It's amazing to realize the 1970s or even '80s can be considered so long ago that things from it can be called "vintage." Today's bikes can be terrific in their looks, from high-powered racers to lighter city bikes. Yet they all follow the examples of the vintage bikes from earlier in the 20th century.
There are certainly scores of examples of use from history, especially from long-established brands such as Harley-Davidson. Yet, some bikes stand out for stunning looks that mix "old-school" appeal with touches right at home in a modern showroom. Some may seem slower by today's standards but offer fine performance worth checking out. These ten classic bikes are not only gorgeous but effective to make them worth riding today.
10. 1958 Honda JC58 Benly
This bike helped Honda be a standout in the biking world. That it was never officially sold in the U.S. adds to its legend, which is already great with a 125cc air-cooled OHV single capable of 9 hp. That may seem low but quite quick for Japanese bikes of the time.
It's clearly a Honda but the unique style of the time is appealing, a "retro" feel with a good frame and saddle and an intimidating appearance. It looks like a dirt bike but handles regular roads with ease for an underrated Honda gem.
9. 1926 Excelsior Super X
An old-school pick, the 1926 Excelsior Super X shows that great craftsmanship and skill were around in the 1920s. This bike was owned by Steve McQueen himself, who took it for rides up hills.
The bright green coloring helps it stand out with the fun saddle, and the 750cc two-cylinder motor was designed to (believe it or not) run on alcohol. It's the classic feel that makes this stellar as the Excelsior is more than worthy of McQueen's collection.
8. 1949 Harley-Davidson Panhead FL
There are scores of gorgeous 1940s Harley-Davidson bikes, but the 1949 Panhead FL is something else. Upgrading from the Knucklehead to the Panhead brought instant dividends in terms of power, braking, and handling.
The self-adjusting hydraulic lifters and aluminum cylinder heads lowered weight and improved cooling for 60 hp and high speeds. Yet it's how it looks that makes it so enviable, an utterly beautiful Harley that puts most of the company's modern offerings to shame.
7. 1954 Royal Enfield Bullet G2
While they may lag a bit behind Triumph, Royal Enfield is still a top motorcycle company in the United Kingdom. The Bullet G2 was their masterwork, and it still holds up today. This 1954 version is unique as it put a modernized spin on the classic '30s Bullets, adding tougher framing but also further sophistication.
It fit the post-War British era as the 500cc engine was spectacular and crafted a bike on par with anything Triumph could offer.
6. 1964 Triton Cafe Racer
Technically, the Triton isn't an original bike but mashing a Triumph T120 Engine and a Norton Featherbed frame together. The result is the best of the Cafe Racer craze of the '60s. That unique front with the angular style lets it stand out, and the frame is also unique.
That engine allows it to get to 100 mph and do it in a lovely manner to show why the Cafe Racer is a trend that really deserves a comeback today.
5. 1948 Indian Chief
This stunning monster is so well-loved that it's hard to add something fresh to it. Yet it succeeded by looking more like a Western horse than a motorcycle, complete with a saddle. The colors are fun as red lets it sparkle while brown or even black fit the Western motif better.
The wheel coverings help it stand out both for protection and appearance, and the fact it still offers better performance than some modern Harley Davidson offerings proves the Chief still rules on the road.
4. 1976 Honda CB750F
As classic as a Japanese bike can get, the 1976 Honda CB750F set a new standard still being challenged today. The metal sheet extension over the gas tank, the extension to the seat, the stronger body, all of it was revolutionary but worked beautifully.
The 736cc SOHC inline-four allows for just under 100 mph, and the style is less "Japanese superbike" and more "old-styled tourer. There's a reason this bike remains so loved as the style has barely changed over the years.
3. Benelli 750 SEI
Motorcycle designers may not get the fame of car crafters, but Alejandro De Tomaso did provide a beauty with the Benelli 750 SEI. He wanted a two-wheel version of his famed Pantera, and succeeded with a sleek look that combined rugged power with Italian craftmanship.
It was the first production 6-cylinder motorcycle and only held back by how the tech wasn't ready to let it work as promised. Yet with 96bhp at 9,000rpm and a top speed of 130mph, the Benelli was stunning. Sadly, only 3500 were made but should be remembered as a groundbreaker.
2. 1951 Vincent Black Shadow
If a bike lives up to its name, the 1951 Vincent Black Shadow is it. The 50 degree 1.0-liter V-twin is carefully placed and surrounded in sleek black metal. It can be a dark blur on the road but also very stylish, not intimidating but just amazingly cool.
There's enough chrome on it to brighten it up, but that dark metal helped make the Black Shadow a legend in its time and sparked the way to one of the finest classic bikes of the '50s.
1. 1937 Triumph Speed Twin
This is the bike that put Triumph on the map. The 1937 Speed Twin was a stunning machine, setting the bar for every vertical twin bike that would follow. It was much lighter and tighter than previous twin bikes and captured a fun economic style but still looking wonderful in its power.
It has an aura of sophistication around it, and combined with its terrific 28 hp output, it lived up to its name as a Triumph in design and performance.
Sources: ultimatemotorcycling.com, hagerty.com, popularmechanics.com motortrend.com
The CB750 from that era was odd—in that it was a bitchin’ engine wrapped in tame geometry and mushy, uninspiring components.” Colin wanted his creation to ride like a modern sportbike, so he started with new suspension and brakes from the Triumph Daytona 675.
Ducati said the bike’s 73 bhp power output was the highest output per cc of any Ducati air-cooled V-twin ever produced to that date. Besides the engine, the Monster 695 remained relatively unchanged, which was a good thing, as the smallest Monster had earned a reputation as an incredible all-rounder, capable of urban commuting, backroad blasting, and even the odd track day.
The mighty CB750 also became the poster child of the ‘new wave’ custom scene during the late nineties thanks to its classic good looks and relatively affordable secondhand price. A lot has changed since then though. K series CB750’s have become hot property and decent early models are fetching some pretty hefty sums.
Are you ready to revolutionise your ride with the latest in motorcycle protective gear? Merla Moto is the first in the market to adopt Rheon™ technology as their primary source of motorcycle armour.
Even if you don’t know Chiel Nipius’ name, you’ve probably seen his work. He was part of the team at Ironwood Custom Motorcycles for a while, but he’s now branched out on his own as Nius Moto. And judging by these two Honda CB550 customs, he has the skills to pay the bills.