I've Made a Motorcycle Out of Paper Again
The first-born, a Yamaha YZR-M1 - practice insanity only. In the background: my roommate's 19" Apple Cinema Display, a travel-size Right Guard deodorant stick, and some unopened mail.

A couple of months ago, I snapped a little bit. Not enough to dig for three days straight, or to write curmudgeonly letters to local newspapers, but just enough to cause me to build a motorcycle out of paper. Besides, I was on vacation, and trying to put some things out of my mind, and wanted an excuse to use my X-Acto knife towards purposes not involving the flesh of others. Yamaha offers the kits for free download, and since I have ready access to a color laser printer at work (via theft of services), I figured I would be a fool NOT to build a motorcycle. Out of paper.


I was no novice of the cardmodel scene; after all, as a teenager I had constructed a medieval castle, a Roman fort, a southern plantation (complete with hot little slave-women), and I was on the verge of completing a model of the Titanic before I decided to go to college instead. So the cutting, the folding, the gluing ... it was in my blood. And ever since I sat on a yellow Ducati 748 at their showroom on West street, so too were motorcycles.

Go where? The bike couldn't care less.

I printed the kit, and two weeks and almost exactly 50 man-hours later, I had "succeeded". A reasonably detailed and accurate Yamaha YZR-M1 was the reward for my determination and vaguely troubling time-suicide. On the spectrum of Yamaha Realistic Papercrafts, it was on the easy side, this I knew, but “easy” is a relative term to the Japanese. To them, rebuilding their nation after two atomic bombs was like admiring a cherry-blossom in degree of difficulty. An industrious people. But for me, building this motorcycle was a near-constant challenge, one which nevertheless nourished me, imbued me with a sense of well-being. The GO!!!!! scrawled across the fairing was a delightfully ironic counterpoint to the deadening patience and steady hand required to construct this VERKAKTE bike.


I brought my M1 to work with me and gave it a home in constant view, for the same reason idiots who must die decorate their cubes with Dilbert cartoons and pictures of cats: because the depersonalization of work can indeed be partially counteracted by surrounding oneself with items of personal meaning and worth. The Yamaha reminded me of those wonderful 50 hours spent in my underwear huddling over a scrap of corrugated cardboard covered in half-dried Elmer's glue, clamping a taillight shut with a pair of tweezers.

This man is dressed as a piece of cheese.

Weeks went by, and so too passed a period of calm. My M1 was always within eyeshot, ready to bring a smile to my twitchy face, God was in his heaven, all was right with the world.


But much like those Christians who revere and kill for that God, I began to feel that one baby was, well, not enough. And if the experience of childbirth emboldens the Christian mother to vomit countless additional infants from her flapping vagina, so too did my maturing YZR-M1 leave me ready for more cervix-distending Elmer's action. Luckily, just enough time had since elapsed to cause me to forget my solemn vow to “never build another motorcycle out of paper again”. Oh yes, despite my satisfaction, I had indeed made such a vow.


I went for the gold! because I am an Olympian after all. The YZF-R1 is the most accurate and comprehensive bike model Yamaha offers. In retrospect, I find myself wondering most about the non-human whose job it was to design this model. I mean, the original M1 was pretty crazy, but under its cowls it was still just a few simple geometric shapes with a bunch of crap stuck onto the outside to simulate the protrusions of the engine and frame. But the R1 was in a different category altogether … it “recreates even the frame structure”, boasts the assembly manual with what I imagine to be a smug, shit-consuming grin, that is, if an instruction manual could be expressive as such, which is a highly unlikely scenario I realize.

In the background: a small paper plate, a chocolate fortune cookie, an abandoned volume of Proust, and some unopened mail. In the foreground, the plastic case that the X-Acto blades came in, and a fair amount of schmutz.

So this unfortunate Japanese man went about designing not just the basic shapes and details of the bike, but a COMPREHENSIVE RECREATION OF EVERY ELEMENT A MOTORCYCLE COMPRISES. This is the type of OCD architectural engineering that you can only learn at a specialized Japanese school offering degrees in so specific a field (although I believe certain German academies confer certification in this sick and pointless practice as well. Say what you will, but the Axis powers are an amazingly skilled people deserving of study).


I considered taking pictures of each completed element along the way, until I realized that after spending an hour constructing a rearview mirror STALK, the last thing I was motivated to do was to document the event after so constipating an accomplishment.

The underside of the R1's carcass, towards the end of construction. To me, it resembles a prone lobster prior to being cracked open and devoured by a Bangor fisherman. Clearly visible are all the elements which would later be entirely obscured by the outer fairing of the R1 . Realizing that none of this work would ultimately be visible caused a sensation very similar to dying.

The original M1 took 50 hours, which is a considerable investment of time … time, which can be considered the very currency of life. The R1, on the other hand, had the curious effect of DEVALUING TIME TO THE POINT WHERE IT LACKED ALL MEANING. By the end of it, I found myself in Prospect Park with a wilted rose in my mouth, dancing a curvacous tango with an imaginary partner, and also I was covered in cockroaches for some reason.

  There were many elements of the R1 which shared a common ancestry with the earlier M1; the steering assembly was largely the same, as were the tires, which take 5 hours apiece no matter how much speed you snort, and for which Yamaha actually offers a separate tutorial on how not to fuck up. But all of this engine and frame business was altogether new, as was the lesson I learned upon realizing that these ass-stabbingly difficult elements would be entirely hidden from view when the thing was done. "But you know they're there," assuaged a friend. My response to that included an awful lot of profanity.  
The underside from a different angle. Can you see the exhaust pipes? Good, that's all I needed to hear, you've made me very happy. In the background: an Iiyama 17" CRT monitor, the box to a D-Link wireless router inside a Kenneth Cole shopping bag, and a stack of books, including a copy of Shogun borrowed from the Brooklyn Public Library, due date September 1st 1991. I can never go back.
After covering the engine and exhaust with the fairing, this is all that is left of my precious. Notice the red dot on the frame; something was supposed to get glued there.
The 5874928374 pieces which came together to form the instrument panel and handlebars. One would have expected them to form Voltron.
This is an impressive bit. Know what else is impressive? The sheer number of other things I could have accomplished with my life in the time it took to assemble whatever it is these things are.
The two stalk-like elements are part of the frame -- there are a bunch more structural pieces that I had to bend and crease when it came time to cram it into the body of the bike. See the pale green thing in the center, attached to a grey cylinder-like item? Yeah I don't know what that stuff is. The big white triangle-shape they're suspended within is relatively simple-looking by comparison...
...but this is what it looked like to start out with.
This tiny little rear brake with the blue dot was the last piece I put together, but it seems to sum up the entire experience: it's completely stupid, but it took 2 hours to construct.
  It is not so much that I regret creating this second child, after all I do still have a nice-looking model to fantasize about destroying now. And there is a Zen-like quality in shitting away vast swaths of your life towards creating something certain to cause girls to feign admiration before carefully exiting your personal space. And isn't that ultimately what life is about? No.