The history of the W1 can be traced back to 1960 and the early K1, a motorcycle developed by the Japanese motorcycle manufacturer Meguro. Meguro had first started producing motorcycles back in 1909 and had modeled the K1 on the English BSA A7 as a replacement for their single cylinder Meguro Z7.
It was early days, and most Japanese motorcycle manufacturers at the time were basically building bikes copied from American and European models, particularly in the large displacement categories.
For its day, the K1 was an advanced design and showcased modern-day manufacturing techniques with its Air-Cooled , 4-stroke, Twin OHV 496cc engine mounted in a double-cradle frame...
THE 750 HONDA has got to be on everyone’s mind when thinking of classic Japanese motorcycles, so we’ll start here.
First unveiled at the 1968 Tokyo show after years in the rumour mill, this classic Honda motorcycle instantly became a sales leader with its novel across-the-frame, in-line four, over-head cam engine. It also featured a hydraulically actuated front disc brake, never before seen in a production motorcycle. While powerful for the time and pretty fade-resistant, it still sucked in the rain. Ah well, can’t have it all.
As well as the bragging rights that come with the engine and brakes on the big 750, Honda painted these babies some pretty funky metal-flake golds and blues that were just right for the times, but looked very dated by the eighties and nineties, when there were still many of them around.
What kept them around was/is their bulletproof reliability, durable electrics and the fact they usually stayed oil-tight for years. Nowadays a good original metal flake gold single-overhead cam Honda CB750 is a rare sight indeed and a true keeper.
The 750/4 was the very first motorcycle deservedly given the moniker “superbike”, and the machine most responsible for kicking the venerable British motorcycle industry over the edge to an early grave.
It's just too bad the Brits didn't keep up, because they had the edge in style, that's for sure!
Kawasaki had been developing a transverse four cylinder 750 for several years secretly in the States and had been testing a version for production in 1968 when Honda dropped the bombshell CB750 on the world. Shocked and dismayed, Kawasaki stopped development and went back to concentrating on the 2-stroke triples. But the writing was on the wall since the Environmental Protection Agency in the US was getting increasingly strict with emissions belching 2-strokes.
Banking on the premise that no manufacturer was likely to trump a 900cc motorcycle, Kawasaki upped the ante and developed what became the King of bikes, the 1972 KZ900.
Born in 1968 as the XS-1, the Yamaha XS650 parallel twin was a production mainstay for Yamaha all the way up to 1985! And although there were up to forty different versions internationally over the years, the motor itself changed very little.
A case of getting it right the first time. In fact the engine is a study in consistency and reliability. It hated leaking oil and it hated to blow up.
Even when tuned to the edge of common sense by flat-track mechanics, the big twins' parts stayed pretty close together for the most part. A versatile machine, the 650 Yamaha appealed to commuters, racers, and those with a taste for café racers, chopper bikes and bobbers.
Didn't hurt at all that so many were sold, especially in the US, that parts and used machines are easy to come by and cheap and as a result it's not suprising that you see so many modified XS650s on the road today.
So if you like your Japanese bikes in the British style, the Yamaha XS650 is the way to go!
Above you see a stock Yamaha XS650. Here you see the flip-side. Did this clever builder just take the old monkey-bars and turn them upside-down? Looks like it to me. And frankly I think it's ingenious!
I wonder how this cafe handles though. Just seems weird and maybe not much of a turning-circle. But still, you gotta hand it to this builder. I think it's a case of using what you have.
Toss in a side-slash exhaust pipe, minimalist seat and mirrors from god-knows-what and you got yourself an unusually together look and a crazy look. Go figure!
The Yamaha xs650 was built and sold in so many iterations over the years that many have survived. The engines are remarkably durable (if a bit shaky!) so they have become a favourite among specialty builders.
Mostly cafe racers and bobbers but board-trackers, and "steampunk" bikes are popping up all over the place.
Find one that's running and get the hacksaw out. Or restore one to its' original glory!
Beginning with the Honda CB750 in 1969, and the Kawasaki KZ series in 1963, these two manufacturers were the only players in the big-bore in-line four market. Yamaha was lagging behind with the successful but underpowered twin XS650. Suzuki was basically nowhere to be found, offering up old-school two-strokers whose days were clearly numbered.
