Showing posts with label 1990s Motorcycles. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1990s Motorcycles. Show all posts

Kawasaki ZZ-R1100

Kawasaki ZZ-R1100 1990s Japanese superbike

The Kawasaki ZZ-R1100 was one serious superbike. 176mph flat-out testified to that. Its 1,052cc, 16-valve, in-line four engine produced 145bhp. It needed to - the ZZ-R weighed in at a portly 603lb, wet. From 1990 to '95, the ZZ-R was the world's fastest production motorcycle - succeeding Kawasaki's ZX-10, in that regard. It took the Super Blackbird to restore Honda to the top of the speed heap.

The high-grade performance stats were due, in no small part, to 'ram-air' technology. The faster the ZZ-R travelled, the more air was forced through its ducted fairing, to the motor. More air meant more combustion - which, in turn, meant more power. If it was not an exponential increase - it sure as heck felt like it!

For all of its brain-warp acceleration, the ZZ-R was a forgiving beast, at heart. Sold as a sports-tourer, its chassis came supremely well-equipped. Both frame and suspension were solid, yet flexible. With the right settings dialled in, the ZZ-R was as safe as your riding skills. That a bike as explosive as the ZZ-R1100 could be considered an all-rounder said it all about Kawasaki engineering!

Triumph Speed Triple

Triumph Speed Triple 1990s British sports bike

In '83, Triumph looked dead in the water. Finally, the once-famous firm went into receivership. If it was to survive, it needed a saviour - and fast! Up to the plate strode multi-millionaire building magnate, John Bloor. A new HQ was set up in Hinckley, England. That was not a million miles away from the original Triumph factory - in Meriden, Birmingham. For the next eight years, Bloor and his colleagues planned a new range of Triumphs. One of them would be the Speed Triple. Throwing off the shackles of the wilderness years, the new bikes would be modern marvels of engineering. There would also, though, be design references to Triumph's glory days.

In '91, six new Triumphs rolled into the showrooms. The parallel twins of yore were no more. Now, three- and four-cylinder engines were the norm - complete with double overhead camshafts and water-cooling. Stylistically, a sea change had occurred. The new 'British' bikes were as futuristically slick as their Far Eastern counterparts. Indeed, their suspension and brakes had been made in Japan. Notwithstanding, they were clutched to the 'Brit Bike' bosom with eager arms. Whilst there were reservations amongst dyed-in-the-wool riders, a new breed of bikers was just glad to have a British brand-name back in motorcycling's mix.

The names of the new arrivals harked back to the past. Trident, Trophy, Thunderbird ... these were legendary labels! In '94, came the Speed Triple. For bikers of a certain age, that evoked memories of the Sixties' Speed Twin. Technically, though, it was state of the art. Saying that, Triumph had long turned out a tasty 'triple'. But, this was a three-cylinder machine with some major updates. As a result, it clocked up a top speed of 130mph. 97bhp was output from an 885cc motor. The bike's 'naked' look - devoid of a fairing - pared weight down to 460lb dry. It also lent itself to lean and aggressive styling. Road tests were positive. The Speed Triple was competent in every category. Unsightly oil stains were a thing of the past. A mighty marque was back on its feet. The Triumph Speed Triple - and its second-generation siblings - would take another tilt at the two-wheeled big time!

Moto Guzzi Daytona 1000

Moto Guzzi Daytona 1000 1990s Italian sports bike

It is probably not a bad marketing plan to name a bike after an iconic American circuit. It is one fraught with danger, however. Turn out a machine which does not do justice to that arena ... and you will look a tad daft! No such worries, though, for Moto Guzzi. When the Daytona 1000 was launched - in '92 - its moniker was nothing if not apt. After all, the Daytona was designed by 'Dr John' Wittner. He was an ex-racer/engineer. Indeed - back in the day - he had jacked in dentistry, to go to Guzzi. Not surprising, really. To fans of the brand, Guzzi's Mandello HQ was near-mythical. Dr John successfully campaigned Guzzis in the late '80s. Now, he sought to cement that legacy - in the shape of a road-going superbike.

