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Big-Bore Yamaha XS650 Cylinder and Piston Kit by Mikes XS


Big-bore Yamaha XS650

Yamaha XS650 fans looking for more grunt out of their old twin should check out the big-bore cylinder and piston kit from Mikes XS. The cylinder casting features substantially larger cooling fins that extend out as far as the cylinder head fins for enhanced cooling, while the forged pistons feature MoS2-treated skirts, an oil channel for enhanced piston pin cooling and valve pockets for large valves. The lightweight 9:1 pistons weigh approximately 455 grams, or around 1 pound each. Fits 1974-1984 XS650 engines. $719.92. MC

Evel Knievel Museum Opens at Historic Topeka Harley-Davidson

Evel Knievel’s 1974 Mack truck, Big Red (above), and his Laverda American Eagle jump bike (at bottom). They were both restored from near junk. Photos by Landon Hall

It all began with a set of leathers worn by Evel Knievel in 1974. Purchased in 2012 by former professional skateboarder and actor/director Lathan McKay, those leathers set off a worldwide hunt — “Evel Archaeology,” as McKay calls it — for Knievel memorabilia. Now, just five years later, Historic Topeka Harley-Davidson in Topeka, Kansas, is home to the new Evel Knievel Thrill Show Museum. Attached to the Topeka Harley-Davidson dealership, the 16,000-square-foot museum features two floors of everything Evel that one could imagine — and then some.

The trip through the museum starts on the lower floor, beginning with the story of how Robert Craig Knievel went from working in the copper mines of Butte, Montana, to traveling across the country jumping motorcycles over cars, buses, and, maybe most famously, the fountains at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada. Interactive displays give background on each of his important jumps through the years, many with live video footage of the actual jumps. Several of his jump bikes are included, from the 750cc 1969 Laverda American Eagle S he jumped for two years to the 1970 Harley-Davidson XR-750 Iron Head that he used for much of 1971 and 1972.

In addition to Evel’s leathers and bikes, the museum has Evel’s legendary 1974 Mack truck, Big Red, which was found rotting away in a Florida salvage yard and featured on the TV show American Trucker. McKay bought the truck and had it restored by Topeka Harley-Davidson with the help of a crew of specialists. Today its trailer also holds Evel’s original jump ramps, the same ones he used throughout his entire career, from the jumps at Caesars Palace to England’s Wembley Stadium. Rescued from a field in Butte, Montana, in 2014, they now reside back in the trailer, just the way they were stored for hauling all those years ago.

And that’s just the first floor. The second floor houses some of Evel’s most famous helmets, personal artifacts, his custom 1974 Cadillac pickup, and one of the two famous X-2 Skycycles, complete with crash damage incurred during practice for Evel’s failed 1974 attempt to jump Idaho’s Snake River Canyon. An amazing collection, the museum is a must-see for any Evel Knievel fan. Tickets are $20 for adults, $10 for students, and free to children 7 and under. On the web at — Landon Hall

Electronic Ignition for Triumph and BSA Triples by Tri-Spark


Hot spark for Triples

Australia-based Tri-Spark has introduced a new electronic ignition for vintage Triumph and BSA triples that does away with the black box of the previous version for simplified installation and superior running, with easier starting and smoother idle. The new sequential firing system has only five wire connections and fits in place of the stock points plate, deleting the automatic advance unit. Featuring a built-in test button, the new Tri-Spark Classic Triple is tailor-made for the Triumph Trident T150/T160 and Hurricane and the BSA Rocket 3. $393.12. MC

ScorpionExo Birmingham Jacket by Scorpion


Scorpion Birmingham

When it comes to classic riding attire, nothing says “old school” like a waxed cotton jacket. I’ve always wanted a waxed cotton jacket, precisely for its vintage looks, but I’ll have to admit a decided preference for leather jackets, and not just because I think leather looks right riding a vintage motorcycle. Much of that preference is down to leather’s time-tested reputation for providing superior abrasion resistance if you’re unlucky enough to make contact with the tarmac.

And there’s the rub: Traditional waxed cotton jackets have limited abrasion resistance, and there’s no impact-protecting armor. Enter the ScorpionExo Birmingham, a waxed cotton jacket that combines classic good looks with modern technology.

The cut is absolutely classic, with a high, leather-trimmed collar secured with a brass snap. Brass snaps also secure the four large cargo pockets, the two waterproof inner pockets, the storm flap over the brass YKK zipper and the cuffs, which have two sets for adjustment. The upper cargo pockets also feature YKK brass zippers, and there’s a large, zippered pass-thru pocket in the back panel.

The departure from tradition starts with the Birmingham’s shell, a blend of 53 percent cotton and 47 percent nylon fabric for increased strength and abrasion resistance. Unlike traditional waxed cotton, it doesn’t look “wet,” yet it’s completely waterproof thanks to Scorpion’s “Exo-wax” outer coating and a laminated waterproof and breathable inner membrane backing.

