10 Timeless Motorcycle Designs - SUV VEHICLE

10 Timeless Motorcycle Designs


As time goes on and trends fade, certain motorcycle designs defy the eroding forces of time. Seeing timeless classics is like wielding a temporal portal, taking you back in time and freezing moments of what it would have been like to have ridden them back in the day. Motorcycle design has come a long, long way since Gottlieb’s Daimler’s vintage Einspur, which began its journey with a 0.5 horsepower engine. When his son, Paul, took it for a spin, he may not have known at the time that he was riding one of the world’s first motorcycles, which had a wooden frame and no suspension.



There have been greats like Harley-Davidson’s silent Grey Fellow, the Indian Scout, the BMW R32, the Brough Superior SS100, and the Vincent Black Shadow; the list is endless, but some of these motorcycles go back to an antique and vintage era where motorcycle design would take time to evolve and realize their full potential. But there are some great motorcycle designs that you will agree upon that are still timeless despite being born many decades ago, and they figure in this list.

To give you the most up-to-date and accurate information possible, the data used to compile this article was sourced from manufacturers and other authoritative sources, including Cycle World, Motorcycle.com, Bennetts.co.uk (BikeSocial) and Motorcyclespecs.co.za. The motorcycles on this list are ranked based on their age, from the oldest to the most current.

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10 1969 Honda CB750

Years in Production: 1969 – 2003

The 1969 Honda CB750 emerged as an example of design and its genius lay in its extravagant yet functional core. The engine, developed in less than a year, exhibits Honda’s racing heritage with a four-cylinder, in-line configuration. Unorthodox choices, like plain bearings over roller ones, which proved pivotal for its silent running and efficiency. The CB750 is such an iconic name for the Japanese brand that it continues its legacy to this day, in the guise of the CB750 Hornet.

Performance Specifications

Displacement

736 cc

Maximum Power

67 HP at 8,000 rpm

Maximum Speed

123.2 MPH

Wet Weight

499 lbs

(Specs sourced from Motorcyclespecs.co.za)

Beyond the mechanics, the Honda CB750 delighted in subtle details – the ergonomic placement of the 11,000 rpm tachometer and the 150 mph speedometer, a thoughtful ignition kill switch, and a broad, comfortable seat. As an exemplification of handling in its class, it challenged conventions and defined a new era, proving that sometimes, bigger is better.

Model Highlights

  • The first production motorcycle in the world to offer disc brakes
  • Plain bearings were used in all major engine surfaces, which included the crankshaft, connecting rods, and camshafts
  • It featured a two-way ignition kill switch to be used in moments of danger

9 1994 Ducati 916

Years in Production: 1994 – 1998

Ducati 916 Motorcycle
Ducati

The Ducati 916 stands as a testament to maestro Massimo Tamburini’s unparalleled genius for design. Born from the evolution of Tamburini’s earlier masterpiece, the 1986 Paso, the 916 emerged as a groundbreaking marvel in motorcycle design. The compact tank and single-sided swingarm not only enhanced the bike’s elegance but also contributed to a comfortable man-machine interface.

Performance Specifications

Displacement

916 cc

Maximum Power

114 HP at 9,000 rpm

Maximum Speed

161 MPH

Dry Weight

430 lbs

(Specs sourced from Ducati)

Tamburini’s meticulous attention extended to the minutest details, from adjusting the engine’s tilt to the 23.5-degree rake for optimal weight distribution to studying the rain’s streaming marks on the fairing, highlighting his unwavering commitment to aerodynamic precision. The 916, a combination of innovation and artistry, remains an unrivaled masterpiece in the world of superbikes, a legacy that preserves Tamburini’s dedication and love for his craft.

Model Highlights

  • Well-designed for its time, it only saw minor changes over its life-span
  • It incorporates a fuel tank combined with the airbox
  • The headlights and under-seat exhaust system are influenced by the Honda NR750

8 2005 MV Agusta F4 1000 Tamburini

Years in Production: 2005

MV Agusta F4 1000 Tamburini Motorcycle
Silosarg, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The MV Agusta F4 1000 Tamburini, priced at $42,695, emerged as a rarity in the motorcycle world. Limited to a production run of only 300 units worldwide, with a mere 59 gracing the American roads, this ensured its exclusivity. The F4 platform has been known to break a record or two. Crafted as a tribute to design maestro Massimo Tamburini, this masterpiece was not just a motorcycle, it was his dream.

Beyond its exorbitant price, the Tamburini is a work of art on wheels that has stunning aesthetics. It’s a visual delight with gold-anodized forged aluminum Y-shaped spoked wheels, a distinctive four-exit exhaust, titanium-nitride-coated Marzocchi inverted forks, and flowing bodywork.

Performance Specifications

Displacement

998 cc

Maximum Power

172.8 HP at 11,750 rpm

Maximum Speed

Dry Weight

405.6 lbs / 184 kg

(Specs sourced from Motorcyclespecs.co.za)

Every detail reflects Tamburini’s obsession with perfection, from the magnesium swingarm to the Alcantara seat, though despite its discomfort, the F4 1000 prioritized performance over comfort. It’s a finished motorcycle, elegantly packaged in a reusable crate, ready to thrill any motorcycle enthusiast who recognizes the blend of performance and beauty.

