For context, you’ll need to check out Scottie’s rambling proof that he’s as close to what’s popular as a magazine test of waterproof oversuits. I may only be marginally younger, slimmer and more fashionable than Mr Redmond, but it’s enough to understand that the current fashion for retro style is actually a good thing for biking.
And unlike him, I actually know that a Bobber means ditching the front mudguard, cutting down the rear, and removing all that you can from a generally American cruiser. Whereas he’d probably fit an 883 Sportster with an SRAD tail unit.
Turning junk into beauty:
Scottie is right that the original Cafe Racer scene in the 60’s meant improving what was then a British sportsbike and making it better. But those bikes are now valuable classics in original condition. Plus no matter what you do with the handling, it’ll still perform and handle like a bike that predates a Fireblade by three decades. Unless you’re a classic racer, then focus on comfort and safety so you actually get out and ride.
At the same time, you’re not going to convince me that a different tank and drop-down bars will have your CX500 worrying any modern bike. But there’s something inherently great about taking something originally so horrific it was nicknamed ‘the plastic maggot’ and turning it into this (More details on the Moto-Mucci website):
Lowering the cost of biking:
I’d love a massive garage filled with expensive bikes as much as anyone. And a high percentage of the machines in my dream garage would be sportsbikes for road and track.
But in the real world, with a limited budget and no lottery win on the horizon, I’d like a bike which lets me do what I want and need in a reasonable amount of style.
Even with the cost of some professional help, using a lightly-customised 70’s shed as a base means it’s more achievable than mortgaging my soul to make a truly unique race replica.
And given the ridiculous cost of insuring anything on wheels, it’s going to be plausible that I can afford to keep it on the road without taking up a second job in bank robbery. Drop a Cafe racer or Bobber, and you don’t have the painful experience of finding out how much original fairing panels can cost. Or exactly what mess can be made of pattern parts. Been there and done that!
If biking ain’t cool, it’ll die:
I’ve saved the most important point of my argument till last. Biking is not strictly necessity for most of us. It’s a love, a passion, and a need which feels like it’s essential, but you could get to work on the bus, on the train or in the car.
Meanwhile for the last 20 years, bike manufacturers and magazines have concentrated on making money from encouraging middle-aged men to spend their mid-life crisis cash on wobbling around corners dressed as power rangers. Without realising that the biking population will end up in terminal decline.
After all, would you want to save all your cash to spend your days on a Chinese-made 125cc shell-suit on wheels, only to find out that when you’re actually able to legally ride a decent 600cc sportsbike you can’t afford it, and end up getting a sensible car instead?
The last person to really make biking cool to people who weren’t already riding was Valentino Rossi. He’s 34 now, and attempting to come back after spending time in the Ducati MotoGP wilderness. The only things to register since then were Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman until the endless trips meant it didn’t seem so impressive anymore – and Sons of Anarchy, the combination of Hells Angels and EastEnders which has probably sold quite a few custom bikes in the last few years.
If there are no new bikers, that means no new bikes. And in the meantime, there’s not enough bikers to stand up to politicians or the well-organised pedal-powered brigade.
Now take a look at this video, done by Ride Apart, on two 250cc bikes which can be bought new for $3,000. They’re simple enough to work on, cheap enough to buy and insure, and with a cafe racer and bobber, they look pretty cool.
Fashion may have given us neon jellymould CBRs and wiggly worm Fieldsheer leathers, but style is the reason we still go on about Steve McQueen, 60’s British bikes, two-strokes and more. Style is timeless, cool, and could see a lot more people appreciate biking as something awesome.