I claim to be a Design zealot, which explains me sporting a Ducati jacket and circular spectacles at the V&A (Dundee). Here then is my personal statement about the motorcycle design influences that have shaped my aesthetic Weltanschauung (not to mention my backside).
A small bike and not as different from my schoolboy’s Raleigh Wayfarer as I thought it would be. Designed before the invention of plastic. Engineered before the invention of the metric system. I suspect that it’s probably still running somewhere in Africa. Or parked on a plinth at the V&A.
What the bike would say about me (WTBWSAM)
Young folk today don’t understand the value of money.
Honda Dax monkey bike
As tiny as a child’s balance bike, I found even my stumpy legs had no option but to flail against the ground like some minesweeping tank. Together we completed almost an entire circumnavigation of a friend’s back garden before I became target-fixated on the ground. The smell of burning turned out to be the inside of my right leg toasting on the exhaust heat ‘shield’. This machine used to be the tool of choice for F1 drivers saving their strength when cruising the pit lane in search of a) other drivers’ wives b) some purpose.
Most monkeys are more competent riders.
It started as a 250 and then I upgraded it to a 350, courtesy of Stan Smith Tuning who sent me a good value set of components wrapped in a newspaper. Or maybe that was the instructions. Didn’t bother with the brakes upgrade. Developed a power ‘band’ that was as wide as the proverbial gnat’s ‘eyelash’. This rebuild also converted it to (intermittent) dry sump operation. Ended up in a bog in Orkney. Just as well I didn’t waste money on those brakes. Oh, those curvy spokes.
What kind of a moron puts engine oil in my forks?
My friend Iain lent me his tuned bike one summer, whilst his latest fracture healed. Suddenly, increasingly suddenly, I realised what acceleration was supposed to feel like, but you always had to have a well-thought out plan. Screaming and snapping the throttle closed probably wasn’t it. It’s the only machine where the owner had deliberately muffled the exhaust output as a cure for aural blood loss.
Clip-ons, rear-sets, steering damper, earplugs – and you still bottled out of that Knockhill track day?
Not really much of a GS, it certainly felt stable, in the way that a large lump of depleted uranium feels just after it’s been depleted. Having dispensed with the all-conquering boxer engine, they had to put the tank under the seat and the electrics somewhere equally unexpected.
I’m just not taking this from somebody in a pleather Ducati jacket.
KTM 950 Adventure S
Ok, so plastic tanks make sense on a bike that handles like a billet of tungsten, but then the ethanol started to seep through and all the decals began to peel. K_M AD_ENTURD really isn’t much of a slogan. Even the seat was the colour of Fanta, which I only discovered when I’d managed to climb up there. I did love the purposeful design and the switchgear and the white monoshock. All those plastic covers though, and twenty-five different fasteners. Spend two days removing these and it looked like I’d been doing the Dakar… literally half a bucket of sooty sand fell out as well as an entire phylum of deceased desert fauna.
For some people, Ready to Race should always come with a subsequent question mark.
I saw my first one of these at a showroom filled with decades-newer models. They were all plastic, whilst it was all flaking aluminium. Its rider was wearing on-brand braces and an Action Man Adventure Set beard, but I still had to have one. We joked about the paint-to-urine-sample colour. I actually like its functional looks that remind me vaguely of a Lunokhod moon buggy or a downed Focke-Wulf. I love the lurch to the side when you rev it at the lights and that you never need to worry about pesky chain tension. The switchgear requires hands the size of Beowulf to operate.
Even the 650 was too good for you, dumkopf.
Forgiving. I found I could panic, brake, squirm, veer and still get out of trouble. Then I progressed to using second gear. I hated the look of that weird M shaped headlight cover and all that red plastic everywhere. As a Honda, the engine will probably outlive post-apocalypse cockroaches. Not much faster than the BSA but hey, gold forks. Bring back curvy spokes.
You are not forgiven.