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Monday, November 7, 2011

Royal Enfield motorcycles: Past the point of passé

U.S. motorcycle sales chart from webBikeWorld.com
Sales of Royal Enfield motorcycles are setting records. But sales of other motorcycles are not, as the chart above makes clear (things have improved somewhat in the fourth quarter of 2011).

"ARE motorcycles passé?"

Motorcyclist and poet Frederick Seidel asks that question, in an article in The New York Times.

"Are they sort of over?" he wonders. "I ask as a rider of two-wheel Italian beauties that go very fast, gracefully streamlined subsonic technology from the Ducati factory in Bologna."

Motorcycles are, Seidel suspects, being replaced in the attentions of young people (especially young men) by electronic wonders "mostly made by Apple."

Would a young man of means want to be seen using his lightning quick iPhone rather than racing his Ducati?

Seidel guesses maybe so, and thus explains the recession in motorcycle sales.

"It's as if the recession induced a coma in all the potential new motorcyclists," he writes.

It's an enjoyable read. But there may be more direct ways in which the recession has affected motorcycle sales; difficulty repaying student loans would be one.

Seidel's long-time concern is really not motorcycles in general, but expensive Italian machinery in particular. For evidence, consult his "Poems 1959-2009." Poem no. 86 is "MV Agusta Rally, Cascina Costa, Italy."

The poem compares the firing of Italian motorcycle engines to the consecration in the Roman Catholic mass.

The firing of a single-piston Royal Enfield motorcycle engine would not bring tears to Seidel's eyes. Not tears of joy, in any case.

If the Royal Enfield motorcycle was going to be made somehow less desirable by the advance of technology, that technology surely would have been the Touch Tone phone (previewed at the Seattle World's Fair, in 1963).

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