Italian manufacturer Aprilia gambled on French industrial designer Phillippe Starck's ability to deliver a unique new street bike. Starck's Moto 6.5 did exactly what Aprilia hoped: bring the company into the public consciousness and position the company as a manufacturer of exciting street bikes.
The bike has to be seen in person to really appreciate the elegant design, and I was fortunate enough to do so every Sunday for six months while working as a galley docent for the 2005 Art of the Motorcycle exhibit in Memphis.
The bike has few straight lines; the forks and swingarm are the only noticeable non-curving forms on the bike. Everything else forms a series of circles and ovals, from the cluster of round instruments and tires, to the sweeping underbelly of the radiator and pipes, to the ellipsis formed by the tank and frame that cradles the engine.
The engine reminds me of a biology class human torso model. On those models, the exterior of the human body is smooth and sculpted, but the interior is a series of oddly-shaped organs that all nestle together in an organic whole that allows the machine to function efficiently.
The Moto 6.5 is a series of uncomplicated smooth surfaces everywhere except the engine. Among all these gentle curves, the eye is drawn to a series of rounded, natural forms that nestled together in an organic whole that allows this particular machine to function efficiently.
The bike's color scheme is another interesting choice. Everything (including the engine) is matte silver/grey, other than half the tank, which is divided by an uncharacteristically straight line. Half of the tank is silver, the other half is bright orange. (Later models offered alternates to the orange.) Like the bike's arcs and curves, the color scheme is something you either like or don't.
The bike evokes the clustered bubbles of the iconic Volkswagen Beetle, but it never achieved the Bug's utilitarian popularity. Despite fairly decent reviews as an easy-to-ride urban transport, with reasonable reliability ratings, it became a collector's piece almost as soon as it was introduced.