Milan—In the past, I have looked forward to the certain presence at motorcycle shows of many cutaway engines. I like engines, and I like to look at the details of their parts. Are there surprises in the way their connecting rods are proportioned? How do their intake ports bring the airflow to the valve seats and into the cylinder? What I see helps keep me up-to-date in design.
There were hardly any such engines this year at EICMA. A decade ago in Munich, a huge engineering drawing of a cylinder head from Ducati’s then-new “Testastretta” V-Twin covered an entire wall, revealing the internal beauty of the design. I stood and stared, and thought about what I was seeing.
Cutaway engines aren’t expensive, as they are easily made by sawing up the parts from test engines that have already given their value by being worn out or wrecked on the dyno or test track. So, the fact that they were largely missing in Milan suggests the manufacturers no longer believe people care much about such things. The gleaming MV Agusta pavilion contained nothing but bikes—one colorful, high-style creation after another.
I think style is today’s prime sales motivator, not revelation of interior details or insights into how things work. This, in turn, suggests that buyers have changed. In the past, the motorcycle buyer was thought to be much more interested in “tech stuff” than the automobile buyer. Can they have changed so much?
Maybe. A friend in this industry returned home one day to find his teenage son and three friends looking through a pile of recent motorcycle magazines. He asked them what kinds of information they would use in deciding which machine to buy if they were in the market. They replied, “We’d look at the pictures to see which one was the coolest-looking and buy that one.”
“You wouldn’t want to read test reports and specifications or talk to current owners?”
“No way, man. Just the fact they’re on the market means they work okay. So that leaves how they look.”