The ultimate guide to classic motorbikes from around the world

classic motorbikes

Classic motorbikes are not just a way to get around, they are a symbol of culture, craftsmanship, and innovation. Each country around the world has its own unique approach to motorcycle design, resulting in an array of iconic bikes that have stood the test of time and turned into the ultimate classics.

If you’re not quite sure what makes a motorcycle a classic, read this blog to find out how old a bike has to be to be considered a classic.

This blog will take you on a trip around the world to explore classic motorcycles from five different countries: Germany, Italy, Japan, Britain, and the United States. 

These countries have made significant contributions to the world of motorcycling, and their classic bikes are celebrated by enthusiasts worldwide.

If you dream of owning a classic bike but they are out of your price range, read our useful blog on the best retro motorbikes you can buy in 2023

Four classic American motorbikes

1. Harley-Davidson Knucklehead (1936-1947)

classic motorbikes

The Harley-Davidson Knucklehead is a legendary American classic. Known for its distinctive V-twin engine and “knucklehead” rocker covers, this bike is a symbol of the American cruiser. With a timeless design and enduring appeal, it remains a sought-after collectible.

2. Indian Chief (1922-1953)

classic motorbikes

Indian Chief motorcycles have a rich history and were a strong rival to Harley-Davidson in the early days of motorcycling. Their iconic design, characterised by the deep fenders and classic lines, has left an indelible mark in the world of classic motorcycles.

3. Vincent Black Shadow (1948-1955)

classic motorbikes

The Vincent Black Shadow was known as the world’s fastest production motorcycle in its time, with a top speed of over 125mph. Its innovative design and powerful V-twin engine make it a prized classic among collectors.

4. Excelsior-Henderson Super X (1925-1931)

classic motorbikes

Although it had a short production run, the Excelsior-Henderson Super X is remembered as one of the first American motorcycles to feature overhead valves. With its striking Art Deco design and advanced technology for its era, it’s a true classic.

Four classic British motorbikes

1. Triumph Bonneville (1959-present)

classic motorbikes

The Triumph Bonneville is an enduring British classic. Its timeless design, characterised by the parallel-twin engine and distinctive exhaust note, has made it a beloved icon for motorcycle enthusiasts worldwide.

2. BSA Gold Star (1938-1963)

classic motorbikes

The BSA Gold Star was renowned for its success in racing, earning countless victories in the Isle of Man TT races. This classic British single-cylinder motorcycle is celebrated for its performance and classic styling.

3. Norton Commando (1967-1977)

classic motorbikes

The Norton Commando is famous for its innovative Isoelastic anti-vibration system and the distinctive “fastback” design. It’s often considered one of the most iconic British bikes of the 1970s.

4. Royal Enfield Bullet (1932-present)

classic motorbikes

The Royal Enfield Bullet holds the record as the longest-running motorcycle model in history. Its classic design and reliability have made it a favourite among riders seeking a vintage aesthetic.

Four classic German motorbikes

1. BMW R69S (1960-1969)

classic motorbikes

The BMW R69S is a legendary German classic motorcycle. It’s renowned for its reliability and performance, featuring a 594cc boxer twin engine. With its elegant design and robust engineering, it has become an icon among classic motorcycle enthusiasts.

2. DKW RT125 (1939-1965)

classic motorbikes

The DKW RT125 is a classic German two-stroke motorcycle with a rich history. It was one of the most popular motorcycles in Germany during and after World War II. Its compact design and durability made it a beloved classic.

3. NSU Super Max (1954-1960)

classic motorbikes

The NSU Super Max was a popular post-war German motorcycle. It featured a 247cc single-cylinder engine and boasted advanced engineering for its time. Its timeless design and reliability have made it a classic in the world of vintage bikes.

4. Münch Mammoth TTS (1966-1974)

classic motorbikes

The Münch Mammoth TTS is a unique German classic motorcycle known for its power and luxury. With a 1,177cc four-cylinder engine and distinctive styling, it’s a rare and valuable collector’s item.

Four classic Italian motorbikes

1. Ducati 900SS (1975-1982)

classic motorbikes

The Ducati 900SS is an Italian classic that blends performance and style. Its distinctive L-twin engine and beautiful fairings make it an icon of Italian craftsmanship.

2. Moto Guzzi Le Mans (1976-2003)

classic motorbikes

Moto Guzzi’s Le Mans series combined Italian flair with reliable performance. With its distinctive styling and V-twin engine, it’s a celebrated classic.

3. MV Agusta 750S (1971-1974)

classic motorbikes

MV Agusta is renowned for its racing heritage, and the 750S is a prime example of this. With its inline-four engine and superb handling, it’s a classic Italian gem.

4. Laverda Jota (1976-1982)

The Laverda Jota is an Italian classic known for its raw power and impressive performance. It was a formidable competitor in the superbike arena during the late 1970s.

classic motorbikes

Four classic Japanese motorbikes

Honda CB750 (1969-2003)

classic motorbikes

The Honda CB750 is often credited with revolutionising the motorcycle industry. It was the world’s first superbike, featuring a transverse four-cylinder engine, electric start, and an affordable price point.

Kawasaki Z1 (1972-1975)

classic motorbikes

The Kawasaki Z1 was a direct competitor to the Honda CB750 and gained fame for its incredible speed and power. It was a pivotal motorcycle in the development of the superbike category.

Suzuki Katana (1981-2006)

classic motorbikes

The Suzuki Katana is instantly recognizable due to its futuristic and sharp-edged design. It combined cutting-edge styling with reliable Japanese engineering.

Yamaha XS650 (1970-1983)

classic motorbikes

The Yamaha XS650 was a versatile twin-cylinder motorcycle known for its reliability and customisation potential. It remains a favourite among custom bike builders and enthusiasts.

If you are interested in snapping up a classic machine, read our blog to discover how to keep your vintage motorbike running well and safe to be on the road.

Protection for your classic motorbike

Whether you’re drawn to the American cruiser, the British elegance, the Japanese innovation, the Italian style or the German engineering, Bikesure will have a bespoke insurance policy as eye-catching as your classic motorbike. Call 0800 369 8580 for a quote today, or book a callback at a time that’s convenient for you. If you still haven’t had your fill of classic motorbikes, read our blog which features some of the greatest classic motorcycles of all time.

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August 8, 2023