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19 December 2010

Motorcycle diaries

Motorcycle diaries

A few weeks ago I embarked on a motorbike tour of Scotland, armed with only the bare essentials and my motorbike. The trip would take me around the beautiful Scottish coastline covering 1,200 miles in 6 days.

Ok, so it’s not quite the 15,000 miles covered by Ewan McGregor (The Long Way Down) but it was an opportunity to take in some stunning scenery and take a well-needed break.

Our first stop was in a small village in the heart of Cairngorms mountain range, miles away from the hustle and bustle of London life. This small picturesque village was over run with fellow bikers lining the streets and filling the air with exhaust fumes.

I have had a passion for motorbikes from an early age so it was an incredible sight to see rows upon rows of classic, collectable, retro and modern bikes from all over the world lined up like a touring museum. From a design point of view it was interesting to see how not only the bike shape and styling had changed over the years but the paintwork and branding.

Early classic bikes were mostly black in colour with lots of highly polished chrome. These early machines were little more that two wheels and an engine, no use of plastic or go faster stripes here, just well built and well maintained by their passionate owners.

1970’s through to 1980’s bikes were painted in the manufacturers brand colours: Honda red, Yamaha white, Suzuki Yellow and Kawasaki Green. The use of a secondary colour palate was now used to create some simple and bold speed striping.

From 1990 to early 2000 designs became more busy as the bikes themselves became more technological. A number colours and graphic textures were now available for each model but overall the designs had become more complex and in my opinion over the top.

Thankfully the over use of graphics and numerous colours have been paired back and we have returned to use of one simple colour on today’s machines. The bikes now use angular lines to create more aggressive styling.

There were also many custom bikes, designed and built from scratch, crafted by hand by metal workers and artisans using traditional skills. These bikes tended to be very elaborate, with all kinds of designs and airbrushed paintwork. Skulls, religious crosses, flames and death seemed to be a common and popular theme.

With bikes of all shapes and sizes it was interesting to match them with their owners. A riders personal choice of model, make, year, colour, size, and clothing and for some tattoo can say a lot about their personality. It is said that owners look like their pets but I have concluded that this theory also applies to motorbikes and their riders. Skin headed, bearded, tattooed bikers tore around on mean looking Harley Davidson’s, groups of well groomed elderly gentlemen pottered around elegantly on well polished classics and two Germans we met wore matching leathers and helmets to match their matching BMW’s.

So what might the future of motorcycle design bring us in the coming years? Here are a couple of recent concept bikes that may give a little bit of an insight into what the future may hold.

The Honda V4 concept, which was revealed at the 2008 Intermot bike show in Germany. A stylish and futuristic sports bike, which proposes a new design direction.

This concept bike, known as the I.Care, is the best example of modern-day technology mixed with design and speed. It is designed and visualised by a France-based company, Enzyme Design. The I.Care is meant to be the Aston Martin of the two-wheeled world with a six-cyclinder 1.8 engine.

I appreciate that most people reading this post will not be your typical petrol head or motorbike enthusiast and may not be too interested in this article at all. But hopefully it will give you a small insight into the world of motorbikes, one of my other great passions.

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