Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Ugliest Bike?

So I'm on coffee break at work with a few colleagues who happen to be motorcycle aficionados and rather than argue on who has the most blinged/farkled/powerful bike, we're pondering the question of the ugliest bike ever built. Of course, for such an important debate to take place, there has to be some ground rules: a) it must be a full production motorcycle (i.e. not a "custom" or "limited edition" model), and b) it has to be mainstream enough that a motorcyclist worthy of the title will have heard of it (i.e. no obscure brands from Slobovia or Whatsthatistan).

My colleagues who were of the "cruiser" persuasion immediately pointed out modern interpretations of the style like the BMW R1200C, the Victory Vision or the Honda Rune. The crotch-rocket crowd were quick to put down Ducati's Terblanche designed 999.

Personally, I'm a motorcycle polygamist who goes for all styles of bike. My vote was split between the Munch Mammoth and the Ducati Indiana!

The brainchild of Friedl Munch, the Mammoth managed to cram an air-cooled inline-four taken from a car (the NSU Prinz) into a motorcycle frame. Displacing 1200cc with a 5½ gallon tank up top, it was actually a good performer... But like the Boss Hoss and Amazonas which came after, it is painfully clear that even the best designer would have trouble making something other than an eyesore when a car engine is used in a motorcycle.

The European manufacturers have long known that to stay afloat, they must cater to the American motorcyclist. For the most part this can mean only one thing: build a cruiser. While some like Triumph and Moto Guzzi had some success in this market segment, others like BMW and Ducati seemed to fall flat. Ducati can be forgiven - to a certain extent - as the Indiana was actually built by Cagiva, who would stick the Ducati logo on the tank. The premise was simple - build a cruiser using a sportbike engine. However, the resulting bike wasn't very well executed. I guess the one redeeming quality is that lessons learned by Ducati with the Indiana may have prevented them from a repeat with the stunning Diavel!

So what say you? What do you think is the ugliest production motorcycle ever?

No object is so beautiful that, under certain conditions, it will not look ugly.” - Oscar Wilde


Doug said...

I've seen the Munch Mammoth in person and it's more about the engineering and Black Forest craftsmanship than the styling. In many ways it was way ahead of it's time.

But the ugliest bike of all time was perhaps the Suzuki Madura which looked like it was made from parts left over from other projects.

The early Yamaha Virago looked like an ugly hooker with excessive make up on and the assorted Eastern European bikes from the Soviet era had all the presence of a farm tractor.

The mighty Munch is now a valuable collectible bike while the above mentioned machines simply remain ugly.

Lucky said...

Doug - Agree that the Mammoth wasn't much to look at, but has now attained collectible status. Seems Jay Leno searched quite a while to find one, although being part of Jay's collection hardly makes a bike remarkable, as he has one of just about everything!

Had never heard of the Madura so I looked it up and can only say one thing: I concur! Front frame is almost at 90 degrees while the over-swept tank and side panels seem to point towards the sky. Not to mention the slash-cut double-barreled exhaust. Ugh.

Another candidate that recently came to mind is the early-eighties Suzuki Katana. Talk about angular! Not a curved line to be found.