With hundreds upon hundreds of motorcycles that have been released over the years, it was a tough job to narrow it down to our top 80 best motorcycles of all time.
Now you might absolutely agree with this list or, equally, you might absolutely disagree with every single entry… but we had to start somewhere!
A big thanks to the members of Keep Britain Biking for their contributions and comments on their favourite motorcycles!
Finally, if you’re in the UK and need some bike insurance, then don’t forget to get a bike insurance quote from us whilst you’re here…
Do you agree with our list of the top 80 best motorbikes of all time!? We’re going to assume not but we hope you have fun reading it!
80. BMW R100S
980cc air-cooled, two-cylinder boxer engine with a top speed of 120mph – what more could you want? Released in 1976 by BMW Motorrad after BMW teamed up with professional stylist Hans Muth to create something brand new. To this day the R100S remains one of the most practical long distance designed machines due to the wind tunnel designed frame that included the underpowered boxer engine and conservative chassis making a serious touring machine.
“BMW R100RS. Effortless touring!” Jeffrey Holder
79. Kawasaki AR50
1981 until 1994 Kawasaki produced the 49cc, air-cooled two stroke AR50 moped. Despite the machine only being limited to 30mph learner laws, the AR50 had it all from good looks, affordable pricing and excellent handling. It may have only appealed to a limited few but it certainly spiced up the moped market.
78. Ducati 350 Desmo
The Desmo created Ducati history in 1968 and that’s why you’ve voted in as one of the top 80 motorcycles ever. The first desmodromic production motorcycle ever created by Ducati whch produced just 22bhp meaning the machine was light and playful. Since then Ducati have produced a whole range of motorcycles, 250, 450 and off-roaders from the Desmo!
77. Ducati Pantah 500SL
This 1979 model is argued to be the first ‘modern’ Ducati motorcycle ever, although it may be overshadowed by the 900SS and the 916 – the Pantah has a worthy place in our top 80 motorcycles! The machine was the first ever belt rather than bevel driven Duke which became the basis of the 951, 916 and many more models.
76. Harley-Davidson Low Rider
The Low Rider FXS1200 was a big game changer for Harley, allowing the factory custom bikes to come out in full force; chopper bolt-ons, lowered rear-end and so much CHROME! This created a whole new direction for Harley and the custom gang. Today the Low Rider is a highly collectable item and very rarely will you see one up for auction.
75. BMW R69S
A 1960 special by BMW, the classic boxer twin which a true motorcycling gem of today. BMW added a few luxurious touches to the R69S including Earls fork and a steering damper. If you want to get yourself BMW classic today then you’re looking at a hefty five figure sum, but the machines are in decent riding condition!
74. Ducati 1098
Although the 1098 is long forgotten against the 916, it still remains one of the classic Ducati superbikes of all time. It takes on the stylings of the 916, but with a new ‘Evoluzione’ L-twin, Ducati were back in action. You can bag yourself a genuine Italian classic superbike for under £7,000.
73. Yamaha XT500
1976 saw the production of the XT500 marking its history as one of the original trail and endurance adventure motorcycles of today. Inspired BSA’s Scrambler machines in the 1960’s, the Yamaha XT rose to fame in the mid 70’s and saw a stream of imitation bikes follow in its wake.
72. Norton Commando
Norton-Villiers manufactured the Commando via Norton Motorcycles from 1967 for 10 years and became a popular machine all over the world – notably it won Motorcycle News “Machine of the Year” award for five successive years (1968 – 1972)! Initially the machine was fitted with a 745cc displacement OHV pre-unit parallel-twin engine; however in 1973 the motorcycle was upgrade to an 850cc displacement.
71. Honda SP1/SP2
Built by Honda to prove a point that Honda could outsmart Ducati on the track using a V-Twin. The Honda SP1 and Honda SP2 are beautifully crafted machines with a wicked sound that makes you want to keep on riding forever.
70. Honda VRF 800
Also known as the ‘Interceptor’, the Honda 800 is a 782cc fuel injected sports touring machine that will give you plenty of power and fun! Since the initial release in 1998, the 800 has had its fair share of improvements including the dual combined braking system (DCBS) and VTEC valve-gear, which was used to combat noise and emission standards.
69. Aprilia Tuono
One of the most popular naked styled machines created by Aprilia in 2002. The machine takes on a similar styling from the Aprilia RSV Millie sharing the same engine, frame and suspension system.
“Best I’ve owned, probably my old Aprillia Tuono. Favourite dream bike? Probably a GSX1400.” Sam Duncombe
68. Yamaha SDR 200
Known as ‘The Whippet’ to most, the SDR 200 is a 200cc single-cylinder 2-stroke sport motorcycle. It was just intended to be for the Japanese market; however some Whippets were exported through 1986/7.
