Despite little differences here and there, the vast majority of motorcycle design follows a pretty similar aesthetic formula. Over the last few decades the only real difference in appearance of how motorcycles looks are that they’re sleeker to take better advantage of aerodynamics. The Ronin 47 is not like that. Love it or hate it, the Ronin 47 is a motorcycle that changes what a modern two wheeler ought to look like and we think it does so for the better.
The story of how the Ronin 47 has come to be is as unique as its appearance. When Harley-Davidson shut down Buell in 2009 there were a whole bunch of Buell 1125 sportbikes unsold. At the time, Magpul, who are best known as a firearm magazine and accessories business designed The Ronin as a concept bike to be used as a trade show prop. The reaction to the bike was overwhelmingly positive and Mike Mayberry, one of the owners of Magpul, went on a shopping trip and purchased 50 Buell 1125’s from around the United States. Eventually, Magpul spun off a new company, Ronin Motorworks and fast forward to today and The Ronin 47 is almost unchanged from that initial concept design.
Although based on the Buell 1125, this isn’t a purely cosmetic makeover. Changes to the fuel mapping were implemented due to modifications to the exhaust system and intake. The standard telescopic forks have been replaced with an in house design that has a centrally mounted shock. The subframe has been modified and almost the entire electrical system has been swapped out and replaced.
Visually it’s a striking machine. It’s not a beautiful motorcycle, but you wouldn’t call it ugly in the way you might describe a V-Strom. It’s different, but in a good way. There are no less than 11 sand-cast aluminium parts, plus custom made bar end mirrors, headlights, tail section and in a nice touch, the indicators double as bar ends. All up, the end result is a bike that is actually 54lb ligther than it’s donor bike.
Adding to this unique machine is the way it will be sold. The initial twelve bikes that are being made (and which are already spoken for) will mimic the colors of the original concept bike and will be sold for $38,000. The next 10 bikes will be completely black in color and sell for a higher price. Each subsequent release will be reduced by two motorcycles (10, then eight, then six, etc) and each tranche will be have unique modifications (and cost more).
So why has it taken some guys from a military accessories company to bring out one of the most unique looking motorcycles in the past few years? Thanks to the echo chamber that is the motorcycle industry, anything that’s too ‘out there’ is quickly dismissed due to the possible risks involved. Japanese sports bikes are like Porsche – tiny, incremental design tweaks and no real originality or flare. The new Yamaha R1 is the most ‘out there’ machine to come from Japan in recent memory, but compared to the Ronin 47 it looks very conservative.
Given not only its price but its rarity, only a handful of people will ever ride the Ronin 47, but let’s hope it inspires some larger motorcycle manufacturers to be a little more experimental in their designs.