For the bike world, 2020 is the year of some interesting anniversaries. Newly resuscitated Indian will be celebrating 100 years of their Scout model, so hopefully we’ll get to see some of those early bikes up the hill to mark their amazing history. Run forward forty years to 60 years ago and current World Superbike Champions Kawasaki produced their first ever motorbike. So come on you Kwaka owners let’s see you on the hill! There has to be plenty of terrific pre-1980 road registered bikes that could do with showing off in front of the thousands of spectators that come every year.
For most of us, the anniversary that is probably the hardest to believe is that it is 50 years since we were wowed by the Honda’s iconic CB750K1 when it went on sale in the UK. Easy to run and reliable, it became the poster boy for what was at first disparagingly called the UJM, ‘the Universal Japanese Motorcycle’, by those riding more traditional and in most cases, less well engineered bikes. Fifty years on most motorcyclists would agree that this amazing machine with its oil tight, four cylinder, overhead cam engine, electric start and comfortable riding style almost single-handedly marked the beginning of the era of the modern motorcycle.
Moving forward ten years to 1980 saw the introduction of the one feature that has kept motorcycles running smoother and greener and with greater precision in all temperatures. Electronic fuel injection. Introduced simultaneously by a very young Kawasaki Corporation and technology led Honda, this feature originated in pre-war diesel engines and was honed in World War Two aircraft and post war racing car development. However, it was no overnight success taking ten years to become the norm for the modern motorcycle; there’ll certainly be a few hundred motorcyclists on the hill in 2020 that will swear blind that starting a bike with a choke has never been bettered.
So, in September, Kop Hill will come alive to the sounds of cursing and kick starting, thrashing twins and megaphone pipes. Two hundred or more bikes are expected, ranging across a hundred plus years of mechanical chain, belt and shaft driven complexity all ridden, of course, with great brio by riders both young and old, once again turning our paddock into a veritable cacophony of two-wheel history.