Vintage issue of Cycle Magazine gives us the opportunity to look back in time to see how different motorcycling was and how far we have come. Besides, it just has some really cool stuff!
Forgive me if I said this before, I am a lover of history and motorcycles. Perhaps it is because motorcycles have been in my family for nearly a century. Most of the family history is associated with two wheels. I am just a history buff in general too.
Vintage motorcycle rags are definitely one of my things. They contain so much fascinating information, it is hard for me to put one down once I start reading. So I thought I would share a few bits and impressions from Cycle Magazine July 1968, perhaps you will find them of interest too.
This is also a great look at how much motorcycle magazines have changed. You will notice the photo quality is not very good by today’s standards. Yet somehow that does not detract at all. It almost gives them more impact, sort of a gritty real world feel. Oh and those words, many of the features are 3-4 thousand words long! Today, a full length magazine story is about 1,500 words or less. Obviously we had more time to read and less things competing for our attention back then.
Keep in mind this was at a very unique period in motorcycling. The Japanese invasion of both street and dirt bikes was right on the horizon, but had not quite made the impact that would lead to the heady days of the 1970’s when motorcycle culture boomed everywhere. The British motorcycle industry was still a force. The writing was on the wall so to speak, but the path was still not quite clear as brands from all over the world tried to hold on.
Here in the states, mainstream motorcycling was still trying to find its place in proper society. Publisher James Claar relates how a Daytona Beach hotel canceled their bike week reservations for rooms and a major event after finding out who it was for. No motorcycles allowed. This strive for status was further reinforced by the magazine printing their own full page ad featuring a white collar MIT graduate as the face of modern motorcycling.
Motocross had not quite made its way over from Europe. Most dirt racing was still called scrambles. This issue featured tests on the Bultaco 100 Lobito and how to make your Honda CL350 twin a competitive scrambler.
In road racing the Yamaha 350 twins were making their first impact on the world. Having finished second and third at Daytona, this issue included a test of the street version YR2. “Yamaha seems to have made three hundred and fifty cubic centimeters a fine and very fast roadracing combination”
Assistant Editor Cook Neilson relates his experiences in his very first road race and at Daytona no less! This is an absolute gem of a read. For those who may not know, Cook would go on to become the editor of Cycle Magazine for over a decade. He would also become perhaps the most celebrated journalist/road racer ever. In 1977 he would win the Daytona 200 on a Phil Schilling prepared Ducati against some of the best factory competition.
Ads for bikes span an incredible range of manufacturers, many of whom are now long gone. Included are Ossa, Bridgestone, Royal Enfield, Triumph, Ducati, Suzuki, Norton, Kawasaki, BSA, Honda, Hodaka, Zundapp, Montesa, Benelli, Husqvarna, Jawa, and Harley-Davidson. Most of the ads were for middle weight, street legal, scrambler type bikes.
Suzuki led the way for Japanese street bike displacement with its “500/Five” (500cc, 5 speed), touting “The standing start ¼ mile in 13.2, 46 hot horses at a cool 7000 rpm.” But the Bridgestone 350 GTR may well have been considered the most refined Japanese street bike of the day.
A road test of the Harley Electraglide, probably better known simply as the “74”, makes it clear that even back then the H-D camp was different part of motorcycling. My favorite ad has to be the one with actor Chuck Connors (The Rifleman) and his Benelli 250cc Barracuda.
The only true enduro bike in the issue is an advertisement for the Zundapp I.S.D.T. 6-Day Replica. One picture and 500 words of copy made the pitch. Dave Ekins is quoted as winning a number of races on the 100cc machine and remarking “the Zundapp is constructed for rough and ready riding and yet had all the sensitivity to the need for flat out speed of a thoroughbred”. Again this was a harbinger of things to come, as small displacement two strokes would soon start to win offroad races with their light weight and superior handling.
The summer of 1968 was and exciting period in motorcycling. Perhaps the Cycle Magazine staff could see they were standing on the brink. In just the next year or so bikes like the Kawasaki triples, Yamaha R5/RD, and Honda CB750 K1 would turn the industry on its ear. The motocross revolution was on that same horizon and the 1970’s would bring an era of growth and innovation like no other.