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'Japs don't send'

That was once a "science" of every pub tiger whose Triumph or Ducati was broken. But in fact it was just an urban legend. Because a fresh Japanese with a good pilot was a formidable weapon in the fight against the faltering but established order. The fact that the Japanese motorcycles just remained intact? That was no cause for grumbling, but resulted in the growth of customers. More and more customers.


In the XNUMXs and XNUMXs, motorcyclists usually drove fast. And because motorcycles did not yet have a dozen electronic systems that made the motorcycle determine what actually happened. Ho! The bike did determine what happened: If you exceeded its limits, it went wrong. But generally things went pretty well.

So why the bad reputation at the bar?

This was because there was indeed a field of tension between what the Japanese technicians could make engine blocks, while the bicycle technical development department was lagging behind. And the standard bearers of that story? That became the Yamaha XS1 and the Kawasaki 500 cc three-cylinder, who even got the pet name 'widowmaker'left. But perhaps that was not ignorance, but a wrong assessment. Because when developing modern, heavy and fast motorcycles, the Japanese had not at all thought of those weird, like loose sand clinging countries on mainland Europe, let alone England.

There was only one part of the world that the Japanese had focused on

The USA of America. And there are very different laws than in Europe. Firstly, what we now call 'America' for the sake of convenience is a country where many almost endless roads are interspersed with gentle curves. In addition, a fairly solid policy was pursued with regard to top speeds. The speeding fines flowed right into the local sheriff's coffers, making them a serious business model. Americans and speed? That was to blast away as hard as possible at a traffic light up to the maximum permitted speed. An approach that did not impose phenomenal demands on bicycle parts.

At the time, Europe was virtually limitless when it came to permissible speeds

There were real highways. And there were a lot of winding roads. On the highways, the new Japanese powerhouses were invincible. The bottom fell out of the story in the fast corners, and that was because the Japanese were usually too soft and damped. And as they got older, it often turned out that the bearings of headsets and chain stays were rather susceptible to wear. The supply market bravely responded by offering conical steering head bearings and bronze bushings that could replace the plastic ones of the rear forks. With that, the sting was taken out of the road holding story for normal to quite sporty use.

And in the meantime, all kinds of very fast drivers such as Cees Cornwall had already convincingly proven on the national and foreign circuits that they could do very fast laps on such a fat Jap.

Which is not to say that the frames of the early XSen and the three-cylinder Kawasaki two-strokes were good. Because in addition to far above average driving skills, the pilots of that time also had to have big hearts and an ironclad belief that everything would turn out well. Because what we see in the archive photo? We would never have started that.

You drive like this

You dream like this


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6 Comments

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  1. My 1st bike (around 1984 or something) was a Honda CB750F2, the one with those Comstar wheels. Great bike, I went to the North Cape in 86 and then drove about 11.000 km throughout Scandinavia in 2,5 weeks, great! But a little later again during a not overly smooth ride on that 3-lane highway through Luxembourg (center lane for both directions) suddenly a very best tank slapper / speed whobble. Half crawled on the tank, an oncoming car missed one hair and the circus luckily came to a standstill. After that, that phenomenon already started at a little bend, not nice… Indeed all bearings replaced, steering damper on etc. etc. after which it did not occur quickly (!), But I completely lost confidence in that bike. That got much better with the successors (always 2nd hand) in the form of a GSX1100R, a TL1000R (also been above the Arctic Circle, fantastic bike) and nowadays my Aprilia RSV1000R (also been on the North Cape) which is totally delicious steering is tight. So a few Japs and now since 2012 this Italian, really delicious. The progress in frames is certainly more than sensible ...

      • Mwa, continue… 1st time in 1896 as a freelance start. 2nd time in 2008 and last time in 2013. In between also much more southern, but Scandinavia is super nice, clean etc.
        Living is a bit different, then the ride is also less nice and long :-))

  2. Mine Jap excellent handling, Yamaha RD 350 LC YPVS (85) without cockpit and oil pump, HPI ignition and expansion - exhausts and straight handlebars, beautiful bike with solid brakes, requires 2-stroke experience in terms of driving, not automatic haha… .. Fan of Jarno Saarinen !!!

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