Years ago, modifying a motorcycle was something we did in the comfort of our own sheds. For many riders in the 1990s, typical mods ran to a bucket load of anodised parts, like bolts, bar ends and any kind of bracket you cared to mention, iridium screens (in colours to match the bolt, of course) and a noisy race exhaust.
This phenomenon carried on into to 2000s, before the culture changed. The whole Bike Shed culture took bike modifying to a new level. Led by websites like Bike EXIF and the Bike Shed (in the days when it was just a website, and not a trendy café and clothing purveyor). From that point, modifying a bike became less about customisation and more about creating a work of art. Nothing escaped the clutches of the hipster angle grinders, and once all the Seventies Hondas had been bought up (including, incredibly, the much reviled CX500) it appeared nothing could escape the customisation craze, witness mad BMW K series ‘bricks’, mental mopeds and a whole bunch of bobbed out Brits.
Sensing that not all riders had the time, money or skills to create their own custom, mainstream manufacturer marketing departments built a new bandwagon and jumped firmly on it. Ducati created their retro Scrambler sub-brand, complete with a slightly cheesy ‘Land of Joy’ advertising campaign, Triumph launched a whole stream of ‘Modern Classics’ and Yamaha even dreamed up its own ‘Faster Sons’ tuning shop and created the MT-derived XSR series.
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These new shed-built-out-the-factory models have been designed not only provided a cool set of everyday wheels, but also a canvas upon which to create even more bespoke ride. Realising that there’s a huge market for accessories and customised bikes, the OE manufacturers have bolstered up their accessories ranges and created a whole host of extra bits to help their customers further customise their bikes.
Previously it was only really Harley-Davidson that had really embraced the accessory catalogue culture, but these days it’s big business for many more manufacturers. Triumph, for example, offers more than 140 individual accessories for its entry level Street Twin model, and has developed two, pre-packaged, ‘Inspiration Kits’ for riders looking to take their bike in a particular direction. The Urban Ride kit, for example, blacks out many of the metal parts and adds panniers for city riding, while the Café Custom kit delivers sportier suspension, a rorty exhaust and a more stripped back look. Mixing and matching these accessories ultimately leads to an almost infinite number of different configurations, making these machines as individual as their riders.
The beauty of these machines is not just that they look great, but that they are very easy to personalise, and practical too. Highly modified bikes from the 1970s might look cool, but they’re not known for their smoothness or reliability. These factory retros offer all the benefits of being a new motorcycle, with modern handling, braking and reliability – and come with manufacturer’s warranty too – and the accessories have been designed to slot in easily too. If you can build flat pack furniture, you’ll almost certainly be able to fit a new screen or mirrors from the accessory brochure. Modification has been made easy for the masses, and it’s a win, win, win situation for all involved.
Of course, manufacturers win by making additional profits through selling these official accessories, while dealers too make a few quid from selling and (in most cases) fitting them.
And as consumers we win too. There’s no need to worry about invalidating warranties with these official accessories, while the fact that they have been developed especially for your bike means that they won’t affect the performance or safety of your machine. You’ll need to declare any modifications you make to your bike to your insurance company, but specialist brokers like Carole Nash will be able to take this into consideration and give you the correct level of cover for your modified motorbike.
And it’s not just retros that are being customised by their owners. Sports bikes, cruisers and adventure tourers also lend themselves to being modified from the manufacturer’s accessories menu. For example, BMW Motorrad’s official accessory brochure weighs in at almost 400 pages, with everything from luggage, alternative seats and a host of electrical items available for almost every model in their range. Triumph, Indian and Harley-Davidson are also offering high end factory custom programmes, producing small runs of premium modified bikes – at a premium cost, of course.
While engineering purists may baulk at these brochure built customised bikes, there’s no doubt that they play an enormous part in making motorcycling cool for new and experienced riders alike. Long live the manufacturer modified bike, we say.