You don’t have to own or even ride motorcycles to appreciate them, and especially those of an older vintage, as mechanical marvels or for their amazing sculptural designs.
And if we revere the pioneers of the automobile, what sort of pedestal should we reserve for those who first challenged what passed as roadways on two wheels, and totally exposed to the elements, or for those who raced around high-banked, wood-plank board tracks on machines that had engines and handle bars but no brakes and pretty much no cushioning suspension either.
These are thoughts that came to mind this week as I wandered among the vehicles on the docket for two major vintage and collector motorcycle auctions in Las Vegas, a one-day sale by Bonhams and a nearly week-long parade across the auction block by Mecum.
In both cases, you could buy or sell — and the auction houses were delighted if that’s what you were doing. Or, like me, you could simply enjoy what felt like visiting a couple of marvelous if temporary motorcycle museums.
Exposed mechanical bits
Automobiles hide their mechanical parts beneath bodywork made of steel, aluminum or composites ranging from fiberglass to carbon fiber. For the most part, and for most of the parts, motorcycles expose their mechanical bits for all to see and enjoy.
Fuel tanks as works of art
Lit from within, there are few transportation items more artistically beautiful than the globes that once topped the fuel pumps at gas stations. But the logo designs on motorcycle fuel tanks have to be considered works of art in their own right.
Motorcycles allow us to enjoy gauges and even fenders for their beautiful design, and then, of course, there are the external ribs of the Steib sidecar.