Further Motorcycle Column X

Further: Silver, Pewter & Purple | Thoughts on MotorcyclingI once bought a bike through an online auction. It was in superb condition and needed nothing but an oil change. To my eye, it was one of the ugliest paint jobs ever perpetrated on a motor vehicle and, perhaps for that reason, I was the only bidder and got it for a price that was much less than any comparable model. I couldn’t resist.

Mind you, it was well done, expensive work with silver, pewter, and purple geometric panels clear-coated on a burgundy-colored base. The rectangle theme was on all vertical surfaces from front fender to tank to side and top cases. Whenever I looked at it, my mouth would pucker like I was sucking on a lemon, and I would get an involuntary shudder throughout my body or recoil in horror.

I enjoyed the bike, but had to sneak up on it with my eyes semi-closed and get in the saddle while trying to avoid actually looking at it. The feng shui in my garage was just about obliterated by this awful testimony to someone else’s bad taste. I toyed with many different ideas about what to do with it and how to mask the grotesque artwork but, in the end, I did nothing.

Over the next couple of years I rarely rode it, and finally put it up for sale to send it back from whence it came. Before I listed it, I asked my wife if she thought it was a good idea to repaint the bike to help maximize my return. Helen’s advice is often excellent, and mostly right, even though I’m the one who is supposed to be the motorcycle expert.

Without missing a beat she answered with something to the effect of, “Don’t bother, just sell it. Someone will like it.” I listened and put the bike on a seven- day auction. The price climbed slowly throughout the week, and as the 12-hour- to-auction-end approached, the time at which I might still cancel the sale, I wasn’t happy with the bid but allowed it to continue.

Little did I know, but much to my delight, the bidding would heat up and then, magically, jump another $1000 in the last hour. The final bid was a couple of thousand dollars above book, and way more than I had paid or expected to receive. To my surprise, but not Helen’s, when the buyer from Utah called me to make arrangements for the transfer, the first thing Bob said to me was, “I am so happy I won. I love that paint job.” I was, unusual for me, speechless.

One man’s passion is another man’s poison—or the other way around.

There is a lesson to be learned here, I think. It’s not just “don’t paint your vehicle because someone, somewhere will like it.” To my mind, there is a deeper meaning.

I sense that it augers into our deep- seated notions of art and romance. Maybe it’s the idea that this piece or that will complete us as human beings. Perhaps it is the pleasing feeling that the design will bring out our innermost feelings of joy and well-being—something akin to the hope that this item will make the buyer more attractive and feel more successful.

Maybe it was Bob’s perception of art and how those silver, pewter, and purple geometric elements touched his soul. My takeaway from the whole experience is that whether it be motorcycle, design, or art related, or anything in-between, some- one, somewhere will like it.

This may be the reason we see so many new bikes with odd design elements, weird radiator wings, and wild lines. Designers, be more confident in your product. Somebody, somewhere is bound to like it. If not, I’ll give you Bob’s phone number.