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      Motorcycle: Motorcycle: Lightweights - Striving For Sales
    Posted on Sunday, October 31 @ 14:21:42 UTC by cars
      Motorcycle, Motorcycles, Motor Cycle Striving For Sales RAPIDO, TX, SX, STX, 1968-77 The Rapido family of machines was yet another attempt to find a profitable niche at the lightweight end of the market, this time with mainly off-road machines (although the first batch to be built were street bikes). Powered by a simple 123cc two-stroke single with four-speed transmission, the Rapido ultimately gave way to the five-speed, oil-injected TX, SS and SX models. Although often overlooked - not least by traditional big-twin dealers the range established its pedigree in 1969 when three Rapidos completed an epic, 2,000-mile (3,2000km) ride across the Sahara, from Morocco to Nigeria. A smaller version of the TX, the 90cc Z-90, was produced.

    SPECIFICATIONS: RAPIDO Engine: 2-stroke smgle-cylinder Capacity: 123cc Transmission: 4-speed Wheelhase: 48.9in (1,240mm) Top speed: around 60inph (96kph) SS AND SX SERIES, 1974-8 By the start of the 1970s, off-road machines were huge business in the American motorcycle scene. Inevitably, this market was hugely competitive, with prices pared to the bone so much so that even the super-efficient Japanese factories would soon find themselves with massive amounts of unsold stock. At the same time, environmental concerns were targeting the high hydrocarbon emissions of the two-stroke engine. It was into this unpromising scene that the off-road SX range was launched for 1974. The SX was joined by the street-only SS-250 in 1975 plus its larger dirt sibling, the SX-250, with the road-going SS-175 introduced for 1976. It was the off-readers, however, that dominated production and sales. More than 25,000 machines were built in 1975, of which all but 3,000 were SX models. In the face of declining demand and over-supply, production slumped to 12,000 for 1976, then 1,400 in 1977 before disappearing almost completely as Harley-Davidson disentangled itself from its Italian partner in 1978. These were actually quite competent motorcycles despite being very much copies of Yamaha's DT-series engines. The SX-250 in particular achieved quite striking competition success. More successful still was the MX250, derived from what was substantially the same engine. Both failed to survive the closure of Harley-Davidson's Italian operation in 1978. SPECIFICATIONS: SX-175 (SX-250) Engine: 2-stroke single-cylinder Capacity: 174cc (243cc) Transmission: 5-speed Wheelbase: 56in (1,420mm) Top speed: around 70mph/112kph (80mph/128kph) BAJA, SR-100, 1970-4 Named after tlie notorious desert race down Mexico's Baja peninsula, this 98cc off-roader used a high-performance engine derived from the Rapido's (with tlie bore reduced from 56 to 50mm) but now with five-speed transmission. The little machine was surprisingly potent and almost 7,500 were built during its five year span. It was ultimately unable to overcome both environmental concerns and the increasingly sophisticated Japanese competition, despite the introduction of an improved, oil-injected SR-100 version for 1973. SPECIFICATIONS: BAJA SR-100 Engine: 2-stroke single-cylinder Capacity: 98cc Transmission: 5-speed Wheelbase: 52 in (1,320mm) Top speed: around 60mph (96kph) MINIBIKES: SHORTSTER, X.90, Z-90, 1972-5 Anything further removed from big-inch cruisers would be hard to imagine, but that's exactly what Harley unveiled with the MC-65 Shortster of 1972. An obvious word play on "Sportster", the minibike used the M-65 engine and tiny 10in (254mm) wheels. Only 800 Shortsters were made before it grew to 90cc and became the X-90, which was built from 1973 to 1975. The Z-90 used the same engine, but in a quasi off-road chassis with larger wheels. "The Great American Freedom Machine" was how Harley billed the Italian-built two-strokes, intended mainly for hitching on the back of a camper van rather than as serious commuter machines. Almost 17,000 of these minibikes were made, plus a similar number of Z-90s. SPECIFICATIONS: X-90 Engine: 2-stroke single-cylinder Capacity: 90cc Transmission: 4-speed Wheelbase: 40.75m (1,035mm) Top speed: around 55mph (88kph) SNOWMOBILE, 1970-5 Like the Topper Scooter, Harley's Snowmobile was a tardy response to a passing craze. The fad initiated by the Canadian Bombardier company in the mid-1960s produced many similar machines, most with the same mechanical layout. Milwaukee's version, released in 1970, was steered by paired skis linked to motorcycle-type handle-bars at the front and driven by a broad belt at the rear. It was powered by a twin-cylinder two-stroke engine and the all-chain drive featured automatic transmission. There were two capacities (398 or 433cc) and electric or manual start. The Snowmobile was dropped from 1975, the victim of three consecutive mild winters.
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