The world was a different place in late 1992. Bill Clinton had just been elected president. The eastern seaboard was still reeling from Hurricane Andrew while Los Angeles recovered from massive rioting. A gallon of gasoline cost just over a dollar. The World Wide Web was definitely not (worldwide). In motorcycling, Honda stunned everyone with the CBR900RR and Ducati released an interesting naked bike called the Monster. The USA continued its world racing dominance with Doug Polen as World Superbike Champion and Wayne Rainey as 500cc Grand Prix World Champion.
In a ramshackle office building on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood, Dick Lague, publisher of the Petersen Publishing motorcycle group, and Nick Ienatsch, a staff editor at Motorcyclist magazine, put together the beginnings of a new enthusiast publication to be named Sport Rider. Much as Dirt Rider had grown out of Motorcyclist to focus on the growing off-road market, Sport Rider was “a performance-oriented offshoot of Motorcyclist magazine providing more in-depth, detailed coverage of sportbikes and racing motorcycles than any other title.” The first issue of the new magazine was published at the end of the year, and reached newsstands as the April ‘93 issue.
The staff of the new magazine was comprised of serious sportbike riders with roadracing backgrounds, and the content of the magazine would not only focus on the motorcycles and their increasing technology, but also the rider’s performance and skill. That meant in-depth road tests and comparisons along with racing features, how-to articles and stories about just plain riding; content that targeted all aspects of sportbike ownership. The timing of the magazine’s introduction was just about perfect, meshing nicely with a growing interest in the sportbike niche that was reflected in an increasing number of sporting models offered from manufacturers, a soon-to-be explosive growth in track days and riding schools, and performance levels escalating at an astonishing rate.
Over the past 20 years since SR’s introduction, much has changed: sportbikes with performance ever-closer to their racing counterparts; heightened attention from the public and government regulators; and the threat — and opportunity — of digital publishing. Through it all, we’d like to think that the magazine has kept pace, all while still holding true to its original mandate formulated 20 years ago in West Hollywood. To celebrate the 20-year anniversary of the magazine, we’ve compiled here some highlights of the past two decades of motorcycling as well as snippets of our own history. Our staffers put together a selection of motorcycles, people, products and events that have shaped the sportbike community into what it is today, and picked the most memorable covers and feature articles from the magazine’s archives.
However many years you’ve read Sport Rider — and we know there are many of you that have done so from that first April ‘93 issue — hopefully you’ve enjoyed the ride as much as our staff has. Behind every cover image, feature article or riding tip there is a story, and we look forward to sharing those stories with you for another 20 years.