A look back at the (sometimes silly) ads & editorial from Rider ‘s first 500 issues.
On a long shelf in the
Rider editorial den of two-wheeled delight—err, office—rests a row of thick white binders. Inside these binders are physical copies of every single Rider issue, going back to the first one: Summer 1974. Flipping through them is like time traveling, which is exactly what we did in researching this feature. We were swept up in the free loving spirit of the early ’70s, chuckled at the somewhat chauvinistic attitudes juxtaposed with frequent stories by female contributors throughout the late ’70s and into the ’80s, and then rode into the brave new world of liquid cooling, catalytic converters, ABS, forkless front ends and computer-controlled fuel injection.
And then there were the ads. Viewed from today’s modern, aloof sophistication (ha), most are quaintly old-fashioned, some are silly…and a select few are worthy of our “Blasts From
Rider‘s Past” collective retrospective. So sit back and get ready for a road trip back in time.
It’s summer, 1974…
…the birds are chirping and the bees are buzzing, and Rider has published its first issue. According founding Publisher Denis Rouse, this spread, essentially an “ad” for the motorcycling experience itself, was penned by then-Editor Bob Mendel as “a typical relaxed/romantic moto lifestyle day that…harkened back to the peaceful dreamy ether of the ’60s, when love and life were a lot simpler, when idealism reigned over cynicism.” Rejoice!
Remember when 750cc qualified as “ferocious”? According to this Summer 1974 ad for Top Gear, you’ll look like an accomplished rider in its apparel—whether you are or not!
Custom vans were all the rage in the mid ’70s, and several companies ran ads in Rider (apparently motorcyclists were a target market for the van life). This four-page (only two of which are shown here), full-color beauty from the Fall 1974 issue is our favorite, though: the now-defunct Gerring, Inc. offered a slew of zodiac-themed, shag-infested conversion kits under the admittedly groovy Streaker brand name.
By the late ’70s, the touring bike accessory market was booming, with windscreens, luggage, chrome, lights and more reflecting the flashy fashions of the time. This marvelous specimen from Dresser/Goodies in the June 1979 issue is a great example. Disco inferno!
Some ads in the ’70s would never see the light of day in today’s world; a prime example is this somewhat shocking Summer 1975 half-pager touting the…resiliency?…of this Side-Kick sidecar. “You don’t have to baby this baby, she’s built to take it!”
Others, like this Slipstreamer windscreen ad from June 1979, used a different tactic. Maybe it was cold during the photo shoot? At any rate, we got a lot of letters about this one; future Slipstreamer ads put the female model in a jacket.
Ahem, so back to motorcycles. Below: The 2018 Honda Gold Wing reviewed in this issue, and likely the BMW K 1600 GTL we compare it with, both exist because of this machine: the 1976 Honda GL-1000, the bike that forever changed motorcycle touring. This Gold Wing ad in the April 1976 issue was the first to run in Rider (but certainly not the last).
While this is an ad (March 1982) for Kal-Gard lubricants, we were enthralled with its idea of the motorcycle of the future. This “ultimate motorcycle” features a computer control and display, gas-charged suspension, an adjustable seat and backrest, collision avoidance transponders and an electric/gas turbine hybrid motor.
Unlike today’s computer-enhanced creations, the ads of yesteryear were often hand-drawn, and we love this March 1982 example from Dunlop that features Highway 1 along California’s Big Sur.
This March 1987, post-AMF Harley-Davidson ad might make you either chuckle or protest, but beyond the tagline is the story behind the picture. Malcolm Forbes, publisher of “Forbes” magazine, motorcycle collector, advocate for motorcyclists’ rights and hot air balloonist, also owned several “special” balloons that he would take on goodwill trips all over the world, including this massive hot-air Heritage Classic.
German apparel maker Hein Gericke always had some memorable ads. Early examples starred an imposing, gray-bearded muscle man, usually wearing a tank top. By the 1980s, this rather serious younger fellow began showing up with various props (our second choice featured him holding an eagle on one gloved hand), but his sincerity in this November 1984 ad won us over.
In June 1991, clean-shaven supermodels clad in the blocky designs and Day-Glo colors popular at the time replaced our German bird master/Samurai. Also, the female model is now wearing riding apparel, which is a step in the right direction (although she seems to be having a tough time deciding which gentleman to ride with).
The Shopper (now called the Marketplace) ads of the 1970s and ’80s are a treasure trove of weirdness; their low cost meant just about anyone could advertise, well, just about anything….
Lockhart, best known for building aftermarket oil coolers, touted its Apple Warmer (October 1976) as “the most revolutionary new concept in motorcycling since the fairing.” Why “Apple Warmer”? Well, because it kept your neck (Adam’s apple) warm of course.
The odd thing about this ad (June 1978) is not that it’s for funnels—available in red only—but rather that said funnel is on her (his?) head.
If you don’t want to wear a funnel on your head, you could opt for Hel-Hair, the “world’s first helmet toupee” (February 1979). Yes, you read that right. Comes in black, brown, red and blonde—“an attention getter that’s really fun to wear!”
Before GoPro, we had VenturMax (January 1992). Wear your camcorder or 35mm camera and record your adventures! (*Not for use by the operator…how many people do you suppose broke that rule?)
Lest you think that we only want to make fun of others without poking a bit of fun at ourselves….
It took some convincing, but EIC Tuttle finally allowed us to run this cover from September 1985, when he was a mere Associate Editor. When we asked him whether the “Heartstopping Hunk” referenced him or the Yamaha, he turned bright red and mumbled something about “not my idea.” The V-Max IS a good-looking bike, though.
Then there are times when you want more than nice lighting and a good-looking…bike…to jazz up your cover. When that happens, you do what you’ve gotta do, like we did in July 1991. Because nothing says “excitement” like fireworks.
We also got creative with some staff product photo shoots, like this leather buyer’s guide from October 1990 entitled “West Hide Story.” Look closely and you’ll see Art Director Bob Schroeder “falling” off the rooftop. We crack ourselves up.
Our favorite, though, was this Photoshop-fueled March 2001 rainsuit buyer’s guide titled “Go Fish” and set in—wait for it—a goldfish bowl. Who knows, maybe after this article we’ll be able to revive our creative staff shoots….