It is a time of fervent change in motorcycling.
Ducati has announced that it will become the supplier of electric motorcycles for the MotoE World Cup starting in 2023, a half-turn bomb given its claim that it will never become an EV, Triumph is investing in a new range of Smaller models and an increasing number of nameplates are a thing of the past with the entry into force of stricter emissions rules.
Indeed, as we approach the end of the year, a time when we traditionally reflect on the past 12 months, thoughts often turn to what else has changed in motorcycling – and if you look back enough. , it’s more than you might think.
Five years ago, for example, we never imagined that Harley-Davidson would come out with an adventure motorcycle as a preview of an electric model, as the idea of BMW facing and beating its esteemed rivals of Superbike would have seemed unfathomable 15 years ago.
Go back 30 years and the idea of Triumph making a big splash was about as likely as Donald Trump becoming president…. uh.
But there are a lot of other motorcycle ideals that have come, gone and / or changed, and not just bikes but the technology, the clobber and the way we ride and even read on bikes.
So, before we embark on this brave new world of electric Ducatis motorcycles and more, here’s a little recap of our Top 10 things we no longer see in motorcycles …
10. “Easy” motorcycle tests
Once upon a time, of course, no car or motorcycle test at all. This first became mandatory in 1935 and was only an observational test, requiring walking around a block or the like and taking barely 30 minutes.
There was no capacity limit, and if you passed your bike test, you automatically qualified for a car. From July 1, apprentice riders were limited to 250 (although they still did not need a helmet, it was not mandatory until 1973).
The first larger changes came in 1981 with a learning limit of 125cc and a new two-part test, requiring basic off-road training first. In 1989 the Pursuit Test was introduced where the examiner followed on a bicycle, the Theory Test was introduced in 1996 and the new categories A2, Direct Access etc. in 1997.
By then, the days of driving your 250 around the block looking for an examiner with a clipboard were long gone …
9. Simple (but poor) bicycle equipment
Once upon a time, motorcycle equipment mostly consisted of a helmet (compulsory), a jacket (mainly for fashion reasons), gloves (voluntary but judicious) and… that was about it .
This era was called the 1970s and 1980s, leather suits were for runners only, bike boots were either Derri (boring) or Doc Marts (or similar), Kevlar and Gore-Tex hadn’t been invented, football and Arab scarves were used in place of neck warmers and instead of the Sportsbike Shop we went to the Army Surplus stores.
Then Frank Thomas came along and started offering paddock boots, racing replicas like the first racing gear inspired by the GSX-R and the world has never been the same …
8. Trail bikes, 250 and more…
The popular bicycle lessons at the time were very different. In the 1970s it was ambitious four-cylinder UJMs (Japanese Universal Motorcycles) like Suzuki’s GS750 with a minority still on archaic Brits or Italians, most of us riding RD250s or GT380s. In the early ’80s, track bikes and (due to the Learners Act) 250 were huge – Yamaha had both a DT (two-stroke) and four-stroke (XT) 250 trailie, along with the rest of the Japanese ‘Big Four’ offer similar.
This was fueled by the fact that motocross was more mainstream, with people like Neil Hudson and Dave Thorpe hitting the headlines. The 1983 125 Learners Act changed that a lot, as did the Paris-Dakar popularization of ever-larger “trails” such as the 1983 Yamaha XT600Z Tenere, then Honda’s Africa Twin and a whole new class. adventure bikes.
The humble track bikes, meanwhile, have hardly been seen since. Today, the only credible offering from the Big Four is Honda’s CRF300L.
7. ‘Easy’ maintenance of the house
Once upon a time, there was every rider worthy of the name who did most of the maintenance of his bike, at home. For that, we were provided with useful main or center crutches, rudimentary tool kits under the seat, and if we wanted a little help, we bought a Haynes manual.
I remember changing the clutches, fork seals, tires, seals and more without thinking about it. Today, unless you’re a classic hobbyist, beyond just greasing / adjusting the chain (and even that’s difficult without an enclosure stand and more fancy tools, you just don’t.
In fact, the most important maintenance most of us do right now is to plug your bike into a trickle charger. With the switch to electricity and electronics, the situation is getting worse every day. Soon they’ll all be sealed, so you can’t …
6. Truly British Motorcycle Brands
And I’m not just talking about bikes. Yes, Triumph is owned by the British, but virtually all of their bikes are now made in Thailand. Norton will resume production shortly at Solihull but is now owned by TVS (India) and it will be a similar story with BSA.
