Saturday, January 15, 2011

Trivia: Motorcycling's ninth decade - 1980-'89 - The GSX-R prompts Kevin Cameron to wonder, "Where do we go from here?"

The modern superbike originated with the 100-horsepower Suzuki GSX-R750 in 1985 (arriving in the U.S. market a year later.) How stunning was it? The Honda RC30 may have had gear-driven cams, but the “Gixxer” put genuine racetrack performance under anyone with $4,500 to spend - about half the price of Honda's V-4. The GSX-R weighed just 388 pounds – two pounds less than the minimum weight specified in the rules for the AMA’s Superbike class. It was as addictive as cocaine and, in the wrong hands, about as destructive a habit.

I still remember the first time I saw and heard one at full chat. I was walking north on fifth street, in Calgary, where it passes under the railway tracks. Some hooligan, seeing a couple of hundred yards of open street with no chance of being observed by the cops whacked open the throttle. The bike made a sound I'd previously heard at GP races. The hair stood up on the back of my neck.  

When Cycle World snuck one down from Canada, Kevin Cameron wondered where the industry could possibly go next. Where it went was - the next year - to 1100cc. How times change... A couple of years ago, a late-'80s GSX-R1100 showed up at a Streets of Willow track day. Looking at it, I thought, "Wow, I'd love to throw a set of saddlebags on that thing. It'd make a stylin' sport-tourer."

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