As one who is very interested in classic motorcycles, and noticing the current trends in the motorcycle world, I asked myself a question: Where is all this interest in the past, in what used to be, coming from?Is it because as riders we’re realizing that new sport bikes are just too fast for the street, and thus very boring to ride anywhere but the track? Might this be why Harley’s are so prevalent? Wait, they’ve been doing the nostalgic thing for years! Is it because a large part of the riding population is getting to that age where they want to reminisce about the experiences of yore, and try to hearken back to earlier days?
Is it because our culture is sick and we all wish things could be as simple as they were back then? Maybe because people are scared of motorcycles and the rider? I mean, today’s dirt bikes are rabid! Is it because Hollywood has told us retro is cool? Or is it simply because the resources that used to be there to keep manufacturers competitive just aren’t there anymore? I think the biggest single reason for the retro-fad is because the past has been romanticized. It has been made out to be more than what it was.
Look at Triumph, having almost folded in the 70’s, it is now one of the leading manufacturers in the world. They have a cafe bike. What about Guzzi? They do too. Royal Enfield, the oldest motorcycle manufacturer in the world brings a model close to 60 years old, slightly updated with fuel injection, to the floor. Indian has made a come-back, twice in the past decade. There are talks about bringing back the Matchless and AJS names, and various people keep trying to resurrect Norton. It looks to me that choppers have had their day for a few more decades. Thank heavens, OCC was getting very boring! Cafe’s are on the rise, so are crazy little projects, and you throw the whole electric bike thing in the mix, it’s easy to see the face of motorcycling is changing. But NO, you say, there are plenty of cool new, competitive and ever increasingly capable motorcycles out there!
That’s true, but the new sport models, the pinnacle of technology and substantiative measure of progress are getting heavier, cleaner, and will soon get killed off if the EPA has it’s way. The same thing is happening in the dirt bike world with manufacturers getting ever increasingly innovative with their designs. Harley and Indian, among others, just stick to the same old less-than-optimal design. At the end of the day though, the numbers add up to about the same net performance. Maybe the classics are coming back because it’s legally feasible, and being legally feasible automatically makes the profit margins much larger. Build an “underpowered” bike, by today’s standards of exorbitant excess, which is easy to keep quiet and keep emissions down with the technology we have at our disposal, and sell it for a less-than reasonable price, because it’s “retro”. They can get away with it because it looks good! OK, OK, I’m ranting, yabbering and musing, and really have no solid data to present, so if you’re looking for an answer, you won’t find it here.
All I can say, is that I’m very glad that retro is new. That retro is IN. Why? Retro is beautiful, and functional. Maybe while imitating the function and forms of the past, we can bring back some of the ethics, morals, respect and general concern of times past as well. Maybe those things are fiction and have been miss-represented. Hopefully we’ll be able to mold these values of the past with the knowledge of the present to create a much nicer future. I mean, at the end of the day, do you need more performance than a Vincent Black Shadow gave us in the 60’s? Nope, but better suspension, brakes and reliability would certainly be nice! All of that is found in the new “retro bikes” of today. I can’t wait to put on my Schott 618, and clamber on a Guzzi v7 with a 3/4 helmet and goggles. Oh, don’t forget the white scarf and perforated brown leather gloves. Delish!