67. Triumph Tiger 900
Known as the ‘Steamer’ to most, the Tiger 900 debuted in 1993 and only saw minor improvements until the end of production in 1998. The 885cc, three cylinder engine dual sport motorcycle saw a small success in the UK, however became a big hit in US and Europe, namely Germany. The Steamer was heavily revised in 1999, seeing the creation of the T709 – a fuel injected version of the 885 cc engine.
66. BMW R1200GS
The off-road orientated R1200gs is designed to be ridden across difficult terrain, proven by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman during their ‘Long Way Down’ trek across Europe and Africa. Powered by a partially liquid-cooled 1,1700cc boxer motor with an upgraded GS fuel tank holding 50% more than standard models, providing a decent 300 miles from the tank.
65. KTM 1190
A newer release from KTM, the 1190 Adventure R is whole package with chassis, electronic suspension and rider aids making the 230kf, 150bhp an extremely rider-friendly KTM Adventure. Bikes built by KTM are built to take on Darak so you’re promised rough, tough and reliability with your motorcycle.
64. Yamaha Thundercat
The Thundercat is everything you could possible want in a sports-touring motorcycle, with a reliable engine, brilliant suspension and enough room to carry two weeks-worth of kit for your holidays! Clocking up top speeds of 145mph, you get plenty of bang for your buck with the Thundercat.
63. Honda Pan European
Smooth, comfortable, powerful and fast, that’s everything you want in a bike, right?! Honda’s 2002 Pan European range is the perfect bike for a tourer to the daily commuter -no wonder that it’s made an appearance in our Best 80 Bikes. The Pan European works perfectly regardless if it’s 2 up or not, and you’re promised thousands of trouble-free miles on it.
62. Indian Scout
Indian’s response to the Harley Davidson Sportster comes in the form of the very stylish Indian Scout. Full of style, authenticity, class and performance, the Scout won’t let you down. Another new bike on the block, only released in 2014, but the Scout is jam-packed with performance and handling that can be enjoyed by anyone.
61. BMW R1200RT
BMW’s popular sport-touring model, R1200RT is one of the newer models released by the brand and despite a recall glitch in 2014, it still remains popular. Lightweight, sophisticated and extremely effective – what more could you want in a tourer? The secret to BMW success with the R1200RT is the partially water-cooling engine design which adds an extra bite to the bike.
60. Ducati Multistrada
Ducati’s Multistrada series is the perfect embodiment of a touring motorcycle. The Multistrada range has been in creation since 2003 and as it’s essentially a hybrid of a supermoto and a sport-tourer motorcycle. The Multistrada 1000DS was the first bikes to be created of its type that featured a 992cc air-cooled V-twin engine, however updates have been made to the model to make it one of the best touring bikes for British roads.
59. Suzuki V Strom 650
Classed as a middleweight sport touring motorcycle by Suzuki, the V Strom 650 is fit for any purpose due to its adaptability of riding conditions including; commuting, cruising, adventure, touring, and even a degree of off-road riding too! Since the release of the production in 2004, the V Strom is now in its second generation of motorcycles (released in 2012).
58. Harley Davidson Road King
Harley Davidson is known for their luxury touring motorcycles including the infamous Road King. The Road King collection by Harley features a retro cruiser vibe, taking inspirations for the 1940’s big-twin models.
Tourers are iconic for their large saddle bags, rear coil-over suspension and full fairings. Over the years the Road King has had many updates and modifications including new anti-lock braking systems, cruise control and even new frames and swing arm!
57. Honda Blackbird
Honda’s Super Blackbird is one of the most comfortable, useable sports tourers available on the market- no surprise it made our shortlist! Production began in 1996 to challenge Kawasaki’s Ninja ZX-11 as the fastest production motorcycle and Honda successful achieved with a top speed of 178.5mph.
“The Honda Blackbird, a worldwide selling superbike that was the benchmark for many, beautifully engineered and balance of performance, practicality and good looks.” Andy Bacon
56. Kawasaki W800
Kawasaki’s W800 sure does give Triumphs Bonneville a run for its money with its retro roadster feel, the old school up-right position isn’t the norm for Kawasaki but they’ve pulled it off. W800 is fitted with a 773cc fuel injected engine so you’ll still have the speed and the classic style.
