The AK-47 of speeder bikes - The 74-Z Speeder Bike
Words: Scott Blackburn Images: Ralph McQuarrie & Star Wars
Composed to: The Black Keys - The Big Come Up
A long time ago, before motorcycles were a thing and before a Wotsit became president, there was such a thing as a speeder bike. One of the most long-lived and widely used was the Aratech 74-Z. This trusty, sturdy machine found use through at least two major galactic wars and was instrumental in a staggering range of combat zones, most famously on Endor in the hands of Luke and Leia Skywalker, shortly before they learned to question their own ever so slightly incestuous relationship.
Aratech's famous product first came to prominence during the Clone Wars and found use amongst the Grand Army of the Republic. The Jedi also often made use of speeder bikes but usually preferred civilian models without armaments. The 74-Z was the ideal machine for reconnaissance missions in particular, being lightweight, quick and manoeuvrable. Clone Troopers would also use other Aratech products such as the BARC Speeder, but the 74-Z outlasted nearly all of them.
Armed with blaster cannons the speeder was the ideal military machine. The 74-Z also came with terrain sensors which, in the case of Clone Troopers and Storm Troopers, fed into a heads-up display in the rider's helmet. This obviously wasn't as useful if you've just nicked one from a Scout Trooper before an encounter with an angry, illiterate Paddington Bear. As well as this the bulletproof speeder could also jam enemy communications within a given radius.
This AK-47 of the old world continued to be used through the fall of the Republic, the dominance of the Empire and finally through its near total collapse at the hands of the Rebellion, who often used commandeered 74-Zs. In the age of the First Order the old faithful of the military transport world fell largely into disuse. Much like the AK-47 the speeder became primarily the choice of underground groups, often appearing on the black market.