It amazes me how many definitions change within the sport of motorcycling. They change over time. Again, when I started riding in the seventies, the term “middleweight” generally referred to machines in the 350-550 cc’s range. Of course, at that time, manufacturers tended to build bikes with similar displacements, which lent itself to direct comparisons and road tests to see which manufacturer had built the superior motorcycle.
I recall, again, starting out on a twin cylinder 200cc motorcycle from Honda. It was the Honda CB200T. No counter-balancer, which meant it buzzed quite a bit. It had so much vibration in fact, that the cable to the speedo came out a couple of times, until I applied lock-tight to the threads. This motorcycle was made from 1973-1976. I remember it had this odd rubber piece that ran along the top of the tank. I’m not sure what it was for. It had rubber fork boots, which is now something you almost never see! However, I guess Kawasaki thought the CB was a worthwhile machine, or at least worth emulating, because they started production of the KZ200 from 1977 until 1984. Yamaha, it seems, always had their own way of doing things, and in the case of 1973-1974, they had another model in the ‘beginner’ category. That model was known as the RD350, which was produced from 1973-1975. It was, of course, a 2-stroke, unlike the Honda and Kawasaki, which were each 4-stroke twins. Clearly, the Yamaha was capable of much higher levels of performance, and was considered more of a sporting middleweight, as opposed to a tame beginner bike.
Later, as Kawasaki and Suzuki began to move away from 2-strokes, which Suzuki did successfully with its GS400, GS550 and GS750, and Kawasaki with its KZ 400 and KZ650, it became apparent that manufacturers were moving ahead with 4-stroke machines, and therefore would increase displacement significantly in order to create high-performance machines.
As a result, a new emerging middleweight class would come to the fore. Bikes like the Honda CB550, Suzuki GS550, and Kawasaki KZ650, to name a few. Suzuki discontinued its GT line of two-strokes triples; the 550 and the 750 respectively. Yamaha would end it’s two-stroke line with the RD400. And of course, Kawasaki rid itself of the 400, 500 and 750cc H1 and H2 triples.
Equally ironic to me is that Kawasaki has brought back the 400cc twin (Ninja), which reminds me of the KZ400 twin I owned in the late seventies. And Yamaha now has two triples on the market. The MT07 and the MT09, which of course eclipse, yet remind us of the Yamaha XS 500 and 750 triples.
The more things change…
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