Searching for analogue in a digital world

It occurs to me that one of the driving forces behind the upsurge in interest in classic and custom bikes is the desire to rail against the inbuilt obsolescence of so many modern consumer goods, particularly technology.   In November 2007, I had just returned to the UK from a lengthy overseas trip and I took possession of two beautiful shiny objects that I’d pre-ordered before I left. The first was Apple’s original iPhone and the second, a Harley Davidson 1200N Nightster. 

Since then I’ve had to upgrade my iPhone 5 times but I’ve still got my Nightster. Smartphones are deliberately made to be frequently replaced and, if you resist, you find that they become slow and the battery life shortens to the point where they won’t hold a charge for long enough to be of any use to you. Harley Davidsons, on the other hand, are built to last, to be modified, improved and cherished! I’m planning a custom rebuild for mine and although I’m tempted to buy another bike soon, I won’t be parting with my Nightster.   

This desire to shift away from manufactured obsolescence might also explain the resurgence of vinyl. There’s a tactile pleasure to be had from holding the source of the music in your hands and then listening to the natural warmth and detail of an analogue recording that digital sources can’t match. This is perhaps summed up best by Neil Young in Driftin Back: “Dream about the way things sound now, write about them in my book, worry that you can’t hear me now and feel the time I took.”   

As the owner of a custom, classic or modern classic bike, you probably feel the same way about your ride. There is something compelling about the simplicity of a naked bike that a faired sports bike or fully dressed tourer can’t match. I stop to look at café racers, roadsters, scramblers and bobbers but don’t give a second glance to high-tech performance machines. Perhaps that’s because I know that what is technologically current and so ‘now’, will seem old hat and past it in a few years’ time.   

Enjoy the ride