Sep 5, 2012

6 “That Motorcycle has Character”, what does it mean?

A look at what is the "Chracter" of a motorcycle and what gives gives a bike its "Character"..

One particular phrase that passionate bike enthusiasts’ sometime use to describe some motorcycles is that, “It has a Character”. But never have I ever come across another accompanying statement which would describe what that “Character” is all about. After riding, living, thinking, reading, writing (blogging) and dreaming about motorcycles for more than a decade, I have some interesting point of views and my own take about that cryptic “Character of a Motorcycle”.

I. Is it “imperfection” that gives “Character” to a bike?

Ducati’s are not as reliable as the Japanese (Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki, Suzuki) counterparts. Ducati engines also make a lot of racket and vibrations are also a part of the Ducati package. Even then according to ones who have ridden/owned them, Ducati’s have “Character”.

Harley Davidson bikes are big burley and apart from the smooth open highways, they are more than a handful to be ridden over less than perfect roads. But still to its fans the heritage and character of a Harley can’t be matched by any other.

Character is something that stays with you long after you have got off the saddle

Reliability is probably the last word associated with Royal Enfield bikes. Royal Enfield fans love to defend their marquee by proudly stating “Bikes don’t leak oil, they just mark their territory”. But despite all Royal Enfield bikes enjoy a Cult status in India and yes a “character” as well.

From the above examples it could seem that with some “imperfection”, a bike gets some kind of character. After all riding on off road trails is more eventful and exciting than riding on smooth, long straight highways.

But then even the Mahindra Stallio was riddled with imperfections, and it certainly did not give the Stallio a “character” it could boast of. Slight imperfections might keep the rider alert and respectful of the bikes capability. But imperfection does not guarantee “Character” to a bike.

II. Dogs Vs Cats

A dog will do everything to please its master. On the other hand a cat seems to have a mind of its own. Both are treated differently as well. To have a cat as a pet one always has to mindful of its “cat personality”. Having a dog as a pet is like owing a proverbial Toyota car/Honda motorcycle, i.e. reliable and faithful. Having a cat as a pet is like owning a Royal Enfield Motorcycle, i.e temperamental and having a mind of its own.

But then calling someone a Dog is a big insult (so much for being faithful and reliable)..!! The Cat gets more respect for having a “personality”.

III. Character is about not trying to please everyone

Ever heard one of Aesop’s famous fable in which a farmer and his son (on a donkey) tries to please everyone but ends up pleasing none? Character is about having one’s own opinion and not trying to please everyone. Character is about having a spine to stand up for one’s opinions. It's about having a unique personality of one's own.

Not surprising that some bikers feel Honda bikes are usually so effortless, rideable, reliable, faithful that they come across as “trying to please everyone”. On the other hand bikes from marquees like Ducati, Harley Davidson and Royal Enfield come across as bikes with character despite its obvious flaws. Its more about the unique personality (which could be a combination of styling, riding stance, power delivery, handling etc.). A personality that stands out in the crowd. Something that stays with you long after you have got off the saddle.

My list of Indian bikes (150 cc and above) that has "Character"

  • Bajaj Pulsar 150/180 (non DTS-i models): Trendsetter in 2001 with it's Raw naked looks, Power & Torque delivery to match its looks. “Heart in the mouth” nervous handling during spirited cornering

  • Bajaj Pulsar 200NS: Matured grown up character/evolution of a legendary brand, a huge quantum leap in terms of engine performance and handling

  • Hyosung GT250R: Closest experience to a proper Super Sports bike while riding a 250 cc bike

  • Royal Enfield Classic 350/500: Purity in design of a modern classic single cylinder British motorcycle from the 1940s-50s

  • KTM 200 Duke: Restless performance that goes perfectly well with its KTM/Off Road genes

  • TVS Apache RTR 160/180 (2007-2012 models; the 2012 styling doesn't go down well with me): Compact, light weight, sporty bikes with tight compact proportions and confident handling. Never mind the vibrations of the engine.

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This is to remind that the Views or Opinions in the blog are entirely mine unless explicitly stated. The Views and Opinions published in this blog should in no way be related to any other person or organization associated -- directly or indirectly -- with me.


Sid Soni said...

Don't agree with two names here. Apache has a character but that of a copycat I suppose. Hyosung GTR250, don't think so.

Instead, would like to add FZ16 to the list surely. Mind you, FZ also followed on lines of Pulsar but did it very very 'charater'isticly :)

Saran Samiappan said...

@ Sid Soni:

I dont think FZ has a "Character"!!! May be it is one of the best looking bikes, it was the first mass macho looking naked bike but then there is no character!!!

Pulsar was trend setter in 150cc and above category and then if you just remember "Apache" was the one which is compared to a pulsar most of the times and not Unicorn or FZ or GS150R or CBZ or Hunk because it has something that the others doesn't have!!!

P.S: My personal opinion!!! Not for offense...

Sid Soni said...

"I dont think FZ has a "Character"!!! May be it is one of the best looking bikes, it was the first mass macho looking naked bike but then there is no character!!!"

Interesting that you describe it this way and refuse to call it character :). Anyhow, your opinion.

I would rather, 'comparison', and a very close one with Pulsar, precludes Apache from having a character of its own. Like I inferred, copy cat. Apache worked to whatever extent coz of what we call in politics, the 'anti-incumbency' factor.

S.P - Biker Next Door said...

@ all,

it's all personal opinion after all

Sanket Kambli said...

“Heart in the mouth” ..
ha ha ha... good one.. my knee scraps, and other injuries can attest that..but then thats partially due to my reckless driving in "those days"

to me bullet was and is a cult-icon and pulsar cannot be compared but it is too a cult-icon.. more of a hooligan-cult-icon

kurroth said...

What about r15?

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