KTM Revives the Rocker

I’ve always had a soft spot for KTM. They make bikes that are loud, lary and often BRIGHT ORANGE with weird and wonderful angular lines quite unlike other bikes. They’re also not scared of playing with the idea of motorcyclists being rebellious outsiders and have been putting together well filmed ads for their products that show pro riders essentially messing about on their machines and riding well beyond the usual rider’s limits.

One reason why they might have done this is because they don’t have the same presence in the MotoGP and WSB race classes. Win on Sunday Sell on Monday was the old mantra, and it clearly still works. What do you do if you’re expanding a range of fired-up street bikes but your brand isn’t a short circuit or TT winner, or is better known for its enduro bikes? You go back to the 1960s, when motorcyclists were perceived as everything that was wrong with the world, and you update the Folk Devil for 2013. Add in some moral panic from the Police and an MP and you have the perfect ingredients for a cult following. Interestingly, BSA did some market research in the 1960s that concluded that associations with “the Rocker element should be avoided at all cost.” I’ve always thought that a bit of a shame, as BSA soon disappeared as the British motorcycle industry died and the Rockers are still doing their thing, devoted to the British manufacturers of the 1960s.

Clearly this sort of stuff will never make it onto prime time TV so it must be made to go viral among fans of the brand. That keeps it internal and focused on potential buyers, but what’s interesting is how things change when this happens, and the films reach a wider audience. The internal starts to cross the boundary of the motorcycle culture and is seen outside the usual audience. To the untrained eye, burning out tyres, drifting the back end around and sticking one wheel or the other up in the air may seem normal, the sort of reckless dicking about that “bikers” are prone to.

I posted it up on Facebook earlier today and it got two comments: one from my non-riding brother suggesting the bike came with a free coffin, the other from my wife who commented on the colour of the bike. She desperately wants to find the time to learn to ride but needs to probably finish her PhD first. The first bike she sat on was a KTM and I like to think she might own one some day. That way I can have a go on it…

So here it is. I love it. Long may the motorcyclist be portrayed, by one contemporary manufacturer at least, as a folk devil capable of catalysing a moral panic for our time. Enjoy it, I think the Rockers will.


And if you want to know what happens next, watch this….


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