Bikes are a slightly neglected species here on The Lego Car Blog, probably because all the elves are issued with cars (Austin Allegros, since you ask…), so I thought I’d bring you a quick roundup of some of the Technic bikes that Lego has blessed us with over the years.
LEGO bikes through the ages
We’ll start with 857; the motorbike with sidecar that Lego started with in 1979. Pretty basic now – it has a single cylinder engine, it steers…. that’s it. No suspension, although there is something they had the temerity to call a ‘kick start’ which is nothing more than an axle with an elastic band attached to one end. Looks nice, though, with some neat sculpting for details like the mudguards and fuel tank that give it something of a Model Team look.
It might have been better without the rather plain and unattractive sidecar, however; the wheel of which is too far forward (for manoeverability, such outfits had the sidecar wheel closer to the rear). And wouldn’t the whole thing have looked better in black ? Still, it’s a nice thing, if somewhat fat. We’ll call it a Harley Davidson with a cylinder lopped off.
Unlike later bikes, this was a biggish set at the time, second only to the 853 Car Chassis, and there wasn’t really enough going on here to justify it’s 409 pieces and high price. At least they managed to put the chain inside the swingarm; which is a lot easier if the swingarm doesn’t, erm.. swing. Probably the weakest of the early sets, for all it’s vintage charm. 6/10.
Moving on, the red one is 8422 from 1995, a much slimmer and more effective design, and one that manages to correctly place it’s chain within a swinging swingarm. It has a V-Twin, decent suspension and a stand. As well as somewhat fussy styling that doesn’t quite work, except at the front with those printed light pieces. I think the designer was so thrilled with the invention of the liftarm triangle he just couldn’t help himself. They’re all over the place.
That said, this was a big improvement on the earlier 8838 ‘Shock Cycle’ and does look something like a touring BMW model. The set has 315 pieces, about 100 of which are entirely unnecessary. If only some of those had gone into the front suspension, which uses those large springs to support the weight of the front end, it might not have wobbled so much. 7/10.
Fast forward to 2008, and it’s the turn of 8291, the green dirt bike with 248 pieces and a lower price than the other two. It may be cheaper, but it’s also better. It features a horizontally opposed twin, long travel suspension and not much of a saddle. At least there’s now an exhaust to keep you warm… The chain migrates outwards to the wrong position, but that’s the only real downside. Even the front struts don’t wobble quite so much, because they’re mounted closer to the vertical.
This is certainly the most playable and robust of these three; the newer style of Technic seems to lend itself better to bikes and provides this with a real advantage. 8/10. We have a winner!
I haven’t touched on 2010′s 8051, probably the best bike to date and certainly the best looking, mainly because I haven’t got that one, or the new 42007 orange dirt bike, which looks like a rehash of 8291. Both of these still have that wobble-strut front end, though.
I haven’t mentioned B-models, either – they’re almost always dragsters or choppers and a lot less interesting than the main models, with the honourable exception of 857; which, being an early set, has a plethora of building ideas on it’s box and instructions for three quite different variations of the same basic frame. Three cheers for that.
If you’re a non-biker, you might be curious about the title of this piece. It’s a acronym for the words uttered by every myopic car driver who ever put an innocent motorcyclist in hospital:
‘Sorry Mate I Didn’t See You.’
Use your mirrors, people. Even Rovers have them, you know…