The age-old question has been asked more and more lately. What defines a Fighter? Well, depending how many people you ask, you’ll typically get that many different answers. We’ll get the obvious out of the way. Sport oriented motorcycle removed of anything unnecessary to its function. Typically stripped of most bodywork, fitted with higher rise handlebars, smaller, lighter parts to reduce weight and as much performance mods as available to make it wicked fast. So now that we have the basic idea in our head, I’d like to expand on this view of how fighters are perceived around the world.
Let’s start with the motherland of Streetfighters. The grand old U.K. Home to Big Ben, Fish and Chips, Teatime and the Queen Mum. Some will argue it started back in the ’50’s with the Café racer. Some say true fighters begin in the early ’80’s with the bike messengers fighting London traffic and marring their fairings. Bike messengers don’t exactly make grand salaries so instead of replacing their war torn bodywork, they simply removed them.
The basic style has remained constant over the decades. Remove fairings, add flat bars, secure dual spot headlights, and kick up the tail. For the most part the styling has remained somewhat reserved. Swap your tail section for some more attractive OEM unit from another model. Some trick paint and polish. Maybe update the running gear for the latest and greatest in go fast hardware. To top it all off, we tear the motor out and either build some octane-snorting monster or replace it all together for the biggest fastest lump that will fit.
Some things never change. There has been some crossbreeding of the genres as of late. Longer lower bikes are starting to become more popular. Not exactly slammed but set for better launch control. Also, Paint has gotten more detailed with large murals and wild colors. The drag racing scene has more them likely brought on this new trend. But also we see some return to the old school with some retro styled Café fighters. Embracing history in a very positive way.
Next we move across the channel to Germany. Fast Luxury cars, Cold Beer, Hot Bratwurst and Lederhosen, huh!? OK, the later probably isn’t as prominent but it made you laugh right? Now here is a scene that pulls out all the stops. Mad amounts of Polish and Chrome, Extreme amounts of Custom Billet parts, Big Horsepower motors, Wild almost demonic bodywork, Fat Rubber and paint that jumps off the sheet metal.
Walking into a Fighter show here looks like a Candy colored Horror movie. Maybe Rob Zombie should have a look into this.
Maybe not the originators, but definitely innovators.
And here we can definitely start dissecting the genre. Here we can see a lot of unique ideas that started in this area, but there’s also some Euro Cruiser/ Chopper inspiration as well. Fork tube covers are becoming more present. These covers usually smooth out the front end to make more of a seamless tube from top to bottom. Some have even gone as far as to machine grooves and designs in them to add a little extra flash to the front of the bike. More influence from the custom scene is found in dressing up the cables with bright braided lines, cleaner shinier engine covers, Stylized billet grips, Hidden axle covers, integrated handlebar risers and clamps. The list goes on forever.
Their big claim to fame being the very exaggerated tail heights compounded by short tail lengths. And the crazy looking bodywork that has got the Fighter world wanting more. Very sculpted and aggressive looking. And going along with sculpture in motorcycles is some of the tank mods that look like they were pulled from scenes of a Friday the 13th movie.
Tire size seems to be getting wider and wider around the world, but instead of just focusing on the rear tire they are paying just as much attention to the front. Widening the front wheels to except rear tire widths. 180’s and 190 section tires matched with 240 and larger rears. Bringing a whole new look to the fat tire game.
If we head north we find the Nordic fighters. The land of the long night brings out some seriously mean bikes when the ice thaws. With less then 6 months of daylight let alone favorable riding weather this leaves a lot of time to tinker in the shed.
These new age Vikings like to go FAST!!!
Turbos are not uncommon when they start building fighters. And with the ever-growing drag racing scene building in the warmer months long and low goes along with the fast and mean theory.
What is neat is some of the paint schemes that come along with these bikes. Leaning a bit towards the American Hot Rods of yore Flames are most notable. Although, it’s not necessarily traditional flames. Some opt for tribal licks or lay them out in candy and flake.
But the other scene that’s gaining ground is Stunt riding. MX bars, cages, 12 bars, hand brakes strapped to naked bikes and adorned with all the sponsors and eye catching paint they can get.
The Land Down Under is stepping up the game with some very clean and tasty fighters. They have some of the very well engineered and eye-catching fighters I have seen. Adopting some global fighter styling, but also putting the Aussie spin on it. Very unique ideas and adaptations are happening. It’s a good mix of English cleanliness along with German extreme. Big power bikes are definitely abundant along with a healthy dash of polish and bling.
Here in the Good old USA and our friends to the North, Canada, the Fighter scene came to be by way of the stunt world. Once again form followed function when plastic got shattered learning all the crazy tricks and combos.
Some felt they had more maneuverability and control on a naked stunter as apposed to a fully faired bike. Soon naked bikes started popping up more and more.
Some saw a resemblance to the chopper crowd, but liked the power and handling of a sport bike as apposed to the lumbering sled of a cruising machine.
Others grew up on the pegs of a dirt bike and felt the natural switch to big bars and tall seats.
Others remember the hey day of the Jap invasion and wanted to recreate the classic CB’s, GS’ and KZ’. Some just felt the need to stand out in the crowd and build something different.
We are also taking bits and pieces from around the globe and making our own style.
From caged and barred stunters to lean mean hooligan machines to full on customs that rival any big bank account chopper.
Looking around the world we see many different styles that share a key piece of their culture but also we are seeing a mix of cultures trickling through to create new and interesting ideas. What’s next to roll from the garages sheds and work shops around the world? Only time will tell. With our global world the possibilities are limitless. What will you create to set the Fighter world on fire?