Safety considerations extend to the shoulders, elbows and back, the former equipped with SAS-TEC CE-certified armor, the latter with a PE foam back pad. The result is a jacket that looks right on a Sloper BSA, but with the advantages of modern materials and updated safety.

Complementing its good looks is a comfortable fit. Following ScorpionExo’s online sizing chart, I ordered a large Birmingham in green with contrasting gray shoulder panels. The other available color is solid black. The fit for me is excellent, snug on the shoulders without being tight, and the sleeves are long enough they don’t ride up my wrists when my arms are stretched out to the handlebars. In keeping with tradition, the interior features a comfortable, soft plaid cotton lining, and the stitching on the jacket is excellent: I expect it to wear well and for years to come.

The word “comfort” really defines the Birmingham, because it only takes a few good rides for it to lose its just-made stiffness, quickly feeling like that favorite pair of jeans you reach for. This isn’t the jacket you’ll want when the mercury really starts climbing — it was never intended as hot-weather attire — but it is a perfect spring, early summer and fall jacket. Available in green/gray (shown) or black. Price: starting at $299.95. — Richard Backus

Ladies Classic ’92 by Joe Rocket

When it comes to riding gear, we’ll admit to a certain level of vanity. While utility and safety are always our most important criteria when choosing our gear, we’re not immune to wanting to look good when we’re riding. That’s often easier said than done, especially for the price conscious among us who simply can’t afford some of the more seriously nice top-shelf gear. But as we discovered, sometimes you can have it all.

Joe Rocket Ladies Classic ’92

First up is Joe Rocket’s Ladies Classic ’92, their latest in a growing list of gear for women, and a jacket that looked ideal for my 23-year-old daughter. Up to now, Madeline didn’t have her own dedicated gear, instead using various pieces that had accumulated in the household over the years, including her mom’s old gear. But it was time to find something just for her, and this sharp, retro-styled leather jacket looked like it would fit the bill.

Made of drum-dyed cowhide, the Ladies Classic ’92 has the classic good looks Madeline was looking for, while also providing the protection she needs. Leather is an excellent first line of defense, but there’s no arguing the additional impact and abrasion protection of CE-certified armor and the Classic ’92 has pockets in the shoulders, elbows and back for optional armor. Bought together the armor will set you back an additional $70, money we consider well spent.

The leather’s 1mm-1.2mm thickness puts it at the thin end of what’s considered best from a safety perspective (1.2mm-1.6mm is generally considered best), yet while thicker is better, a thinner cut also means lighter weight, and in this case it translates to a very soft, supple and comfortable jacket that doesn’t feel like it’s weighing you down, even with the added optional armor.

The downside to a lighter jacket is often warmth, or lack thereof, but the Ladies Classic ’92’s zip-in quilted liner features full sleeves (most are just vests), and with the liner installed the jacket’s proven perfectly comfortable in temps down to the lower 40s. Its functional design extends to little things, like a 1.5-inch storm flap behind the main zipper to keep out the wind, along with snaps at the waist to adjust the fit and zippered cuffs. It also has plenty of pockets, with five on the inside for stashing small items and another five on the outside, including two breast pockets, two hand pockets and a small zippered pocket on the right sleeve that’s perfect for stashing ear plugs.

After following Joe Rocket’s online sizing guide and taking their suggested measurements (bust, waist and hip), Madeline ordered a medium. Cut specifically for a woman’s body, the Classic ’92 presents a tailored fit that compliments the wearer, and Madeline’s Classic ’92 fits her perfectly.

The riding season’s still young, but so far the Ladies Classic ’92 has proven to be a well-made, comfortable, good-looking three-season jacket at a reasonable price that’s ready to deliver years of service. Available in black/white (shown) or brown/cream. Price: $299.99. — Richard Backus

Basix Shocks by Ikon Suspension


Affordable shocks

Ikon Suspension has expanded its line of shock absorbers with the addition of the Basix line of shocks. Designed for riders on a budget who still want to get the best out of their machine, Basix shocks feature chrome-plated bodies and black, powder coated, progressive-rate springs. Keeping the cost down, they feature fixed-rate instead of adjustable damping, but with 3-position adjustable preload. Rebuildable and revalvable, each shock is fully tested before leaving the factory. $280. MC

Wire Splicing Connectors by WAGO


Wire splicing

We recently tripped across these really cool electrical connectors from WAGO in Germany. An alternative to the standard Scotch Lock “vampire” electrical connectors used for splicing wires, the WAGO 221 series splicing connectors are incredibly simple and provide a super secure means for splicing up to five 24-12 gauge solid or stranded wires. Just strip the wire, insert it into the Lever-Nut and push down the Lever-Nut contact arm. Connections can be tested via integrated test slots. $49.95 (175 piece assortment pack on MC