It was deep into the late afternoon were sitting on the banks of the Swan river watching the motor cruisers return from their weekend foray to Rottnest Island. As the white and blue armarda thumped past there was a general concensus that the plastic fantastics were not a patch on any Halvorsen ever built. We may not be brine washed nautical sorts but when the lines are not right, the lines are just not right and the current design trends do nothing for us. Then we turned to motorcycles and someone mentioned KTM, there was a collective groan. “Name a good looking KTM road bike”, a long period of silence – no takers. I would argue style is not a generational thing whilst fashion certainly is. Call me shallow, but early 20th Century motorcycles didn’t really get their mojo working in the looks department until the end of WW1 as the previously used bicycle frames started to be beefed up to match the increasingly powerful engines.
“Beauty” is of course entirely subjective – arguments of function before form would place the Honda 50 Cub ahead of pretty much everything else, but then again, no one is going to have a poster of one in their bedroom. (If you do, seek help!). Brutal can be beautiful, the lines of a V-Max are as seductive to some as the lissome 1990’s Gilera 500 Saturno. Does a Norton 850 look good to you? Does the insectoidal transformer style adopted by Kawasaki and KTM get many thumbs up?
Paint schemes can date really badly as the owners of Yamaha and Suzuki sports bikes from the 80’s and 90’s will attest. It may be a thing of its time, but really, purple and blue, what were they thinking? Will the Chinese bikes being produced today by Qianjiang eventually be looked on as kindly as the early 2 stroke Kawasaki 500s that disrupted the staid 1960s anglosphere market, Jap crap and all.
Every manufacturer has styling hits and misses, I’m looking at you Bimota and Suzuki. Moto Guzzi had a wind tunnel yet still changed the front of every single sports bike, who’d have thought airflow would change so much year to year!
There are things that can be overlooked provided a bike always starts and is reliable. However I reckon a bike you think is beautiful is more likely to be cleaned, serviced, cherished and stared at with puppy dog eyes in the shed over a beer on a winter’s evening than a utilitarian commuter. Who hasn’t glanced back at their bike on some occasion and thought, “Your just so eye catching”. I would also add that having any motorcycle is much more beautiful than being bikeless. So despite PJ O’Rouke’s Uncle Bernies sage advice for life, “If it floats, flies or fornicates – rent it”, I am still saving up for that Riva Aquarama.