Ugly Betties: The World’s Homeliest Motorcycles

by Ed Milich

When your eyeballs first encounter a 916, an RC30, or a DB1, the results are rapturous. Your heart rate increases. Your palms sweat. Your chin embraces your sternum with a frothy stalactite of drool. Such is the effect of beautiful motorcycle designs. Bad designs are just as powerful, though- they can leave you scratching your eyes out or begging for a convenient rolling blackout. Thus I present a discussion of the most ill begotten, misshapen and downright ugly products of the modern motorcycle industry.

Bimota Mantra- Designed by Frenchman Sacha Lakic for Bimota, the Mantra misjudged the motorcycle marketplace magnificently. Prominent features include a walnut dashboard and a glove box. Next time, back off on the Beaujolais, Sacha. While the Mantra’s frame is an elegant alloy trellis and performance is on a par with any Ducati Supersport, the bike’s anterior is the stylistic marriage of a parrotfish and a Vetter Windjammer. You want to love it because it’s a Bimota, but you can’t because it’s visually grotesque. I have to reiterate this point: it has both a Ducati engine and a flipping glove box.

Ducati 860 GT- While bevel drive Ducati prices continue to soar, the homely 860 GT’s are still cheap. The 860 was obviously penned during Italy’s brief (two week) “Clunky Design” Era The side panels’ louvered trapezoids make the bike look remarkably like a newt-shaped twin-wheeled mailbox. In summary: The 860 GT: all the reliability of bevel drive Ducatis (i.e. little) with none of the style!

Honda Rune- The Rune is Honda’s huge, gaudy chrome warhorse. It features a bulbous Jell-O-molded body, the wheelbase of a Vauxhall, and massive amounts of chrome, pointy, stylized accents, and other Nipponese “Bring Bring”. The chromed front radiator cover suggests whale baleen, and the blue version of the Rune has been mistaken for a feeding land leviathan with chrome fronts. To top it off, the Rune ad campaign featured dragon-slaying wizard imagery right off the side of your pot-smoking, Zeppelin-digging big brother Mel’s custom 1976 Econoline van. Heck yeah, bro, and pass the PBR.

Rokon- All . You have to admire the utility of the Rokon Motorcycle. Mud, rocks, the Rio Grande, the Empire State Building, The Great Wall of China: the two wheel drive Rokon can tread, ford, or scale them all. Unfortunately, the Rokon looks like it was designed by the company’s accounting department, and this bike succeeds in setting the international reference standard for absolute zero on the scale of two-wheeled sex appeal. The Rokon is the motorcycle design equivalent of whitey-tighties.

1987 Ducati Indiana- Here is a disturbing mental image. It’s the late 1980’s, around quitting time on a Friday night at the Ducati factory. The legendary Ing. Fabio Taglioni finishes up an engine design for the day. He flips on the radio to a convenient pomp-rock station, which just happens to be playing Loverboy’s “Working for the Weekend”, and he turns it way up. He struts his way out of the building as he high-fives each of his co-workers in turn. He whips on his black leather biker jacket and ties an Italian tricolor bandana headband-style around his balding noggin. He lights up a Marlboro, drops on a pair of mirrored shades as he mounts his personal ride, a low, black twin-cylinder cruiser. He fires her up, open exhaust pipes growling like cornered warthogs, “Tag” peels out of Ducati’s employee parking lot, tiny 16” wheels a blazing. He’s burning up the road, headed to the local swill-soaked pool hall for a night of 8 ball-hustling, Miller Lite guzzling and miniskirt-chasing. Which bike is our favorite Roman engineering badass riding? A Ducati Indiana. Oh, God, please tell me this was all just a bad 1980’s nightmare…

1998 Moto Guzzi EV1100 “Hot Dog and Mustard”- Rejoice in the fact that the guy who suggested that the wheels be painted the shade of “Ketchup” got shot down at the design review.

Moto Guzzi 850 T5-Just like any Guzzi, it’s a good buddy…a 98 lb weakling (~50 hp), though, and one with significant orthopedic problems (16” wheels F/R). Plus his taste in clothes could be described as extremely “Kmart” (many T5’s were drab shades of brown/gray). Yes, it’s still a Guzzi, but …ugh.

Hercules W-2000 - Suzuki was prudent enough to disguise the Wankel-powered engine of their RE5 in the envelope of a typical 1970’s UJM, so as not to scare away potential customers. Hercules’ prominent rotary motor, on the other hand, let it all hang out, and brought to mind either a.) an Aermacchi motor on Viagra or b.) The World’s Fastest Vacuum Cleaner.

Honda Pacific Coast– Styled like a cross between a Geo Metro and a high end bidet, this lovely appliance would look equally at home in your suburban garage or your guest bathroom. Consumers’ biggest question was whether it had a vegetable crisper drawer or an icemaker. It is rumored that the Pacific Coast is powered by an 800cc V-twin engine, but you’ll have to take Honda’s word for it because no one has ever completely removed a Pacific Coast’s all-engulfing bodywork.

Boss Hoss V8- An icon of overindulgence, this “motorcycle” epitomizes the excesses of the American century. The Boss Hoss looks like a Harley Big Twin that swallowed and is having a painful time digesting a late 1970’s Chevrolet Nova. Big for the sake of being big and seemingly designed solely for doing burnouts at stoplights, the ½ ton (dry!), Chevy 350-powered Boss Hoss is very simply “too much”. The V8 customer base has the distinction of sharing a statistical correlation with sufferers of the medical condition colloquially known as “Teeny Weenie Peenie”. Note that the V8 is also available in an even more aesthetically devoid trike version for those with further problems ”keeping it up”.