When Standard became Retro…

Let’s try and climb back out of the deep and complex rabbit hole of the multiplicity of motorcycle models and styles for a moment and trace the one evolutionary path that has seemingly gone full circle and ended up where it started, at the entry to the ever spiralling and expanding  variations on a two-wheeled theme. When did motorcycles stop just stop being motorcycles and marketed as become categorised? Go back to the 1970’s and good old German logic, the BMW R Series begat the R100R, RS and RT. Standard, Sports and Tourer. The S and R monikers for Sport and Race and GT for tourer have been used pretty much since the same era by pretty much everyone as the market segmented and nose fairings, fly screens, full fairings and panniers became fitted as factory standards rather than aftermarket additions.

In the commuter, basement section, motorcycles sort of looked like they always did, basic. OK, the side-panel tank seat interface improved, tail pieces and rear guards got tidied up, chrome and metal  pretty much vanished – Guzzi even tried plastic chrome(!)  – and you could pretty much pick which decade a bike was designed in from its lines. Then suddenly some new bikes looked old school again.  I am not going to include Enfield 500s because they never changed, or Guzzi who march in their own time warp to their own sweet drum, but old was new again. Was it the re-introduction of the Triumph Bonneville that started the whole thing? The Ducati GT was another example of a returning idea that seemingly almost came and went before the trend re-established itself with the  Honda CB1000, Yamaha SR400 and Kawasaki W650 which led to the W800, the retro most retro.

This ancestor worship is all very well and good, but as in the car world the current iterations are often of a  bigger capacity,  heavier and  lack the primal savagery of the originals despite quantumly out-performing them in most areas.  Pastiche motorcycles, like a quick touch of  of the internal walls of The Palace of Versailles confirms what appears to be marble is in fact painted wood,  can be deceiving and new ground can only be broken once.  As with the 1960’s, if you weren’t there,man, you won’t remember it, and if you were you probably won’t either. Ride both the original and the replica before making up your mind.

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Retro Moto

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