You might remember a couple weeks back I wrote in my column that I was clocking out and going on vacation to Japan. The point was to refresh myself and recharge my batteries by doing something other than immersing myself in motorcycles 24/7. For the most part I was successful in that endeavor – the wife and I had a fantastic time in the land of the rising sun playing tourists for a week.
However, it’s nearly impossible for a guy like me to go to Japan and not check out a bike or two. And, since I had my DSLR strapped around my neck, I was able to take a few snaps of some of these bikes as well. Here now are 10 random bikes in Japan that caught my eye. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera ready when a mint Cagiva Mito came flying by, nor was it handy when a local aboard his decked-out H-D Electra Glide was waiting at a stop light.
10. Police Honda CB1300SF
This, folks, is a Japanese motorcycle cop riding a Honda CB1300, obviously modified for police use. Here you can see the requisite police lights and luggage containing the items this officer needs to perform his job, but other than having a 1284cc inline-Four I don’t know much about this bike. We don’t get it here in the U.S., which could be why I was interested enough to snap a photo of it as it came by. What I do know is that, were I riding or driving in Japan, I wouldn’t want to run from one of these guys. They know how to ride!
9. Honda Super Cub
Without a doubt, the motorcycle I saw most during my time in Japan was the Honda Super Cub. Makes sense considering there are more of them around the globe than any other motorized vehicle, two wheels or four. What impressed me most about this particular one was the many different areas in which its owner was determined to fit groceries. We sometimes take for granted the fact that motorcycles aren’t recreational items in other parts of the world like they are here. This brought that reality back into focus for me.
8. Suzuki GSX-R400 Delivery Edition
What’s funny is that the huge “Trans Tech” box strapped to the back of this bike is what originally caught my attention. I mean, look at it. It’s huge! Thing is, I saw a number of motorcycles with similarly sized delivery boxes rigged to the passenger seat. It wasn’t until later, when I had a chance to look at the photo more closely, that I realized the bike itself was a Suzuki GSX-R400. I’d love to have one of these back home to rip around a small racetrack, and here’s this guy, using his as a courier vehicle.
7. The Honda Gyro Up
And now a cargo hauler of a different variety. It’s called the Honda Gyro Up, it has one seat, three wheels (one in front, two in rear), and a mini flatbed behind the operator to fit boxes, crates, or whatever other small-to-medium sized items you can strap down back there. Why do I think it’s cool? Because the Gyro Up still allows the rider to lean into turns. The cargo section and its two wheels are separate from the tilting forward section so it remains flat while the rider leans at speed when negotiating a bend.
6. Harley-Davidson Panhead
While I saw a lot of Honda Cubs during my trip, I also saw a surprising amount of Harley-Davidsons. This old Panhead caught my eye while walking around the outskirts of the Harajuku district. The bike had clearly been cared for by its owner, yet the engine itself had a nice patina to it. Set against “The Filth And The Fury” backdrop, something seemed appropriate, and I had to snap a pic.
5. Retro Cool
When in a new area, one thing I like to do is turn down a random road and go for a walk. This decision paid off big time in Japan, as I stumbled across these three beauties. You’ll have to forgive me as my knowledge of 1960s motorcycles is a little lacking, but this trio was too cool not to photograph. The Vespa at left, if viewed on its own, would be considered in rather good shape considering its age, although when viewed next to the pristine Honda Dream and Yamaha beside it, suddenly the iconic scoot looks a little secondhand. Still, these three are just a sampling of what I would find less than 100 yards down the road. Read on.
4. Pair of old Triumphs
I almost missed these two as they were hidden behind the stairwell in the background, but I’m glad I poked my head over the staircase as these old Triumphs would put a smile on Marlon Brando’s and Steve McQueen’s faces. The beauty of the Triumph modern classic line is that they look almost identical to the actual classics seen here. For a second, I thought Japan was getting new Triumph classic models we don’t get in the States. Then I looked closer and realized these weren’t modern classics, but actual classics! Kickstarter and all.
3. Random Old Harley
I believe the proper internet lingo when talking about this old Hog parked directly outside an apartment complex is “no f*cks given.” With its old-school tires, dented and dinged gas tank, narrow bars, straight pipes and worn-out seat, if this bike could talk, I’m sure it would tell quite a story. But there’s no denying how cool this thing is. I bet it scares Japanese children as they’re walking to school, too. I didn’t get to meet its owner, but I imagine he or she is equally as eclectic.
2. The Ramen Express
Ramen shops in Tokyo are like Taco Bells here in the States (only much more delicious). They’re everywhere, and when hunger strikes, the need to fill your stomach takes priority over all else. So what better tool is there to transport oneself to the nearest ramen dispensary as quickly as possible than a Kawasaki ZX-14R? He/she even gets bonus points for navigating it down this narrow road and grabbing the best parking spot around. One more universal benefit of riding a motorcycle. The blue exhaust pipes are pretty cool, too.
1. Hot-Dock Custom Cycles BMW K1600GTL Juggernaut
In the number 5 spot I mentioned how walking down a random road led me to three beautiful classics. As it turns out, what I encountered just a few steps later was the Tokyo hub of Deus Ex Machina, the popular moto/surf-shop and cafe. Of course, I had to take a look. As I waited for my affogato (which was spectacular, by the way), I stepped into the small garage area adjacent to the cafe where I found this, the “Juggernaut” from Keiji Kawakita of Hot Dock Custom Cycles. A mixture of Mad Max meets steampunk, Kawakita was given a BMW K1600GTL (yes, the full touring model) and free rein to do with the bike as he pleased.
In an interview with Japanese website ignite6.jp, Kawakita-san says he didn’t draw up a single image on paper for this bike, instead deciding to jump right into disassembling the standard K16 and making the rest up as he went along. Once he shaped the front end and the Duolever fork the way he wanted, inspiration for the rest of the bike grew organically. The frame and suspension are standard BMW, but the exoskeleton surrounding it was all handmade from aluminum piping and the aluminum panels were handmade as well. Engine mods are tame, just a custom airbox and exhaust (then again, how much more power do you need from the six-banger?) The finishing touch is the aging paint treatment given to the engine cases and switchgear. Not seen in this pic are the dummy steampunk gauges on the gas tank.
Granted, this picture hardly does the bike justice, but then again no picture will. The level of detail in this custom job was extraordinary, and seeing it in person is the only way to truly appreciate it. Kawakita-san is the 2008 World Buildoff champion (his shop specializes in custom Harleys), and after seeing the Juggernaut, it’s easy to see why he’s held in such high regard.