~Since 2004~
A site about memories, thoughts, photos, and unrepentant opinions about motorcycles and motorcycling after four decades of twisting the throttle.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Art, Individualism, Or Just Stupid?

I spend too much time on-line but at least a lot of it is spent on motorcycle sites.  As I look at what's being done in the custom world these days with so-called bobbers, rat bikes, or even cafe bikes,  I get the feeling that a lot of what's being feted out there in publications and custom bike blogs was never intended to be ridden, or not ridden any further than from its trailer to the bike show floor.  

Going way back to the '60s and '70s customized bikes started getting stupid with suspended frames swapped for hard tails, mile high sissy bars, and forks extended to the point that a bike couldn't make a continuous u-turn on a two lane road.   Giant ape hanger bars?  Look cool?  To a few.  To others it just looks stupid, like an accident waiting to happen.   

Yes, yes, I can hear people saying "Hey, it's their bike, they can do what they want with it!" To that I would agree, everyone has a right to self-expression and no one has the right to tell another person how to express themselves; I understand that.  I also understand that I have the right to call stupid impracticality what it is.  What people do in the privacy of their own garage is their business, how they parade around in public makes them fair game for criticism, if not laughter.

Seriously?  One slip and you're gelded.
That over done Wing above is no worse, nor less lacking in art, than some of the "customs" and "bobbers" that I'm seeing around the 'net.  Huge, impractical Firestone balloon front tires that would play havoc with steering, little tiny thin seats at steep angles that would give you hemorrhoids in 30 miles, are stupid.  They are not even esthetically pleasing to anyone with a genuine sense of taste and function born of experience.  I can understand a bike as art but I don't have much sympathy for bikes-as-art that are barely rideable or even unsafe.  A bike that doesn't work well has little meaning to me.  A motorcycle should still have some reasonable practicality and function left in it and not torture the rider or be outright dangerous to ride.

Same goes for the current fad in helmets.  Somehow, now to be cool you need to get some crappy old helmet from 1967, re-do the liner, and wear it, preferably with two days growth of beard on your angst ridden face, and also a flannel t-shirt, and low top sneakers or lace up Red Wing work boots.  Don't forget to have a pack of unfiltered cigarettes in your pocket, too.   I hate that look.  It's an affectation, a copying of motorcycle world past that never quite existed as it's imagined now.   It's not much different than dressing up as a character from a science fiction movie. Think of is as motorcycle cosplay.  Bikes and bike clothing moved on and riders got smart and moved on from the old days.   Helmets evolved for practical reasons like...oh...safety.  Wearing an old, refurb'd  helmet is stupid.   Want to ride in low top sneakers?  Your choice, but also stupid (If you're doing it because you have no money for boots, fine, try the Salvation Army thrift store).  If you're wearing your sneakers, battered metalflake helmet, jeans with rolled cuffs, and a flannel shirt so you like like some imaginary rider from the 1950s or 60s, you're just a hipster motorcycle poser and look stupid.
Having strip mined biker culture, HD moves on to hipsters.

Years ago I wrote a piece about the gawdawful Icon Skull jacket.  I didn't think motorcycle apparel could sink lower than that ridiculous piece but it has.  Barbour International, formerly an actual motorcycle clothing company of renown, has brought out a fake Steve McQueen jacket or several of them.  So what's the big deal?  We all like to think we might look just a little like the King of Cool if we just had the right gear, were handsome, and immensely talented.  

Barbour International has over 100 years in the rugged apparel business including motorcycle jackets
and they've drawn own their illustrious history to being you the Babour Steve McQueen MacGrain jacket (MacGrain?).   To help you look cool, to look just a little more like Steve, the jacket comes with fake rubber mud applied to it.  Yes, fake mud.  How desperate for an identity do you have to be to wear a jacket with fake mud on it when it's not Halloween?  I'm pretty sure any mud on McQueen's jackets got there honestly.   I don't believe in ghosts but if I did I'd be hoping McQueen would come back and haunt every moron that buys that joke of a jacket.  At the least, decent motorcyclists everywhere should laugh out loud at anyone they see wearing it, especially since the owner paid $835 for it.


The City Mouse in the Country said...

I'm still new to all this motorcycling culture. For me it's all about safety and comfort. My helmet may never match my bike, but I'm wearing a good modern helmet. My boots are via Wally World, but at least I got boots on. Same thing with my jacket...it may not be pretty but does a damn good job of keeping me in one piece.

I'll never understand why some people have to "look" a certain way.

Canajun said...

Good post. I too, when I look at some of the current crop of customs, think why????? But it's not only motorcycles. Impractical? Think of the 2-seater sports car for the 'family man' or, for that matter, the Humvee that's used primarily for grocery shopping. Sometimes image trumps practicality and that's okay I guess. After all the weird are what (who) make the world go round.

Trobairitz said...

Fake mud? really? That is sad. Might as well take some sand paper to those chicken strips too.

That wing is a sight isn't it? No one can say they didn't see him in traffic.

I think less is more. That is one of the reasons I debated so hard about putting checkerboard on Max. Now no more accessories unless they are function only. Like a more padded seat and steal brake lines.

RichardM said...

I'd have to agree with you. Even though I marvel at the fabrication skills of many of these people, the trade off of practicality for art is too much. But then again, maybe I'm too old to appreciate it.

"Hey! Get off my lawn!"

Curt Carter said...

I agree wholeheartedly, sometimes I see a bike and think, "Really, someone can actually ride that?"

I had never heard of or seen the jacket with "fake" mud. Again I ask, "why?" If you want mud on your jacket go ride through some real mud.


Live Free. Ride Hard. Be Happy

rick said...


Anonymous said...

The Hipster style is just the latest example of "Style as Everything"
Harley riders no longer have the market cornered on that laughable fashion joke.
Ricky Rocket on his Busa with the skull facemask? Those enormous, graffitti encrusted, stretched swingarm monstrosities always make me smile.
Which is what it is all about! Enjoy the circus!!

Surly said...


You are not alone, Doug. You just said it in a more adult, civilized manner. The above site is funny, but brutal.

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