Home » A Furniture Designer Once Penned An Italian Motorcycle And The Result Was A Stunning Mess

A Furniture Designer Once Penned An Italian Motorcycle And The Result Was A Stunning Mess

Aprilia Starck Ts Final

For decades, motorcycle manufacturers have tried to solve the problem of getting people who don’t like bikes onto a life of two wheels. Honda’s brilliant marketing with the world-beating Super Cub shows it’s possible, but not everyone is nearly as good at it. Back in the 1990s, Aprilia sought to make a motorcycle for people who didn’t ride. To design a motorcycle for this demographic, the Italian brand hired French designer Philippe Starck, known back then for his home goods, to make an appealing bike. The Aprilia Motò 6.5 looked like nothing else, but as a motorcycle it was a mess – a mess that Aprilia killed, brought back, and then killed again.

How do you attract a non-rider to a motorcycle? Perhaps the best example is when Honda teamed up with Grey Advertising in the United States to market the Super Cub. Back then, motorcycles had a dirty, unsavory image. Honda countered it with an ad depicting a diverse set of people all having fun scooting along on their Super Cubs. Next to the imagery was an iconic slogan: You Meet The Nicest People On A Honda.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

Other brands have tried their own ways to get people on two wheels. Harley-Davidson once thought it would get people onto its big cruisers by putting young people on Buells first. Harley even once considered starting ’em young by putting kids on push scooters, hoping they’d stay with the Bar and Shield into adulthood. Suzuki also made a motorcycle for people who didn’t care too much about motorcycles, as did Ariel.

Julientuyeras 17052023 Dsc09350
Collecting Cars Seller

In the 1990s, Aprilia, the Italian marque of championship-winning racing motorcycles, decided to get into slower transportation for the masses. The Aprilia Motò 6.5, the motorcycle for people who couldn’t tell you how valves work, would be designed by someone better known for home goods like chairs, mirrors, televisions, and television remotes.

The Designer

Philippe Starck is a designer with a frankly stunning portfolio. When we talk about designers at The Autopian, we’re usually speaking about fellas with perhaps a handful of cars to their name. Starck’s biography, which was written by Jonathan Wingfield and is hosted on Starck’s website, claims he’s had his hands on 10,000 creations. Starck’s site shows he’s designed a little bit of everything from a building with the world’s largest toilet to the home goods you might have bought at Target and even a custom Kawasaki W800.

Philippe Starck

Starck was born in 1949 to aircraft engineer André Starck. According to his biography, Starck spent his childhood under his father’s drafting desk making doodles of his own. It was here where Starck learned a valuable lesson, from the biography: “Everything should be organized elegantly and rigorously, in human relationships as much as in the concluding vision that presides over every creative gesture.”

Today, Starck’s slogan is: “Subversive, ethical, ecological, political, humorous … this is how I see my duty as a designer.” He believes in what he calls democratic design. Starck designs items that he believes the masses should be able to enjoy, ideally for an affordable cost and ideally, made sustainably.

Philippe Starck

In Starck’s early years, he was interested in applying his philosophy to living spaces. This started with the construction of an inflatable structure in 1969. Starck’s work led him to Pierre Cardin, who took Starck on as the artistic director at a publishing house. By the mid-1970s, Starck would go on to create quirky home goods such as a floating lamp and a portable neon sign. He would also get to design the interior of Parisian nightclubs. Later, he would found his design firm, Starck Product. There, Starck would partner up with interior design firms around the world. Yep, some of those Italian Kartell designer goods weren’t designed in Italy, but by Starck in France.

Starck’s biography says he became famous in 1983 when French President François Mitterrand chose Starck to decorate the residence at Elysée Palace. Starck also designed the famous Café Costes. He would also spend much of his time afterward designing hotels. Starck’s hotel portfolio includes New York City’s Royalton Hotel, Hudson Hotel, and the Paramount Hotel, the renovations to Miami Beach’s Delano, and more. Starck also designed a plethora of buildings in Japan as well as a pavilion for the Groninger Museum in the Netherlands.

