Mechanical nostalgia is a powerful force, if you love old machinery of most any type, you know what I mean. Just looking at it, gazing at the wheels, gears, levers, gauges and even the materials and methods of construction can bring a smile to your face, it certainly does to me, however, there’s a point when nostalgia can interfere with judgment concerning anything new, if the new doesn’t stir the same emotion for lack of features no longer necessary, it must be wrong.
Case in point, the kick starter. Our recent article about the new Royal Enfield Classic C5, shows a motorcycle styled like a 1951 British single but without a kick starter. No bike of the day would have arrived without one but here we are, it’s 2009, and a number of comments point out the missing kick lever as a serious omission. Is it?
Royal Enfield, like any other manufacturer, is trying to expand their market while meeting current emission laws, the new fuel injected engines address those laws and the new transmission is aimed at making the outcome of gear selection something other than a game of chance. (Shifting the old Bullets requires … patience) It’s a nice change that gives the new owner the old look in a new and reliable bike. A side effect of the new fuel injected engines is the ease of starting that does away with the need for old kicking skills and turns it into a push button affair anyone can master.
Since few riders of electric start equipped motorcycles revert to kicking unless pressed and the reliability of motorcycle engines today makes the necessity somewhere close to zero, the kick lever moves ever closer to the visual and emotional appeal of all of the other gears and levers found on old machinery. It may be fun to show others you know how to kick start your bike, having the kick lever there might complete the bike visually in your mind, you may feel reassured that if the battery ever fails you, you can still kick away, but the argument that it’s necessary is hard to make.
There is no shortage of old motorcycles for sale with kick starters, or foot clutches and hand shifters for that matter, and they’re cool. If the new RE wants to compete with old used motorcycles, a kick lever is probably necessary, but, at least in this case, they seem to be aiming at attracting a new generation that might like the look but have no more skill at kick starting than the average teenager has with a manual transmission in a car. The kick start connoisseurs out there may find it harder to satisfy their mechanical desires going forward. Next thing you know, they’ll start installing automatic tranmissions, … hey, wait a minute.