Textbook Bob 'Hurricane' Hannah circa 1977

Textbook Bob 'Hurricane' Hannah circa 1977

Motoman

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Before Tomac and Ned, before LeMond and Big Mig, there was Bob Hannah. For a young lad obsessed with motorcycles as well as bicycles, the ‘Hurricane’ was the epitome of style on a bike. His bright yellow Yamaha YZs and matching head-to-toe kit set the bar and inspired me to emulate not only his style on the bike, but off it too. If only I could sport those long, flowing blonde locks now…

Motocross in the 70s and 80s was somewhat how mountain biking in the 90s was.  The technology stepped up rapidly, with suspension travel and shock design developments allowing the bikes to corner as well as go like a bat out of hell on the straights. From my first bike, a YZ80B (yellow of course) with its twin coil shocks, drum brakes and steel frame tank to my last one, a Kawasaki KDX250 with Uni-Trak suspension, alloy frame and disc brakes, the difference in performance was more night and day than the 10 or 15 years it actually was. The same could even be said with road bike technology from as recently as the late 90s/early 2000s.

Just as Tomac brought style, flair and function to mountain biking with his fast and flowy riding, skin suits, disc wheels and custom painted helmets, so too did Hannah with plastic boots, body armour and his own range of kit and products. And like Tomac, he could back it up on the track. Every photo in every mag I saw, he just looked fantastic; head always in the perfect position, leg extended in the berms, a bit of turn bar over the jumps. I’d try and ride my YZ and my 20″ Dragster the same way.

Today, there’s a lot of crossover between moto athletes and mountain biking and BMX. The moto helps develop confidence at speed and in the air for most of the top downhillers, and the fitness that comes from pedalling is embraced by many motocross stars. My formative years on two wheels were shaped by a healthy mix of the two, and while I haven’t kicked over a two-stroke for a long time, the skills learned and the parallels between infernal combustion power and legs and lungs still resonates. But mainly it’s just cool to look back at photos of a golden era.

How many here have a moto background, or still ride?

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// Awesome American Guys // Nostalgia // Racing // Reverence // Technology

  1. @ErikdR

    @meursault

    May I be the first to say, WTF is this?

    The Motominati have taken over the asylum.

    Indeed sir, I am still scratching my head (risking killing my only brain cell) continuing to think wtf is going on?

  2. @meursault

    @ErikdR

    @meursault

    May I be the first to say, WTF is this?

    The Motominati have taken over the asylum.

    Indeed sir, I am still scratching my head (risking killing my only brain cell) continuing to think wtf is going on?

    Ah, well, four wheels bad, two wheels good. Some moto skills transfer well to riding our steeds. It’s good to be magnanimous once in awhile, we’ll soon be back to blood, sweat, and gears.

  3. @meursault

    @ErikdR

    @meursault

    May I be the first to say, WTF is this?

    The Motominati have taken over the asylum.

    Indeed sir, I am still scratching my head (risking killing my only brain cell) continuing to think wtf is going on?

    We’ve had sailing, now motorbikes… I proposed a guest article on the overlap between cycling and the noble sport of farnarkling.

    http://mirror.uncyc.org/wiki/Farnarkling

  4. @G’phant I’m afraid I  have to agree with your son. That post made me laugh. Sorry ’bout that. Cheers, RC

  5. @ChrisO That just ruined my life.

  6. @ChrissyOne Oh man I never realized that these cats were laying the bikes down like that. Damn. They have to operate on some special slow mo time warp kinda mind set when racing ?? That’s wild.  And those have to be some special machines too. What a cool snapshot.

  7. @frank

    @brett

    @ChrissyOne

    Bad. Ass.

    NO. FUCKING. SHIT.

    I started into this article by thinking – “oh fuck. Another non-cycling, but akin-to-cycling article” and then @ChrissyOne shows up.

    I hope that photo is blown up 5’x7′ (that’s feet, not inches) and framed over your headboard because that is some serious – FUCK YEAH – goin’ on there.

  8. @ChrisO How about events in Brazil?

    Sorry, England.

  9. @Nate Yeah, well less said the better.

    Part of me (the Australian part) has a certain schadenfreude going on with England’s performance, although I’m also disappointed they did quite so badly.

    That’s the problem of having dual and rival nationalities.

    At least the Aussies exceeded expectations – Cahill’s was possibly the goal of the tournament. My favourite factoid is that Tim Cahill has scored more World Cup goals than Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney combined.

  10. @ChrisO Would love to see the Aussies beat Spain.  They ought to after the run they gave the Dutch.