Mobilformat Aussenansicht Duravi
Philippe Starck

His portfolio is frankly impressive and has a little bit of everything from children’s toys and bathroom fittings to appliances and a space station habitat module. Really, it seems Starck will apply his childlike curiosity and attention to detail to anything you hire him to pen.


In 1988, Starck designed his first vehicle with the Bénéteau First 35S5. Then, Aprilia dragged him into the motorcycle world beginning in 1992.

The Motorcycle For People Who Don’t Like Bikes


Aprilia was founded in the rubble of World War II. The company started by putting people on bicycles before advancing to motorcycles. Over time, Aprilia would grow into a powerhouse with racing wins under its belt and desirable fast motorcycles. What it didn’t have was truly mass-market appeal. Aprilia would mend that in 1990 by entering into the scooter market, from Aprilia owner Piaggio:

In the nineties, Aprilia boldly entered the sector of vehicles intended for use in urban mobility. In fact, the scooter market experienced a long period of growth. In this case, creativity and nonconformity once again proved to be the keys to success. Beginning from the first entirely plastic scooter, the 1990 Amico, Aprilia confirmed its ability to stay ahead of the times, set trends and offer products that are always innovative, both aesthetically and technologically in terms of performance, reliability and low environmental impact. On this front, the manufacturer from Veneto has always placed particular emphasis, staying at the head of the line in searching for the most cutting-edge solutions.

Julientuyeras 17052023 Dsc09340
Collecting Cars Seller

To clarify what Piaggio is saying up there, the Amico has a plastic body, something that was unusual for an Italian scooter back then. Japan was already making plastic-bodied scooters long before then. At any rate, Aprilia wasn’t content with just making a plastic scooter. In 1992, it continued by creating a two-stroke scooter with a catalytic converter, the Amico LK, as well as a motorcycle with the same layout, the Pegaso 125. The brand turned to four-stroke scooters a year later.

In 1992, Aprilia hired Starck for a scooter concept. The result was the Aprilia Lama, a concept scooter that was meant to be the ultimate in personal mobility. Thankfully, Starck wouldn’t be stuck making concepts and in 1995, he penned the Aprilia Motò 6.5, the bike for people who weren’t bikers.

Aprilia Moto 6.5 Motorcycle 2.jp

The Aprilia Motò 6.5 started off as a dream from Aprilia founder Ivano Beggio, who wanted his brand to have a design as iconic as the Fiat 500 or the Vespa scooter. To him, Starck was the man who was going to make it happen. As reported by Auto & Design magazine, Aprilia’s marketers saw the motorcycling’s future as being filled with Dakar-inspired motorcycles, motorcycles for Hell’s Angels types, and racing replicas.


Starck wanted to bring motorcycles back to a simpler time when it was just a machine between your legs and the open road. He wanted to design a motorcycle without the gimmicks and without the macho imagery. From the sounds of things, he wanted to design a bike that was supposed to be Aprilia’s Super Cub. To Starck, motorcycles just needed a pair of wheels, an engine, a fuel tank, and a seat, nothing else.

Aprilia via LeMasterBrockers

What he created reflects that. The Aprilia Motò 6.5 looks like a standard, basic motorcycle, only with the rounded design Starck is known for. I’m not an Adrian Clarke type, so I can’t break every bit down for you, but the Motò 6.5 is elegant in its use of circles. And, to Starck’s promise, the motorcycle has only what you need and nothing else. The motorcycle is not burdened with speakers, loads of storage, or even a particularly sporty riding position. Honestly, I’m surprised you even got a passenger seat. Aprilia did sell accessories such as an appropriately round windscreen and soft bags, but they made the bike look a tad goofy. You can tell that Starck didn’t really design the bike to have those bits.

Reportedly, Aprilia’s engineers weren’t happy working with all of the round stuff, especially with the motorcycle’s exhaust, but they made it work. Wait, check out the exhaust on this bad boy!

Aprilia Moto 6.5 Motorcycle Hero

Look closely and you’ll notice that the Starck design isn’t just limited to the tank and exhaust. Everything on the motorcycle is rounded from the radiator to the frame itself. I’m surprised the engineers didn’t figure out how to apply the circular design to the forks.

