Despite falling almost in the middle of a decade, 1994 was a year of fresh starts.
The list of new bikes was headed by three that would have huge influence: Ducati’s 916, Triumph’s Speed Triple and BMW’s R1100GS. In racing, Messrs Doohan and Fogarty began their eras of dominance.
From the moment that the 916 turned a wheel on its launch at Misano there was no doubt that it was the bike of the year — if not the century. Massimo Tamburini’s masterpiece took an enlarged, 916cc V-twin engine, squeezed it into an ultra sweet-handling chassis and wrapped the result in gloriously slinky bodywork. It blew away everybody who rode one.
Hot new bikes came in a variety of shapes and sizes, from Honda’s sleek but overpriced RC45 to Harley’s deliciously retro Road King. Best budget superbike was Suzuki’s RF900R sports-tourer, which gave Honda’s restyled and lightened VFR750F a run for its money. The year also saw the arrival of Yamaha’s 100bhp FZR600R, plus revamps for the FZR1000 EXUP, GSX-R750 (both with lighter chassis and six-pot front calipers) and Honda’s twoyear- old FireBlade.
Kawasaki ZX-9R at Malaysia’s Shah Alam circuit. The heat cooked the rear Bridgestones. But 15 years later the launch is fondly remembered not for dodgy rubber, but for the attractive and, accommodating young ladies supplied by the Big K for the evening’s entertainment. Apparently
Who knows which Triumph worker hatched the plan to take Hinckley’s naked Trident 900 roadster, fit Ace bars and uprated cycle parts, and create an aggressive new model that was named after the firm’s iconic Speed Twin? Whoever it was deserved a pay rise from John Bloor.
When BMW launched the R1100GS back in ’94, I never dreamt that this dramatically restyled successor to the original R80G/S trailie of the early Eighties would eventually lead to dualpurpose boxers becoming the cult hit of the 21st century. In those pre Ewan McGregor days the GS was a curious looking trail bike that seemed too tall and heavy for off-roading.
Back in ’94, Triumph was still trying to make a sports bike using the firm’s modular format, which shared most engine and chassis parts throughout the range. The Daytona Super III, with its full fairing and hotted-up 113bhp engine, was the raciest triple yet and in some ways was a predecessor of the 675. But it was no FireBlade beater.
It was pure coincidence that both Mick Doohan and Carl Fogarty should begin their reigns at the same time, the Aussie by embarking on a run of five straight 500cc GP titles, and Foggy with the first of his four World Superbike crowns. All these years later it seems a shame that the chippy pair never fought it out on equal machinery. Back then, we Brits were just glad to have a first world champ since Barry Sheene in 1977.
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