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1. Interview with Aaron P. Frank
Aaron P. Frank has penned the definitive history of Honda motorcycles, he is the Editor of Super Streetbike Magazine and has even burned his Iron Butt certificate.
Last month's edition
of the CruiserCustomizing newsletter carried editor Miles Davis'
review of HONDA MOTORCYCLES by Aaron P Frank.
Aaron knows bikes...
In this edition, Davis talks with Aaron about the book, about Hondas and about the world of motorcycles in general. Not surprisingly, Aaron Frank, who is the editor of SUPER STREETBIKE magazine, is also a diehard fan of cruising. It seems that whenever the staff of MOTORCYCLIST MAGAZINE (for which Aaron also serves on the editorial board) needs a cruiser ridden and rated, they ask Aaron for his opinion. Aaron's dad also loves cruisers, and the apple hasn't fallen too far from the tree. So herewith is the straight sauce from a guy who gets paid to ride and to cruise...
Miles Davis: Your book discusses a little about the wild side of Soichiro Honda, who as a young man, associated with Geisha girls, drank sake with abandon and even danced naked at his own wedding. What do you admire most about Mr. Honda?
Aaron Frank: Certainly his self-confidence. Mr. Honda was never one who feared being different and was never one who was afraid to do something completely out of the ordinary or unexpected. This isn't unusual or unique -- the world is full of anti-social troublemakers. The difference with Mr. Honda was that he typically always had a good reason for doing things his way and, more importantly, had an extremely high-level of self confidence (ego?) that allowed him persevere until he reached success-in spite of the constant questioning and even ridicule that he was constantly subjected to by his colleagues, especially earlier in his career, for his "crazy" ideas. His self-confidence and lack of self-doubt is one of the most essential components of his success, and in my opinion, his most admirable quality.
Davis: Do you think that most motorcyclists are natural born rebels, like Mr. Honda?
Frank: I think that we are all unconventional personalities. After all, everyone who chooses to ride a motorcycle chooses to willing participate in an activity that 95% of adult Americans perceive to be foolish and risky-if not outright deadly. Like Mr. Honda, I think that all motorcyclists are at least slightly less concerned with what the average citizen might think of the choices we make, and, more importantly, share his enthusiasm for activities that excite us and speak to us on a visceral, emotional level. Mr. Honda was a active participant in life, not a spectator-just like us. Even from his earliest days as a racecar builder and driver, Mr. Honda was obsessed with building vehicles that would make him faster, take him further, and make him feel freer. I think that every motorcyclist among us can relate to that impulse, so in that way we are all alike.
Davis: You mention that Honda is the only one of the Big Four that has a face. Why did you choose Honda to write on?
Frank: Because I was offered a contract to write a book about Honda? On the simplest level, that was how this all got started. Motorbooks International (the publisher of the book) identified the opportunity-unbelievably, there was no complete history of Honda motorcycles yet written. There were plenty of model histories-the CB750, the Gold Wing, and other milestone bikes-but there was no book that collected the history of all of Honda's extensive motorcycle line between two covers. So we identified a need for this book (and therefore a market), and also the timing was right-the architects of some of Honda's greatest moments in history (Bob Hansen, Jack McCormack, Bob Jameson, Dick Mann) were all getting on in years and no one had yet archived their incredible stories. The opportunity to tell these incredible stories was very enticing to me. This book needed to be written now, and I wanted to be the one to do it. Darwin Holmstrom, my editor at Motorbooks, offered me a handful of possible book projects but for me the Honda history was the natural choice because I have such a deep history with the brand. From my childhood, Hondas were the only motorcycles I knew. My father bought a 1969 Honda CB750 brand new and I had been riding on the back of that bike for as long as I could remember (he still owns and rides that bike regularly, and it has over 100,000 miles on it now, though now he more often rides his 1980 Honda GL1100 Gold Wing). When it came time to get my first motorcycle it was a Honda, of course: a 1972 CL350 Scrambler, followed shortly after with a 1972 CB500 four-cylinder (which I still own, 14 years later). After that I got a 1988 NT650 Hawk GT (a bike that I rode on the street for years, and eventually began road racing on) and following the Hawk GT was a 1998 Honda CBR600F3. I'm a life-long Honda enthusiast with a deep and abiding appreciation for the Honda marque, which only made researching the Honda story more compelling to me.
Davis: Soichiro Honda taught Japan that their country need not copy, imitate and duplicate the achievements of others. His company eventually created lines of cruisers, sport bikes, off road machines and touring bikes that proved mechanically superior yet were priced competitively. What you think was the Honda secret to achieving creating such fine motorcycles?
