Dud's blog
03 02 2016

Wed, 03 Feb 2016

What’s wrong with new motorcycles, Part II

After being notified of my “letter of the month” accolade for my previous rant on this subject, I was relating the story to my wife, when I realized another strong design “theme” (I’m not sure what word to use) that describes the modern motorcycle design esthetic. But first, some history.

Around World War I, people were experimenting with ways to camouflage ocean going war ships: dreadnaughts, destroyers, etc. How do you hide a really big floating metal boat?

If you try to paint it “sky colored”, you still have the problem of the shadow, the paint not matching “the sky”, so just painting it one color (or two, split at the horizon) isn’t very effective.

One solution that became hugely popular during World War I is called dazzle. The idea is to paint “crazy” black and white stripes, triangles, etc. all over the ship. Up close, it looks insane; how will this ever be “camouflage” ?

However, when viewed from afar, a funny thing happens. The black and white shapes “break up” the “boat shape” so that the human eye can no longer see “a boat”. Since the (presumed enemy) lookout is looking for a boat (ship, whatever), but their brain cannot see “boat”, the dazzle camouflaged ship is rendered invisible.

This brings me back to motorcycles. The modern design aesthetic breaks up the surface of the motorcycle into many facets, shapes and colors. At least in my case, I can no longer “see” the shape of the motorcycle. I see the two tires; I see the place that my ass goes, and where I hold on; but the rest of it is just noise. I cannot figure out where the bodywork ends and the front fender begins.

For me, this ruins the motorcycle. How can I sit in a lawn chair at a rally and enjoy looking at my bike if I can’t even see my bike?

It also occurs to me that when motorcyclists are constantly struggling for better visibility (so as not to get run over by inattentive car and truck drivers), the last thing we want to be riding is a vehicle that is designed to be invisible. As it is, car drivers are looking for “cars and trucks”, not “all possible vehicles”, but designing the bike to not even look like a bike can’t be helping matters.

See the images below for an example.

Bill Dudley
February 3, 2016
New Jersey

2010 BMW S1000RR

HMS Kildangan (1917)

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What’s wrong with new motorcycles, Part I

I have subscribed to (Rider,Motorcyclist) magazines for a long time — 20 or more years, if the amount of shelf space with back issues is any indication. During that time, I’ve been happy to read about new bikes, retro bikes, gear reviews, the occasional odd-ball feature, even the advertising.

I have let my subscription lapse, and I thought you should know why.
There are several reasons, and all are beyond your control.

One reason is that I’ve retired, and now find myself busier than ever, doing all the things I never had time for when I was working. I’m doing way more riding (16,000+ miles this year), plus participating more in local clubs (president of one, webmaster for another, etc).

The main reason I let my subscription lapse is that I find myself skipping over large portions of the magazine. I just don’t care about new bikes anymore. At the risk of sounding like “you kids get off my lawn”, I find most new bikes to be horrifically ugly. I’m not sure why all designers find the need to operate in lock-step, but when one manufacturer adopts a design aesthetic, all the rest quickly follow.

(I know why they’re in lock-step. A new design idea sells, and everybody else copies it, hoping they’ll sell, too.)

(My comments are about non-cruisers. There isn’t anything I like about cruisers, so I’ve always ignored them.)

The current design aesthetic, which for a better name I call “many pointy facets”, makes all of the current crop of bikes look like robots from Japanese anime. The bikes have lots of spiky projections, to the point that I cannot look at a bike and see its shape. It’s too “busy” for me to find the outline of the bike.

See the images below for an example.

I realize that retro bikes (and genuine vintage bikes) are my “market”. The Royal Enfield, Triumph Bonneville family, etc etc are just fine. But the announcement of yet another small tweak to the Enfield isn’t much of a story, so most of the content is about new bikes, and rightly so. I just don’t want to read about them anymore.

Thanks for 25 years of good reading.

Bill Dudley
December 17, 2015
New Jersey

Update 2016 02 03

Oh, irony of ironies. This letter to the editor of Motorcyclist was chosen as their “letter of the month” for the April 2016 issue.
Pity I don’t get the magazine any more. I guess I’ll have to find a “news-stand”, if such a thing exists anymore.

More of my thoughts on the subject of “what’s wrong with new bikes” here.

2015 BMW GS

Japanese Anime Robot

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