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Yamaha XS 1100LH Midnight Special
Yamaha's Black Boulevard Cruiser
You've got it, or you haven't, that certain something that causes heads to turn and eyes to follow. It isn't necessarily good looks that produces this reaction, it's the right combination of critical "ingredients". This conclusion was what Yamaha kept firmly in mind when they set about designing their Special to top all Specials.
They researched color combinations carefully, thoroughly, and reached a positive conclusion: When you want a color that stands out in a crowd with an unmistakable mystique that is unique onto itself, that color is black. Not another color can command and capture the attention as black does, nor does any other color have the impact of black. Impressive, but when you want to go beyond impressive, all the way to "unique" you need something out of the ordinary that has what it takes to hold its own against so formidable a force as black.
There was only one substance that would hold its own; what else but gold. Throughout the centuries the appeal of gold has never wavered for man. The metal has been searched for, died for and sought after without diminishment of fervor or candidates. When teamed together, black and gold are a potent combination, but still not good enough to satisfy Yamaha.
When you want to build in a feeling, a special aura that all identify, you've got to go a long way to find a single word with so much legend-folklore is you would-as "midnight". It is a time-it is a happening. It identifies with the shroud of the unknown and holds the possibility of the beyond. Midnight, it is the time when neck hairs rise, hearts beat faster; the bewitching hour, good or bad. No doubt about it, Yamaha did not leave a stone unturned when they set out to build a Special among the world of the Specials, including their own line of the same. They succeeded. Yamaha's introduction in 1979 of the 1980 Midnight Special, both the 850 and 1100 version, had the complete attention of the press who were in attendance at the show. At the time we first saw the Midnight Specials, they were fitted with genuine gold plated gas caps, and plans were for the limited production models to be so equipped also. The fluctuating price of gold, not to mention the price of gold, put a stop to this and Yamaha instead relied on their own ingenuity to save the day, and the buyers' wallets.
Developing a plating process called Sy-Gold (for synthetic gold) it is a beautiful finish that also does well at matching, or at least co-existing well, with the gold painted surfaces of the midnight. The gold paint was another Yamaha feat, referred to as Nebula Gold on their literature. As to the black paint, Yamaha realized it would take more than an ordinary paint job and their answer was "New Yamaha Black", not a regular production paint finish, for sure. Detailed sanding to prepare the metal surface, multiple coats of black, which is water-sanded then cleared, with additional black that is again sanded, baked, and finally, polished.
The ultimate cap to this production exclusive was the utilization of black chrome for the exhaust. Black chrome is not an easy finish to work with; many have tried only to discard its use. Yamaha experimented and came up with a process that seems to serve their purposes, at least for the moment. At present, the pearlescent black finish of the pipes is not as durable as chrome and care must be taken to protect and preserve the finish. An owner is given special instructions on the care of these pipes, such as using only a quality wax containing no abrasive additives and polishing the pipes after cleaning them with a mild detergent. It is most important to dry the pipes (using a soft cloth) before water spotting or this spotting will become a permanent fixture of the pipes.
The Midnight Special series may not be for everyone, not only because the amount of Midnights available is limited, but because it takes a certain type to own a Midnight. The Midnight is a unique machine that falls into the category of Panteras, Porsche Carreras and so forth. The bike is not necessarily for those who are inclined towards the tendency of being practical. Worrying about a fancy black paint job, your Sy-gold plated and Nebula gold painted finishes as well as if there are any water spots on the pipes is definitely not for all. But thinking the 1100LH Midnight Special is only a beautiful machine is not particularly accurate. In the case of the 1100LH, underneath all that black and glittering gold is a regulation 1100 Special, which is basically the proven XS1100 package. Yamaha has had this transverse-four performer on the line for several years-it was the first of the 1100cc size Japanese powerplants and time has been very good to the 1100cc Yamaha. It is an accepted high-ranking member of the touring motorcycle sector, it is popular with the street rider, and those who like horsepower are also admirers of the XS1100 motorcycle family.
The Midnight Special includes all the good features of this XS1100 family, plus some items that are elite onto itself. For instance, the Unified brake system. This braking system was developed by Yamaha to stop a motorcycle more easily and conveniently. Utilizing a triple disc arrangement, two at the front with a single at the rear, the Unified Brake System has a proportioning valve (P-valve) fitted in the hydraulic brake, line that links the left front and the rear brake calipers. The P-valve is connected to the master cylinder by a small metal brake line.
The Unified Brake System provides for simultaneous, proportioned actuation of the rear brake caliper and the left front caliper when the brake pedal is pushed. For the rider who has listened to the tales of "front brake "disaster", this system can make a difference in a panic situation where a rider who does not automatically respond in a panic situation with the application of both front and rear brake. For myself, being a longtime advocate of always using both brakes simultaneously when stopping, it was hard to notice much difference until I forced myself to use only the rear brake. The system worked well. The bike is very stable with either the use of only the rear brake, or both rear brake and front.
The system functions as the brake pedal is pushed so that the master cylinder pressurizes the input line to the P-valve. This valve will allow an equal amount of pressure output to both the front and rear brake calipers, as was generated during the application of braking. Beyond a predetermined point, the P-valve will automatically begin limiting output pressure to the rear brake caliper while maintaining direct input to the front caliper. The more pedal pressure, the more the ratio of front to rear brake pressure increase in a linear fashion. There is no doubt that this system improves stopping distance for those riders not inclined to use a front brake.
New features include self-canceling turn signals, and one we consider an important step made by a manufacturer is the relay switch in the headlight circuit that permits starting without the headlight being on. Once the engine has fired the headlight will come on, which saves a substantial drain on the battery. The Midnight Special is equipped with a 20 AH battery, which is one of the better ampere ratings found among the Japanese motorcycles. The Midnight 1100LH is fitted with a halogen light so this amp rating edge is important even if it is unlikely that an owner of a Midnight Special is going to be very much inclined to hang electrical accessories on their striking cruiser. When you buy a bike such as this, details are all important and Yamaha paid attention to this theory by fitting the Midnight with all kinds of extras; such as the built-in wheel locking chain that simplifies security; the new ball-type mirrors that blend well within the lines of the bike while maintaining rider visual contact with traffic and surroundings. Little things like a protective cover over the main switch keyhole are details the white raised letter Mag Mopus tires , as well as the turbine-style cast wheels are detail attention.
Some riders have had a less then receptive rapport with the seating accommodations of the Japanese Specials. The Midnight 1100LH has configurations that take handlebar to seat to foot arrangement carefully into consideration and the result is a Japanese custom that you can feel comfortable astride. The pullback bars are the right height and width to go along with the location of the seat, which by the way, has been redesigned and accounts for the marked improvement. If you want a brief summary of what the Midnight Special 1100LH is, it is everything you expect of a Yamaha 1100 with the added exclusivity of being an elite among the elite.
Source Touring Bke 1981