Frank: Honda's greatest virtue as a businessman was his willingness to listen to new and unconventional ideas, and pursue these ideas by dedicating serious research staff and dollars to exploring them to their fullest potential (no matter how outlandish they might have seemed at the time). Honda was constantly hiring young, fresh-out-of-school engineers full of bright new ideas and then giving them free reign to see these ideas to fruition. Honda trusted his engineers unconditionally and promoted a corporate culture that didn't fear failure-no doubt Honda Motor Corporation weathered many failures (a few of which, like the aborted land-speed racing program or the snowmobile line, are chronicled in my book), but it also enjoyed an overwhelming number of successes. And it's no coincidence that the company's greatest successes resulted directly from what seemed at the time to be its most outlandish ideas: the slow, cheap and odd-looking Super Cub scooters, the very-high-revving, five- and six-cylinder Grand Prix race bikes of the sixties, the three-wheeled ATVs, the hugely complex, water-cooled Gold Wings…the list of unconventional ideas-cum-successful products is a very long list. No idea was too wild for Mr. Honda, and this sense of boundless opportunity was what resulted in some of the wildest bikes ever seen coming out of the Honda factories.
Davis: CruiserCustomizing.com has 75,000 members. A recent survey has revealed that the number one bike of our members is the 750 ACE. I ride a CB0900C Honda Cruiser and the founder of CC is sold on the Gold Wing. Even though you are known as a sport rider, we like to hear your opinion as to why the Honda marque is so popular among cruising riders also.
Frank: Hey now --I consider my collection of vintage café racers to be cruisers, just with different bar-peg relationships! And if anyone ever found out how much time I spend on my Vespa scooter, or how often I ring up my Dad to "borrow" his Gold Wing for long trips… Motorcycles are motorcycles and more than anything my job as a motojournalist has made me come to appreciate all configurations of bikes-cruisers included. The 750 ACE (or even the CB900C) are both excellent examples of why Hondas have become such universally appealing and popular motorcycles with enthusiasts who really ride their bikes. With its cruiser line especially Honda created motorcycles that were every bit as stylish and fashionable as anything else on the market, but without compromising a single bit of the functionality that riders had come to expect from a Honda product. For Mr. Honda (and his spiritual descendents who carry on his company today) performance was always pragmatic-he was very unwilling to compromise any one value in pursuit of another. Honda's sportbikes, no matter how fast or aggressive they are, also are always the most comfortable and user friendly in the category. A touring bike like the modern Gold Wing will incorporate all the most luxurious creature comforts, but it will still maintain quick acceleration and solid handling. In the case of a bike like the ACE, it incorporates all the signature American cruiser design elements-fat fenders, staggered exhaust, teardrop tank and pullback bars, classic, narrow-angle V-twin motor-but suffers from none of the shortcomings often associated (rightly or not) with traditional American cruisers. The ACE is oil-tight with exceptionally long service intervals, is reasonably priced, smooth shifting with a light clutch pull and little vibration, and will offer you literally years and years of trouble-free cruising. Those are classic Honda design objectives, and are exactly what makes all of their motorcycles-irrespective of category-so popular with people who actually ride their motorcycles day in and day out, year after year.
Davis: Do you think that Honda has gone too far with the Rune? What comes next?
Frank: Of course not-it's always Honda's craziest motorcycles that, years later, emerge as the most inspired and influential. When the CB750 appeared in 1969 people thought it was utterly outrageous, with its four-cylinder motor and disc brake, but five years later those same features were the status quo. Same for the water-cooled Gold Wing ("how unnecessarily complex," everyone complained at the time), or the 1979 NR500 GP racer with its "upside down" forks and side-mount radiators that appeared so ridiculous. 25 years later there's hardly a sportbike on the market without an inverted fork, and all of Honda's current V-motored sportbikes (VFR, VTR1000 Super Hawk, RC51) cool themselves quite well with side-mount radiators. I have no doubt that some of the same "outrageous" technology debuted on the Rune will likewise seem utterly average in 20 years time. There is no such thing as "too far" when it comes to Honda motorcycles.
Davis: Honda built the six cylinder CBX for a few years. It may have been too much bike back in 1980, but now it is a desirable classic. Nobody thinks twice about the Gold Wing running on a flat six. Do you think that Honda will ever build an eight-cylinder bike?
