For many of us, the 1970s were some of the best years in motorcycling history. Here’s a look back at some of the things that made the 1970s a great motorcycling decade.
In 1970, AMA Motorcycle Hall of Famer Dick Mann won the Daytona 200 on the new Honda CB750. Mann ran strong all day and held off challenges by former world champion and future AMA Motorcycle Hall of Famer Mike “The Bike” Hailwood. and future AMA Motorcycle Hall of Famers Gene Romero and Gary Nixon. The win gave Mann his first victory at the Daytona classic and marked Honda’s first win in an AMA national.
In 1971 AMA Motorcycle Hall of Famer Bruce Brown produced his classic motorcycling movie “On Any Sunday.” The movie conveyed the fun and enjoyment that motorcycling added to people’s lives and helped spur the explosive growth of motorcycling in the 1970s.
AMA Motorcycle Hall of Famer Don Emde won the Daytona 200 on a Yamaha TZ350 in 1972. This was Yamaha’s first Daytona 200 win and the smallest motorcycle to ever win the race. With his victory in the 1972 Daytona 200, Emde became the first son of a former Daytona 200 winner to win the Florida classic. Emde’s father, Floyd, accomplished the feat in 1948 on an Indian.
In 1973 the first high-volume Japanese production motocrosser was created: the Honda CR250M Elsinore (photo above, courtesy of Honda). The Elsinore was ahead of the competition in terms of ergonomics, carburetion, durability and electronics. Single-handedly, Honda redefined motocross with an affordable and fully integrated motorcycle.
Yamaha produced the first monoshock motocross bike in 1974, the YZ250B and YZ360B. The monoshock system allowed better traction, better braking and more efficient front-suspension design.
In 1975 Honda imported the Gold Wing (GL1000) to the United States. It sold poorly the first year, but its reputation as a powerful and reliable bike spread, ultimately creating the full-dress touring class of motorcycle.
In 1977, BMW debuted the first production bike to come equipped with a factory full fairing, the BMW R100RS. The R100RS fairing was designed in wind tunnel testing. With the bike’s 70-horsepower engine, which, coupled with the bike’s fairing, allowed a top speed above 120 mph.
Also in 1977, AMA Motorcycle Hall of Famer Steve Baker became the first American to win a road racing world championship: the Formula 750 Series. Baker was one of the first riders to prove that Americans could be competitive on the world level.
In 1979, Honda began building bikes in the United States in Marysville, Ohio, with the CR250 Elsinore rolling off the assembly line. Back then, the plant produced 245 bikes a day. Gold Wings were among the other vehicles produced there over the years. The motorcycle plant shut down in June 2009.