by Clint Burgess

The fast-paced, throttle-to-the-wall world of street bikes is making its mark on the local pavement landscape. First gaining popularity in the mid-1980s, these neon-splotched speed machines have secured a place among riders. Now more than ever, they are gaining popularity among young motorcycle enthusiasts -- and with films like Ice Cube's lackluster but still influential Torque, street bikes are exhibiting marketability and staying power.

Commonly referred to as "Crotch Rockets," these sleek, lay-down style machines leave little to the imagination and are the embodiment of speed. A few of these finely tuned two-wheelers are the front-running favorites of the critics and riders, but one in particular seems to have enthusiasts all revved up. The 2004 Kawasaki Ninja ZX6-R is beyond words. It looks like something straight out of a wicked sci-fi movie, and it has the rocket science components to prove it. Just a few of the specs include: liquid-cooled, 16-valve, four-cylinder engine; and standard operation is in the 600cc range, but you can get a beefed up version with an extra 36 cubic centimeters of displacement for that extra boost (as if you need it). All you need to know is this is the fastest consumer grade street bike you can get, and it looks so smooth.

Local motorcyclist Ryan Vanos is the proud owner of a Ninja. "It definitely satisfies my need for speed," Vanos says, following up quickly with, "It looks fast -- it is fast."

Vanos has been riding for about a year and half, and at age 21 he's in the target market for the machine. The ride on the Ninja is much different than what you get with a car (duh!) Obviously, going from zero to 60 in 2.5 seconds (that's not a typo -- I said, 2.5 seconds) is gonna be much more exhilarating than eventually arriving at 60 in your beat up Chevy Luv. Fortunately for Vanos, he's a firefighter and a trained EMT, which gives him a little perspective: All that speed can be a very dangerous thing.

"I've been out on a few calls and seen guys that were pretty messed up from motorcycle accidents," Vanos says, "so that stays in the back of my mind and keeps me sane."

On more than one occasion, I've seen hot-doggers at unsafe speeds and often wondered why they put themselves at risk. I guess it goes with the territory. Granted, I'm basing this assertion only on what I have seen of street bikers, but there are better ways to get your kicks.

To get your money's worth out of your street bike -- in the most safe and sane way -- Spokane Raceway Park offers dragging for street bikers and cars in the Friday Night Street Racing series. This is a constructive way to get out and burn a little rubber -- and look really good doing it.

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Art, Nature and the Voice of the River @ People's Park

Sun., June 13, 11 a.m.
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