The world of motorcycles is one of constant change, of constant evolution. New shapes, the addition of winglets, lighter and stronger composites, and the rise of electric motorcycles all lead to a future of fun. Yet for some, the true pleasure of motorcycling emerges from the past.
Manufacturers have caught on to this loving look back to the past. A new style of bike has emerged over the past decade, from only one or two companies making retro oriented bikes to almost every company now having at least one sports heritage or retro bike.
Today, we’ll count down our favorite 8 retro-styled bikes from 2010 to 2021.
#8: Yamaha XSR700
The elephant in the room needs to be addressed first and foremost: yes, this is a Yamaha MT-07. But what Yamaha did with that MT-07 is give it the look and the feel of a 70’s sport bike, gave it some lovely retro touches that harken back even further to cafe racers, and then stuffed enough character into it to have it make sense. And thus was born the XSR700.
It’s this low on the list only because it is a retro look on a modern frame, no matter how well designed that frame is from an engineering standpoint. We wish they’d put a tiny bit more effort, maybe using a chrome plating on the exposed frame bits or quilting the leather of the seat, but it is still one of the most beautiful retro bikes to have come out in the past 10 years
#7: 2019+ Royal Enfield INT650
Royal Enfield has been around since 1901 in one form or another. They are also notorious for taking their time to design and release a new model, with the Interceptor 650 only making it to US shores at the end of 2018.
Powered by a combination of oil and air-cooled 650cc parallel twin with a 270-degree crankshaft, it has the classic retro rumble of a retro bike but has modern safety and electronics under the hood. As well, while the forks and shocks look old school, they too have had modern touches added to them, such as the exterior gas returns on the rear shocks.
#6: Kawasaki W800 Street
This is what we were meaning when discussing the engineering effort in #8 above. Kawasaki looked back to their own W1 model from decades past when making the W800, then figured out how to make a modern bike out of it that kept the spirit of the W1.
What they ended up with was a bike with all the right retro touches, with a modern engine and safety features, that makes a great retro sound (possibly the best retro sound). It’s the little details that make us appreciate the W800. Having a classic, low slung exhaust, yet also having a slipper and assist clutch. A great retro standard bike.
#5: Moto Guzzi V7 III Racer
Quirky and fun styling always catches our eyes here. It is for this reason that we love the Moto Guzzi V7 III Racer model line. Holding all the right styling cues for a mid 60’s Italian racing bike, it also has a v-twin not tucked up into the frame, but rather slung across it, so the cylinder heads poke out the sides and receive maximum airflow.
This adds another very retro character to the bike, that of the inevitable shaking of the bike from side to side at idle, giving that sense of a racing bike ready to go while you’re stopped at a red light. It also sounds exactly like a retro should, crackling and popping on the overrun and grunty rumbles on the throttle. Admittedly, this is not surprising as the Italians in their engineering just seem to know how to make things touch the right bits of your heart.
#4: Triumph Street Twin
Triumph is one of those companies that has been firmly stuck in the past for a while… at least in terms of aesthetics. In all other places, they have been at the forefront of motorcycles, making retro “cool again” year after year after year. It could arguably be said that because of Triumph, the entirety of the retro rush over the 2010s occurred.
The most classic of their retro models, however, is for sure the Street Twin. It embraces everything retro, from analog dials that would not be out of place on a swiss watch, to the quilted leather seat that is just so British about it. 900cc’s of parallel twin noise and vibration, but only 65 HP, yet there is just that quintessential something that Triumph does that makes it beautifully retro yet modern.
#3: 2020 Suzuki Katana
Maybe a bit more modern retro than sport heritage, the new 2020 Suzuki Katana brings those of us that were raised in the 80’s back to a special place. The retro cowl and square headlight, the boxy tail that reminisces of the cut-tail style of the late 80’s racing bikes, the angular, almost cyberpunk look of the fairings. It’s everything that was great about 80’s styling in one bike.
The only truly modern designs on the bike are honestly the brakes, the engine, and the frame. Suzuki has touched a lot of nostalgia and hearts with this model, and the older few of us here at BadAss Helmet Store agree that it’s a great thing to see.
#2: BMW R NineT
BMW is another one of those legendary companies that have been making motorcycles for nearly a century, starting with the classic R32 in 1923, which came with a twin-cylinder boxer engine. It is this engine that has carried on through multiple evolutions and updates to what you can now buy in the BMW R NineT models.
Based on the cafe stylings of the ’50s and ’60s, the R NineT shows both homages to the original styles but updated with that specific German touch, where every line, every angle, every bit of exposed frame is meant to be there and have a purpose. We think it’s the best of both worlds, with a modern engine and safety, but with a distinctly retro look.
#1: Honda Super Cub C125
The original. The big (well, small) daddy of all modern motorcycles. In production continuously since 1958 with no stoppages, this is about as retro as retro gets. Over 100 million Super Cubs have been made, and it scrapes by as a motorcycle because it does not have the flat floorboards of a scooter.
This is the single model line that brought motorcycling to the state it is today, and the fact that you can buy a version of the original bike that Mr. Honda himself helped make is both retro and awesome. We honestly couldn’t put any other model here, because respect is paid where respect is due.