In the October issue in 1976, Cycle World picked its Ten Best for the first time, reasoning (among many reasons) that it was our duty to let the manufacturers know when they were doing good so that they might keep on doing it.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Just like this year, a BMW won Best Touring Bike back then, even though the ’76 R75/6 had less than half the displacement of this year’s K1600GTL and a third the piston count. Still, “Smoothness is incredible.”
A big Kawasaki won Best 900-1000cc Roadster. The KZ900 was pretty much the ZX-14R of its day, capable of mid-12s in the quarter-mile and 125-mph top speeds. We wanted to call it perfect but couldn’t because of the “harsh suspension and a moderate chassis wobble when cornering at high speed.” Shudder…
Then we picked Best 750 Roadster, Best 500-550cc Roadster and Best 350-400cc Roadster. The Yamaha XS750D Triple is long gone, Peter Egan has rediscovered the Honda CB550F and the Yamaha RD400C is legendary.
In an era when more of us rode off-road, the other five categories were all dirt-based.
Best Open-Class Motocrosser: Maico 400 Adolf Weil Replica
Best 250cc Motocrosser: Suzuki RM250
Best 125cc Motocrosser: Honda CR125 Elsinore
Best Enduro Machine: KTM/Penton 400 Six Day
Best Trials Bike: Montesa Cota 348
And in ’83, Honda was the blockbuster, winning all five dirt categories as well as Best 651-800cc Street with the new V45 Interceptor. At least the Yamaha Venture Royale unseated the GL1100 for the Touring win.
It was no longer possible to ignore Best Cruiser, so the Best Under-450cc Streetbike category disappeared and the Harley-Davidson FXRDG Disc Glide carried off the trophy.
Whatever happened to our Best Dual-Purpose of 1986, the Honda Reflex? Never mind; the GSX-R1100 and VFR750F were Best Superbike and Best Streetbike 600-800cc.