All is Good in our Parallel Universe
To Enter INTERMOT Customized (Hall 10) at the Cologne Exhibition Center Was Indeed Like Entering a Parallel Universe. The AMD World Championship of Custom Bike Building is a Design and Engineering showcase where all the builders enter a kind of serene zone of pure pleasure. One where the hard work, challenges and compromises quickly become a distant memory and the uniquely collegiate ‘vibe’ that has always been the hallmark reminds us why we love what we do, why we love the motorcycle industry and why we love the people in it.
The bonding experience of the ‘AMD’ that first-timers encounter is quite unlike anything else they will ever have experienced. More akin to Frat House than bike show, there is an immediate connection between a brotherhood of fellow travellers, friends old and new, and a genuine celebration of the ‘art of the possible’.
Better judges than I tell me that the standards of design, engineering and craftsmanship were at least as high as has ever been seen before, that the organization was smooth and user-friendly, and that the presentation of the bikes was superb.
For the latter we tip our hats to the management and staff of the Cologne Exhibition Center (Koelnmesse) and the owner of INTERMOT, the IVM, the motorcycle industry trade association in Germany.
Their (considerable) backing for the INTERMOT Customized concept and the investment they are making into the future of the custom motorcycle industry has, in just its second event, delivered on a vision I had been chasing for nearly two decades.
One which sees the competitors themselves being treated as honored VIP guests in recognition of the huge investment of time, money, effort and creativity that each of them is making. Their investments made the 240,000 plus sq ft of Hall 10 feel like a village of around 150,000 like-minded souls.
‘customization is the bridge between generations’
Although the attitudes to the ownership and riding experience may have changed in recent years, although the platforms being ridden and personalized have evolved, although the beards may look different, there is more in common between successive generations of riders and of custom enthusiasts than divides them.
At a time when the motorcycle industry worries about its future, worries about the generations whose world view is almost exclusively framed through the lens of their screens, it is customization that is the bridge between those generations.
The desire to state credentials of personal expression in a peer group context is far from new. It is not so different to the mindset that characterized the Boomers and is absolutely the fundamental unique selling point of riding in general, and the custom market specifically.
Scramblers, trackers and Cafe Racers may, currently, temporarily, be the flavor du jour of the so-called alt.moto scene, but just as the salvage yard choppers that were the build of choice when Boomers were long on enthusiasm but short on money, the cost-conscious and, currently, design-cautious and conservative entrants of now will spread their wings. They will have to.
Currently we are seeing much focus on what are, essentially, transitional rides and builds, but as the waist lines and wallet books fatten, so too will the engines, frames and budgets.
It was the ‘AMD’ Parallel Universe that provided the showcase and level playing field platform for retro, Cafe and tracker style builds to emerge and take their place alongside the choppers. It remains one where design and engineering simplicity rubs shoulders with complexity, where expensive and inexpensive coexist, one where craftsmanship and innovation combine to produce a heady, intoxicating brew that embraces the future as well as honoring the past.
The ‘AMD’ Parallel Universe is not the mono culture that characterizes the present ‘new gen’ scene, but an omni-culture where everything is possible, and nothing is impossible. A multiverse where nobody needs permission from a prevailing trend or orthodoxy or needs to fall within the boundaries of any current oeuvre to gain approval. One where permission to succeed and fail live in perfect harmony. Where all efforts are equal.
The ‘AMD’ Parallel Universe is one that allows builders themselves the freedom to lay down the elements and building blocks needed for new talent to emerge and express itself in new ways, for new ideas and trends to have permission to blink into hopeful existence.
When the ‘AMD’ started in 2004 it was won (in two consecutive years) by board tracker style retro builds, the like of which had never been seen before at that time.
Since 2011 the platforms used to win the ‘AMD’ have been a 93” S&S Shovelhead style air-cooled V-twin, a 987 cc Sportster Iron, a 1971 Moto Guzzi Nuovo Falcone 500, a 1650 cc BMW, and, two years ago, a 1973 Harley Shovelhead Sportster engine.
This year saw the Championship won by a Russian in his 20s who based his ideas on a Yamaha SR 400. Second was based on a 1961 AJS 350 (Malaysia); third was a handbuilt 1700 cc engine with cylinders and heads from a 1980s Eastern European truck engine (Hungary); fourth was a handbuilt 2714 cc 1908 J.A.P. land speed record, Brooklands racing replica engine (Czech Republic), and fifth was a MZ ETZ 250 (Ireland). Eclectic doesn’t even begin to cover it!
Elsewhere among the Top 30 Avon Freestyle bikes were three more Ironhead Sportsters, a Yamaha XJR 1300, a Buell XB12, a 1000 cc Harley engine from 1917, a Twin Cam, a RevTech, a Honda V4, an 1100 cc Moto Guzzi, a CZ, a BSA, at least one Knucklehead, at least two different era Indian engines, and at least five Panheads - from some 13 other countries. International doesn’t even begin to cover it, either!
From Cafe to drag style, from superbikes to streetfighters, from trackers to retro, choppers to fat rear ends and replicas to racers, the ‘AMD’ is about inclusivity, not exclusivity. It is not one single Parallel Universe, but an infinity of all possible parallel universes in which each generation is able to make its own way, but ultimately arrive at the same destination … excellence.