55. Triumph X75 Hurricane
Destined to be the BSA Rocket3 but after BSA closing its factory doors in 1972, the bike was resurrected as the Triumph X75 Hurricane. A factory special model designed by fairing specialist Craig Vetter, it’s no wonder this beauty made the shortlist. The X75 had glass-fibre bodywork, a three US-gallon petrol tank, lowered gearing and a distinctive triple exhaust on the right-hand side. Triumph’s X75 is credited with creating a new class of motorcycle, the cruiser.
54. MV Agusta 600GT
Only 172 machines were built of the 600GT in 1966 and remains one of the rarest and most desirable MV Agusta’s on the market. MV had been dominating the race scene for quite some time but stuck with the smaller capacity machines, however this was all set to change with the release of the 600GT but Count Domenico Agusta did not want to race any larger capacity machine in case it impacted the brand. Nicknamed ‘the Black Pig’ due to its distinctive looks, MV went above and beyond to make sure the machine was too ugly and far too heavy to race.
53. Kawasaki Versys
The Versys range by Kawasaki is truly one of a kind with each model purpose built for all reasons – commuting to touring or just for the ride – the machines are truly versatile! Versys 650 is a popular model with some impressive specs including liquid-cooled engine, 4 stroke parallel-twin and plenty of power behind it.
52. Yamaha PW50
Rated as one of the most influential motorcycles of the modern day because of it’s accessibility for children. If you want to get your kid on two-wheels then the Yamaha PW50 is the perfect starting pointing with three gears, auto clutch and autolube. Once they’ve outgrown the PW50, you can try out the PW80.
51. Suzuki 600 Bandit
The success of Suzuki’s 600 Bandit saw the creation of a whole new class of motorcycles – the budget middleweight roadsters. The supersport engine fixed with a basic roadster chassis and you get yourself a best-selling Bandit machine. Named as one of the perfect machines for all types of riders due to versatility on the road.
“Suzuki Bandit for years, but now the Tiger 1050, all round brilliance.” Graham Dodsworth
50. Kawasaki Ninja H2R
One of the newest models released by Kawasaki in early 2015, and still very desirable amongst many bikers. The supercharged supersport motorcycle claims 300 horsepower and can exceed over 200 miles per hour. The street-legal version still has an impressive out-put of 200hp, ABS, traction control, launch control and bodywork made of carbon fibre to make it as aerodynamic as possible.
49. Kawasaki Eliminator
The cruiser-styled Eliminator was launched in 1985 that has seen huge success and a number of changes until the end of production in 2007. Billed as ‘power cruisers’ the bikes took on a drag style featuring a shaft drive, close-ratio gearbox and forward seating.
48. KTM RC8
A simply stunning machine created by KTM, but do we ever expect anything less? Debuting in 2008, RC8 had years of development behind it before its release and we can see why. Fantastic suspension, great handling and plenty of power too – KTM have mastered the sports bike. With 150bhp from its very own unique 990cc v-twin engine making it one of the most desirable on the market!
47. Suzuki GSXR750
Suzuki’s GSXR750 has been in constant production since 1985, also known as ‘Gixxer’, the sports bike looks like a Suzuki Endurance motorcycle, but it’s one of the most affordable, modern race replicas you can get your hands on. Dependent on generation, Gixxers are a mixture of slabbies (air-cooled, with flat bodies) and slingshots (oil-cooled due to the introduction of carburetors) models.
“As a 68 year old, my favourite two that I have owned are 650 Bonneville and GSXR 750 completely different but both great bikes!” Pete Haywood
46. Ducati 916
Debuting in 1994, the 916 was remarked for its new design and updated technical features which saw a brand new water-cooled engine with a larger displacement and a new management system, this put any predecessors firmly in the place Ducati were playing with the big boys now!
Ducati may have created a smaller motorbike but it was still packed with power, an impressive chrome-moly trellis frame and stunning new bodywork with aggressive lines. Ducati’s 916 have been stated as ‘one of the most influential machines of the last twenty years’ by journalist Kevin Ash.
“Ducati 916, absolutely amazing to look at, perhaps not so to ride though!” Dion Ricketts
45. Honda CBR900R ‘Urban Tiger’ Fireblade
Honda’s limited edition ‘Urban Tiger’ is known for its paint scheme – it’s one you won’t forget. The 1994 model is still in hot demand by collectors for its impeccable paint scheme, truly living up to its feline name. The spec is impressive too with a liquid-cooled, 16v 893cc inline four engine producing 124bhp. 20 years later and it’s still one of the highest ranked, most desirable bikes out there, well done Honda!