Model Highlights

  • Limited edition exclusivity
  • The bodywork is constructed from carbon fiber

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7 1989 Kawasaki ZXR750

Years in Production: 1989 – 1995

The Kawasaki ZXR750, a superbike of the late eighties and early nineties, was instantly recognizable with its aggressive design and race team-inspired paint job. With its sharp angles, distinctive twin headlights, and tail section, the ZXR 750 exemplified the styling trends of its time. Apart from the paint and front and rear features, even more noticeable were the pair of huge hoses over the cockpit leading from the air ducts in the front of the cowling through the fuel tank to the air box.

Performance Specifications

Displacement

749 cc

Maximum Power

121 HP at 10,500 rpm

Maximum Speed

159.3 MPH (256.5 km/hr)

Dry Weight

418.8 lbs (190 kg)

(Specs sourced from Motorcyclespecs.co.za)

On the engine front, the company had repurposed the GPX750’s engine in a new chassis based on the ZX-7R works motorcycle forming the ZXR 750. Though the power plant remained largely unchanged from the GPX, it still retained the central cam chain driving the intake and exhaust camshafts. When it hit the market, the Kawasaki was an instant success with its good looks and speed, and inspired other Kawasaki models that came after it.

Model Highlights

  • Race-inspired design from WSBK racing exploits
  • Light, rigid aluminum perimeter frame

6 1998 Aprilia RSV1000 Mille

Years in Production: 1998 – 2003

Aprilia RSV1000 Mille Motorcycle
Iconic Motorbike Auctions

Aprilia’s RSV1000 Mille stands as a masterpiece not just due to its engineering prowess and performance, but also because of its iconic design. In the late ’90s, Aprilia set out to create a superbike that not only rivaled its competitors in power but also stood out with its unique style. The distinctive three-light headlamp, polished aluminum alloy beam chassis, and the large brushed aluminum end-can etched with ‘Aprilia Racing’ contribute to its exotic and aggressive appearance.

Performance Specifications

Displacement

997.6 cc

Maximum Power

128 HP @ 9,500 rpm

Maximum Speed

167 MPH (272 km/hr)

Dry Weight

416.7 lbs (189 kg)

(Specs sourced from Motorcyclespecs.co.za)

First generation Milles had fuel tanks constructed of steel, but from 2001 the composition changed over to a plastic-resin base to counter leaks caused by rich ethanol-based unleaded fuels. Overall, its aesthetics is a perfect blend of form and function. Its sleek lines, coupled with the Italian flair for design, not only make it a standout work of art on wheels, but a timeless quality piece.

Model Highlights

  • Powered by a 60° V-twin magnesium engine
  • The engine was built by the Austrian engine company Rotax

5 1989 Yamaha FZR750R OW-01

Years in Production: 1987 – 1990

Yamaha FZR750R OW01 Motorcycle
Rainmaker47, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Yamaha FZR750R OW-01, born in 1989, stands as a high point in motorcycle design, representing Yamaha’s ambitious foray into the area of high-performance street machines with racing DNA. With a price tag equivalent to a small fortune, it was a rare and exclusive breed, signaling a shift in Yamaha’s philosophy to meet the challenge set by the formidable Honda RC30.

Based on Yamaha’s factory Formula One-spec YZF750 Genesis, the OW-01 inherited a rich racing pedigree. Its esthetics were revolutionary, setting it apart from its contemporaries. The OW-01’s distinctive appearance, with an aluminum tank, fresh-air ducts, a solo fiberglass seat, and the exquisite fully adjustable Öhlins rear shock with hydraulic preload showcased Yamaha’s commitment.

Performance Specifications

Displacement

749 cc

Maximum Power

121 HP at 12,000 rpm

Maximum Speed

160.1 MPH

Dry Weight

412 lbs

(Specs sourced from Motorcyclespecs.co.za)

The lightly disguised racer, with its finely sculpted lines and purposeful details, exuded a unique attraction that exceeded mere functionality, offering a visual masterpiece of power and precision. Even in comparison to its successor, the YZF750, the OW-01’s design remains iconic, serving as a testament to Yamaha’s prowess in blending performance and appeal, making it a collector’s dream.

Model Highlights

  • An inline-four with 5 valves per cylinder. It is based on the Genesis engine technology
  • Production run limited to 1000 units for homologation to race
  • Featured short-skirt stepped pistons and titanium connecting rods

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4 1969 Triumph Bonneville 120

Years in Production: 1959 – 1975

Triumph Bonneville T120 Motorcycle
Yesterdays Antique Motorcycles, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The 1969 Triumph Bonneville navigated the challenges posed by emerging Japanese competitors. In the golden era of Triumph, marked by heightened performance, the T120R and T120C models showcased engine advancements that included nitrate-hardened cams and revised Hepolite pistons that addressed wear issues. A reworked transmission and balanced clutch baskets signaled Triumph’s commitment to refinement. The frame, though largely unchanged, accommodated wider front tires, adapting to technological shifts.

