Is Your Motorcycle "Real?"

I had a discussion with a brand snob recently and apparently one of my motorcycles isn’t “real.” I was reminded of this exchange today when I saw an article on the AMA website about the 2008 Buell 1125R.

2008 Buell 1125RIt appears that Buell, a subsidiary of Harley-Davidson, was allowed to look elsewhere for a powerplant for its newest sportbike. The bike uses a liquid-cooled V-twin designed by Rotax and looks very interesting. In addition to the excellent write-up on the bike, AMA has a great interview with Erik Buell about the bike’s development.

I doubt that this bike will spark any great controversy, given that people have wondered for years when Buell would get around to building a sportbike that’s not powered by an air-cooled XL Sportster engine. So while it’s a big step for Buell, I expect this bike to be a beloved addition to the family.

Not so my BMW F650GS, also powered by a Rotax engine, which was recently scorned by some fellow as not being a “real” BMW. “BMW never made a 650,” he sneered.

So what makes a motorcycle a true example of the marque? Does every part need to roll off a company assembly line? BMW doesn’t make my tires, either — does that matter?

There’s no argument that the engine is the heart of a motorcycle but does it have to be built in-house? Do Aprilia Mille or KTM owners have to put up with this?

I recognize that there will be some motorcycles that will never be considered genuine. Would anyone consider the short-lived revival of Excelsior-Henderson related in any way to the classic American motorcycle introduced by William and Tom Henderson in 1911? It was just a pricey cruiser that didn’t offer anything particularly special, and it’s not an Excelsior-Henderson no matter what the badge said.

But the BMW F650? This bike has been sold by BMW for more than a decade and built by BMW since 2000. It appeared on the BMW factory team in the Dakar Rally. It’s not some orphaned model thrown together to make a quick buck — it’s been revised over the years and has led to the new G series of BMW 650s.

I guess this is more about bike snobbery than about motorcycles. Some people would like to forget BMW made anything after the airhead twin. I imagine every brand has built a motorcycle than someone, somewhere, deems unworthy to be considered “real.”

I don’t think I’m going to worry about those people. I love my fake BMW.

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