The 12 most iconic motorbikes of the 1970s and 80s

The 1970s and 80s were golden years for motorcycling with some incredible machines hitting the highways. 

In this blog, Bikesure general manager Rob Balls identifies some of the most iconic motorbikes of those decades. 

The most celebrated bikes of the 1970s

It may be more than half a century ago – wow – but 1970 was the dawn of the most wonderful decade for bikes and bikers. 

From the groundbreaking Honda CB750 to the Harley-Davidson XR750, here are Rob’s six most iconic bikes of the 1970s.

1. Honda CB750

iconic motorbikes

One of the most popular and influential motorcycles of all time – not just the 70s – the Honda CB750 was introduced in 1969 and quickly became the best-selling motorcycle in the world.

It featured a powerful 750cc inline-four engine, disc brakes, and a sleek design. It was the first Japanese motorcycle to conquer the United States and it ushered in with a roar a new era of Japanese dominance in the motorcycle industry

2. Kawasaki Z1

iconic motorbikes

The Kawasaki Z1 was introduced in 1972 and was the first Japanese machine to challenge the dominance of European-manufactured sport bikes. 

It featured a powerful 903cc inline-four engine, a lightweight frame, and macho styling. It was a huge success, and established Kawasaki among the elite manufacturers of the motorcycle industry. 

3. Yamaha XS750

iconic motorbikes

A popular all-arounder  of the 70s, the Yamaha XS750 boasted a plethora of innovative features, including a shaft-drive transverse engine, headlights that automatically turned on when the engine started and self-cancelling turn signals. 

Mechanically, the new bike was unlike any Yamaha before it, with a three-cylinder, 64 horsepower, double overhead camshaft engine, a five-speed transmission, a shaft final drive and a comfortable riding position making it popular for touring and sport riding.

4. Yamaha RD350

Another Yamaha, and another crowd pleaser, the RD350 was a popular two-stroke sport bike. 

It was famed for its high-revving engine and sharp handling. The 350 evolved into the more refined and cleaner running RD400C in1976, the ‘D’ and ‘E’ in 77–78 and the final model, the white 1979 RD400F. 

The RD350 was a favourite of racers and enthusiasts alike.

5. Suzuki GT750

iconic motorbikes

The Suzuki GT750 was a popular three-cylinder two-stroke sport bike of the 70s. 

It was legendary because of its smooth power delivery and comfortable ride. It was one of the first commercial water-cooled bikes and was fondly nicknamed the ‘Kettle’ in Britain, the ’Water Bottle’ in Australia and the ‘Water Buffalo’ in the US. The GT750 was a popular choice for touring and commuting.

6. Harley-Davidson XR750

iconic motorbikes

The Harley-Davidson XR750 was a popular flat-track racer of the 70s, adored because of its powerful engine and agile handling. 

The XR750 was a dominant force on the dirt track circuit and it helped put Harley-Davidson back on the map as a racing brand. 

It was also famous for being used by Evel Knievel’s many jumps in the 1970’s. Want to read more about the greatest motorcycle stuntmen of all time? Then view our blog 

The most iconic motorbikes of the 1980s

Another decade and another half-dozen desirable bikes. Here are Rob’s six most iconic bikes of the 80s. 

1. Harley-Davidson FXR

iconic motorbikes

The Harley-Davidson FXR featured a powerful 1300cc V-twin engine, a comfortable riding position, and it was a real looker. 

Produced from 1982 to 1994, it was introduced as a replacement for the discontinued LowRider model. It was the first Harley-Davidson with a factory-installed rear disc brake and five-speed transmission. 

In 1994 it was superseded by the Dyna series. You can read  our blog to learn more about  120 years of Harley-Davidson motorcycles

2. Suzuki GSX-R750

iconic motorbikes

Designed for the race circuit, the GSX-R750 was pitched to challenge global championships while fulfilling the sporting aspirations of non-professional riders. 

It featured a powerful 750cc inline-four engine, a lightweight frame, and advanced suspension. A fantastic ride and power to burn. 

3. Kawasaki GPZ900R

iconic motorbikes

The Kawasaki GPZ900R, better known as the Ninja, was powered by a throbbing 900cc inline-four engine capable of hitting speeds of over 150mph. 

Quickly becoming something of a fashion icon, as well as an icon of the motorcycle world, the GPZ900R featured in the movie ‘Top Gun,’ which helped to boost its popularity and street cred even more.

4. BMW R80 G/S

iconic motorbikes

Adventure motorcycles are one of the most competitive sectors of the global motorcycle market, and that’s mainly down to the success of the BMW R80 G/S, considered by many aficionados as the world’s first adventure bike. 

Powered by an 800cc boxer engine it was equally at home on-road or off-road and handled superbly even on the most inhospitable of surfaces. 

5. Kawasaki Vulcan 750

iconic motorbikes

Introduced in 1984, the Vulcan 750 was Kawasaki’s first cruiser style motorcycle. 

The machine’s 750cc engine was also their first V-twin. Produced for more than 20 years the design remained more or less unchanged until production finally ended in 2006. 

As a cheaper alternative to the big Harleys and Indians, the Vulcan 750 was a popular bike in 80s America. Kawasaki still uses the Vulcan name for all its modern cruiser bikes.

6. Honda VFR750R RC30

iconic motorbikes

Powered by a 750cc V4 engine capable of reaching speeds of 180mph, the VFR750R RC30 was a high-performance sport bike designed for racing. 

When it went on sale in 1988 it was essentially a road-legal, two-wheeled grand prix motorcycle that anyone could buy. If they could get their hands on one that is – only 3,000 were made. 

The bike would go on to become the most successful World Championship-winning four-cylinder Japanese motorcycle of all time.

Insurance for your iconic motorcycle

Whether you are lucky enough to own one of these iconic bikes of the 1970s and 80s or yours harks back to a different era of biking, Bikesure will have a great classic motorcycle insurance policy at a price that will please. 

Call 0330 123 1028 for a quote. Alternatively book a callback at a time that suits you.

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August 8, 2023