This has bothered me since I started riding in the 70's. In those days if you rode Japanese bikes you were sneered at by the Brit bike brigades. You would here things such as "They are plastic", "They will never last" "They are not real bikes" and always the "They have no character"
I really did not understand what they meant. Some of my riding friends had Triumph Bonneville's and if breaking down all the time, leaking oil every time we stopped and dodgy electrics was character then I wanted no part of it.
When I look back at the Japanese bikes from that period and later in the 80's there are many that are now considered to have lots of character. H1 and H2, Yamaha, RD and LC, Z1, RG500, GSXR series. In fact too many to list. Surprise, surprise, they have lasted as well, with many on the road and here in the Philippines some still running that have had effectively no maintenance.
Is "Character" related to image, is it related to history or is it just fashion? Does a bike that vibrates a lot, give it character? Does a bike have to break down often to have character? Is a bike that does not go quickly, cant go around bends quickly and sounds like a tractor automatically have character? (my bias showing there)
Does a bike that costs a great deal that still has appalling electrics and overheats if you have to ride slowly in summer have character? Does a bike that costs a great deal but has has plummeted down reliability charts owing to electronic faults that only a dealer can fix at crazy prices have character?
It would appear so.
Or is there another element to this. Does a bike have to be European or American to be granted "Character" Is there a darker side to it?
I got involved recently in trying to define why one Japanese bike had more character than another. Both of which I own. I still believe that with standard pipes one sounds more emotive. I also like the intake sounds because it has carbs but is the rest of it because I have sweat blood and tears and $'s making the older bike a fantastic example of an historic bike anyway. Is it just that I have ridden one for many years and have lots of stories and memories?. Does that give a bike "character"?
In ten years will I assign character to the new bike. I think the answer to that is yes.
Could it be that those bikes that are granted the accolade of having character are allowing their owners to embrace an image that was created by others but that they hope they project by riding one?
Anyway, I am off to don my black suit and face mask, slide silently onto my bike and creep up on traffic without them noticing...................Oh S..t, maybe I am doing the same!! Oh well, if you cant beat them, join them!