  11. Hadda couple of early-mid ’70’s Honda CB750’s, but wadded them up with the help of some inattentive motorists.  There are definitely some transferable skills in terms of apexing corners, etc, and it can be a lot of fun.  However the ability to be going down the road at 120 km/h and accelerating quickly to 200 km/h with just the twisty wristy can be dangerous.

    I’ve since decided not to risk a 3rd accident and haven’t thrown my leg over a motorized cycle since.

  12. @ChrisO@Nate Enough with the round ball chat. Soccer is damaging cycling as we speak…

  13. @ChrissyOne

    And we mustn’t forget the man, the master, the patron saint of road racing, King Kenny.

    Whoa , hang on, two words – Barry Sheene.

  14. @Triathlete   Woah – much as I followed No 7,  Phil Read went before…………….

  15. @DeKerr

    I hope that photo is blown up 5′x7′ (that’s feet, not inches) and framed over your headboard because that is some serious – FUCK YEAH – goin’ on there.

    Sadly no, but it does grace my phone lock screen…

    …and my track day company (the one I’m working for in these shots) did use another photo fopr their motorcycle show booth this year:

  16. @Teocalli

    @Triathlete Woah – much as I followed No 7, Phil Read went before…………….

    Too true!
    Kenny Roberts certainly wasn’t the first, just as Merckx wasn’t the first Hard Man. But Kenny is the reason we ride the way we do today, and a major reason that racing evolved the way it did. He’s the reason I’m dragging a knee and elbow in that pic. He’s also the reason I had to have that yellow R1. ;)

  17. @Teocalli

    @Triathlete Woah – much as I followed No 7, Phil Read went before…………….

    Fair response, ‘prince of speed’ takes it.

  18. Great one, Bretto. Moto riding was a natural progression for me from BMX as MTB hadn’t happened yet. I had a couple in high school and then moved on to street bikes. Then I put that shit down for a long time until I saw this baby in the classifieds a few years ago. ’85 XR35oR. 4 stroke thumper. My dream bike in high school. I picked it up for a song, rebuilt the top-end, new brakes, cogs, chain, repacked the supertrapp. I mostly use it for reconning graveur routes but will go ditch-bitchin’ sometimes with my redneck friends. It’s a hoot. I’d put it up there with that MAICO and the IT490. Anyone ever have a Husqvarna? Those give me serious motobone.

  19. There’s symmetry here, as Belgium is as integral to the history as motocross as it is to cycling.

    Saw this sign outside Gent the week before P-R last year.

  20. Sweet bike Marco!! A friend of mine had an XR like that. Loved the sound of it.

  21. @ChrissyOne

    @Teocalli

    @Triathlete Woah – much as I followed No 7, Phil Read went before…………….

    Too true!
    Kenny Roberts certainly wasn’t the first, just as Merckx wasn’t the first Hard Man. But Kenny is the reason we ride the way we do today, and a major reason that racing evolved the way it did. He’s the reason I’m dragging a knee and elbow in that pic. He’s also the reason I had to have that yellow R1. ;)

    Fair comment, and all the moto guys are hard men (and gals) along with the ProPeleton when it comes to riding when any sane person would be in hospital.  However, I love stories of PR such as changing gear by hand after breaking his foot pedal and still winning (if I remember correctly).  I did see him ride right at the end of his career but probably more of a guest appearance to be honest on the MV Agusta.

  22. Another firm of Motoman/men? Bordeaux-Paris riders.

  23. No motorcycle should make more noise in db than it displaces in cc.

    Little motorcycle just passed that couldn’t have been bigger than 40cc but sounded like a hurricane of angry gnats.

  24. @G’rilla

    No motorcycle should make more noise in db than it displaces in cc.

    Little motorcycle just passed that couldn’t have been bigger than 40cc but sounded like a hurricane of angry gnats.

    And Harleys are the worst offenders in this regard. Fucking dentists on big-bore fart cannons.

  25. @PeakInTwoYears

    @G’rilla

    No motorcycle should make more noise in db than it displaces in cc.

    Little motorcycle just passed that couldn’t have been bigger than 40cc but sounded like a hurricane of angry gnats.

    And Harleys are the worst offenders in this regard. Fucking dentists on big-bore fart cannons.

    Tell me about it! I live in SE Wisconsin –  home of HD. You know it’s getting nice out (I’ve been on the bike for months already) when the Harleys are brought out of hibernation. Some keep the pipes legal and quiet. Others ascribe to the “loud pipes save lives” credo. Seriously illegal decibel levels. Do the cops do anything about it? Fuck no. You can ride through Milwaukee or any town with as loud a set of pipes s you can illegally alter and nothing will happen. If you are black or Hispanic playing your car stereo at that volume you’ll get a ticket, not doubt about it. Selective policing? You bet your ass.

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