We’ve gained

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The Italian firm has grown from a miniscule manufacturer of stylish two-strokes to the second biggest bike-maker in Europe, producing some of the world’s most desirable superbikes. But that’s not all it’s achieved. More importantly, it’s developed superbikes that combine Italian looks and character with the key element traditionally missing from such machines – reliability. That means it’s given us some truly special motorcycles.


God knows where they went – probably somewhere in an estate car – but like athlete’s foot, they insisted on coming back. Whether they’re as accident prone as some would have us believe is a mystery, but what is certain is that so called born agains exist – and are sadly a source of much debate and division among motorcyclists. Are they real bikers? Do they all ride Honda Deauvilles? Are they more at home in Ford Mondeos? Does it matter? Probably not.

Reborn MZ:

Dead are the spluttering, under-powered, depressingly reliable two strokes this former East-German manufacturer was once synonymous with. Say hello to the 130bhp+1000S and all its derivatives. MZ is developing a whole range of desirable and affordable superbikes based around the same parallel twin engine design, starting with the 1000s sports tourer, due to go into production next year, and later including naked and supercharged versions. Long live MZ.

Huge Chinese Firms:

Ancient Chinese curse say: ” May you live in interesting times. ” And there are definitely interesting times ahead for anyone interested in bargain superbikes. They may not be household names over here, but Chinese firms sell tens of millions of budget bikes in their home market every year. Now one of the biggest, Zong Shen, is turning its attention to superbikes, starting with a 750cc V-twin – for less than £3000. Experts reckon it and other Chinese firms have the potential to repeat what the Japanese did in the ‘70s, making bikes as good as any currently on the market but with much lower prices. Let’s hope they’re right.

Speed Restrictions:

Not long ago, it seemed inevitable that there would soon be a production motorcycle capable of a genuine 200mph. Suzuki’s Hayabusa was almost there, with a top speed of 194mph. Kawasaki’s more powerful ZX12-R seemed set to be the one to finally brake the barrier. Sadly, the Kawasaki didn’t manage it either, and a few months later all our hopes were dashed when it was revealed the manufacturers had voluntarily agreed to a top speed limit. The reason was to pre-empt any new legislation. The result is that we can now ” only ” go 186mph.


Up until 1990, scraping knees on Tarmac was the reserve of racers and really not a great concern for most bikers. Then, with the advent of the FireBlade, thousands of riders suddenly found it was far easier than they’d thought – and great fun. The only trouble was, doing it meant either wearing a hole in your leathers or taping old washing-up-liquid bottles to your knees. Not until 1991 did knee-sliders become commercially available.

Parallel Imports:

Even if you’ve never even sat on a parallel import, if you’ve bought a new bike in the last five years, you’ve benefited from them. The FireBlade’s initial list price of £7125 had risen to a cool £9265 by 1996. Then, after a price freeze that lasted until 1999, it suddenly fell to £7395, with further discounts available on a one-to-one haggle basis. Many other bikes followed a similar pattern and it was no coincidence. Lower priced parallel imports putting mounting pressure on dealers and importers meant something had to give – and did.


It’s grim irony that the arrival of the FireBlade, one of the fastest and lightest bikes ever, coincided almost exactly with the arrival of the first Gatsos. Now, the government estimates that there are around 5000 speed cameras sites in the country, with around 1000 active at any given time. The number is set to triple over the next three years.

New Lightweight Materials:

Titanium, carbon fibre and magnesium were once more likely to be associated with astronauts that motorcyclists. But in the last 10 years, they’ve become commonplace on bikes, gloves, boots, leathers and even knee-sliders. In fact, carbon fibre has been so over-used that it’s just about gone full circle, from unfashionable to fashionable and back to unfashionable again. The moral: just because it’s light and expensive, doesn’t mean your tax disc holder should be made out of it.

Ducati 916

The FireBlade isn’t the only seminal bike to have appeared in the last 10 years. In fact, if the dictionary contained a definition of the term ” seminal bike ” it would probably say: ” Ducati 916. ” The bike, which first appeared in 1993, formed the basis of the 996, which dominated World Superbikes for almost half a decade. If there’s one bike that every superbike fan should own at one time or another, this is probably it.

Top British Racing Talent:

It wouldn’t be fair to refer to the 996’s domination of World Superbikes without mentioning the man that piloted it – four times WSB champion Carl Fogarty. And he may have retired now, but he’s not the only outstanding British rider to emerge in the last decade, as anyone who followed last year’s British Superbike season will testify. Thanks to Chris Walker and Neil Hodgson, we’ve still got plenty to be proud of.


Ten years ago, the first of Triumph’s new bikes were rolling off the production line. Back then, it was tiny revived company with an annual turnover of around £10million and range that consisted of the Trophy 1200. Today, it’s a British company we can be proud of, with a turnover of over £100 million and a range of quality bikes to suit just about any rider, from superbike fans to big trailie riders.

Better MCN:

MCN reinvented itself when it re-launched in April 1999. Now it’s bigger and more in-depth, with more new bikes, more road tests, more features, more events coverage and more sport, all in full colour. And it’s no longer just a weekly newspaper. Earlier this year, motorcyclenews.com was also re-launched, with up-to-the-minute news, talk boards, and live interviews with stars. Then there’s the new MCN BikeMart Fortnightly, with more bikes for sale than ever before, and MCN Sport, the new quarterly dedicated to in-depth sports coverage.

MCN Staff

By MCN Staff