We’re looking for a few good builders. It’s no surprise to readers of The Kneeslider we have a bias toward motorcycle builders here, or any builders for that matter, who take the initiative to create their idea of the perfect motorcycle or car. Among these creators, not everyone is equally skilled in all areas and sometimes their talent is focused in one segment of the process like design. There, too, some are computer masters using CAD software to turn out lifelike images of their mind’s eye and some work on paper like DaVinci did centuries ago. Some are artists in metal, hammering, welding and polishing while others lay on amazing paint. Then there are our personal favorites, the engineering masters who take technical ideas and translate them into tangible reality and most of all let’s recognize what Buckminster Fuller called “comprehensivists” whose knowledge is wide ranging and the results of their work a wonder to behold.
When a builder’s work is shown for the first time, the reviews are often mixed. The builder, or the small company ready to produce their new model, might feel a bit slighted if everyone doesn’t recognize the obvious qualities of their masterpiece, but with their own view altered from the perspective of the many hours, months or even years that came before, they don’t see what everyone else sees. Their motorcycle could be a truly groundbreaking design carried off with mastery, it might be a simpler way of doing what used to be complex, it could be different from its use of new materials or an innovative powerplant or it might not stand out at all.
In those cases when the motorcycle is less innovative or unique, the workmanship may be first rate and the quality high and it deserves praise for that but standing next to other motorcycles of its kind, it gets lost in a sea of sameness. Have you ever gone to a custom bike show and looked at the choppers? It’s so hard to find one that stands out, it’s like trying to find your Harley at Sturgis, nice bikes, great skill, but after a while they all look the same.
Sometimes, a motorcycle can be great because of the idea, even though it’s not beautiful and perfectly executed in metal. It may look rough but it runs. Someone else may need to finish it or carry it to the next level, refining it, developing the concept and making something others might want buy.
Maybe a bike is ordinary except for one unusual idea easily missed by the casual observer. It’s the kind of thing you don’t see until you take a few minutes and all of a sudden it jumps out at you.
Modifying an existing motorcycle can be just as satisfying as building from scratch if there’s something you feel could have been done better. Not flashier paint or more chrome, but something structural, changing an essential design element to work better for you and possibly for everyone else.
The idea here is appreciation for those who do it themselves instead of waiting for the factories to do it. As new bikes are introduced and everyone is looking for another way to praise the wonderful new paint and graphics or the technical advance that results from corporate dollars beyond the reach of most garage builders, I think we need to really look for those who have taken the time and put in the effort to turn out their vision and then shown it to the world. It takes guts to do that. There are so many critics and relatively few willing to face them.
The Kneeslider is going to look a lot harder for the innovators, the builders and designers and look less at the latest and flashiest mass produced factory models. Who’s building what in their garage? What about the low volume companies turning out hand built motorcycles for the fortunate few? What are the new ideas floating around now? We’ll still cover the big factories, but we’ll try to look at what’s really different or unusual instead of trying to keep up with every latest model. We’ll also look at motorcycles from years past and comment on the ideas that came and went and those that are still with us today. I hope you enjoy the extra emphasis in this direction and as always, if you have great examples of someone putting their ideas out in the light for everyone to see, let us know, we may write them up. So, let’s hear it for the builders, keep up the great work! And let’s hear from the builders, too, show us your great work, everyone would love to see it. We’re looking.