Friday, 28 June 2013

Gilera CX125 - Beginning the Future

Gilera CX125 Motorcycle
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Up until recently there was an interesting category of sporting 125cc two-strokes that dominated the European beginner bike market. Countries like Italy and Britain restricted new teenaged riders to 125cc machines as a “learner” category that was well catered to by most of the major manufacturers. These learner specials often had race-replica sport-bike styling and sharp dynamics to appeal to the masses of hormone-addled 17 year olds who wanted to look fast, even if their machine couldn’t have more than 15bhp by law. Four-stroke 125s were always available but the hot ticket up until recent years was always a rip snorting two-stroke that could be derestricted once you had completed your learning period. While the four-strokes and two-strokes made the same power when restricted, the smoker could be uncorked afterwards to unleash the full fury of the mighty single – as much as 35-odd horsepower, manic power in a machine that scarcely cracks 250lbs with a full tank of fuel.

Gilera CX125 Motorcycle
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Most of these learner specials are by and large inspired by their bigger stablemates – thus you could get a miniaturized Yamaha YZF-R, Honda NSR/CBR, Aprilia RS, or even an 8/10ths replica of the iconic Ducati 916 sold as the Cagiva Mito. There was, however, one notable exception to this rule where a manufacturer went all in and gambled on producing a totally unique design that would break the mould. Gilera produced what was possibly the weirdest 125 sport bike of all time – the short lived and radically-styled Gilera CX125, which would quickly earn a status as a cult special that had some of the most futuristic design to ever grace a “beginner” bike.

Gilera is one of those unfortunate cases of a once-great marque that has recently fallen into obscurity and the realm of the mundane. Gilera was once a mighty force in motorcycle competition, producing some of the most advanced Grand Prix machines of the 1930s, 40s and 50s. Gilera today is a mere footnote in the history of Italian motorcycle brands and a feather in the cap of parent company Piaggio, who debased the once-storied name it by slapping its logo onto a series of dull scooters. It wasn’t always so.

Monday, 10 June 2013

In Praise of Slow

BMW K100RS Honda VFR400R Cabot Trail
On the Cabot Trail in Cape Breton with my dad, circa 2004.

Let’s get one thing straight. I’ve done plenty of wheelies. I’ve dragged parts in turns, my own and my bike’s. I’ve ridden far in excess of the posted limit. I’ve woven through traffic at triple digit speeds. I’ve done many a stupid thing on two wheels, and I’ve been fortunate enough to live to ride another day.

And now, I’m quite content to ride as slow as I goddamn well please.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Silk 700 - The Ultimate English Two-Stroke

Silk 700S Sabre Motorcycle
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Think of the icons of British motorcycling and odds are you will think of one thing exclusively – four-strokes. All the great flagship cycles of English industry – the Commandos, the Manxes, Bonnevilles, Tigers, Interceptors, Gold Stars, and anything else of note from the golden age of British bikes was going to be operating on the principles of suck-squish-bang-blow. British two-strokes were relegated to small, cheap, entry-level machines that were aspired to by no one. Dirty two-strokes were the domain of the Japanese as far as most of the British marques were concerned.