by Victor Wanchena
There have been big changes in motorcycles in the last 100 years. Shaking, underpowered oil-leakers have given way to silky smooth machines that are utterly reliable and need little maintenance. These improvements were the inevitable product of the evolution of motorcycles. So, what will the years to come offer for advancements? Victory motorcycles offered us a glimpse at one possibility during the Motorcycle Show this year.
Named the Vision, aptly enough, it’s Victory’s stab at the motorcycle of the future. It is a radical departure from the cruiser format that forms the backbone of the Victory line. An 800cc vertical twin is housed in an innovative chassis that is coupled with a CVT automatic transmission. The futuristic body work houses ample storage for riding essentials and luggage. The concept is of a machine that blends rider and machine and is multi-purpose in function. Sport riding, commuting, cruising; all handled with equal ease by the same machine.
So why are the bikes of the future so “futuristic”? I think that there are two factors at work here. First, as the technology of the motorcycle improves, the look and feel of them changes with it. As cool as a Harley JD or Brough-Superior look, we have moved past that era. Current motorcycles bare little resemblance to them. Second, the riders of today will not be the riders of 30 years from now. Long dead will be the old stereotypes of leather-clad hell raisers. As motorcycling continues to become more socially acceptable, the old image of irresponsible outlaw fades. At the show, the young riders of the future were not encumbered by their preconceived notions of what a motorcycle is supposed to look like. Instead they saw the possibilities. To young, impressionable minds, a cruiser doesn’t have to look like a cruiser; a sport bike can come in any guise.
We are, for better of worse, saddled to the way we think a motorcycle should look like. Anything outside of that is usually accepted with skepticism. For instance, automatic transmissions have been tried and have failed. Most notably, Honda tried to market them as the wave of the future, only to have them regarded as curiosities. Not serious motorcycles; despite offering advantages for the average rider. The only area where CVT style transmissions have been utilized and accepted with open arms is on scooters. The average scooter buyer is not as concerned about how a scooter is “supposed” to be.They just want it to work. Not having to manually shift gears is seen as a plus for many. But, for the next generation of riders, a manual transmission might be simply a vintage throw back found only on “retro” models. CVTs will likely not be seen as sissy automatics for the less macho riders, they will be standard. An example of the flip side of this is fuel injection. Once seen as high tech flummery, it is now nearly standard. Even the old diehards are realizing that anything that squirts fuel can’t be bad.
I was glad to see that Victory Motorcycle thought enough of their home market to show a concept bike. Few other manufacturers show us anything but current production models. As much as the Vision is a departure from the status quo, it may be what the future holds.