Gear: The Glorious Stories of Classic Superbikes

The Glorious Stories of Classic Superbikes

By Benjamin Shahrabani
July 7, 2015
7 comments

The bookSuperbikes of the Seventies
Author: Roland Brown
Pages: 279
PurchaseClick Here

The 1970s are often remembered as a decade that gave us peace after the unrest of the ’60s: bell bottoms, leisure suits, memorable television sitcoms, disco, and mostly terrible cars.

Two energy crises, and the new restrictions and regulations they ushered in were not particularly kind to vehicles of the four-wheeled variety. But, as motorcycles remained largely unaffected by the draconian new rules, the ’70s became a golden age of sorts for motorcycles. Roland Brown revisits this wonderful and fertile time for two-wheeled transportation design in his book, Superbikes of the Seventies, and focuses on thirty-four of most desirable motorcycles that combined a trifecta of looks, handling, and speed.

The bike that kicks off Brown’s book is Honda’s CB750, and deservedly so. Although launched in 1969, the CB750 was the progenitor for the “superbike” classification. It had a modern and powerful four-cylinder engine, disc brakes, smooth ride, as well as a host of other conveniences that made riding it a pleasure.

While these attributes are commonplace, it wasn’t so back then, when most bike designs were still rooted firmly in the past. Cycle Magazine would call the CB750, “the most sophisticated production bike ever”. High praise, indeed, but of course, when one blazes a trail, others will surely follow.

Kickstarted by Honda’s success, a rapid succession of unforgettable hero machines followed, with big improvements coming, technically and design wise, year by year, motorcycle by motorcycle, as catalogued chronologically in Brown’s book—concluding with the Kawasaki KZ1300 of 1979. The companies and the countries they represent are diverse: Honda, Suzuki, Kawasaki, and Yamaha hail from Japan, but Italy is well-represented, too, with Ducati, MV Agusta, Moto Guzzi, Moto Morini, Laverda, and Magni. From the British Isles comes Triumph, and Norton. From Germany, BMW. The United States? Harley-Davidson, of course.

As you’ll learn, it was design innovations from the machines born in this era that gave birth to many of today’s bikes. Each motorcycle is given a befitting and comprehensive write-up. The backbone of each machine’s narrative is from the author himself, his own personal observations, and experiences. And Brown has the chops and knowledge with over three decades of experience as a veteran motorcycle writer.

The detail and amount of information also includes excerpts and reprints from period factory brochures, road tests—and best of all—sharp and colorful photography. The ’70s was an exciting time for motorcycling, perhaps never to be repeated again.

If you know a little, or just want to know more about these glorious machines, Superbikes of the Seventies is a wonderfully presented history that will more than satisfy. Today, as we take for granted the wide selection of awesome motorcycles available, we must give thanks to the groundbreaking motorcycles from the ’70s.

Purchase: Superbikes of the Seventies

 

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Andrew Chow
Andrew Chow

The bikes that really got me hooked were the wonderful CBX and the achingly beautiful Z1R (Mk 1).

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger

The book ? The book looks like a winner . Your impressions of the 70’s though ? Errr .. an emphatic No ! The 70’s from the perspective of those of us that lived thru it being ; The end of the Aquarian Age , Charles Manson , The death of creativity in rock and pop music , King Richard’s ( Nixon ) reign of terror at its worst , Watergate , Kent State , That dreaded entity that will not die called Disco , the rise of the Bee Gees and the fallout that followed , John Travolta ,… Read more »

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger

Benjamin – I understand why you might chose the ‘ rose colored glasses ‘ route [ actually in the case of the 70’s it’d better be more like an opaque red full face screen to do the trick ] The problem with that being it is a mindset that’ll only get you in trouble in the long run leading to deep and disturbing disappointments to the point of abject depression . Better to see things as they really are/were and then harvest what little good remains for Petrolicious articles . And don’t get me wrong . There was some good… Read more »

Evan Bedford
Evan Bedford

I agree. I think the widely used term “Me Decade” sums it all up. Thankfully, SNL alumnus, Al Franken, fixed things in the 80’s with the “Al Franken Decade”. Hmm. Come to think of it, SNL was one of the few great things to come out of the 70’s. And the music of the Clash, of course.

Evan Bedford
Evan Bedford

Oh, and the styling of the motorcycles, of course. Nothing has yet beat the BMW R90S.

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger

Ahhhh . SNL ! Thank you for the reminder ! One of the very few shining stars amongst a phalanx of what looking back can only be described now as a decade of decay .