It doesn’t really bother us. But what happened to the British-made clobber and accessories? In the ’70s and’ 80s, helmets were British brands Stadium, Centurion, Kangol (worn by Hailwood in 1978), Everoak, Premier and more, all typically with a Bob Heath visor; clobber was from Belstaff, Kett, Ashman and, later, Frank Thomas.
Then the Italian machines (AGV, Dainese, Alpinestars) became popular, then Japanese (Arai, Shoei, Kushitani, RS Taichi). Again, none of this is a problem. Today, however, it’s hard to say what you’re getting …
5. The art (and the joy) of buying and selling
Do you remember how you bought (or sold) a bike back then? Physical paper with your motorbike printed in grainy resolution ink that negated much of the hard work you may have put into embellishing it to impress potential buyers.
There was a time when flipping through the weekly ads was more enticing than the news. On Thursdays you would go get your local classified newspaper or magazine and waste an hour with a highlighter, some on the budget, some because you lived in hope.
If you were selling you called them on the landline and a rep walked out with a Polaroid you would choose your 28 words carefully and you were sure not to step away from the phone in case you missed the call you were placing your hopes on. .
Now we have smartphones, eBay, and social media to give it all the attention your motorcycle could possibly need.
4. The winter lottery begins
If you’ve only ever known modern garages, fuel injection, and maintenance chargers, you don’t know anything. Back then (still) winter mornings were both a misery and an art form.
Your bike was usually outside, on the street, in an alley, or in the backyard. If you were sensitive, it was under a canvas or plastic tarp that the dogs had peed on and was covered in snow.
If you were lucky your bike had an electric starter, but you still had to get the fuel cock and choke lever “just like that”. If it kicked after the first two or three, you were laughing. If not, it was time to try and knock him down on an icy, unsanded road that required a skill of its own. And don’t get me started on carb frosting and more …
3. Really amateur club races
Many of us have tried racing, usually at small clubs like Auto 66 or Pegasus: getting your ACU license, saving for seedy second-hand equipment, preparing a sometimes counterfeit proddie racer, sending in your race rules (around 40 classy, if I remember correctly), then arrive early Sunday morning with a bike trailer or transsexual van and generally have a good day.
Not anymore. Now it looks like you need a team equivalent to Team Gallina to even take part in a track day: an R1 fully prepared for racing on slicks? To verify. Canopy, workshop mat, pen stands, generator and tire warmers? To verify.
Premium racing suit, custom painted Arai and all body armor? Check, verify and verify. The runner, meanwhile, is now in his 50s and missed his real chance to become a 30-year-old running star …
2. Get lost
Cards – do you remember? Mainly yellow-scale Continental Michelin maps, with scenic routes bordered in green.
Any trip abroad would be preceded by careful and joyful planning of the itinerary on one, taking brief notes (N6 – Rouen, N42 – Chartres, or similar) on a piece of paper that you would then stuff under the window in your tank bag, then embarking on an adventure full of doubt and mystery.
Yes, of course, you got it wrong and got lost. You stopped and checked the map; you had a “discussion” with your comrades; you have mapped out a new course to get you back on track. It was all a joy and an authentic adventure. Now you are tracking your GPS or your phone and you have no idea where you have been to.
1 – The “correct” cycling clubs
The bike was full of clubs. It still does in some ways – classic brand clubs, running clubs, although most of them have now gone digital, Facebook pages and forums replacing magazines and club meetings. In many ways, this is for the best.
If you want information, advice, or a marketplace for a particular type of bike, their Facebook groups are a great way to get in touch. But it is also quite virtual disappointing.
Real bike club meetings are rare, large gatherings even rarer (remember the glory days of BMF Rally?), The power of cycling organizations like the aforementioned BMF and MAG is now diluted and the joy, l The excitement and smell of receiving a new club magazine in the mail is all but gone.
But then most of the traditional cycling media – magazines, newspapers, etc. – have also disappeared, as evidenced by the fact that you are reading this …
And for the record, Visordown has never hosted so many of you on our little old site, so maybe the motorcycle media isn’t that bad after all.