Motorbikes of the 90s – On two wheels into the new millennium
The motorbikes of the 90s mark the end of an eventful century. In anticipation of the millennium, the industry pulls the cord once again. Fast-as-an-arrow racers, old brands in new guises and technical quantum leaps indicate that this decade also produced legends. After a good 100 years, the motorbike is more alive than ever – the motorbikes of the 90s are living proof.
MOTORBIKES OF THE 90S – THE BEGINNINGS
The 1990s are not only a time of political upheaval. While the world is undergoing a fundamental reorganisation, the motorbike industry is also saying goodbye to many old habits. To the dismay of many, MZ’s production also collapsed with the fall of the GDR. The Treuhand is unable to save the two-stroke company. The soon privatised remnants brought respectable machines such as the MuZ Skorpion or Baghira (from 1994) with Yamaha drive onto the market. But even the big bike MZ 1000, strictly speaking already a child of the turn of the millennium, was no longer able to save the once so proud brand. It is the beginning of the end. On the other hand, a welcome rebirth is being celebrated in England. The major investor John Bloor invested a lot of money in the Triumph brand in the mid-1980s. For a long time it was a shadow of its former self, but with its modern three-cylinder engines and Japanese manufacturing quality, it is founding a new era. Hinckley Triumphs soon enjoyed a good reputation. Models like the Trident (from 1991) or the legendary country road raider Street Triple (from 1994) made England shine again.
MOTORBIKES OF THE 90S – CLASSICS FROM ITALY & GERMANY
The motorbike world is still largely analogue, and with it the motorbikes of the 90s. Although the first machines such as the BMW K100 (from 1988) had ABS as an option, carburettors were usually used to prepare the mixture. The Ducati 851 (from 1988) is different. Like its successor, the 888 (from 1993), it is available with manifold injection and dominates the Superbike World Championship. With the 916 (from 1994), the Bolognese finally set a monument to themselves. Insectoid projection headlights, undersat exhaust, a single-sided swingarm, the slender waist and its fiery character make it an icon overnight.Together with the naked Ducati Monster (from 1993), the trendsetters save the rather ailing factory.In 1997, Massimo Tamburini’s second masterpiece enters the paved catwalk with the beguilingly beautiful MV Augusta F4. Without question, the Italians are on a roll. Especially as even Aprilia is venturing out of hiding into the premier class. The RSV Mille (from 1998) is beating the competition to the punch and – like many other motorbikes of this generation – is already a classic of tomorrow. But innovation is not only important in Italy, but also in Germany. BMW says goodbye to the classic two-valve engine with the R 1100 GS (from 1994). The new all-purpose weapon has a telelever fork, the controversial beak and four valves. It sets new standards. From 1997, the R 1200 C, a typical child of the 90s, is also based on this modern drive system. However, the cruiser is a flop. Certainly also because sportiness is the order of the day. Road racers like Honda’s featherweight CBR 900 RR (from 1992), Yamaha’s V4 models and, last but not least, the R1 (from 1998) sell better.
MOTORBIKES OF THE 90S – CLASSICS FROM JAPAN & AUSTRIA
In addition, speed bikes like the Kawasaki ZZ-R 1000 (from 1990), Honda’s Double-X (from 1996) and the full-figured Suzuki Hayabusa (from 1999) set records on the motorway – and caused political discussions. Does a normal driver really have to scratch the 300 km/h mark? Fortunately, there are also bread-and-butter products from the Far East. Honda Africa Twin (from 1990), Suzuki Bandit (from 1996) or the SV 650 (from 1999) underline the Japanese core competence of combining price, durability and fun. Meanwhile, a different wind is blowing at KTM. After the break-up under Stefan Pierer (1991), the company completely reorganised itself. Surprisingly, the LC4 single-cylinder bikes not only won the Enduro World Championship, but also new customers. Especially as the supermoto KTM Duke (from 1994) spurs on the spirit of the times with weird drifts. This strengthens the whole brand. The new orientation of the Austrians finally marks the beginning of a paradigm shift that is representative of the 1990s. The past is honoured, but the new is celebrated. The RSV Mille (from 1998) is a real cut above the competition and – like many other motorbikes of this generation – is already a classic of tomorrow.
As usual, only Harley-Davidson ignores modernity. Like all models from Milwaukee, the Fat Boy (from 1990) evokes old traditions, especially since the Evo engine will remain the mainstay of the range until 1999. No one has any idea of the V-Rod (from 2001). So at least a few constants can still be relied on in the 1990s.
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