Editor’s Letter – June 2023 – Rediscovery of Returning Models

In addition to our charge to tell you about the latest motorcycles and associated news, testing motorcycles and the surrounding equipment is a huge part of what Ultimate Motorcycling is all about. Riding motorcycles and telling you about them is the reason everyone on the staff is here, rather than our other responsibilities, such as meeting deadlines, logistics, or wondering why it’s raining on a day we had set aside for taking photos.

Every year, testing new models is the most exciting part of our job. When it entails a trip outside our usual boundaries—adventure riding through rugged Sardinian mountains or riding dirt bikes across the rolling hills of Ohio—so much the better. However, wherever we are, it remains all about the motorcycle.

There aren’t enough new motorcycles every year to keep us fully occupied on the website arm of our multimedia concern, so we revisit bikes that have changed very little, if at all, since the last time we rode them. In addition to keeping us busy, re-testing motorcycles is a journey of rediscovery.

While the motorcycle may not have changed, the moto-landscape is in a constant state of evolution. A bike that initially seemed groundbreaking can become dated, sometimes very quickly, as competitors introduce new features and technologies. A great example is the transition from dual to mono shocks. Long ago, the idea of a single rear shock unit was unheard of, and now it’s the status quo—unless the design intention is to tug at classic cues.

Carburetor advances were impressive until EFI was perfected. Adjustable suspension damping was cutting edge until we experienced electronically adjustable suspension, and now we have computer-controlled, continuously adjusted semi-active suspension. Technology never sleeps, and with artificial intelligence awakening, there’s a new potential for older motorcycles to feel obsolete.

Fortunately, we are still emotional beings, and riding a motorcycle is a more complicated experience than simply riding the “best” or most-sophisticated machine. By riding a returning model, we can tap into a more personal interaction, which is more about the rider controlling the motorcycling process.

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This more-direct rider-machine connection is one reason vintage-style motorcycles are popular. They usually don’t have the electronic accouterments of the cutting-edge models. Riding them reassures us that the act of motorcycle riding remains a very human action, and we’re not just along for the ride at the pleasure of the vehicle as we are on a passenger jet. In the least, it reaffirms that man-and-machine connection.

I’m a huge fan of developing motorcycle technology. Testing returning models reminds us of where we were and how we got where we are. It almost always makes us safer, faster, or more comfortable—or maybe all three, if we’re lucky. Plus, there’s frequently a learning curve, which I embrace. The brain is as important to exercise as the body.

As you’re perusing UltimateMotorcycling.com, you might see a review of a motorcycle you have read about some time in the past. Perspective changes at roughly the same rate as time does. Resist the instinct to pass that story by. Join us in our voyages of rediscovery. It is always an enlightening journey.

Photograph by Kelly Callan