Back by popular demand, Whitehorse Press has just reissued Ian Falloon’s definitive account of the BMW R90S. One of the most important motorcycles ever to roll out of the BMW factory, the R90S was introduced for the 1974 model year and stayed in the BMW catalog until 1976, when Reg Pridmore famously rode an R90S to victory in the inaugural AMA Superbike Championship. Like all of Falloon’s books, BMW R90S is exhaustively researched and an absolute must for R90S fans. $29.95. MC
Vanson Leathers makes more than just leather jackets, including a fine line of traditionally-inspired waxed cotton jackets. A descendant of the classic trials jacket, the Stormer is handmade in Vanson’s Massachusetts factory using 10.10-ounce waxed cotton army duck canvas with a half-back lining. It has four exterior snap-close pockets plus snap-close wrist cuffs, a buckle and strap collar, and a two-way brass front zipper. Made for on- and offroad riding, like leather waxed cotton jackets get better with age. $449. MC
Better chain lube
Connecticut-based Spectro Oils has been making specialty oil and lubrication products for motorcycles since its beginning in 1966, helping riders keep their bikes on the road. Spectro says its Z Clean Chain Lube utilizes a special zinc formulation to provide superior anti-wear protection for longer chain and sprocket life. Spectro says — and our experience agrees — it won’t attract dirt, sand or grit, and won’t fling. Suitable for O-ring and roller-type chains, on- or offroad. $14.15. MC
Triumph Trident help
Owners of Triumph/BSA triples suffering rocker box and pushrod tube leaks will be interested to know about a new rocker box vent kit developed by Triumph T160 owner Al Wordingham at European Spares. The kit features a pair of vent plugs plus necessary spigots and vent lines. The vented plugs replace existing plugs on the backside of each rocker box. Each plug has three vent holes threaded at 120 degrees to ensure the vent spigots and hoses can be properly located. The unused vent holes are plugged with supplied set screws. Price: $57. MC
Honda Ascot help
1982-1983 Honda FT500 Ascot owners needing a replacement CDI ignition box — Honda discontinued the part long ago — finally have a solution thanks to the new Hot Shot CDI box from vintage electronics specialists Rick’s Motorsport Electrics. Made with heavy duty components, Rick’s says the Ascot CDI was developed with help from Ascot owners to work best from the rider’s perspective. A selectable rev limiter switch lets the owner choose the stock 6,800rpm setting or a 7,500rpm rev limit. $120. MC
Morbidelli isn’t exactly a household name in the U.S., but mention Morbidelli to an Italian or European race history buff and chances are they’ll wax nostalgic on the exploits of Giancarlo Morbidelli and his world championship-winning race bikes. Working with a small team often consisting of no more than four members — including rider — and building no more than a few motorcycles a year, Morbidelli and his band successfully challenged and beat the giants of 2-stroke GP racing, including Kawasaki and Yamaha.
It was a classic David and Goliath battle, yet Morbidelli, who entered GP racing and manufacturing more as a hobby than a business (his substantial fortune from manufacturing wood working tools funded his efforts) managed to win not just one world championship, but four, taking the 125cc championship in 1975, ’76 and ’77, and the 250cc class, also in 1977.
The history of Morbidelli and his team’s challenge has been captured by Jeffrey Zani and Matthew Gonzales in the recently released documentary film Morbidelli, storie di uomini e di moto veloci — a story of men and fast motorcycles.
The story of Morbidelli’s seemingly unlikely rise to championship victory is told through interviews with the players who filtered through Morbidelli’s team, including riders Graziano Rossi, Mario Lega (250cc champion), Eugenio Lazzarini, Paolo Pileri and Pier Paolo Bianchi (125cc champions), and others, including of course Morbidelli himself. Stitching the interviews together with period stills and race film, Zani and Gonzales provide a comprehensive and compelling account of Morbidelli’s incredible success on the track.
It was, as with so many things Italian, a success driven by passion, a passion for motorcycles and racing that was shared among all of Morbidelli’s team. Morbidelli is the first to recognize the importance of this, telling us that he picked his designers and engineers “not for their skills in designing the bikes, but for the love they had for their job.” Rossi, father of the great Valentino Rossi and a rider for the team, calls Morbidelli “one of the best [technicians] in the world … he was a flea compared to them [the Japanese], but he had great ideas.” $25 (approx.), includes shipping. More info: Morbidelli film website.
New shoes: 1979 Triumph Bonneville 750 wearing a set of Kenda K676 RetroActive tires.
We posted notice of the Kenda K676 RetroActive tire range when Kenda first announced it. Owners of older bikes are painfully aware of the limited tire choices typically available to them, and Kenda designed the new K676 specifically for riders of ‘70s and ‘80s sport bikes wearing then-popular but now increasingly hard to find 16-inch, 17-inch, 18-in and 19-inch tires. The V-rated (149mph) tires feature an all-weather tread design and a new rubber compound for improved durability and mileage, plus an improved crown radius for a larger footprint in corners. We got a chance to check out a set ourselves, recently installing a pair on ad man Kyle Jones’ 1979 Triumph T140E.
Kyle’s Triumph was definitely in need of a new set of shoes, wearing a set of off-brand rubber that came with the bike when he bought it last year. Before spooning on the new K676 tires – a 100/90 x 19-inch front and 120/90 x 18-inch rear – the Triumph’s cornering prowess was so limited it made Kyle wonder why anyone ever said old Triumphs handle well. Happily, Kyle’s discovered his Triumph does indeed handle sweetly, as the new Kenda K676 tires have transformed his Bonneville, turning it into his daily rider and relegating his late-model Hinckley Triumph T100 to second-choice status.
Front Kenda K676 mounted on Triumph Bonneville.
The new tires have seen almost 3,000 miles of street riding to date, and so far show almost no wear. Long-wearing tires typically trade handling for mileage, but that’s not our impression with the K676s, which exhibit a confident, predictable bite whether leaning into a corner or riding on less than desirable surfaces. Wet use has been limited, but even then the K676 tires feel planted to the road, which, of course, is exactly what you want and need in a tire. Kenda suggests a list price of $122.99 and up, but if you look around you can find the tires we used starting at around $95-$105 for the 100/90 x 19-inch front and $125-$145 for the 120/90 x 18-inch rear.
Looming cold weather means the riding season is pretty much over in our part of the world – the Midwest – but we’ll report back in the spring with an update on our K676 tires to see how they perform with a little more age and mileage. Judging from our initial experiences, we expect another positive report. You can learn more about the K676 RetroActive tires by visiting Kenda online. — Richard Backus
Rear Kenda K676 mounted on Triumph Bonneville.