Performance Specifications

Displacement

649 cc

Maximum Power

46 HP at 6,500 rpm

Maximum Speed

Dry Weight

363 lbs

(Specs sourced from Motorcyclespecs.co.za)

Design details evolved, with a quilted seat and a simplified tank emblem. In the face of growing competition, the Bonneville’s enduring appeal lies in its classic silhouette and meticulous engineering that defined an era, standing resolute against the march of time.

Model Highlights

  • Reasonable and adequate handling
  • The 1971 model gained an oil-in-frame chassis

3 1988 Honda RC30

Years in Production: 1987 – 1990

Honda VFR750R
Rainmaker47, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The VFR750R better known as the RC30 in the United States was essentially a street-legal motorcycle based on the Honda Works RVF racer that had dominated Formula One and endurance competitions back in the mid-eighties. On the engine side, an important characteristic of the RC30 is its 360° crank where the pistons of the front and rear cylinders move up and down together within the bores as opposed to the original VFR750F’s 180-degree crank for better exhaust tuning.

Performance Specifications

Displacement

748 cc

Maximum Power

112 HP @ 11,500 rpm

Maximum Speed

151.8 MPH

Dry Weight

402 lbs

(Specs sourced from Motorcyclespecs.co.za)

Beyond the mechanics, the CB750 delighted in subtle details – an ergonomic placement of the 11,000-rpm tachometer and the 150-mph speedometer, a thoughtful ignition kill switch, and a broad, comfortable seat. It is strikingly uncluttered, it lacks helmet locks and plastic covers, and reveals hand-laid fiberglass on the inside of the fairing. The diminutive turn signals add subtlety, while its compact layout, twin four-inch headlamp front cowling, and single-sided swingarm lend it a distinctive attraction.

The RC30 is reminiscent of a factory racebike and impresses with its detail while departing from the usual mass production tooling processes. While familiar in some aspects, like the ignition switch on the triple-clamp, its exquisite finish sets it apart, embodying racing prowess with street appeal.

Model Highlights

  • The powerplant employed gear-driven camshafts for precise valve timing
  • The RC30 featured an ELF-patented single-sided swingarm
  • Its wheels were the quick-release type – the rear could be dropped out with the chain and sprocket remaining in place

2 1974 Ducati Sport Classic 750SS

Years in Production: 1974

Introduced in 1973 and with its unique blend of style and performance, the Ducati Sport Classic 750 based on Ducati’s 1972 Imola racer embodied the essence of a café racer’s dream. The bike’s design, featuring a sculpted tank, round headlight, a trellis frame, stumpy clip-on bars, rear-set footpegs, and a racing seat, captures the spirit of classic Ducatis. Despite its fierce and beautiful appearance, the Sport Classic 750 surprises with its docility and comfort, making it more than just a showpiece.

Performance Specifications

Displacement

748cc

Maximum Power

72 HP at 9,500 rpm

Maximum Speed

137 MPH

Dry Weight

412 lbs

(Specs sourced from Ducati)

The bike’s minimalistic approach, fiberglass bodywork, and unique features like wire mesh to keep rocks from entering the carburetor contribute to its attention-grabbing appearance. Its narrow frame, based on Ducati’s racing model ensures stability in corners. The parts of the green-framed, round-case, kick-start Ducati are unique to the 401 machines made, like the rims and the carburetor; if they were to ever go bad that they needed replacement, sourcing them was out of the question. The Sport Classic 750SS, whether in the 1970s or now, remains a symbol of a bygone era, a true café racer that has transcended with time.

Model Highlights

  • Like all Ducati motorcycles, it uses the desmodromic valve system
  • Bevel gear-driven engine
  • The 750SS had a 40 mm Dell’Orto carburetor.
  • Used Marzocchi front forks and an 18-inch front wheel

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1 1972 Kawasaki Z1

Years in Production: 1972 -1975

Kawasaki Z1 Motorcycle
Rainmaker47, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Honda may have beaten Kawasaki to the punch with the release of its CB750 street bike, but Kawasaki back-tracked on its SOHC-based motorcycle plans with the dual overhead camshaft Kawasaki Z1. Nick-named the “New York Steak” during its development stage, the Z1 was better than the CB750 in terms of performance and more than a second quicker in the quarter-mile. A good-looking motorcycle and well-proportioned, its curved fuel tank, side covers, generous seat, and tuft-tail gave it a stylish look to match its performance.

Performance Specifications

Displacement

903 cc

Maximum Power

82 HP at 8,500 rpm

Maximum Speed

135 MPH

Dry Weight

507 lbs

(Specs sourced from Motorcyclespecs.co.za)

It may not have had the best handling when pushed hard, but there were after-market specialists such as Harris and Egli offering frame kits. Many owners kitted their Z1s out with steering dampers and some went to the extent of installing after-market rear shock absorbers which helped a bit with the handling. For Kawasaki, knowing what they had to beat turned out to be a blessing. The Z1 was the ultimate fast bike of the seventies that would form the foundation for future generations of liter-class Kawasakis.

Model Highlights

  • The crankshaft used traditional roller bearings
  • The camshaft now rotates on plain steel bearings
  • It featured a single solid brake rotor at the front



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