Frank: Honda already has-the 1992 NR750, which used eight connecting rods, 32 valves and the effective surface area of "eight" round pistons that were just reconfigured into four oval-shaped pistons (to conform to FIM racing rules). This produced an engine that had all the benefits of a V8 design in a V4 configuration that was legal for racing! If a V8 engine configuration is judged by the Honda engineers to be the most appropriate technology for a particular application, then yes, expect another to be made again soon. Look at the current RC211V, a V5-engined MotoGP racer-no one ever made a successful V5 motorcycle before, and it seems like such a novel configuration, but Honda studied the FIM rulebook and various weight breaks and other limits and decided V5 was most advantageous of all available configurations and didn't hesitate to build a bike-and win a two world championships-with the V5 motor. If there is a similar situation where a V8 proves most advantageous, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Honda develop one. During the most recent Gold Wing redesign Honda actually built a flat-eight prototype motor but ultimately rejected the design when it proved too difficult to maintain adequate foot clearance for the rider. If there is a different and larger chassis available in the future, I wouldn't at all be surprised to see Honda revisit the flat-eight concept-even if just for a pie-in-the-sky Rune-type project. Don't underestimate the value of building something cool just for the sake of being cool in today's motorcycle marketplace.
Davis: Honda is one company that has never shied away from appealing to every category of rider from scooterists to sport riders, from newbies on light singles to cross country sport-tourers. Honda has recently created a police cruiser St1300 and even has a campsite scooter, the Ruckus. Who do you feel is the next target market for Honda? Is there any market left?
Frank: At this point, I don't think there are many new markets for Honda to expand into-they've already done it all, from every possible variation of motorcycle and scooter to bicycles, airplanes, even robots. I think the key to Honda's future success and growth will lie in its expanding currently existing categories. For instance, Honda is already an industry leader in the area of hybrid and alternative-fuel automobiles, and I have absolutely no doubt that the technologies that the company is developing in this arena will soon trickle down to its two-wheeled products. I won't at all be surprised to see the first hybrid or super-efficient/zero-emissions scooters or motorcycles come to market under the Honda nameplate.
Davis: When do you think Honda will create a factory customs division, as Harley has just done?
Frank: Again, Honda already has done this with limited-production models like the Rune. I fully expect to see more of these high-buck, limited production models in the future-it's a very effective, inexpensive way for Honda to communicate to enthusiasts that it is still a cutting-edge company capable of bringing wonderful, inspiring motorcycles to the marketplace.
Davis: In researching Honda, which person struck you as the most amazing, charismatic, risk-taking, individual out there. Honda's full of 'em: designers, racers, even salesmen. Which one????
Frank: Obviously, Mr. Honda was far-and-away the leader of the pack in this regard, but for the purposes of discussion I'll overlook him for a moment and nominate another person, a staff member at American Honda in the late sixties named Bob Hansen. Hansen joined the company as national service manager in the early sixties and was something of a legendary rabble-rouser and rule breaker, and someone who had an especially hard time abiding by American Honda's "no racing" rule in the sixties. The stories are much too long to get into here (you'll have to read the book), but let's just say that the legend of Mr. Hansen made it all the way back to Japan and that other legendary rabble-rouser and rule breaker, Soichiro Honda, became fast friends with Hansen. In fact, when Hansen stormed the 1967 Daytona 200 with a pair of Honda CB450 racebikes (the first time Hondas were raced in AMA competition) it was Mr. Honda himself who developed and delivered to Hansen the factory-prepped racing motorcycles-entirely without any Japanese or American Honda corporate approval and in direct violation of American Honda's expressed policies. Hansen went on to become one of Mr. Honda's closest confidants (and one of the key influences in the development of the CB750), before eventually being fired by American Honda staff for insubordination. I think his stories are some of the best in the book, though, and more than anyone he embodies the charismatic, risk-taking, devil-may-care attitude championed by Mr. Honda himself.
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Listen up, Cruisers, this column will now be a regular monthly feature of the Cruiser Customizing Newsletter. BACKFIRE asks for a bit of backtalk or backlash, if you will, from the readers. So if you want 75,000 CC Bikers to know what you think and what ride, then ante up your answer (or two) to the following:
Now you've all heard all of Jeff Foxworthy's jokes about "You might be a redneck if..." Well, what about bikers? So just write and let our extensive and deeply concerned BACKFIRE editorial staff know your spin on this most crucial subject. Be sure to send in a picture of your bike or at least a description of your wheels. So here we go for starters:
You might be a biker if...
...You carry around a crushed beer can so your kickstand does not sink into the asphalt on a hot day...
...Your bike is cleaner than you are.
...You've forgotten the names of half your old girl friends but can remember each model ever made by your favorite brand.
