posed the Grand Prix switch to four-strokes. This
proposal was based on a worldview, in turn based
on a growing understanding of the effects of pollution, particularly that from smoky exhausts.
On these worthy grounds, the strokers were removed from the showrooms, and eventually from
racing as well. Took a while, but it has finally happened.
But although the grounds may suggest the best
kind of motivation, they are actually more than a little
For one thing, modern oils and direct injection
have cleaned up two-stroke exhausts to a huge extent – almost 90 percent reduction in hydrocarbons
is claimed, for retro-kits developed for smoky tuk-tuks and the like in Asia.
For another, merely blaming the exhaust disguises
the fact that most of a vehicle’s contribution to pollution comes during manufacture. And the amount of
manufacturing that goes into the valve gear of a four-stroke engine – so many parts, hardening processes
and metal treatments – compared with the simple
cast cylinder and cylinder head of a two-stroke,
makes a huge difference to the total per vehicle.
Never mind all that. For motorcyclists, there is another compelling reason.
Two-stroke engines, by comparison with four-strokes, are faster, lighter, smaller, and more exciting
to ride – that snap of power as they come on throttle
They’re also cheaper, much easier to maintain,
and don’t require the safe disposal of regular quantities of used oil either.
But they’ve been killed off, and the imminent death
of the 125s is just a last lingering death throw from a
much wider disease.
There are still people who believe in the two-stroke
– including gifted research engineers as well as dedicated racing folk. There is a movement to keep a
race series going for them. And given the twists of
history, it may even prove not to be too little and too
There is one certainty. Walter Kaaden must be
turning in his grave. With his natural gifts, he will
achieve an impressive rpm. CN
February 25, 1981
Darrell Shultz was featured
on the cover 30 years ago
after winning both rounds
of the Supercross double-header weekend in the
Seattle Kingdome. Schultz
beat Mike Bell in the first
race and Mark Barnett in
the second… Danny Chandler came away from the
Golden State MX Series
with the overall title, but Ron Turner won the final
round at Saddleback Park in Southern California.
February 27, 1991
The cover boy 20 years
ago was desert racer Ted
Hunnicutt, the Kawasaki
rider scoring a victory in
the Moose Run Hare &
Hound… The wrecking ball
hit Ascot Park as the famous racetrack in Gardena,
California, closed its gates
for good after a 33-year
run… Rodney Smith and
Willie Surratt wrapped up the 125 and 250cc titles,
respectively, in the Golden State MX Nationals season finale at Glen Helen.
February 21, 2001
A young Travis Pastrana
graced the cover of Cycle
News 10 years ago after
winning the opening round
of the 125cc Eastern Regional Series at the Indianapolis Supercross…
Multi-time NHRA Pro Stock
Champion Dave Schultz
died after a six-month battle with cancer. He was 52 years old… We tested
Pier-Francesco Chili’s Suzuki GSX-R750 World
Superbike and also threw a leg over the 2001 KTM