Canadian Biker #352 On the cover of the new Canadian Biker is the Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250. That the ADV machine will be available as both a base model and a “Special” is one of the things we learned when Harley-Davidson released all the details about the new bike in late February. There are many factors that will determine whether the bike is a success in the showroom and out in the world and in the story we discuss many of them but the one that Harley-Davidson got right out of the gate is the price. It would have been easy to get it wrong.
We also look back on the machines that preceded the Pan America into the dirt after rolling out of the Harley-Davidson factory. A very strong argument can, and has been, made that the first ADV machine was in fact a Harley-Davidson and a bike crucial to history. It wasn’t an ADV in the modern sense but in spirit it most definitely served above and beyond the purpose. Following that motorcycle there are a surprising number of attempts – both professional and amateur – to take more recent Harley-Davidson bikes and drivetrains into the rough stuff. We take a look through the ranks.
It was going to be just a brief look at a new self-published book but once we started reading The Victoria Motorcycle Club : The First 100 Years it became a page turner and worthy of a longer look. The VMC spans all but a few years of the history of motorcycling in Canada and tells a universal tale of motorcycle enthusiasts in a grassroots organization. And then there are the hundreds of pictures that cover more than a century of riding. They alone are worth the price of admission.
Beyond those stories we have more new models including the 2022 Suzuki Hayabusa (Is it the all-new motorcycle that many had been calling for? The answer might be sort of…), another return of Buell Motorcycles, a couple of very interesting electrics (one of which comes in at a reasonable price!), 100 years of Moto Guzzis, 100 years of the Indian Chief, a motorcycle road in Austria with a disaster on its hands, a summary of the 2021 Dakar, a very different BMW custom and more…
CANADIAN BIKER #351 Since the introduction in the mid 1980s the flamboyant bike defied classification – cruiser, street-fighter, muscle bike? But whatever the VMax was through the years, it remained true to that original purpose through three-plus decades – coaxing as much power from a V-4 as possible while leaving smoke, rubber and jaws slack with wonder in its wake. The formula worked so well the bike saw only one major overhaul morphing from the V-Max to the VMax in the late 2000s. We look fondly back on the VMax and reflect on what the bike meant to riders and a legion of customizers.
Also in Canadian Biker #351 we ride the Harley-Davidson Road King Special. Still the quintessential Harley-Davidson, King hit the road in 2020 with more power and a suite of electronics that move the classic definitively into the modern era. The weather might not have always been cooperative throughout our time on the bike but, in part, that is exactly why the bike gets the new RDRS safety protocols.
The lead feature is racing like you have never seen it. The King of the Baggers saw Harley-Davidson and Indian Motorcycles battle it out on California’s infamous Laguna Seca racetrack. Diving into corners, dragging knees and plunging through the Corkscrew are leather-clad riders aboard admittedly heavily modified baggers complete with fairings and the requisite bags. These bikes weren’t meant for this venue but length some went to make it competitive was astounding. Now that is what we call racing!
Canadian company DMZ Motorcycles founded by James Leigh builds World War 2 themed bobbers based on a Triumph platform but featuring researched era correct paint and graphics, authentic historical references and period appropriate accessories – and they look great.
What else do we have have in the issue? Rokon vs Volcon is all about fat tire go anywhere bikes built to escape the Zombie apocalypse – the only difference is one is the very old school original while the other is an upstart electric bike. Since we talk about what is going with 2020, we also talk about a handful of bikes that are new or heavily revised for 2021. We congratulate Suzuki on 100 years and a big triumph in 2020. There is an electric bike speed record … and we have a Lamborghini in the issue but don’t worry it relates.
Canadian Biker #350 On the cover of the issue we feature a new custom from Vancouver-based builder Robert Lund, a bike that goes by the name of Soul Asylum. Lund, who’s unique work we first featured back in 2011, built the bike as an exercise in self-healing as he restoratively channeled his energy on the project after going though some tough times. Soul Asylum, like his previous featured bike, utilized a wide variety of unusual sources to fashion intricate details, unique finishes and a truly show stopping ride from an old 1968 BSA. It is without doubt a beautiful machine.
COVID has put a heavy damper on the release of new bikes. When the time came for an official launch of the R18, BMW chose a virtual event to showcase new cruiser. The ZOOM atmosphere didn’t do much in terms of seat time on the bike but it certainly opened a window into the “why” of the cruiser as BMW executives talked about joining, or depending on the perspective, rejoining the cruiser world and the company’s take on the existing competition. Some of the rationale is based on solid facts and some seems a little like a leap of faith.
You know those questions that nobody asked? I am new to cruisers, should I get a Rocket 3? Why isn’t the Panigale more comfortable for touring? Is the Grom a real bike? In this issue we answer 13 questions that nobody asked but just might just prove useful to a few.
We also go a little Hollywood in #350. The first bit of news is that the Evel Knievel family is suing Disney over the fictional character of Duke Caboom who just happens to be Canada’s greatest ever stunt rider – or at least fictional stunt rider. Believe it or not, there is a LOT of money in play. And then we look at motorcycles and famous riders in Hollywood. We are in no way saying the memory of Steve McQueen be forgotten but we have to believe that somewhere along the way a new celebrity has to replace the great McQueen as the cultural icon of motorcycling. We have a few options from which to choose and one is, in fact, a Canadian.
