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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Japanese Motorcycles v Foreign Motorcycles

日本 オートバイ

Last week we introduced Japanese motorbikes and the big four manufacturers: Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki and Yamaha.

This week we interview a biker in the UK who has been riding bikes for over 30 years, ever since he was 16.

Our biker, let's call him Mr. H, started off with a Honda CB 200. Thirty years later, he rides Moto Guzzi, three of them in fact, after a long and painful love affair with Triumph Bonneville.


Japanese Motorbikes

Q: Which do you prefer Japanese or other makes of bikes?

Mr. H: Basically I tend to prefer classic English and Italian motorcycles more than Japanese bikes because they have more character than modern Japanese machines. When I developed my taste for motorcycles in the 70s, Japanese machines were becoming dominant because of the perceived unreliability of British motorcycles, which was true. They took forward the design in huge steps with reliable four cylinder machines and better brakes. Although they took much longer to develop good frames that handled as well as British bikes.

At one point in the 1970s in-line fours from Japan became described as UJM (Universal Japanese Motorcycles) as they became very similar in design and layout. Across the frame fours with goodish brakes, but not great frames, very reliable with good electrics.

Since then other manufacturers have caught up in terms of quality, and actually the price differential is closing too. So I tend to ride classic Italian bikes because much of the early development of Japanese motorcycles was at the top end - producing racing bikes, I was always more in to touring machines.

Moto Guzzi

Q: What about Japanese tourers?

Mr. H: The touring bikes the Japanese companies built tended to get heavier and more powerful and they were over the top. Now I like the older bikes because they feel more connected to a time and place, it’s a bit like your musical tastes developing when you are young. At 48 I am the average age for a biker in the UK. It’s an ageing population! Motorcycling is now a hobby more than a means of transport. When I was younger I did not have a car license till I was 27. Now I drive a car for transport and a bike for fun.

Q: Tell us about Japanese bikes now.

Mr. H: Japanese bikes now are far more diverse and highly designed. I think a good bike is one that is not only for purpose but has a degree of soul to it. There is increasing interest now in classic Japanese bikes as people go back to the bikes they rode as kids. So a good Japanese bike is like any other, it has to be technically good but have enough soul to give you sufficient engagement to be worth all the discomfort and risk.

Japanese Motorbikes

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