Saturday, August 28, 2010

All noteworthy style is based in racing

Throw lights on the WR & you have a perfectly trendy bobber.

Looking at a DAH hill climber or CAC speedway machine, one see cues that are clumsily incorporated into poorly executed gimmick customs.

Yet from nonsensical sparkle paints of sixties drag racing machines to simply stripping off dead weight from a stock bike, the essence of a lean, purpose built racer emerges.

The reason builders fail so often is they try to reinvent the century old bicycle's line & proportion.
A quick gander at sophisticated Tour de France cycle is virtually an unchanged silhouette of it's 100+ year progenitor.

The motorcycle began to build momentum as viable vehicle as novelty pace machines at Velodrome events. They were instant crowd pleasers & soon evolved into board track racers.

Remember this heritage, and use that inspiration accordingly.
We all know what happens when cues from the automotive industry sneak in.
A windshield really works, a stereo is very enjoyable, seat warmers are great, cup holders make sense, cruise control is nice, but if you need those things and crave the wind in your hair, roll your windows down & sun roof back. Do you and your motorcycle a favor, and park it til' the weather suits your clothes.

I understand that if you live in a wealthy country that has a season of no light for months, you'll get bored, & spend time with friends in your shop trying to not go stir crazy. If you are so original that you invent the square wheel, you will win an award in a custom motorcycle show.
But please be weary, I have been a judge at these shows and I know, me and my fellows were picked for political reasons and not because we understood, respected or knew anything about design. Three years in a row I was asked to judge a show, where I was given a judging criteria guideline. 10 sections worth 10 points each.
Paint-10 points
Plaiting-10 points
Wiring-10 points
Design-10 points... wait, design 10 points, really equal to wiring & plating... yes!
Yes, this means a complete turd with expensive finishing details, will every time defeat, line, proportion, nuance and stance.

At the Legend of the Motorcycle event, I was asked to give my own award, this I did, on my terms. I would not be required to attend any judges meeting, could pick without qualification or explanation. I walked the field and made snap decisions which were the absolute right choice.

Please remember there is a bigger gap between art & design than most think.
The Guggenheim received a million dollar grant from BMW to promote the motorcycle as art.
A bike becomes pop art, at it's worst, when it no longer functions and is based on a light hearted theme.
A well designed bike still functions. It starts, stops, turns, is balanced(literally), is aesthetically pleasing & is not laden with gadgets that serve little purpose. The human form should jive with the bike harmoniously & going down the road it should be more meaningful than when parked.

Strong design works well and looks good.

Before I step down from my soap box, I must say sharp objects on a bike have never been a good idea. You are a dumb ass not a bad ass. A short sharp sissy like Poseidon's Fork is just plain ridiculous.


  1. Great post! I couldn't agree more. +10 points for impeccable wiring. JK

  2. There should be a 10 point category for rideability.

  3. Racing is the only competition for motorcycles. The rest is subjective, and for me, boring.

  4. This is really great. Well said.

  5. The connection between style and racing is undeniable, but it's not (necessarily) about making something go fast. True beauty emerges when form follows function, and racing is the ultimate crucible for separating function from fluff.

  6. You should speak from that soap-box more often, your point of view is right-on.

  7. The Captain nailed it with two sentences.

    My two favorite motorcycles are flattrackers and Bonneville bikes. My all time favorite bike is the Temple-Anzani. Less is truly more; and essential for any racer. Racing forces man and machine to strive, strain, compete.
    But in America the masses are too fat and lazy.
    "Hey look at me, I am a bad-ass cause my bike has skulls, swords, spider webs, and flames!"
    "Uh yeah my bike weighs 1,000 pounds, I weigh 300 and my old lady weighs 400. But I am still a bad-ass!"
    Several years ago on Biker Beat-Off, Shinya went up against The Martin Brothers. Shinya's bike was Art, The Martin Brothers entry was "A rolling metal abortion". Guess who won...

  8. Well said, and a motorcycle should be used to give true joy.

  9. Agree 100%. The same things could be said of sculpture, and religion for that matter, I'm sure you would agree. One could argue that some artists are creating poorly executed gimmicky sculptures influenced by Rodin. So why bother at all? You as well as anyone would agree that the critic's place is important in the world of art, but in no way should it ever be a deterrent to the artist and for that matter, ego should never get in the way of an artist or critics judgment. 2 wheeled machines are not art in the same since as anything hanging in the Guggenheim, the modern art world understands context. It's all context. So there is a big difference in a sculpture in front of a commercial establishment and one occupying a space in MOMA.

    I enjoy the blog.

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