The New Age Of Retro-design Bikes
Man's World|November 2020
Gen X buyers, with large disposable incomes and a yearning for bikes they fancied in their youth, are driving a new trend in retro-design motorcycles
Sameer Kumar
This is pretty much the golden age of motorcycling. With the relentless advance of manufacturing technologies, the bits that make a motorcycle work have become quite good over the years. Engines are more powerful and reliable than ever before, and oil leaks are a thing of the past. Tyres really stick to the tarmac, with the kind of grip riders could only dream of in the way-back-then. Suspension actually works without wallowing all over the place, and is usually adjustable, so no problem if the pillion is occupied by a large passenger. And brakes make mincemeat of triple-digit speeds, without the bike trying to dump you in the nearest available ditch.

But just when you thought things couldn’t get any better, the Percy Shelley law kicks in. ‘We look before and after, and pine for what is not,’ said Shelley, 200 years ago. The English poet was no biker-boy but, as it turns out, what he said also goes for motorcycles.

Give bikers a bunch of modern, fast, and efficient motorcycles, and you’d think they’d be happy. But, no. Turns out what they really want is motorcycles that resemble the machines they lusted after when they were young, when the hormones were raging, and bank balances were meagre.

Horsepower costs money, and most young motorcyclists simply don’t have large wads of cash to blow on big, busty bikes. Decades later, for some, it’s time for payback.

Time, then, to get the one that got away? Maybe. Only, the 1970s and ’80s are long gone. The bikes from back then are now categorised as ‘classics.’ And new bikes these days have scary things like TFT instrument panels, multi-level traction control, and riding modes; you almost need a degree in computer science to navigate the onboard electronics on some of the high-end motorcycles now.

Bike manufacturers know an opportunity when they see one. And nostalgic Generation X men pining for lost youth is an opportunity, if ever there was one. Especially since those Gen Xers, unlike a lot of perpetually broke millennials (avocado on toast, anyone?), have money to burn. So, we now have a host of motorcycles that take their design cues from their 1970s and 1980s predecessors. Of course, these bikes are entirely modern from the mechanical perspective; it’s just that they are designed to look like they’re from an older era. Here’s a selection of some retro-themed bikes that we, here at MW, quite like.

BMW R NINET RACER

Based on the regular R nineT, the Racer is pure 1970s, distilled down to two wheels, frame,fairing and engine. It’s powered by BMW’s 1170cc ‘Boxer’ twin, which produces a healthy 110 horsepower. The engine is mated to a 6-speed transmission, which transfers power to the rear wheel via a fully enclosed, low-maintenance shaft-drive system. The bike’s tubular steel chassis leaves the twin-cylinder engine fully exposed, which is just as well, because it looks quite gorgeous, with its black block and barrels and silver cylinder heads. With its single round head lamp and racy mini fairing, this is one BMW that gets retro just right. Not available in India yet, but next year, maybe?

DUCATI SCRAMBLER 1100

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