What's the trend in Motorcycling?

I recently started ChasingMotorcycles.com, aimed at publishing and aggregating advertisements for motorcycles and scooters that are deemed “cool” on eBay and Craigslist and other places.  It also has exclusive ads that I’ve put up from readers that have sent them in.  The trends are starting to show.  As I have added bikes, readership has grown to more than 1000 hits/day, and readers are starting to send in ads that they’ve spotted as well.

What I’ve noticed is that people are going more practical, retro and vintage, and away from cruisers, choppers and big-bore monsters.  It seems to me that, for the time being, the Easy-Rider/Dark Knight/Sons of Anarchy look has faded completely.  Bandanas, fringe and leather vests worn by weekend warriors that spend their days as accountants and orthodontists, riding a thousand miles a year at most have moved on to some other trendy and “see how wealthy and cool I am” thing. Their chrome covered bikes are parked in the back of the garage, used as bump stops for their new Porsches.

Motorcycling and scootering has returned to its roots, to those who ride, those that want practical transport, and those people looking for something that is mechanically “soulful”.  The trend of “I have this brand of bike and you know it even when I’m not on it” has moved to “I love bikes, I love things mechanical and I don’t so much what you think”.

Just as we’ve discovered that Elvis died of constipation, the posers have died off. Steve McQueen is back.  Long live the true King of Cool.

What is the trend?

If you could see Steve McQueen sitting on this bike, sweating and grimy from a day’s ride, you’re in the ballpark.  If your bike only parks itself pointing towards the London ring roads, your on the Cricket Pitch.  If your scooter rides better on cobblestones than concrete, you’re doing as the Romans do.  Find a bike that fits your environment and the people you ride with, then ride it.

The trend is for those that look at the weather to plan their next ride.  These are the people that ride, then talk bikes — not the other way around.  Helmets aren’t some kind of expression of conformance, they are for those that ride and have responsibility.  The trend-setter is becoming the proficient, safe and smart rider.  They choose the bike to fit their environment, then ride the hell out of it.

Is it all about practicality?  Oh hell no.  Motorcycles and scooters are marginally practical at best, especially in most of the US where the weather sucks for at least a few months a year.  They are secondary transport.  Since they are secondary, they are a matter of extreme personal taste and will always be a prop for a cultivated look.  The current look is McQueen.  Would Steve ride this bike?

Steve rode everything, so if you’re still on a Sportster the news is fine.  His first bike was an Indian Chief.  He rode motocross, scrambles and multi-day trials.  From cruisers to sport bikes to dual-sports, they’re all “in”.  The attitude is the key.  Why do you ride them?  If the answer is found within some need to be with the bike of your choice — somewhere, anywhere — be it on a long commute, riding through the streets of Chicago with your friends or waking up alone in the middle of nowhere in a sleeping bag, well, you’re on the trend line.

If it’s a matter of showing up and discussing the latest pimp-ware that is available to one-up your friends….

Is customizing dead?

Nope.  It’s changed.  Small-bore cafes are the Next Big Thing.  I’ve seen more CB 160/200s customized and cafe’d out than ever before.  Why dump multiple five figures on a two-wheeled pimpmobile that really sucks to ride anywhere, when a snarky 200 that you built yourself for less than $3K will get you through the city streets with a stupid grin?  Anything cafe is hot.  Dual-sports with mud stains rock.  Bikes with chicken strips worn out mean more than huge fat tires.  Nobody cares about glowing lights under your bike.  Cool now is bugs on your face shield, engineer boots and broken-in leathers.  Cool is a small displacement vintage Parilla.  Cool is a cafe’d Honda 750.  Kickstarters are cool.  Shifting gears on the right is cool. Women riding their own bikes well is waay cool.

It’s about self expression with no worry about what others think.  Building is cool –  you can’t buy cool.

What about scoots? Cool is a Fuji Rabbit Scooter or “handlebar” Vespa on the street.  250cc newer scoots are cool.  500cc scoots — not so much.  New and retro is schweet. Old and running is even better if you’re up to it.  If it’s parked in the living room and it hasn’t moved in a month when the weather’s nice, you’re a dork.

Picture a bike in your garage with a couple of lawn chairs, a cooler and a friend wearing an old sweatshirt with greasy hands syncing carbs on the CB750 you’re just getting back together. The music is coming in, distorted over an old radio. Steve McQueen died in 1980, but his ghost comes back from time to time to give us a reality check.

2 thoughts on “What's the trend in Motorcycling?

  1. Great post and it agrees with why I hope I am seeing in the UK; a slow but sure move away from ultra-sports bikes to more all-round machines that can do a bit of everything. As I said to some freinds the other day outside The Chalet Cafe in West Sussex – I think the days of “The Universal Motorcycle” might just be coming back.

    I always have a quiet chuckle when people say online what you can’t do on a certain bike;

    “I wouldn’t tour on a Breva 750 – too slow” – well I did and do and its just fine, in fact for me its perfect. Whats the point of touring if you can’t even take in what around you? Whats the point of touring if at the end of each day you end up crippled?

    all the best,

    Scott in Devon, UK.

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