Two Lines in Motorcycle Design - Norden 901 & KTM 990

Comparing outlines. Traced outlines of the 2013 KTM 990 and 2021 Husqvarna 901 reveal a striking similar shape. The appeal of this rally profile is undeniable, whether from Austria or Sweden. But wait....aren't KTM and Husqvarna the same company? Yes.

Two key lines. The most important lines on a modern motorcycle are these. The rake of the two red lines create muscularity and defines the "rally bike" look (i.e., Dakar Rally). These angles are timeless and universally appealing. Most manufacturers will be offering bikes with these fairing lines on their Adventure models for the foreseeable future. Check out the 2022 Aprilia Tuareg 660, Yamaha Tenere 700, Ducati Desert X, and Honda Africa Twin. The great homogenization begins, but no one's complaining.

Not sorry. Harley-Davidson will not be following this trend because the company remains clueless and focused on chrome side pipes and a dwindling Boomer market. H-D sells 50% of all motorcycles sold in the US. But Easy Rider hairdos and the greasy bagger aesthetic are no longer relevant in motorcycling. H-D management didn't get the memo. Have you seen the flabby 534-lb Pan America?

Excuse me gentleman. Likewise, BMW and Triumph - makers of motorcycles for gentlemen - will not soon be offering bikes with rally fairing lines either. The signature beaks will be retained. Sie den Schnabel behalten. Beaks and forward-tilted tank creases will remain the dominant design elements on GS and Tiger models.

The KTM aesthetic. KTM began as an Austrian bicycle, motorcycle, and sports car manufacturer with roots tracing back to the 1930s. The logo and fairings on their motorcycles reflect an angular sensibility. Apparently, the bezier curve has not yet arrived in Mattighofen. But there must be more than one designer in the shop. Depending on the model, the look of a KTM can range from sublimely beautiful to insect-like. Its one of the oddest aspects of the KTM brand. By contrast, a company like Honda bends over backwards to maintain a unified look throughout their line. One glance and you know its a Honda. Same with KTM, but for different reasons.

The customer is always wrong. KTM unapologetically trades some reliability and annoyingly short maintenance intervals for pure performance and great handling. Unlike the Japanese companies, they make light and fast machines that demand attention like prize race horses. No question KTM produces the best Dual Sport and Adventure bikes today, but they are not cheap and they couldn't care less. The company seems entirely uninterested in public input and appears nearly impervious to market forces that control every aspect of Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, and Kawasaki.

The Husqvarna aesthetic. Husqvarna, now a part of the KTM Group, began as a Swedish rifle manufacturer with roots that trace to the 1600s. Today they make chainsaws, axes, and motorcycles today. The Husqvarna logo is sophisticated and timeless. Brawny but smart. The corporate cultures at KTM and Husky must contrast markedly.

2021 Husqvarna Norden 901. Great looks, mediocre performance, heavy.

2013 KTM 990 Adventure. Timeless, powerful, influential rally looks.

Husqvarna logo. Professionally designed, symmetric, clean, and achingly Swedish.

KTM logo. Like something a teenager with a Forrest Gump accent scrawled on the door of his jacked 4x4 truck.

Its orange and black. An update is long overdue.

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