Tanshanomi's Snap Judgments


Thu, April 15th, 2010

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NOTE: The C1 was never sold in the USA.

1999-2002 BMW C1
The C1 was available in 15 HP 125cc and 18 HP 176cc versions. They performed much like other scooters with similarly sized engines and CVT drivelines, with the exception that the C1 weighed in excess of 400 pounds. They went well enough for their mission as urban commuters, but racy they weren't. (Score is an average: the 125 gets 1 point, the '200' [sic] gets 2.)
The roll bars and roof raise the center of gravity and make low-speed maneuvers wonky. The small wheels don't handle bumps and ruts well. Brakes are better than they have to be.
How do you rate something like this? It has some cool details, some really ugly parts, and an overall appearance that defies comparison to any other bike.
It's supposedly built to BMW quality standards, but it was actually built by Bertone, only around 12,000 were made, and it used lots of unique parts and technology. All of this would make me nervous.
A big deal was made of the UK's refusal to exempt the C1 from helmet laws or rider licensing requirements. And with its low-power motor options, the C1 was certainly never intended for cross-country tours. All that aside, a bike with an automatic transmission, crumple zones, roll bars, a windshield wiper, rear head restraint and seat belts is the very definition of practical.
Unlike most of my higher desirability ratings, I want a C1 for more than just its visceral appeal. Pragmatically, I wouldn't want a C1 for my only motorcycle, but if I could buy one in the U.S. for a reasonable price, get parts for it, and properly license it for the street, I would commute regularly on (in?) it. This is something I regrettably choose not to attempt on my motorcycle or bicycle now out of concerns for my safety. On the emotional side, the C1 was a bold, admirable and largely effective attempt to realistically address the dangers of riding motorcycles; BMW should be lauded for having done more than simply wring their hands while riders die. The C1 also wonderfully strange, the sort of Weird Science rarely produced by large, conservative corporations. I love it for all those reasons.
Jeremy Clarkson once wrote, 'I think the C1 is the most stupid thing the world has seen.' But he thinks everything is stupid, and to be fair, he was speaking within the context of Britain's inflexible rulings on it. Forget Jeremy Clarkson. The truth is that the C1 wasn't stupid at all—just too extremely, regrettably odd for its own good.

TOMORROW: Suzuki Bandit 400