Bikes You Should Know appears weekly as part of Two Wheel Tuesdays. Since Hooniverse primarily caters to automotive enthusiasts, this column focuses on historically or culturally significant motorcycles that are likely to interest a non-riding audience.
For a period of time, “factory customs” took over the motorcycle industry. Honda called theirs Customs. Yamaha had Specials (and later, Maxims). Suzuki had their Low Slingers. And Kawasaki had LTDs. They were to bikes what disco was to music: a lowbrow pop phenomenon that was short on substance, big on glitz, and hugely appealing to the masses despite being roundly derided by “experts.” And, also like disco, when the public turned on factory customs they did so with a vengeance. Seemingly overnight, what had been the “in thing” was suddenly silly and uncool to the point of mockery.
But how and why did this outrageous and quizzical trend ever take hold? The genesis of the factory custom trend and most of the cruisers that followed is this bike: The 1976 KZ900 LTD.