44. Triumph Triple Speed
Triumph’s Triple Speed series have been nothing but popular in the last 20 years. The ‘streetfighter’ style takes the modern sports bike or race replica to a new level. There have been plenty of generations of the Speed Triple since 1994 including T509, 955i and 1050, all of which have been uniquely designed and adapted for the rider.
All of the original series Triple Speeds were fitted with a standard 885cc water-cooled engine and rugged five-speed transmission. Later generations featured fuel injected sports bikes, lowered seats, change in fairings amongst other things.
43. Kawasaki ZX-10 Tomcat
1988 saw the creation of the ‘Tomcat’ creating part of the sport bike range, with a top speed of 165 mph and was the fastest production motorcycle to date in the late 80’s. The Tomcat was the first motorcycle to have Kawasaki’s aluminium perimeter frame, which is now standard with all machines. Tomcat really did create history for Kawasaki!
42. Honda Dominator 650
Honda’s dual-sport motorcycle came crashing onto the motorcycling scene in 1988. Its unique ability to carry the engine oil the frame, just like older British bikes, saw a big cult following for its amazing on and off road handling capabilities.
The 644cc, air-cooled single cylinder motor is extremely reliable and can clock a decent 100,000 miles. Dominator 650 was discontinued in 2002 but you can still find decent second hand models knocking about.
41. Suzuki Boulevard
The update to the ‘Intruder’ Suzuki is still producing great quality, reliable and stylish cruisers. Beginning with the Bouldevard C90, the cross-over bike between the Intruder and the Boulevard, which borrowed the carburettor with a multi-hole fuel-injected system taken from the GSX-R line of race bikes gives a whole new feel to the cruiser motorcycle.
40. Keeway Cruiser 250
The timeless style of the cruiser has been successfully achieved by Keeway with their new 2015 range. The Cruiser 250 is a fuel-injected, 4-stroke air cooled engine with 5 speed transmission, and not forgetting the added detail of the chrome accessories and the traditional cruiser sound to accompany it. Well done, Keeway!
39. Suzuki Intruder
The Intruder series was in production by Suzuki from 1985 until 2005. The cruiser series were fitted with 4-stroke, V-twin engines but with numerous updates over the years due to US tariff export charges. It wasn’t until 2005 when Suzuki decided to shake things up with the Intruder renaming it ‘Boulevard’ creating a sporty, sleek version of a cruiser including straighter bars with longer rises, one piece seat and the deletion of the sissy bar.
38. Ducati 900SS
The 1976 Ducati 900SS paved the future for the modern day Ducati. One of the most desirable bikes on the market of the time, and often faked by others, the 900ss is the predecessor of the 750SS. The 900ss is known to form the basis of Mike Hailwood’s 1978 TT win.
37. Honda CB750
Originally designed to crack the US market yet found phenomenal success in Europe, Honda used computers for the first time ever to create and design the CB750 in 1969. The air-cooled transverse in-line four cylinder engine motorcycle became the first ever motorcycle to be classed as a ‘superbike’. You can back to yourself a new CB750 for around £750.
“For me it has to be the Honda CB750. It was everything all the other bikes were not. Reliable, electric start, superb engineering, performance, less maintenance and more riding.” John Francis Andrew Nethercott
36. Indian Chief Vintage
Indian have had a rocky road over the past few years but after being bought by Polaris, a new range of updated Indian motorcycles was released at the beginning of 2014 – one of them being the Chief Vintage. The bike embodies everything you could want in a vintage looking cruiser with the large aluminium frame, high handlebars and all the mod-cons you could need! Welcome back Indian, we missed you!
35. BMW HP4
One of the most powerful and effective superbikes on the market. The HP4 is fitted with BMW’s DDC (Dynamic Dampening Control), motorcycling’s first ever semi-active suspension system. The DDC works according to the conditions, riders style and mode choice – it’s safer but it’s faster!
34. Suzuki Marauder
One of the most recommended bikes for learners due to its low seat positioning making the bike easy to control at any speed. The initial 125 model was released in 1998 and was an instant hit with its cruiser styling still allowing for a great lean. The air cooled, two valve four stroke single cylinder engine only makes 1bhp (three less than UK learner law) but with the machine being so light, you can still clock 65mph.
“Not sure if it’s in any way the ‘best’, but, for modern 125’s the Suzuki Marauder was perfect. Cheap as chips on fuel (then most 125’s are), never broke down or had any faults whatsoever, and it got me through my bike test (including a U-Turn on the world’s smallest street). In the nearing 8 years since I had my Marauder 125 I’ve seen several of them on the road and all seem just as simply wonderful as mine was.” Vincenzo Valentino
33. Harley Davidson Softail
When it comes to cruisers Harley Davidson know exactly how to create the perfect bike. The Softail is a prime example of their successful work with the styling of a classic cruiser but with the modern functionality allowing for more comfort with the hidden rear suspension system to absorb any bumps on the road.
