Thirty years. A lifetime for some, just like yesterday for others, but if you own a motorcycle from 1993 you’re riding a machine eligible for vintage motorcycle insurance with Carole Nash. How mad does that sound!
And what a great time 1993 was for motorcycling on the British Isles. Satellite broadcaster Sky Sports had transformed the way motorcycle racing was broadcast on TV, with live coverage of the fledgling Superbike World Championship. The commentary pairing of Julian Ryder and Keith Huewen captivated a generation of sports fans, as Carl Fogarty started his journey to becoming a national hero. Riding the final iteration of the Ducati 888, ‘Foggy’ came so close to lifting his first WSB title after an intense and often bitter battle with American rider Scott Russell and his lime green Kawasaki. Although the Brit missed out on the title, the 1993 Milan Motorcycle Show would see the unveiling of the iconic Ducati 916 – which he would take to the 1994 and 1995 titles, and which would become one of the most desirable motorcycles of all time.
That said, arguably Ducati’s most important motorcycle of all time was introduced in 1993. At the time, the Monster M900 seemed like little more than a parts bin special – little more than a naked 900SS – but its sales success most likely saved the Italian brand from extinction. It sold well and remains a cornerstone of the Ducati line-up today, with over 350,000 units sold in the past 30 years.
We saw quite a few blockbusters in 1993, not least Jurassic Park which featured some bikes (reportedly early Cagiva River 500s) making a cameo appearance among the special effects. We also spent much of the year trying to work out what Meat Loaf wouldn’t do for love, as he and his beau rode off into the distance on a cruiser at the end of his epic music video.
But in Britain we were starting to become sportsbike crazy. Sports tourers, in particular the venerable Honda VFR750F, and big bore bikes like the Kawasaki ZZR1100 had been doing good business since the late ‘80s, but Honda’s first CBR900RR FireBlade came along in 1992 and changed our perception of performance motorcycles by delivering a machine which not only went fast, but was light and handled well too.
Superbike racing meant Japanese manufacturers invested more in their 750cc street bikes. Yamaha came along with a new entry for 1993, the YZF750R (and the higher spec, limited run, YZF750SP). It set a new standard for 750s, besting the Kawasaki ZXR750 and Suzuki GSX-R750, even if the ‘Blade was a more accomplished road bike. The Yamaha won the British Superbike Championship, with fan favourite James Whitham riding a Fast Orange liveried machine.
BMW introduced the R1100RS (pictured with its predecessor, the R100RS) in 1993, replacing the old air-cooled boxer twins with the new ‘oilhead’ motor and a chassis which included ABS brakes and a Telelever front end. It was still a time when BMWs were considered staid and boring and, to be honest, the new RS did little to change that perception. At the end of the year, the R1100GS was unveiled. There was little fuss at the time, and no-one could really imagine that three decades later its ubiquitous descendants would be the best selling motorcycles in the country.
Looking back, 1993 probably saw the end of more eras than it did beginnings. Little did we know at the time, but adventure bikes like the GS would replace sports tourers as the all-rounders of choice, while the ‘Blade and Ducati V-twins had started the demise of the 750cc inline four sportsbike.
Another modern day legend making an inauspicious debut in 1993 was Triumph’s Tiger 900. Tiger had been a famous name in the history of the British brand. Entrepreneur John Bloor had bought the brand in 1983, but production at the new factory in Hinckley had only just started up in 1991. It was Triumph’s first adventure bike, or dual purpose as they were termed at the time. Physically, the Tiger 900 was a huge machine, a 900cc triple which would earn a cult following and the nickname ‘Steamer’ due to the way in which hot vapours would rise from the radiator when ridden off road. The Tiger would go on to be an ever present nameplate in the Triumph range, becoming more manageable and mainstream over the decades.
The winter of 1993 was an exciting time for new bike lovers, with a whole host of ground breaking new models announced. Triumph used the 1993 Paris show to unveil the Speed Triple, a stripped down Daytona based on a concept by the company’s Italian importer. Like Ducati’s Monster, it was seen as something of a parts bin special at the time, it would also go on to become a core model and a permanent fixture in the Triumph range ever since.
Thirty years ago we were also enjoying the last hurrah of the two-stroke. Grand Prix racing still ran the smokers and the 1993 British 500cc Grand Prix, held at Donington Park, was a corker. It was remembered both for the big three rider crash on the first lap, which wiped out Mick Doohan and the Suzukis of Alex Barros and Kevin Schwantz, and Brit Niall Mackenzie’s stunning podium finish on a private Yamaha – passing wildcard Foggy on the last lap. Loris Capirossi won the race, his first victory in the premier class.
Kawasaki may have ended production of the feisty KR-1S at the end of 1992, but GP replica two-strokes continued to be strong sellers. Suzuki’s RGV250 continued to be a popular sportsbike with younger riders, and with Schwantz winning the 1993 500cc Grand Prix title on an RGV500, his legendary ‘Lucky Strike’ livery appeared on a number of modified road bikes.
Indeed small capacity sports bikes were all over the place in 1993. Grey imports from Japan saw a plethora of tiny sub-400cc race replicas, most of which were models not officially imported to the UK. Honda’s NSR250 and VFR400R (NC30), Kawasaki’s ZXR400 and Yamaha’s TZR and FZRs were brought in by the container load and provided cheap sports bikes for the masses.
Of course, most of these bikes from 1993 have failed to stand the test of time. If you still have one, congratulations. You now own a vintage motorcycle!