The Daytona was directly descended from track-based exploits. It was a gimme, then, that it handled beautifully. Of course, the Daytona engine was suitably detuned. That said, it was still fitted with fuel injection - via its four valves per cylinder. 95bhp was duly on tap - equating to a top speed of 150mph. In tandem with that, the V-twin's torque curve was typically steep.

When it comes to motorcycles, Moto Guzzi have honed many a two-wheeled gem over the years. The Daytona 1000 was just the latest in a long line of dependable, attractive products, from the Italian stalwart. In the Daytona 1000, Dr John had dished up a mouth-watering superbike. The ex-dentist's two-wheeled delights would be savoured by bikers for years to come. Many a radiant smile resulted!

Yamaha YZF R1

Yamaha YZF R1 1990s Japanese superbike

The Yamaha YZF R1 was about as close to a racer as a road-bike gets. Everything about it screamed speed. Its fairing parted air like a shark shifts water. Its tail-piece was sharp enough to shave with. In terms of its tech-spec, the R1 tasted number-crunching good! A power output of 160bhp. A dry weight of 389lb. A top speed of 170mph. Satisfying stats, to be sure!

But, the R1 was not just quick and aerodynamic - it was agile as an acrobat. Indeed, so 'flickable' was it, that it was almost so to a fault. The R1 could made corners a bit too tempting! Short and slim, its wheelbase was minimal. All the better for flying through bends. Engine-wise, there were 5 valves per cylinder. 20 minuscule parts - doing a mechanised dance of staggering precision. Cycle parts were state of the art. Suspension and brakes were razor-responsive. In every department, the R1 excelled. As you would expect, it sold in shedloads!

The R1 is the kind of machine lives get built around. It inspires not so much dedication - as devotion. Whether at R1 owners' rallies, track days or production racing events, the bike instils pride - and confidence - like few others. The Yamaha YZF R1 was a two-wheeled icon. And that will not be changing anytime soon!

Suzuki Hayabusa

Suzuki Hayabusa 1990s Japanese superbike

The Suzuki Hayabusa was released in '99. At the time, the Honda Super Blackbird ruled the motorcycle roost. In top speed terms, at least. From a Suzuki standpoint, that was a stat that needed to change. The Hayabusa is a Japanese bird of prey. No doubt, one which would not object to gobbling down a tasty blackbird or two on its travels!

Suzuki's assault on the top speed slot would be a three-pronged affair. The Hayabusa's 1,299cc engine was the biggest in a sports bike, up to that point. Its ram air set-up did just that - forcing increasing amounts through the carbs, the quicker the bike went. The result was a high-octane 173bhp. The Hayabusa was also quite light - weighing in at 473lb dry. Not slimline, as such - but less than you would expect for a bike of its size. The third item on Suzuki's must-have list was good aerodynamics. The bike's bulbous-looking bodywork was not to everyone's taste. But - aesthetic considerations aside - it was a lot more slippery than it looked. At any rate, designer Koji Yoshirua's primary goal had been to make a strong visual statement.

The Hayabusa's 1300 engine was, basically, a bigger version of the GSX-R1100 unit. Each iteration of Suzuki's flagship model had refined its core components. So - by the time the Hayabusa came along - the package was pretty well primed. All of which resolved to 194mph, at full chat. That was enough to knock the Super Blackbird off its high-speed perch. Mission accomplished, then, for the Suzuki Hayabusa. As it happens, Yoshirua claims the intention was not to make it the fastest road bike on the planet. But, that can probably be taken with a generous grain of Japanese salt!

Honda Fireblade

Honda Fireblade 1990s Japanese superbike

The launch buzz around the Honda Fireblade was electric! It was released in '92 - to rapturous applause, from press and public alike. In the unlikely event that you saw one stationary, it was sure to be engulfed in a gaggle of onlookers. Months of speculation had induced a feeding frenzy of interest in the new Blade. Tadao Baba was the boffin in charge of its development. The Fireblade - or CBR900RR - was the first Honda to sport the 'RR' nomenclature. The bike's racing traits had been duly declared!

The Fireblade screamed street-fightin' bike! Squat - and barrel-chested - it looked like it would be up for a ding-dong at the drop of a hat. Steep steering geometry - and a super-short wheelbase - meant the Blade cut corners to ribbons. Suspension settings were decidedly 'firm'. 407lb dry was no weight at all for a bike of its size. Factor in 113bhp - at 10,500rpm - and the results were always going to be explosive. Top speed for the Blade was 167mph. How much the holes in its fairing helped is not known!

