The 40-Year Ride: A Look Back at Four Decades of Rider Magazine

You can look at 452 issues of Rider magazine in a lot of ways. End-to-end, for example, they would run just over 400 feet, or in a stack more than 10-feet high. Another way that’s a bit more impressive is to consider the hundreds of thousands of motorcycle miles our staff and contributors have ridden to bring you 40 year’s worth of great content, in all 50 states and Puerto Rico and on every continent except Antarctica (and we’ll get to that in the next 40). Or the thousands of motorcycles we have tested, from the BMW R90/6 in the first issue to the new Indians in 2014. However you choose to look at it, Rider’s first 40 years have been a memorable ride indeed.

To celebrate our ruby anniversary, the staff has put together this ride down memory lane with a timeline including a few of the magazine and industry highlights from our first Summer 1974 issue to 2014. We hope you enjoy it. Happy Anniversary to us, and many thanks to all of our great readers for helping us get here!

(This 40th Anniversary coverage was published in the May 2014 issue of Rider magazine.)


— Rider magazine is born (2 issues).



— Born a naked hot rod (GL1000),
the Gold Wing grew up to be the 900-pound gorilla of luxury touring, beloved by Wing Nuts worldwide. Over 550,000 of Honda’s flagship model have been sold in the U.S.



— Developed by a passionate, mile-burning visionary, Craig Vetter’s Windjammer frame-mounted fairings were best sellers from 1972 into the early ’80s. Paved the way for OEM



— Offspring of the Super Glide, the FXS Low Rider was Harley’s first factory custom. Sold like cotton candy at a carnival and defined what a cruiser should look like for years to come.



— Ah, the carefree ’70s! This photo of founder Denis Rouse accompanied a how-to article on lightweight touring (March), not an essay on the joys of motorcycle nudism. Rider went monthly soon after.



— Shown here on the July 1979 cover, the rugged beauty of California’s Highway 1 has served as the backdrop for many road tests and covers, from our first issue to the one in your hand.

1979-Coast-to-Coast Rider Cover


— Based on his experience buying a Brit bike in Britain to ride to the Isle of Man, Clement Salvadori’s first article in Rider (August) has the folksy style and worldly wisdom that’s made him a reader favorite.

1979-Clement Salvadori First Story


— Harley’s FLT Tour Glide debuts with rubber engine mounts, 5-speed tranny, 80ci V-twin and frame-mounted fairing. We rode it from Milwaukee to California for an exclusive tour test.



— BMW’s R80G/S (Gelände/Strasse) creates the “touring enduro” segment and became a bestseller. Gives rise to globetrotting fantasies and epidemic levels of farkle addiction.



— With its XV750H Virago, Yamaha was the first Japanese OEM to offer a purpose-built, V-twin-powered cruiser. Press kit fails to mention that “virago” means “a loud, overbearing woman.”



— Thirteen Harley-Davidson executives buy the company from AMF, “The Eagle Soars Alone” becomes a rallying cry. Polyester suits are banned and bar-and-shield tattoos become mandatory.



— Yamaha’s V-4-powered Venture was a hot-rod alternative to the staid, aging Gold Wing. High-zoot Royale version had auto-leveling suspension, upgraded instrumentation and a rockin’ sound system.



— This ad for Kerker exhaust systems (April) set the bar for a series of “How’d they do that?” OE and aftermarket ads way before Photoshop.

erker exhaust systems ad


— Take the 1,198cc V-4 from Yamaha’s Venture tourer, add hotter cams, higher compression, bigger valves, larger carbs, V-Boost and heavy-metal styling. Shake vigorously. Result? The 145-horsepower V-Max.



— With the K100, BMW introduced its first liquid-cooled engine, the “flying brick” flat in-line four, and an innovative single-sided swingarm. RS version had a sporty fairing and lower bars.



— Back in ’86, we bleated praise over the first supersport-touring machine, Kawasaki’s ZG1000 Concours with a Ninja 1000-derived engine, shaft drive, slick bodywork and removable saddlebags.



— More than 3,000 faithful readers made the trek to Cody, Wyoming, to join us for the first of 17 Rider Rallies, which went on to draw more than 10,000 riders in places like Richmond, Kentucky, and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.



— Our dear departed Safety Editor Larry Grodsky penned his first of many columns for Rider in October 1988. Through his words and Stayin’ Safe Motorcycle Training program, Larry inspired and trained thousands to be better motorcycle riders.



— A special edition of BMW’s K100RS is the first production motorcycle offered with an anti-lock braking system (ABS), the single most important innovation in motorcycle safety of the past quarter century.



— Honda’s fourth-gen Gold Wing, the GL1500, was a landmark. Added two cylinders (up to six, as today), 338cc and a reverse gear; set new standards on how smooth, quiet and comfortable a touring bike can be.



— Honda’s ST1100 “rips the lungs out of the sport-touring competition” with a longitudinal V-4, shaft drive, full bodywork, removable saddlebags and a huge 7.4-gallon gas tank under the seat. Begets the ST1300 and upcoming CTX1300.