...You refer to your hair-do as "helmet hair".
...You first memorized the alphabet from the letter "F" because that's where the names of most Harleys start.
...You believe that Arlen Ness has been canonized by the Pope.
...You have taken a vow not to use deodorant until they make a deodorant for motorcycles.
...You believe that the human body is kept alive by 32psi pf air pressure.
...You measure your age in tread wear.
...You've finally become OK with the Harley Edition Ford truck, but when it comes to a Ford edition Harley, No Way!
...You believe that the first car was created by Carl Benz when he nailed two BMW motorcycles together
...You know the different bug species by how they taste.
...Your bike is a mixture of every color you hated in high school.
...You can understand the purpose of spending $25,000 for a piece of two-wheeled rolling art, but think art collectors who collect paintings that just hang there are crazy.
send us your ideas
Your CruiserCustomizing Team
3. Hot Deals
CruiserCustomizing.com - Newsletter #103
JULY 02, 2011
Motorcycling and the quest for freedom go hand in hand. In fact it's safe to say that the motorcycle industry as it exists today was born from this quest and the wars that resulted.
WWI and WWII gave the biggest boost ever to motorcycling. They played a major role in the rise of motorcycling around the world. For me motorcycles would have to be near the top of the list of good things that grew out of war because they provide me and many others with a physical expression of the freedom and independence that soldiers around the world fight so hard for. Read More >>
Apparently those who know me would say that I wear my heart on my sleeve when it comes to how much I love my bike. That may be true. I have many riding buddies who have a bike, bought a second bike, traded in a bike, got another bike. My ride is one and only humble Yamaha V Star 650 Classic, that I have spent time (and will continue to) customizing it to fit and suit me and no one else.
In the beginning: My first bike was restricted by the 250cc max capacity for learner riders, before LAMS (Learner Approved Motorcycle Scheme) came into effect in Victoria. I chose the Suzuki Intruder 250 LC. A great little cruiser bike that I was (and still am) attached to. I bought this bike with the thought that I would keep and ride it forever, because the size was extremely manageable for my small frame of under 5 feet tall. I was of the mind that I couldn't manage to ride anything bigger (read: taller, wider, heavier). Read More >>
Cruiser of the Week
I immigrated to Sydney, Australia in 1999 from the Philippines. An accountant and banker by profession, my present occupation is Postal Delivery Officer. I had this full U-Turn from my previous occupation of Bank Manager to a Postman for the love of motorcycles...
Stop and Say Hello to kingskid >>
Check out this awesome looking 2002 Honda Shadow Aero 1100 that belongs to mbrock29609. The hard work and attention to detail really shine through on this custom bagger
Learn More About mbrock29609 >>
Video Library Index
Check out our vast Video Library with hundreds of installation tips and in depth information about specific product categories.
The Video Library can be found on the Cruiser Customizing Message Board where you can easily locate and view the videos that you are searching for!
View the Video Library Index >>
We all need to give Robin001 a huge "Thank You" for all of his support as the Video Coordinator over the past 18 months. Rob has taken the idea of a contest and has turned it into a living reality. Rob has decided to retire, and you can read more here: Robin001 Retires
The May Video Contest was a close one! It was a three way tie for a whileâ€¦ but Tezza walked away with 5 more votes than Dim and 6 more votes then polssken. Great work to all who participated!
Watch the Video >>
June/May Photo Contest - Dirty
Please swing by electra member page and thank her for all of her hard work and dedication in the coordination of the photo contests.
Top Viewed Photo goes to bporre's
Best Bug Splatter!
Highest Rated goes to AussieSteve's
The Tip of the Week
Help Our Community Grow!
As the number one biker community online today, we are always looking for creative ways to contact new riders and get them participating with us in the community. The more bikers the merrier we always say!!
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We just launched the Refer a Biker program to get Bikers like you actively recruiting your friends and loved ones to join us and participate in the number one resource for bikers helping bikers online.
Its simple and its fast and you earn valuable CRUISER POINT for doing it, check out the story and refer some bikers today!
Wednesdays With Greg
Episode 44 - Motorcycle Tool Kits
Watch the video >>
or visit www.cruisercustomizing.com
if you have questions or are looking to purchase a motorcyle tool kit.
In this WWG, Kyle and Greg talk about the tools you can expect to find in fairly standard tool kits, why took kits are important, and where to store or cary your tool kit.
Celebrate 4th of July
Today through July 4th Cruiser Customizing is offering the American Made Madness Sale where "The deals explode now through Independence Day!"
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