Visually, too, the Blade was well up to speed. Blessed with eye-catching graphics - and a super-big tank - it was a brilliantined bobby dazzler of a bike! A beefy twin-spar frame - and braced swing-arm - visibly signalled the strength of the cycle parts. The sunk-down seat - and bulbous tailpiece - lent rock-solid support. Too solid for some, no doubt. Padding was minimal. Very minimal! But then, comfort was never the name of the Blade's game. The Fireblade was a single-minded superbike. High-speed hats off to Honda!

Ducati 916

Ducati 916 1990s Italian motorcycle

The Ducati 916 took motorcycle visuals to another level. It is ranked among the most beautiful bikes ever built. Launched in '94, its designer was Massimo Tamburini. He had been a co-founder of Bimota - specialist builders extraordinaire.

Tamburini's trademark styling cues were all over the 916. From its seductive snub nose - through the curves of its bodywork - to its pert tail-piece and silencers. It was so slim, it was scary! The tubular steel frame was not one millimetre wider than required. The 916 weighed in at just 429lb ... absurdly light for a bike of its size.

Engine-wise, too, the 916 scaled heights. Its torque-laden 90° V-twin made 114bhp. Top speed was 160mph. The 916's chassis/suspension geometry absorbed corners. Lean it as far as you dare ... you would not find its limits. The bike's single-sided swing-arm said it all - both technically and aesthetically. As you would expect, such a classy package was a raging success, in the showrooms. When it came to the Ducati 916, Tamburini broke the motorbike mould!

MV Agusta 750 F4

MV Agusta 750 F4 1990s Italian motorcycle

The MV Agusta 750 F4 was the work of a master motorcycle designer. His name was Massimo Tamburini. Ducati and Cagiva were other legendary marques for which he picked up a pen. Arguably, the 750 F4 represented the peak of his design perfectionism. A modern-day da Vinci, Tamburini fused Science and Art. With the Serie Oro F4, Tamburini turned alchemist - morphing metal into gold.

The F4's visual prowess was matched only by its technical spec. Its top speed was a heady 165mph. That was down to an output of 126bhp. A dry weight of just 406lb helped, too. 16 radial valves - 4 per cylinder - were key to the power stat. As for the light weight - the F4's bodywork was skinnier than Twiggy's!

Exiting the rarefied air of the design studio - and encountering the rigours of the real world - never phased the F4. Its state of the art cycle parts saw to that. The bike could 'handle' any road surface thrown at it. Surging through the revs was sewing-machine smooth. The bike's brakes shed speed in an instant. It is true that the F4 had rivals, technically. But - clad in its silver and red mantle - it reigned supreme on the styling front. Italian to its core, the MV Agusta 750 F4 radiated elegance. It was, quite simply, one of the most ravishing-looking motorbikes ever made. Massimo Tamburini knew a thing or two about them!

Bimota SB6

Bimota SB6 1990s Italian motorcycle

Without question, the Bimota SB6 was made from the right stuff. For decades, Italian motorbike manufacturers have provided us with unfathomably good-looking products. In an ever-growing array of shapes and sizes, their common denominator has always been style. Many such machines have passed through a certain set of factory gates. They belong to Bimota - based in Rimini.

Over the years, Bimota has 'borrowed' several proprietary powerplants. Suzuki, Kawasaki, Yamaha and Honda have all bequeathed engines to the Bimota brand. Even rivals Ducati have played ball with Bimota. The high-flying design firm mated the motors with their unique take on bodywork. In turn, specialist cycle parts, too, were sourced. Of course, it did their partners no harm at all to be linked with Bimota's cool creativity. In the case of the SB6, it was Suzuki's GSX-R1100 engine which piled on the coals. Right the way up to 175mph!

The three men who founded the firm were Bianchi, Morri and Tamburini - voilĂ , 'BiMoTa'. It was right that they were recognised. Since '73, Bimota have been pushing motorcycling's envelope. In terms of performance, development and design, they have set two-wheeled trends with the best of them. The Bimota SB6 was proof positive of that!