You don’t have to buy brand new OR pay for a long, custom build to get the bike you want. All you have to do is scour the web’s classifieds for one of these “modern classic” bikes from the past decade.
Photo: Ramsha Darbha
A drag-strip killer that eats big bore sportbikes for breakfast, the original V-Max was produced non-stop from 1985 to 2008.
The redesign, released in 2009, is still in production. It looks like something a 1980s manga anti-hero would ride, and its 1200cc V4 is good for more power than most of us can handle. People love them, so don’t expect a huge discount on a used one.
1970s Ducatis are among motorcycling’s most prized designs, and prices on the used market reflect it. And they come with all the problems common to old things: mismanaged restoration, over restoration, no restoration. If you’ve ever owned an old bike, you know how endless “the list” is.
Throw the list in the trash. Ducati gave the world vintage looks and modern performance with its Sportclassic range of bikes, which ran from 2006-2010. If words like Hailwood and Imola get your blood pumping, the sight of one of these beauties in your garage will put a smile on your face.
The range was preceded by the MH900E, a true “vintage race replica” and one of the prettiest bikes ever made.
A sledgehammer to the rest of the world’s butterflies, the Ural is only “pretty” if you’re three sheets to the wind and standing in a WW2 casualty tent.
And that’s what makes the Ural a “must own” for some people.
Harley Davidson’s legendary flat tracker, the starkly named XR750, is beyond reach for most motorcyclists.
It’s just too expensive and specialized.
But we can get close with the XR1200R, a road going standard inspired by Harley Davidson’s history of American flat track motorcycle racing dominance.
Moto Guzzi V7 Cafe Classic
Cafe bikes have seen a huge resurgence in recent years, pushing prices for used bikes and parts to the stratosphere in many parts of the USA.
Anytime somebody sells www.caferacertv.com TV show about something expect prices to go through the roof. If you’re sick of greasy hands and overpriced parts, the V7 comes in four flavors to cheer you up. Choose between used and brand new and ride off into the sunset on your bad Moto Guzzi.
Photo: Steve Glover
On the surface it’s a basic bike for basic people. With a little elbow grease (and help from the aftermarket), the little Kawi can be anything you want it to be.
If you’re not a believer already, check out BikeEXIF’s list of the Top Five Custom W650s for proof.
Charming retro looks are stock. What you choose to do with them is entirely up to you.
Photo: Terry Whalebone
About as old school as old school gets. Enfield of India started producing them in 1956 and bought the rights to the name in 1995. They are cheap (still!), utilitarian, and common throughout the world.
The Enfield smells like adolescence filtered through a Bangalore back alley, and the gauges will take you straight back to the 50s.
Photo: Jose Miletti
Its silhouette recalls Eddie Lawson’s dominance of AMA Superbike in the early 80s. One of the most popular “upgrades” for old bikes is replacing the suspension and brakes with modern running gear. Why bother when Kawasaki gave us exactly that from the factory?
The “rex” is a great canvas to start with, used examples are cheap and plentiful, and upgrades from names like Ohlins and Akrapovic keep it interesting.
Photo: Armin Vogel
New motorcyclists might be unfamiliar with the term “scrambler,” but the “offroad-capable road bike” has been a motorcycling staple since the days of dirt roads and motor coaches.
The idea that a dirtbike should have as few roadgoing ecoutrements as possible is a relatively recent one, owing itself to the fact that paved roads are increasingly common throughout the world.
If the gaudiness of late-model BMWs isn’t your thing, a Triumph Scrambler makes for a classier profile blasting down your local backroads.
Photo: Klaus Nahr
The most modern looking bike on our list is powered by a glorified weed wacker engine and pours blue smoke out of a tiny exhaust canister located right behind its rider’s left heel.
It’s a track-going two-stroke, making it a definite nod to the roadracers of the past.
It produces usable power for a devastatingly small slice of the tach, from 9000 to 10500 or so, making it a great bike to introduce yourself to the track with. A limited run was released in 2009 with graphics inspired by Jorge Lorenzo’s GP125 World Championship wins.
Something, literally, for everyone
If the world floods and riders have to fill an ark with the world’s best motorcycles, we’re confident the bikes on this list will be there.