32. Kawasaki Z1
Winner of Motorcycle News ‘Machine of the Year’ from 1973 to 1976, the Kawasaki Z1 was built under the project name ‘New York Steak’; the Z1 was the daddy of all superbikes to come. The Z1 became the most powerful Japanese 4-cylinder 4-stroke ever marketed, there’s no wonder it made the top 80! It wasn’t until 1975 when the Z1 was updated and replaced by the Kawasaki KZ900.
“Kawasaki Z1300, big beasty!” Gary Gaz Fulton
31. Yamaha Road Star
Cruiser-styled Yamaha Road Star has been in production since 1999. A very popular model created by Yamaha due to the ability to customise the bike at ease. The Road Star remained mainly unchanged over the past 15 years, still powered by the 1062cc 4-stroke, air-cooled, 4-valve engine.
30. BSA BANTAM
The legendary two-stroke unit construction motorcycle manufactured by BSA from 1948 – 1971. Although exact production figures remain unknown, it’s estimated between 250,000 – half a million Bantam’s were produced over the years. The truly British lightweight motorcycle was actually based on the German DKW RT 125!
“BSA Bantam 175 I had two a D14 and a D7. The 14 was my first bike on the road. I’m now 56 and had bikes of all styles and sizes now ride a Kawasaki Eliminator but the Bantam was an everyman, everyday work horse easy to maintain and cheap to run. A true classic.” Ian Clark
29. Yamaha Virago
1981 saw the birth of Yamaha’s first V-twin cruiser motorcycle featuring mono-shock rear suspension. However a redesign in 1984 saw an update to a dual-shock design, tear-drop shaped gas tank and dropped the engine size to 699cc to avoid an imported bikes tariff when shipping to US. To this date, the Virago is one of the most highly recommended and reliable motorcycles on the market.
28. Triumph Thunderbird 900
Triumph has released a number of Thunderbird cruisers since 1949, but the 900 really stands out for its cool and fun retro feel. The Thunderbird 900 is over-engineered, under stressed and extremely durable with bags of power. Comfort, charisma and chrome are exactly what you get with the Thunderbird.
“Probably my Triumph T-Bird sport for its character and sound although I’ve just bought a 2013 XJR 1300 Yamaha, awesome bike so I’m torn between the two.” – Nicholas Spacey
27. Kawasaki ZZR600
One of Kawasaki’s less well-known machines but we’re not sure why. The ZZR600 is packed full of power, roomy and comfortable – what more could you want from a motorcycle? Smooth and stable at high speeds, plenty of cushioning and you’ll be able to pick one up pretty cheap too!
“Without a doubt, Kawasaki ZZR600.” Steven Dobbs
26. Honda C100 Super Cub
Regarded as one of the most important motorcycles ever produced by Honda, the C100 Super Cub sold over 60 million units and remains extremely popular to this day. The 49cc, 4.5bhp OHV single has got itself a reputation for being reliable, cheap and boosting motorcycle sales. Arriving on the scene in 1958, Honda created the perfect advertising campaign around the machine “You meet the nicest people on a Honda” and this saw bikes being sold in leisure and sports shops too!
25. Suzuki TL1000S
Notable for the V-Twin engine which is still used by SV1000 and V-Strom 1000 Suzuki’s, the TLS had a short production life of only 4 years in the late 1990’s. The TLS was known for its scare factor full of power and impact, however due to the poor rear shock design which allows it to overheat; it’s something you’d need to watch out for!
“My favourite was my Suzuki TL1000SV, once properly setup it was a weapon and the best bike I’ve ever had… but it killed people, so I’ll be boring and put the original Suzuki 600 Bandit. It allowed people to buy a proper bike on a budget and it was a little hooligan.” Steve Gillions
24. Yamaha RD350LC
1980 saw the production of Yamaha’s RD350LC, replacing its predecessor the RD350. Designed to break the European market due to the tightening belt of US emissions with its smaller capacity machine, RD250LC, the RD350LC was fitted with a parallel twin two-stroke engine with the identical stroke of its older brother. New features were added including liquid cooling and a new exhaust to meet emission regulations. Yamaha successfully sold over 10,000 units in Europe in the first 9 months of production.
