Your excellent September/October 2017 issue underscores a most important point about the success of Honda Japanese motorcycles in the early years: they were not just “styled” but were integrated designs. The beloved Honda S90 (I had two) proves the point: sprightly, reliable, and simply elegant in their design. Hondas of that era always looked right to me. In contrast, the Ariel Leader and Arrow demonstrate the failure of later English design. The Arrow’s red-and-white paint scheme was the ultimate example of putting “lipstick on a pig.” Sadly, the Commando Hi-rider is an even worse example of the same thing. To underscore the point, after World War II, England produced the Corgi, America produced the Cushman Eagle, and Japan produced the Honda 50. Engineering and design were far superior on the Honda.
I say this after spending a couple of wonderful morning hours on my 1989 Honda Hawk NT650 GT, and wondering why today no one will make a compact bike even close to it in terms of finish (polished cases, aluminum frame and swingarm, sandcast aluminum brackets), low weight (390 pounds) and good handling. No offense to the good folks at Royal Enfield, but this is much more bike than their historic singles, which I considered before buying and restoring the Hawk. Engineering, when combined with good esthetics, results in successful motorcycle sales. I think you have to look very hard to find ugly motorcycles that sold well.
Rick Campbell/Tigard, Oregon