue I reported buying an FZR1000. And guess what I have to report this issue? Buying an FZR1000. But it’s not my fault, y’honour. He started it.

Who? That would be one of my alleged mates, Prof Kingsbury. Under normal circumstances he’s not a bad bloke, but the bastard sent a late-night message alerting muggins to this new money pit. A motorcycle for sale.

Just as an aside, I reckon this is where our lives have run off the rails. Before the invention of digital communications, he would have maybe seen it in the Saturday paper’s classifieds, pondered whether he should go to the substantial expense of making a phone call with the wired speaking trumpet on the desk in his study, or let it wait until next we met.

Then I’d consider calling the seller and maybe making an appointment to see the machine, assuming he was somewhere in a bull‘s roar of where I lived. That would give everyone plenty of time (days, if not weeks) to think through the full ramifications of their actions.

Not any more. Kingsbury spots the ad on Faceplant, spins it my way via Messenger and I, using the attached photo as admittedly flimsy evidence, have more or less decided to buy it.

Anyway, where were we? The bike.

This time around it’s a 1987 first-generation FZR1000, which I’m perfectly content to have but hold no great affection for. The clincher from my point of view was sentimental – someone has gone to the trouble of doing it up as a pretty good replica of the Castrol Six Hour livery used by the winning team of Kevin Magee and Michael Dowson.

It’s not that I collect race replicas, but it was the last of the legendary production events and I was covering it as a staffer on Australian Motorcycle News. So there’s a connection.

In the end it was a brutal win. Magee and Dowson was the only combo on the lead lap, with the next crew, Peter Byers and James Knight on another FZR1000, three laps down.

Robert Holden and Aaron Slight on a GSX-R750 were third, a lap down from second.

Really the clincher for me was the price – well under $3k – admittedly for a machine that needs a little work, such as a head gasket and some seals. Still it seems worth the gamble.

The ridiculous thing of course is that I’d just purchased a 1990 FZR1000, which is the second-gen and first of the EXUP series. It’s not that I’m planning to start an FZR heritage museum, that’s just how it happens.

I have met people who’ve somehow got on to this slippery slope of having to own every example of a particular series, which to me seems just too weird for words. Really if you want something collectible, you get the first edition. And maybe the last, if you’re feeling particularly brave and want to bracket a theme.

If you want something to ride, you always go for the second generation. That’s when they fix the flaws of the first – big and small – and this will be the one that’s the nicest to ride. It’s often also the quickest. After that, designers have this dreadful habit (particularly on performance bikes) of making them more complex and sophisticated but losing that edgy rawness and appeal of the original.

Exactly that happened with the Suzuki GSX-R1100 series, the Honda Blackbird – I could name plenty of others given a little time.

As for the FZRs, I guess I’ve got the collectible one with the mistakes and the rideable one with the fixes. In any case, it qualifies as a breeding pair…

(Travels with Guido column, Motorcycle Trader magazine, issue 322)

Remember the MZ 2-strokes?

Questionable reliability, but tons of charm


August 18, 2017: For reasons I can’t easily explain, I’ve quietly been on the hunt for an MZ ETZ250. It’s a bike I included in a big 250 comparo I ran for Australian Motorcycle News (okay, I was the Editor), way back in the 1980s.

Some of the riders on the trip hated it – okay most of them did – and a few loved it.

I really liked its agricultural do-anything charm, though it was lacking in sophistication. There was no way it was ever going to ‘win’ the comparo, but at the time I reckoned it offered fair bang for the buck.

Where have they all gone? A recent search of all the usual suspects revealed none for sale. Did they all croak, or is someone hoarding them?

Copywriters and bikes

How things have changed

Harley davidson 1951 ad

August 17, 2017: 1951 Harley-Davidson ad: “Takes off like a scared rabbit. Snuggles the road…” Motorcycle copywriting has changed over the years. And we probably wouldn’t go for the double entendre, either…

Panheads were offered in 61 and 74ci (1000 and 1200cc) versions that year, with ‘high compression’ 7.0:1 engines. Sidecar gearing was an option on both. Note the hydraulic ‘Hydra Glide’ fork front end and left-side hand-shift.


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