‘VFR1200 is the future now’ says design critic Stephen Bayley
Eminent design critic Stephen Bayley has gone on the record praising Honda’s controversially-styled new VFR1200. Here he explains why he believes it points to a more visually sophisticated future for all bikes.
“Much more so than a car, artistically speaking, a motorbike is a diagram of forces…..with a fashionable gloss. And the job of a diagram is to explain something. If you look at a cross-section of Max Friz’ original BMW Boxermotor it can easily be mistaken for an abstract painting by Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, the austere head of the Bauhaus’ metal workshop.
"Bauhaus logic passed into BMW design theology: clarity was an article of faith. By about 2000 any BMW was a neo-perfect, clean-lined demonstration of the Bauhaus motto “art and technology: a new unity”. So, just as nature abhors a vacuum, perfection requires disruption and a revolution came along.
"This was designer Chris Bangle who had drunk a deeply toxic brew of Post-Modern ambiguity and self-promotion. BMWs became aesthetically irrational. Simple became complex. Surface and sense were disrupted. It was in absolute defiance of functionalist theory. Initial reaction was dismay fused with disgust. Curiously, dismay and disgust caught on: the 2003 Bangle 5-series changed everybody’s rules.
"So it is interesting that the reference point for the Honda VFR1200 is the BMW K1300. Evidently, Honda has made in this bike as much of an investment in art as in technology. Possibly deliberately, it looks bigger than its predecessor. Undeniably, it is striking.
"Aesthetically, Spanish designer Teofilo Plaza has taken the diagrammatic possibilities to the max of contemporary possibilities. Bikes are necessarily more two-dimensional than cars, but this is one of the most three-dimensional bikes yet seen. The fairing is sculpturally integrated with the tank and special attention has been made to surfaces, contrasts of materials, textures and apertures. No doubt, there is an untranslatable Japanese word describing this fanatical process.
"There are aerodynamic and thermal reasons for the layering of the fairing, but there is an artistic effect too. The VFR1200 looks solid, even dense: valuable semantics for a bike intended as a grand tourer. And, as a diagram, Plaza plays with the positive/negative aspects of bike design: seen in side elevation, the new Honda is a bold composition of weight forward and space aft. So this is certainly a diagram of forces. And it is a diagram of fashion. Sculpture has replaced geometry in motorbike design and a morphological race has begun.
"For more than fifty years Honda has tickled the consumer's cupidity with delectable technology. Now delectable sculpture is added to its offer. In future all bikes will become more visually sophisticated. The VFR1200 is the future now.”