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Old 12-04-2014, 11:50 PM   #1
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If I had a nickel for every silver-backed motorcyclist I hear lamenting the loss of the late, (sometimes) great Cycle magazine, I’d have more than five dollars. The oft-heard refrain goes something like this: “Cycle magazine, now those guys really knew how to review a bike. It wasn’t a real road test until they counted all the ball bearings in the transmission. Not like today’s slash-and-grab advertorials…”

Then some wag chimes in about the time Cycle magazine dissolved a testbike in a vat of acid then ran the resulting mash through a centrifuge. “You really knew the molecular structure of a motorcycle when you read Cycle.”

“That’s nothing,” some other wag pipes in: “One time they won Daytona with a bike built from scratch using nothing but ore excavated from Cook Neilson’s backyard.” (I still have the “Build Your Own Motorcycle Smelter!” special issue.)

I loved Cycle. It was a fantastic magazine, staffed with moto-journo gods from a glorious era, but today’s mag-whiners are just suffering more CRS (Can’t Remember S—t) syndrome. The main reason Cycle dismantled those testbikes was because they had to. Motorcycles back then practically required a complete rebuild right off the showroom floor. If the ignition timing wasn’t retarded or the jetting too rich, the spark plug was too cold or, less often, too hot. Whatever it was, it was almost guaranteed to be wrong from the factory.

Motorcycles of the ’60s, ’70s, and even the ’80s gave any reviewer real meat to sink their teeth into. Engines would overheat, clutches would drag or slip—or both at once. Smoke would pour from the exhaust pipe of a four-stroke on over-rev. The forks always contained the wrong amount of stinky whale oil that invariably needed changing, and the spring rate was never right. Swingarms flexed, tires slipped, and quite a few bikes were really, truly, -awfully bad.

CLICK HERE for more Cranked commentary by Joe Gresh.

For 30 years those lucky reviewers wobbled about on crummy rear shock absorbers provided by the Japanese Big Four. “Over-sprung and under-damped” was a gimme line. Buying replacement shocks was the equivalent of today’s “pipe and Power Commander” upgrade. Cycle magazine was shooting fish in a barrel.

Today, most modifications only make a new motorcycle worse. Sure, you can spend $2,000 on 3 hp, but the bike will only sound obnoxious and burn more fuel afterward. Wholesale suspension work is usually relevant only for the racetrack. Counting the transmission bearings is a fool’s errand—you’ll just screw it up. Modern bike mags don’t take apart motorcycles because modern riders don’t have to.

And don’t even get me started on the Brit-mag snobs… “British bike mags are so glossy! So many pages! They really tell it like it is! Not like crappy American mags where the advertisers tell them what to print.” Bollocks.

British journos are not more ethical; they’re just angrier. They ride in wet knickers 12 months of the year. Forget athlete’s foot. When you’ve got a case of athlete’s like that, any motorcycle is rubbish! Besides, it’s been years since they’ve seen the sun, and everything they eat is boiled in water that’s swimming with newts.

British journalists are hypercritical because they’re miserable. True, their reviews are often longer, but the majority of that is cockney rhyming slang. Cut that and what’s left is a thinly veiled suicide note. Give those grumpy bastards 10 minutes on a Honda Grom in the warm SoCal sunshine, and they’ll be raving about Harley-Davidson’s Street like it’s a Street Glide.

The Brit-snobs and Cycle curmudgeons both gleefully predict the inevitable impending demise of printed motorcycle magazines then proudly proclaim: “I haven’t bought an American bike magazine in more than 20 years—not since Cycle went away.” I realize they’ll never see this column, but if you know one tell them to skip a Happy Meal or two and cough up a few nickels for a year’s subscription. At least then they’d have something more recent to complain about.

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