While we all have the same core devotion to squeezing more power out of whatever motive force powers our choice of two wheeler, there are some differing opinions as to the styling and finishing of the streetfighters we build.

While the style of the build can be as varied as there are types of toxic creepy crawlies in the Australian Outback – varying from the  traditional Renthal handlebars and Ducati tail unit of the conventional GSX-R streetfighter, to the fat tyres and fairings of Floridian custom sportsbikes via street trackers, cafe racers, drag bikes, supermotos and everything in between – the choice of finish tends to be divided between two clearly defined ideologies.

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The first is that of ‘get it built, get some paint on it, and ride the hell out of the bloody thing’, and the second is that of ‘the finish is everything, quality excels’. And it’s rare that devotees of either creed will accept the reasoning of the other.

Part of the attraction of modifying motorcycles is driven by the desire to have the best of everything or, at least, an improved version of what you already own. It’s why we fit lighter wheels, stiffer forks, more compliant rear shocks, turbochargers etc etc. And, for many people, having the best of everything also means having high quality paint, lots of polished aluminium and maybe some chroming and anodising too.

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The flip side of that is that there are quite a few arguments against having all the bling. “Chrome won’t get you home” is probably the most over-used statement, with many others being blurted out by those folk who either don’t have the financial wherewithal to afford a five thousand dollar paintjob, or who are too busy (or lazy) to keep on top of show quality polishing.

The diametric opposite of the show-painted, glittering polish-addicted bling monster is the rat bike, and it’s perhaps best that you don’t get me started on rats. Or matte black paint…

The question that I’m slowly working my way around to is as follows – does bling remove the right to have the title ‘streetfighter’? If a bike has dozens of chromed components, so much polished aluminium that it’d outshine the Dubai Hilton on a particularly sunny day, and paint that cost the equivalent of the Gross Domestic Product of a third world nation, does it mean that it can’t be ridden like you stole it?

That it can’t do burnouts, stoppies or wheelies? Or that it can’t be caned up the quarter mile or around your favourite set of twisties? No, of course it doesn’t!

Unfortunately, far too many people assume that, if a bike is so clean that you could eat your dinner off its crankcases, then it, “obviously never gets ridden!” Maybe the bike’s owner is just fastidious about keeping his pride and joy clean?

Maybe he (or she) has a terminal case of OCD? Or maybe it is just as simple as that fact that it is the owner’s ‘Sunday Best’ bike – the one kept for special occasions, and the rest of the time kept under velvet sheets in an air-conditioned and carpeted garage while the owner covers thousands of miles on another, maybe more standard (and definitely more road-weary) bike?

Of course, there are bikes out there that are kept in such conditions, only venturing out to a show or gathering where the owner knows that he’ll gain accolades for the outstanding paint and brightwork, and often travelling in the back of a van or on a trailer to get there.

But even that doesn’t give recourse to ill-meaning slander or complaints. Such a ‘trailer queen’ or ‘trophy hunter’ can still be an influence to potential bike builders, regardless of whether they can justify the expenditure on paint or the time spent polishing.

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But the question of, “Can a streetfighter have bling?” is rather missing the point somewhat. Paint and polish do not create the streetfighter, but just add to it. A ‘fighter is created by the desire to have a totally bonkers bike that makes you ride like a hoon, whether that be a big bore turbo nutter bike that wheelies and smokes the rear tyre at the merest whiff of throttle, or a small capacity single with sticky tyres that goes around corners like a raped ape.

The level of finish, of paint and polish, is purely the owner’s discretion. The flip side of that is that if an otherwise bog stock bike is given an intricate paint scheme that cost more than the owner’s house, then it’s still a standard bike with some flash livery – little more than a pig in a wig, as my old metalwork teacher used to say.

Although it is often far too easy to see a glittering, multi-hued peacock of a bike and assume that it is nothing more than flamboyant livery, rather than looking beyond the outer layer to see what engineering masterpiece lays beyond.

Basically, what I’m saying is to prioritise the engineering and the attitude, but don’t knock those who have a thing for bling, and always look under the clothing!

Ride More. Build More.

– DAVE MANNING

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