Alistair Maclean's Web Site
The NYC Bike Show 1998 

Its been a cold, but sunny day here in the metro area. The wind which threatened to make the ferry ride over the Hudson river a bit choppy somehow stayed in abeyance. It's SuperBowl Sunday, and though San Diego is a long way from New York the crowds were definitely down this Sunday; the better for looking at the bikes.

This year the Bike show had moved to the upper floor of the Javitt's center, a bigger space than previous years. There were full displays from most of the manufacturers, there was even a semi-official Bimota stand. The biggest non-shows were Laverda and MV Agusta, but can you blame them?

As I am obsessed with sport bikes, and this year has a bumper crop of knee scrappers. In each corner there were bikes to make a grown man cry. Road testing show bikes is a tough assignment, one that has a minor weakness - there is no road. But what the heck, here are my thoughts:

  • Honda VTR1000 - Still a great looking bike. Tons of accessories have become available. Some, including an exhaust pipe that exists under the seat, need a little more thought.
  • Suzuki TL1000 - Suzuki has beefed up the TL1000 this year with an R model. The two bikes look about the same, the R getting a bigger seat hump. The R also seems to get a better set of bars, it was comfier that the standard model.
  • Ducati 916 - This year even the US gets the 996. And for the first time I got to see a Bi Posto 916, a strange way of saying "I warned you!" to your favourite passenger. The 916 now sports a white panel on the rear. The bikes' name has been miniaturised; a tiny sticker informing you of what you are riding. It still feels like a small comfy bike. Lois is in love with the 750 Monster, which has a very affordable 7,400 dollar price.
  • Moto Guzzi V10 Centuro (sp?) - A weird looking machine. It's a full litre bike, but has some strange styling. After sitting on it a few minutes, I have to say that I did winder what it would be like to ride. The ergonomics are reasonable, though the front of the seat seemed too wide. The handlebar is crescent shaped. Real cute. In my other life as a crasher, I have to question the use of none standard parts like handlebars that have to be ordered from the dealer.
  • Bimota V500 - Aghhhh! This is a bodacious looking bike. There were no prices on it, but if its here the magazines will soon give us the full SP. This is one I was not allowed to sit on. The seat is however, a trifle strange, little lumps of rubber padding in some sort of pattern. They have tried to hide the odd exhaust plumbing, it sort of works, a small lower fairing seems to partially hide the convolutions the pipes make.
  • Buell S1 Lightning. They showed this in several flavours, including one done to the new S1 series racing spec. For those that are not familiar with the name, these are tuned Harley motors in frames built by Eric Buell. They handle well and go with aplomb.

Well there is only one triple, and British By God, Triumph. A full set of bikes were on show. I tried the 595 for size. These are BIG bikes. Lois could not heft a 900 Daytona to the vertical, these are heeevy bikes. The model with the little 'fairing' feels interesting. Seeing the headlights is a novelty. In an eye catching phlegm yellow, this is a bike you have to love to buy.


Big ones. Very Big Ones. This years developments have been in the Litre class, and have definitely lead to the need for larger trousers. You are going to need big brass ones for these bikes.

  • Honda CBR 900 RR (Fireblade to the Euro's). Tucked away in a corner was the 900. Its much the same as before, only better (or so says the paper work). Dave has one of the older versions of this and swears by it. The new bike is a little heavier (I think) but has more powwa' and greater stiffness.
  • Kawasaki ZX900R. The boys green have given us their newest best shot. I still have to wonder about the 'built in flex' concept. I do wonder if it's just a cost cutting exercise. With 135bhp on tap and a lot less weight (Lois was easily able to get this missile vertical), this should be a white knuckle-fun bike. The tank is HUGE. It's a bit too big, I think it hides the carbs and airbox. It has become quite intrusive.
  • Yamaha YZF 1000 R1. Ye Gads. This is a small bike. Not 916 small, but still a petite kilo bike. It is well proportioned. The front looks rakish, which is to say I rather liked the look, but it will not be everyone's cup of Bovril. The seating position is excellent, the seat is HUGE. It goes back a mile, even my expansive rear was able to move forward and back a substantial distance. It is a light bike, easily flicking between the kneecaps. Lois was quite comfortable on board. The back tyre (a 190) is pretty spectacular, I'm sure the replacement charge will be too.
  • A Jim Redman Honda 250 six cylinder racing bike. Neat!
  • An ex Ago MV Agusta 500 four GP bike. It was in less than sterling condition.
  • An ex Eddie Lawson Kawasaki KR500 GP bike, one he rode at Daytona, I think. A rarity.
  • A customised GL1500 Honda Gold Wing, in full chopper mode with 6 into 6 exhaust. It sounded Loud even when stone cold dead.
  • A Yamaha water craft (270bhp) being two jetski engines and a big plastic hull.

The US bike market grew 8% last year, capping three years of growth. Its shown in sales of some 300,000 units of road bikes. This show is beginning to swing.



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