On top of all that we have a careful resto-mod of a 1977 Suzuki PE250 bought for $500 online, two beloved Hondas getting re-introduced from the past (nostalgia is still the ruling trend of the millennium), we help Polaris remember that they did buy an electric motorcycle company long before their current new agreement with Zero Motorcycles and, in Road Signs, a look back at the very first road racing world championships – spoiler alert, it was wise to carry your tools with you during the race. And there is still more…
Canadian Biker 2020 On the cover we have an example of a rare piece of early 1980s motorcycle technology when, for a brief moment, the future of the motorcycle was destined to involve forced air induction via a turbocharger. But quickly some-one remembered that there was really no replacement for displacement and the expensive option of turbocharging disappeared as quickly as it appeared. Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki and Suzuki all built a turbocharged machine but invariably the production numbers were small – even getting the bikes off the showroom floor became a challenge. It is exceedingly rare to see any of these motorcycles today so we were excited to come across this low kilometre, unmodified Honda CX500T still under the care of its original owner – a genuine survivor. A story as much about the dedication of a man to his machine as it is about a brief but interesting period in motorcycle history. And on top of all that, the CX500T still looks good after almost forty years.
We couldn’t stay out of the ‘80s for this issue as we also feature a bike from a British Columbia man with a laser-like focus on building a Kawasaki KZ1000 as very close to the bike the legendary Eddie Lawson rode in the early 1980s. Like any man seeking perfection, he thought he had it close a few years ago but a little voice kept telling him he could get even closer. Whether the bike in this issue makes the cut, we will likely find out in a couple of years.
Electric bicycles seem to be the latest attempt by motorcycle manufacturers to grow their product line and entice those not converted to the two-wheeled mode of transportation to perhaps give it a try. Many of the big names have joined this trend with Yamaha being the most significant but Triumph, Ducati, Harley-Davidson and two-wheel-drive pioneers, Christini have also joined the campaign. We look at their efforts and have to acknowledge that some of these new machines have blurred the line between motorcycle and bicycle – of the electric variety at least.
Speaking of blurring the lines. We ride the BMW F850GS. There was a time that making the choice between the F-adventure bikes and the R-adventure bikes from BMW was straight forward. But with the F850GS BMW brings the middleweight capabilities and options much closer to those of the R1250GS. Yes the purposes of the two bikes may be slightly different depending upon what you want to accomplish on your ADV journey but the question is at two thirds the price, is the middleweight only two thirds the bike of its larger stablemate? We have our doubts.
In celebration of our forty year of publishing, and our 1980s fixation in this issue, we look back at two interesting bikes and reviews. The first is the 1987 Harley-Davidson Low Rider which that year was itself notching up ten years of setting a new styling direction. The second was a bike not sold in Canada but one that followed the early 80’s trend of bringing two-stroke Moto GP tech to the street. We did get the Yamaha RZ350 and the Honda NSR400 in Canada but the bike that reportedly stuck as close to its Gand Prix counterpart as possible was the Suzuki RG250 – an entertaining bike that was as difficult to ride on the street as it was on the track.
And then there is more. We look at the development of solid state batteries – a technology that may bring the range and recharging time of electric motorcycles closer to their combustion powered brethren, we feature a new machine from the ubiquitous and multi-talented Roland Sands – the R18 Dragster, we fondly remember some of our travel features, we marvel at 10 years of dual clutches, we welcome back Charlie and Ewan after the two old and wiser fellows complete another long, long ride – this one Up rather than Down or Around, and a few other things of interest.
Canadian Biker #348 The lead story in this issue is our week riding the Harley-Davidson LiveWire. Many stories have been written, including our own, about the bike and its capabilities. What we set out to learn in this story was what it was like to live with an electric bike as a daily rider – what we could do and what we couldn’t do and what it meant to rely on a battery as a power source. Would the learning curve be steep or the LiveWire by its nature simply be plug and play?
We also celebrate 35 years of the Suzuki GSX-R750. There are only a few motorcycles that you remember specifically seeing for the first time. For me one of those bikes was the GSX-R1100 which turned up shortly after the 750. It was the mid-eighties and and this new machine was parked on the street of our neighbourhood. I don’t know where it came from as I don’t remember a Suzuki dealership within 150km of our town – it might as well have been a rare exotic. Nothing had looked like it before and, in some ways, nothing has looked like it since. That first machine forever defined what a sport bike could be and should be. The GSX-R was revolutionary and the technology race the bike spawned has benefited all motorcyclist regardless of what we ride – sport bike, cruiser or ADV.
We couldn’t resist an electric motorcycle clad in oak paneling – or birch if that is your preference. And that set us off on an excursion into European exotic motorcycles that for the most part are pretty hard to come by – Aston Martin / Brough Superior and CCM among others. We did include James Bond’s limited edition Triumph Scrambler because they only sent a handful to Canada and they were a snapped up before landing on our shores making the answer to getting one (Dr.) No.
Did we mention we have hit 40 years of publishing Canadian Biker? What better time to look at some of our many favourite custom bikes from years gone by. Birthdays always get you reminiscing…
What else do we have in the issue? We crunch the numbers of the price and variety of motorcycle models available in Canada, we look at unusual cafe racer put together with a Norton-inspired frame and a modern Indian Motorcycles engine, and we investigate Kawasaki decision to build new parts for a legend from its past.
That and more. Enjoy.
Canadian Biker #347 One of our intrepid contributors is invited to Daytona only to find when he arrives that maybe he shouldn’t be there right at the outset of a pandemic. Did it make much of a difference to the participants? It didn’t seem so. If there is a plus side to that unease, he did get to ride around checking it all out on the new Rocket 3.
Check out the contents page for a full list of the stories in the new issue.