1990--Honda’s ST1100


— Inspired by Aerostich’s “Work to Ride, Ride to Work” marketing campaign, touring guru Fred Rau proposed a national ride to work day, which began on July 22, 1992, and was
formalized as a non-profit organization in 2000.

Work to Ride, Ride to Work


— We first profiled comedian Jay Leno in 1984, when he owned just three bikes, then again in 1993 (right) after taking over The Tonight Show. A true enthusiast’s enthusiast, his motorcycle and car collection—and his knowledge about each vehicle—is staggering.

comedian Jay Leno


— A-ten-tion! Our February 1994 issue included a grudge match of American military hardware, pitting the Harley-Davidson MT350 (with huge panniers and a watertight rifle carrier) against the AM General Humvee.

Harley-Davidson MT350 vs humvee


— The British are coming (back)! Established in 1902, Triumph went bust in 1983. Resurrected by John Bloor, the iconic marque returned to the U.S. in 1995 with 10 all-new models, including the Trophy 3 sport tourer.

Trophy 3 sport tourer


— Polaris, a Minnesota-based snowmobile and ATV manufacturer, took on the American cruiser market with the Victory V92C, powered by a proprietary air-cooled, 50-degree V-twin. Brand is still going strong.

1997 Polaris Victory V92C


— The Art of the Motorcycle exhibit displayed more than 100 motorcycles in New York City’s Guggenheim Museum, breaking attendance records and ruffling feathers in the art world. Subsequent shows ran in Bilbao and Las Vegas.

The Art of the Motorcycle exhibit


— Bureaucratic handwringing in Europe over the nearly 200-mph top speeds of bikes like the Suzuki Hayabusa and Kawasaki ZX-12R led the Japanese and European manufacturers to agree on a 186-mph (300 kph) limit.

Motorcycle Speed Limit 2000


— After years of trying to avoid its heritage, Triumph finally offered fans of the marque what they really wanted, a modern new Bonneville. It was worth the wait and is a bestseller today.



— Sportbike handling came to heavyweight touring when Honda gave its 6-cylinder flagship a twin-spar aluminum frame with single-sided swingarm, not to mention 312 more cc.



— As the ugly duckling in a field of new exotica, we took a chance naming the new Suzuki V-Strom 1000 (left) our Motorcycle of the Year. Adventure-touring riders have since confirmed what we knew in 2002.



— More than 250,000 people came to Milwaukee for Harley-Davidson’s 100th Anniversary celebration.
Headliner Elton John was a surprise, but the confetti and fireworks saved the day.



— Despite some concerns about engine heat, the new Yamaha FJR1300 earned our Motorcycle of the Year award and quickly developed a strong following among fans of fast, smooth sport touring.



— Triumph’s gargantuan new Rocket III triple remains the largest displacement production motorcycle at 2,294cc. The current Roadster version makes a claimed 163 lb-ft of torque and 146 horsepower.

2004-Triumph Rocket III


— BMW shaved 52 pounds off the 1150 and gave the new R 1200 GS more off-road capability, without sacrificing any of the touring enduro’s road manners. It went on to become the company’s bestseller.



— For its tenth year of making cruisers with the Star logo, Yamaha took things to the next level by launching the Star Motorcycles brand to clearly distinguish
its cruisers from Yamaha’s other product lines.



— The Honda Gold Wing became the industry’s first and—so far—only motorcycle to offer an airbag as an option. Tests have shown it can reduce spinal injuries.



— Taking a design cue from its snowmobiles, BRP brought the Can-Am brand name to the road with the two-in-front, one-in-back Spyder roadster. It’s been wildly successful despite contending with the Global Financial Crisis.



— The 1986-2006 ZG1000 version was so good, Kawasaki made us wait 22 years for the all-new Concours 14. It bowled-over the sport-touring competition and we named it Motorcycle of the Year.



— Ironically, Harley-Davidson shut down the Buell Motorcycle division right after it ran these controversial ads recommitting the company to sportbikes. Erik Buell Racing rose from the ashes and launched the 1190RX street-legal sportbike in 2013.

Erik Buell Racing, Buell Motorcycle Division


— Of the new Ducati Diavel hyper cruiser we said, “Few bikes can provide such a neck-snapping, arm-straightening, eyeball-flattening, mind-bending, cliché-invoking experience.” That about sums it up!



— Artist Hector Cademartori outdid himself for the illustration we used for July’s Tales from the Dark Side, author Eric Trow’s exposé on the dangers of using car tires on motorcycles.

Artist Hector Cademartori Darkside


— BMW commemorated its 90th anniversary by upgrading the popular big GS from great to phenomenal. Not surprisingly, it enjoyed the best first-year sales of any new model in BMW Motorrad history.



— Minnesota-based Polaris acquired Indian in 2011, and in just two years completely re-engineered the bike around those trademark fender skirts, launching three lovely all-new models for 2014.



  1. I look fondly back at 1985 when Will Ferrick led the staff, including the new guy Mark Tuttle, across the country to Daytona. I was a joy to ride a short way through Texas with the group. I distinctly remember a certain rider on the new ’85 Yamaha Venture flying through the group in a Superman pose! Good times.


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