“Have had many bikes from Kawasaki to Yamaha’s to Honda’s and Suzuki’s. My favourite, when I passed by test RD350 YPVS, so god damn quick and wasn’t many that kept with it. My CX 500, ugly bike, but so Honda. Yamaha Thunder Ace, brilliant bike in so many ways, and have had 3 R1’s and now have the latest one. What a fantastic machine it loved the Isle of Man this year.” Greg Nelson
23. Honda 400 Four
1974 saw the creation of the CB400F, more commonly known as the 400 Four. Although the 400 Four was only part of the Honda range for a few short years but it was still an impressive model nonetheless. With an air-cooled, transverse mounted 408cc inline four cylinder engine. 400 Four was well received by the motoring press, and the sporty café racer look was a huge success.
“My favourite was the Honda 400/4F1, did over 62,000 miles even used it to commute to London for work on occasion.” Tony Cooper
22. Moto Guzzi Le Mans
The first ever sports motorcycle manufactured by Moto Guzzi in 1976, which was aptly named after the 24-hour motorcycle endurance race at Le Man in France. The original Le Mans was the 850 café racer (Le Mans Mark 1) unveiled at the Milan motorcycle show in 1975, however as years went by the models were developed as sports tourers with a three-quarter fairing.
“Guzzi Le Mans, if you need to ask why…..” Sam Talbot
21. Yamaha FS1-E
The charming little two-stroke ‘Fizzy’ is one of the first ever motorcycles on the market. The pedal powered moped is guaranteed to pop a smile on your face, even today. No wonder it made it into our top 80 motorcycles…
“FS1E my first road bike, at 16 it gave me a lot of freedom, me and my mates went for miles on them. We use to sound like a swarm of bees coming down the road, people didn’t if we were going to overtake them of sting them to death!! Forgot to say it was in Kenny Roberts racing colours.” Kevin Franks
20. BSA Rocket/ Triumph Trident
The Triumph Trident (also known as the BSA Rocket) was a machine badged for sale under both BSA and Triumph as part of the plan to extend the model range beyond their 650cc parallel twins. The Trident is powered by a 750cc air-cooled unit with four gears and a conventional chassis and suspension. However due to BSA’s financial difficulties only 27,480 of the Triumph Trident were produced over 7 years.
“I’ve had 6 Triumphs over the years: Cub, Speed Twin, T100, Daytona, 650 Bonny, 800 Bonny, America. Guess I’m a Triumph man.” – Frank Ball
19. Velocette Thruxton
First unveiled at the Earls Court Show in 1964, the Thruxton was the final development of the Venom. Roughly 1,108 Thruxton’s were manufactured before the collapse of Velocette in 1971. Since then a register has been established by a member of the Velocette Owners to stop fake parts being swapped. Thruxtons made their impact on the racing world with two machines gaining first and second place in the 500cc Production TT in 1967.
18. 250 Norton Jubilee
Named to commemorate Norton’s Diamond Jubilee in 1958, the 294cc Jubilee motorcycle was a break from the norm for Norton, creating the smallest ever engine made by Norton and the first Norton motorcycle with a unit construction engine and gearbox.
“My favourite bike was the 250 Norton Jubilee, I kept getting pulled by the Police because it looked bigger than a 250, which could be ridden on L plates back in the day.” Alan John Williams
17. Ariel Square 4 MK2
Known by its pet name ‘Squariel’, the Square came into production in 1956. The machine made a significant impact on the motorcycle market with it being the first production motorcycles to feature a square-four engine design. This design was later taken on by Suzuki featured in their two-stroke RG500 race and road bikes. The engine was initially designed back in 1928 by Edward Turner, who offered the design to BSA but was swiftly rejected. Luckily for Ariel, they accepted the design and made motorcycling history.
16. Triumph Thruxton
Thruxton represents the café racer culture that dominated motorcycles in the 60’s. Triumph motorcycle engines were normally used as the basis of home built bikes. The Thruxton is the modern day calling for café racer lovers allowing for everyday use, easy and fun to ride but still capturing the beautiful racer look.
15. Norton Commando 961
British manufacturer Norton sure know a thing or two about creating a desirable motorcycle, Commando 961 was built to replicate the old style café racers keeping to the true heritage but with a modern twist with updated components and engineering. Powered by a 961cc parallel twin, air-cooled engine, fitted with Ohlins suspension too.
“Norton, because it continues in different guises to be resurrected. Great racing machines.” Tony Barrett
14. Moto Guzzi V7 Racer
Moto Guzzi has created the perfect out-of-the-box racer to date; perfect drop bars, upswept pipes, chrome finished tank and laced frame. Not to forget the stunning red frame too – what a beauty! The 774cc, air-cooled, four-stroke keeps it ticking over with the fuel-injected motor giving you the speed you need.