But Suzuki had an ace up its sleeve in the form of the GS series of four stroke in-line fours. In 1976, the Suzuki GS400 and GS750 debuted. Soon the SG550 and GS1000 models would round out the lineup. Suzuki was back in the game big-time by releasing their own versions of what would become known as the Universal Japanese Motorcycle.
Suzuki made sure their GS's would be at least competitive by making them fast, affordable, reliable and well equipped. Styling was conservative yet handsome, especially the big GS1000 with its stylish quarter-fairing. The DOHC motors proved quiet, smooth and trouble free. On top of that, they came with rare fuel level indicators and unheard-of gear indicators. And handling was among the best of the bunch along with a general feeling that the Suzuki GS750 and GS1000 were stress-free bikes when ridden at speed.
Suzuki had in essence produced an instant line-up of classic Japanese motorcycles and in the process firmly joined the Big Four in the soon-to-be raging superbike wars.
Story by Ben Wilkins for Classic Motorcycle Mechanics
If ever a bike has lived in the shadow of another it’s the Honda CB900F. When the CB900 was launched in 1979 the press, and public alike, had their attention firmly fixed on the headline grabbing six-cylinder CBX1000. 31 years later it’s still the CBX that is the bike most fans of big Hondas favour. But with prices of CBXs occasionally crossing the £10,000 mark they’re now the preserve of those with serious amounts of cash. Just looking through the classifieds in CMM though you can pick up a tidy standard CB900F for less than £1000 and a tastefully modified CB900 Spencer replica could be yours for less than £3000. That’s far more easily within the reach of the majority of 70s muscle bike fans. And despite the common perception it doesn’t mean you’re getting a second rate bike. Honda certainly didn’t think so...
I found this great site while tooling aimlessly around the web. Needless to say I was delighted to see a fellow enthusiast who appreciates owning stellar examples of the milestone Japanese classics of the 1970s. Below are some great pics of Paul Braces'.
ABOUT PROPER BIKES
Proper Bikes is run by Paul Brace, a life-long bike enthusiast with a background in professional engineering and restoration, including the design and construction of the Eagle E-Type Speedster.
ABOUT PAUL BRACE
Paul is a lifelong motorcycle enthusiast who has always been involved with motorbikes since his youth. He is a Director of Eagle and the professional engineer and restoration expert behind the very best Jaguar E-Types in the world - the Eagle E-Type. It was voted Jeremy Clarkson's 'Car of the Century' in 2000. He's also the designer & creator of the Eagle Speedster which again has found huge favour - see jaguarspeedster.com - and very recently developed and produced the Low Drag GT.
Paul is a part-time camera man and professional driver for The Endurance Rally Association, filming adventure rallies through more than 100 different countries and events including the famous Peking to Paris, London to Cape Town, London to Sydney, Around the World, Classic Safari and World Cup events. He's also an occasional race and rally driver with success that includes winning outright the 2005 FIA Historic Acropolis Rally.
PROPER BIKES - PROPER FUN!
There is something about the superbikes from the 1970's. Whether you were lucky enough to own one, you were a schoolboy who had the poster on your bedroom wall, or you just have a taste for the classics - here's Proper Bikes, a living collection of the milestone bikes of the 1970's.
If you are searching for something special that makes for a wise investment, is a lot of fun, really usable, reliable enough, safe enough & faster than fast enough – you naturally find the 1970's.
Easy to start, easy to maintain, satisfying to ride sedately - and electrifying to ride hard.
Each and every Proper Bike has an individual character and provides a refreshingly different kind of enjoyment than more contemporary bikes.
Each of these machines are milestone models and special.
The Proper Bikes Collection consists of the very best - whether 'timewarp' originals or compromise-free restorations.
PROPER BIKES RESTORATION
Proper Bikes maintain very high standards and all the motorcycles offered fall into one of two categories. They are either unrestored originals in outstanding condition or they are fully restored to an exceptionally high standard.
During 34 years of restoring cars and motorcycles, the emphasis has always been on getting as close to perfection as possible. This has been demonstrated in the reputation achieved by Eagle E-Types and the extraordinary acclaim given to the Eagle Speedster and Low Drag GT.
That experience and attention to detail goes into each Proper Bikes restoration.