And The Crowd Goes Mild

Em657144 Highres

While the design of the motorcycle was new, reportedly, the experience of riding it wasn’t. To make the motorcycle friendly for new riders and city riders, the Motò 6.5 was given an upright standard riding style. The engine? Its Rotax 650 single-cylinder was used in the Aprilia Pegaso 650. In the Motò 6.5, the Rotax was good for 42 HP and 38.4 lb-ft of torque. That’s more than enough power for a commute, but not particularly exciting. Its 399-pound curb weight also wasn’t amazing, but fine. The motorcycle rode on 17-inch wheels, 41mm telescopic forks, and an adjustable monoshock in the back. No part of its spec sheet will make you say “Wow.”


It seems as if the motorcycle press was divided, too. The UK’s MotorCycle News felt that the Aprilia Motò 6.5 was compact, light, and agile in the city. However, the publication admits in an update that traditional motorcyclists wanted a bit more excitement.

Julientuyeras 17052023 Dsc09355
Collecting Cars Seller

On the other hand, the folks of Visor Down weren’t as kind. I haven’t been able to find the publication’s period review, but it was still throwing punches at the Motò 6.5 in 2008. Just read this savage takedown:

Aprilia commissioned French avant-garde designer of the ’90s, Philippe Starck to design a motorcycle. What they got was a crime against motorcycling. While quite adept at styling lemon squeezers and kettles for people more interested in making statements than sandwiches in their kitchens, Phil was clearly not the man for the job when it came to designing motorcycles for actual motorcyclists.

Although he actually rides himself, it is hard to imagine exactly what was going through Phil’s mind as he twiddled his magic marker. The tank looks like a tea-cosy for one of his famous kettles, the wilfully quaint grey-sleeved cables like something off a John Major replica lawnmower and the queer oval frame putting form well in front of function to contrive an apostrophe shape for no reason whatsoever.

Round it all off with a convex radiator blending into what looks like a colander run over by a bus and then the masterstroke – an exhaust collector box doubling as a bash-plate, and you’ve got a dinner a dog would die for.

Stop, stop! He’s already dead! If that wasn’t bad enough, multiple publications cite less than stellar quality and reliability, which only added to the division.

Julientuyeras 17052023 Dsc09413
Collecting Cars Seller

Sales of the Aprilia Motò 6.5 started in 1995 before the brand killed the bikes off in 1997. They were brought back in 1999 just to be killed off again by 2002. Aprilia never sold the motorcycle in America and they didn’t sell that well, either. When all was said and done, just 6,200 examples were produced. It would appear that Visor Down was right. Most riders didn’t want one and there weren’t many people willing to cough up €4,795, or €8,863 ($9,697) today, for an amazing design wrapped in an average riding experience. Some sites today go as far as to call the poor Aprilia one of the “worst” motorcycles.

Now that we’re nearly 30 years past the launch of these bikes, I think Starck was perhaps just too early. After years of overwrought motorcycle design, simple is sexy once again. I bet if you packaged this design up into something inexpensive that tried to ride as cool as it looks, I bet a company could have a winner on its hands. Maybe the Motò 6.5’s reliability wasn’t great, but that design was fantastic.


Otherwise, if you’re looking for an inexpensive motorcycle to import for commuting duty, an Aprilia Motò 6.5 could be a compelling choice. Last year, one sold for just €1,900 ($2,079) in France. That’s a bike so cheap that shipping it here would probably cost more than the motorcycle. It also seems to mean that while there are people who love these bikes, they haven’t quite reached the status where people want to pay a crazy amount of money for them.

Starck is still designing things today. While the bulk of his work is in home goods, you’ll still find his work on yachts, bicycles, and the occasional motorcycle. Some may want to call his early work with the Apilia Motò 6.5 a worst motorcycle, but I don’t think that’s fair. Give us more motorcycles with weird designs!

Popular Stories

Share on facebook
Share on whatsapp
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on reddit
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
3 months ago

The Black one looks quite nice actually.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x