The BMW R1150GS is an unashamedly plain yet capable bike. Designed under the Gelande/Strasse concept to be a genuine multi-surface all rounder. With it’s shaft drive power and air-cooled boxer engine it personifies straightforward design and engineering. The world of plaid shirts, yellow visored Bell helmets, retro British customs and Californian sunshine is the very antithesis of this machine and it’s origin. To be honest, I spend a lot of my social media time ‘liking’ pictures of newly glamorous vintage Triumphs and Indians. In the UK the Bike Shed Motorcycle Club, Spirit of the Seventies, Sideburn Magazine, et al are getting an awesome new energy into British motorcycling. I think the US ‘Moto Lady‘ is inspirational for encouraging women to ride – and that’s a GREAT thing! Sometimes I look for local bike projects to get a custom project on the go. Obviously in a well equipped yet comfortable barn/man-cave. Perhaps I could get a tattoo.
However; once my garage door is open and the leaden English sky falls on an old german bike, thoughts of a custom scene fade away. It’s a good bike for the UK. The garage still throws up some confusing questions for me. Why do I own a BMW? Of all bygone industries and misplaced national pride, I firmly believe British motorcycling to be one of our great pieces of heritage. But there the BMW R1150GS is; mocking me. “Well, at least it’s not Japanese” I tell myself. Not that that should make a great difference but BMW, and Germany, didn’t mass produce clones of original British bike legends, destroying a whole industry and sport in the UK. Perhaps it was our fault for not remaining competitive, or loyal, or intelligent enough to realise what was happening.
It would be quite easy to mistake me for a reactionary senior citizen at this point, given to rants about the past and being generally resistant to change, any change.
I’m not. I’m 36. It’s just that, for once, I value something from the past more than the present. In the Baudrillian sense the British motorcycle has a sign, sentimental, economic and functional value for me.
But, I own a BMW. Because why? Well, in the Baudrillian sense again it’s because I value it’s function and economic value more than what it represents. So I’m on the right (read sensible) side of the decision; own efficient, sorted bike and kit, dream about custom bikes on sunlit tarmac. If you’re reading this and live in the UK you will know what I mean. That morning commute in the cold rain on crap roads covered in cars. Those weekend blasts in which you get through the traffic areas to reach the dwindling number of good biking roads. Your bike is most likely a capable all rounder as well. But it shouldn’t stop you having a dream. They can’t take that away from you – no sirree.