13. Royal Enfield Continental GT
Café racers are few and far between on the roads due to their inaccessibility but Royal Enfield sure has changed that. The Continental GT embodies the ideal café racer look with body positioning pushed forward, high knees making you hug the tank. Every single detail from the wire-spoke wheels to the clip-ons has been perfectly crafted for the motorcycle to keep the original café racer design but with notably modern updates including Brembo brakes, adjustable Paoli rear-mounted shocks and the double cradle frame co-developed by Harris performance.
“I can’t think of a favourite bike I’ve had but the one that always comes up when talking old bikes is the Royal Enfield Continental FT. I bought new in 1968. I’m still riding my current bike is an Aprilia RSV.” Gareth Cyan Jones
12. Honda 90
Initially launched in 1985, Honda’s C90 is the basic commuter motorcycle and still extremely popular to this day. Not much has been updated on the C90 model over the years, with a very basic frame connecting the wheels, engine and rider together. 85cc with top speeds on 50mph, and fitted with an semi-automatic three-speed gearbox means it’s good for fuel consumption.
“Honda C90, sold more than the rest put together and has mobilised entire continents…” Mark Eadie
11. Moto Morini 350 Sport
Founded in Italy in 1937, Moto Morini begun production of 350cc and 500cc three-wheelers up until World War II when the factory was bombed. 1946 saw the birth of the first ever three-speed transmission, single cylinder, two-stroke T125 quickly followed by a sports version. After years of racing success at the Nations Grand Prix and the Spanish Grand Prix, the first 350 sports model was created using high-spec equipment and was used as a popular commuting machine of its time.
“Moto Morini 350 Sport – it’s all you need!” Andy Wallace
10. Triumph Bonneville
When it comes to classic motorcycles, the Bonneville is the one! The production of the ‘Bonnie’ first began back in 1959 with the first generations. The Triumph Bonneville has gone from strength to strength always managing to draw a crowd for miles around, especially since the release of the third generation in 2001. The British bike has an element of Harley Davidson to it but better; great handling, comfort and speed.
“My favourite bike was my Triumph Bonneville, I had one when I was 16 and I really liked them they were proper British bikes. I forgot to say I am now 64 years of age.” Kev Brown
9. Panther Model
Originally known as Phelon & Moore (which was dropped in 1929), the first Panther motorcycle was launched in 1924. With supplying the Royal Flying Corps with motorcycles during the First World War, P&M knew a thing or two about creating a good, reliable motorcycle. Panther Model 100 was launched in the 1930’s with an OHV 600cc single engine; Panthers soon became the most famous range by Phelon & Moore. Other ranges of the Panther were created including heavyweight and lightweight. Panthers were being released and created up until the late 1960’s.
8. Yamaha R1
The R1 machine, one of the greatest ever created by Yamaha, has been in production since 1998. The superbike machine has had its fair share of upgrades over the years including a fantastic 998cc, liquid-cooled, 16-valve, in-line four-cylinder, cross-plane crankshaft which powers this beautiful machine. The latest generation of the R1 was released in 2015 with a sophisticated electronic package, antilock brakes, launch control and much, much more.
“Yamaha R1 1998 first gen, absolutely everything that is motorcycling, lots of power, superb handling, normally aspirated carb; but would shake its head at you if you pushed it too much, no interference from tech a proper rider’s bike and looked the nuts. I did 26,000 miles on mine with no issue at all… Wish I still had it.” Paul Jarrett
7. Triumph Model H
One of the first ever motorcycles made by Triumph (that wasn’t fitted with pedals) which was during the First World War as a mode of effective transport. Model H, or The Trusty, was fitted with a 499cc air-cooled, four-stroke cylinder engine and a three-speed countershaft gearbox operated by a hand gear change lever. By the end of the war in 1918, over 30,000 Model H motorcycle had been produced and the model was discontinued in 1923.
6. Metisse Desert Racer
It wouldn’t be the top 80 motorcycles ever made if Steve McQueen’s iconic Metisse didn’t make the cut! Metisse did make a short run of the Desert Racer back in 2009 with only 300 replicas’s produced at £13,999. The iconic scene from ‘The Great Escape’ is one that we all remember fondly, but it wasn’t just on-screen that McQueen took to motorcycles, his passion for race cars, motorcycles and desert racing was a prominent part of his lifestyle.
Described by McQueen himself in 1966 saying: “This is the best handling rig I’ve ever owned”.
