How much does exclusivity matter to you? If you buy a motorcycle that is no different than the bikes owned and ridden by thousands of other riders, does it bother you? Or does it make you feel as though you’re part of the group? Or does it even cross your mind? When you think about it, how can you even have an exclusive bike today unless it’s a one off built by a custom builder? Even then, how different is your “one off” from the other one offs he’s built and the shop down the street is turning out?
If I might pull one more quote from the current issue of Cycle World, they asked Arlen Ness about the reason for all of the outrageous customs today and his response was, “In the old days, having a Harley in the garage was like having a Ferrari. Now it’s like having a Chevy.” You know it’s true, too. You can buy a Harley and ride off from the dealer and before long you’ll see yourself coming from the other direction. Damn! OK, let’s see what’s in that accessories catalog. But if you just dig into the HD big book, it will be pretty darn difficult to come up with any combination that stands out. It might take a day or two but you’ll once again see yourself in the oncoming lane. More accessories from someone else, maybe some custom paint, then you have to wonder what you’re trying to accomplish. Are you building a better bike or just a different bike?
To be truly different you have to approach the whole build as unique and really push the envelope, however, the speed at which different becomes commonplace and then overdone is breathtaking. Any cool new idea will be copied in a matter of months, or even weeks and then it’s off to the next big thing. I’ve seen several customs being built with a large curved tube backbone like the Confederate Wraith. Extending swingarms on sport bikes has gone to such lengths, literally, you wonder what they’re thinking or who it’s supposed to impress. The bikes can’t possibly function anymore. I wonder how many radial engines Rotec will sell to custom builders trying to copy Jesse James or JRL Cycles.
If buyers and builders focus on function first, at least you end up with a motorcycle instead of an art object, but pure function can be ugly, too, so then you work on the aesthetics. The proper combination makes for nice looking bikes. Functional and good looking sounds right to me but does it matter if it’s not unique? It matters to some, how about you?