Why The ‘Purple Rain’ Motorcycle Was The Perfect Prince Ride

This small-scale custom bike fit him perfectly.

One of the most enduring images of Prince is the Purple Rain album cover and movie poster showing him astride a purple motorcycle. With billowing smoke, dramatic backlighting and heroic upward angle, Prince and his tricked-out ride make for a truly indelible image. 

Surely Prince’s badass bike was some monstrous Harley, right? While that was probably the perception of many fans, Prince actually rode a motorcycle as diminutive as the musical icon himself. The bike was actually a customized Honda CM400A twin-cylinder starter bike that was notable for its low seat height and its automatic two-speed transmission that absolved His Purpleness of having to squeeze a clutch lever.

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He kitted out the bike with a classic ’70s Vetter Windjammer fairing and a seat with pink velour inserts. Most motorcyclists would be dismissive of such a small-scaled machine, but Prince’s ride fit the five-foot-two pop god perfectly.

Honda’s advertisements from the time touted the low, 30-inch seat height and the ability of even short riders to stand confidently flat-footed rather than on tip-toes. Certainly it would have detracted from Prince’s imperious appearance in the Purple Rain photo if he’d appeared in danger of toppling over. As it stands, it just might be one of the most memorable pop culture motorcycle photos of all time. 

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