5. Brough Superior SS100
Designed and built by George Brough in 1924, the SS100 was the first custom motorcycle with components chosen from many different suppliers. All Brough motorcycles had a guaranteed capability to reach 100mph, however the 1925 launch of the SS100 produced a top speed of 110mph. Year on year the SS100 was adapted, developed and made even faster, and by 1927 George Brough set a world record of 130.6mph upon the SS100.
“Brough Superior SS100. Staggeringly beautiful and a fantastic piece of engineering.” Janie Mason
4. Velocette Venom
Another brilliant British manufacturer, Velocette, only 5,721 machines were produced between 1955 and 1970 but it didn’t stop Velocette leaving their mark on the motorcycling industry. 1916 saw the 499cc single-cylinder four-stroke set the 24-hour world record at a speed of 100.05mph, and no motorcycle of the same capacity has been able to equal the record since! Not only was the Venom fast, it was stylish too with high quality chrome plating, finished in black paintwork with gold pinstriping – a true work of art!
“Not sure I’ve had more bikes than you can shake a stick at, Velocette Venom in the sixties to a new Thunderbird a couple of years ago. I think the most complete machine was my 1999 Honda VFR800, it did everything!” Geoff Kidd
3. Manx Norton
The Manx was created to win the Isle of Man TT, however the machine development was delayed due to World Word II but reappeared for the 1946 Manx Grand Prix. The new Manx was upgraded with new telescopic forks, twin leading shoe brakes and a new featherbed frame over the years. In 1950, a hat-trick of podium positions was taken at the Isle of Man TT by the all new designed Manx.
“Norton, because it continues in different guises to be resurrected. Great racing machines!” Tony Barrett
2. Series C Vincent Black Shadow
Vincent’s Black Shadow is arguably one of the most iconic motorcycles in the world in 1955 to present day. The Shadow was the fastest and best-engineered motorcycle of the 1950’s producing over 190mph with a 998cc V-Twin made 55bhp, and forgetting the amazing brake and handling performance to match. Black Shadow C is truly one of a kind, best of the British motorcycles created.
“67 years of age, have owned 38 motorcycles in that time, all makes, all cc’s. Best bike Vincent Black Shadow in 1968 Café Racer. My first bike was way back in 1965… 350 Velocette Viper Sport. Now old age pensioner ripping up the tarmac on my Widow Maker (TL1000r) keeps me young.” Stewart Haley
1 BSA Gold Star
BSA, Birmingham Small Arms Company, released the Gold Star in 1938 with two variations: 350cc and 500cc, both with a single-cylinder, four-stroke production making them the fastest bikes around in the 1950’s. Each machine was hand built with care allowing for optional performance modifications to the owner’s specification. Like most machines, the BSA Gold Star saw a number of updates across the years beginning with M24 model which had an alloy 496cc engine, Electron alloy gearbox and a light tube frame, and finishing with the final model in 1956 that featured clip-on handlebars, finned alloy engine, chrome plated fuel tank, Amal carburettor and swept-back exhaust. The DBD34 dominated the Isle of Man Clubmans TT in 1956, and production ceased in 1963.
“BSA Goldstar, classic sound, bad-add in its day and just a lovely bike… Rocking!” Adrian McCabe
“My husband has put forward the 500cc BSA Gold Star. He still wants one to keep in the living room in a glass box, so he can admire it 24/7. He actually rode a 350cc Gold Star with Manx spec and nearly shattered the windows of Elite Motorcycles when he decelerated.” Yvonne Kirkum
3 comments on “Top 80 Best Motorcycles of All Time!”
I bought a New 1966 Norton Scrambler from Sam’s cycle shop,Bucyrus, Ohio 44820. Horse power was listed at 63. Everything was chrome except the candy apple red small gas tank. From the factory it had upswept straight pipes. No mufflers or baffles. WAS NEVER BEAT BY ANY BIKE OF THAT ERA. I WAS DRAFTED IN September of 67 and reluctantly sold it along with my 67 427/435 HP convertible/both tops, Corvette. Miss them to this day.
My old Triumph had the upswepts with megaphones and no baffles. What a sweet wound they made. My heart breaks for the sale of your stuff. sometime I even dream about the days I rode in the desert on my 650. We used to try and catch jack rabbits on the run. My buddy, Jerry Zinn was the only guy among us that wore a helmet (it was 1960). One day he was bust about to grab one by the ears when he ran into a barrel cactus with the side of his head. That damn helmet (which we all made fun of) was the only thing that saved his life. My gawd, what fun we had, and didn’t know it at the time.
Richard Walker AKA Nine Second Dick (Comes from my Super Gas time (9 seconds in the quarter mile)
I guess I missed the Honda 350 twins. You guys didn’t forget those, did you? Surely not.