Can Great Motorcycles Be Designed By Committee?


One reason for the rise in popularity of “garage built” motorcycles may be the nature of the creative process itself. It is generally accepted that the most creative ideas arise from a single human brain. In fact, the best incubator is the human brain after first waking from sleep.

Large corporations, for the most part, reach the final design of a production motorcycle “by committee”. In other words, by infusing the machine with the thoughts and concerns of many different individuals and corporate departments. Sometimes this works, and sometimes this doesn’t, but it can be argued that it rarely results in anything “inspired”.

One of the greatest single motorcycles ever designed and built was purely the product of one man, John Britten. Honda’s most iconic models, in the opinion of many, came at a time when the motorcycle division was guided by the principles of Soichiro Honda.

The problem with corporate committees can be the dilution of an inspirational concept, and the “tacking on” of disparate ideas and concerns — leading to a less organic whole. Some might say a product that lacks “soul”.


Of course, not all ideas springing from the mind of an individual have merit or inspire others. There are plenty of garage-built bikes that inspire nothing more than disgust, or worse.  They look, and perhaps perform, like crap.

Steve Jobs (please refrain from an Apple vs. Android vs. Windows fanboy war in our comments section) bucked several corporate trends when it came to designing new products. He eschewed customer surveys, for instance,  which are arguably just another form of committeeism when it comes to design ideas or evolution. As a result, many of Apple’s products broke new ground and offered something existing customers “didn’t know they wanted.”

Perhaps this is one of the fundamental problems facing manufacturers as they grow larger and more bureaucratic … and the reason they can be beaten to the punch by inspired entrepreneurs (Elon Musk comes to mind).


See more of MD’s great photography: