Top 10 Best Motorcycles Ever Made [2017 Edition]
Trying to compare champions of the motorcycle world is like trying to compare Barry Sanders to Michael Jordan. Both athletes. Both Legends. Both perform masterfully, yet so very different. Then you throw in athletes of various eras, cultures, and ages, and the factors influencing the comparison make it a nearly impossible task.
In some cases, there can simply be no comparison—only admiration.
The bikes on our list of the top 10 best motorcycles ever made are also in a class of their own. We celebrate them not by judging them against each other and dissecting every paint stroke and detail, but by the unique grandeur each has brought to us throughout the years.
So sit back and enjoy a fanciful display of the most iconic motorcycle masterpieces ever designed in the history of this blood-surging, skin-thrilling vehicle.
Alright, here they are, the top 10 best motorcycles ever made— collect them all! (Just kidding. Unless you’re Jay Leno.)
Vincent HRD Black Lightning
In 1948 the British labeled it the fastest production motorcycle in the world—a title bestowed upon it after a spectacular display at the Bonneville salt flats in Utah. In the demonstration, motorcycle racer Rollie Free donned little more than bathing briefs (for optimal aerodynamics, or so he claims), tucked himself into an air-tight position, and blasted across the surface of the flats on the Vincent HRD Black Lightning. He ended up hitting a record-breaking speed of 150.3 mph, which became his claim to fame. With a spine frame and air-cooled 998cc V-twin engine, this bike was truly a ground-flying masterpiece that weighed only 380 pounds.
Laverda 750 SFC
In 1949 Francesco Laverda decided to widen the scope of his family’s agricultural machine business, and launched motorcycle production to venture into the Italian motorsports legacy. Faced with a legion of heavy hitters to compete with, this was no small task. But, he took the challenge head on and unleashed a truly stunning kick of power into the world in 1968: a jolt called the Laverda 750 SFC. It started with an air-cooled 744cc engine, and by the following year, the 750 S variant was giving the world a run for its money in the 24 hour OSS race where it placed fourth. From there, it’s successor went on to take the win in 1971 in the Netherlands, Spain, and France.
Notoriously enshrined by bikers everywhere, Harley-Davidson has earned this luxury with more wins than any other brand in AMA history. In 1969, there was an AMA rule change, making the XR-750’s predecessor obsolete for further competition. The XR-750 was Harley’s answer to this valve configuration rule. It featured a steel double-loop, full cradle frame, and air-cooled 748cc V-twin engine. Super-packed with 82 horses, pushing 115 mph was no problem for this motorized beast. Its explosive performance drew the attention of the legendary Evil Knievel, launching him through many history-making jumps.
The Dream CB750
After claiming five consecutive championship titles at the World Grand Prix leading up to 1966, Honda made a drastic move and pulled out of the competition altogether the very next year. The reason? They wanted to put all of their extra energy and resources into creating the ultimate consumer machine for everyday riders. When the president of the American Honda base announced this 750cc bike would open at only $1,495, people dropped their jaws. At the time most bikes in this size range ran around $2,800 to $4,000, so this was big news for bike riders everywhere. With an air-cooled 736cc straight-4 engine, 67-horsepower and a top speed of 125 mph, this bike is argued by many to be the world’s very first superbike. But to seal its glory as one of the most iconic motorcycles of all time, Dick Mann raced it for the win at the 1970 AMA Daytona 200-Mile race.
Throughout the years, rumors of rival machines have sent designers back to their lairs time and time again to change and revamp models they’ve already had in the works. Kawasaki had a similar reality check when they heard about Honda’s CB750. Back to the drawing board, they had to scrap previous plans and start fresh to provide a worthy retort to their opponents’ mechanical schemes. The result was the Kawasaki Z1, topping the CB750 with 903cc and 82 horses. At 130 mph, it certainly made Honda scramble to regain the lead, and riders scrambled to plan their next road-trip.
Ducati 750 Supersport (SS) Desmo
With limited exterior to hide its gloriously chiseled insides, the Ducati 750 Supersport (SS) Desmo was in a class of its own after making its grand appearance at Milan’s Esposizione Internazionale Ciclo Motociclo e Accessori show in 1973. The race-ready version was a little more discreet—at least in its outward appearance. On the track, it’s prototype shamelessly pummeled every other contender when it won both 1st and 2nd at the 200 Miglia di Imola in 1972. In the years that followed, newer versions were equipped with a “square-case engine” leaving this prize with only 401 models cruising streets and tracks worldwide. With its glistening four-stroke engine, the 750 SS was a dream come true for riders interested in the thrill of racing without the hassle of customization.
In 1994, BMW won awards for the most exceptional standard motorcycle and went on to gain a wider and wider market. They switched from the traditional telescopic forks to a BMW designed Telelever suspension that bolts directly to the engine itself. This new suspension was revolutionary in motorcycle design, not only making the BMW R1100RS a huge competitor on the market but a prime candidate for our list of top 10 best motorcycles.
Triumph Bonneville T100 Black
Those looking for a comfortable and light street bike were well pleased with Triumph’s Bonneville T100. Triumph truly hit their mark in making a more cost-effective option for the everyday rider, and the street-chic design still wins in unspoken beauty contests. It’s the kind of bike you could imagine James Dean riding while his cigarette mixed its sparks into the wind. The cutback on the 1200cc’s of the T120 model allowed for the more compact design, and the T100 still comes in at a killer 900cc with its high torque engine. Triumph worked to cut down the bulkiness of previous models and bring back that well-loved classic look. The result was a stealthily compact yet power-packed bike that could never go out of style.
Harley-Davidson Lowrider S
Named as possibly the best cruiser Harley-Davidson has ever crafted, this stunning new masterpiece knocks the wind out of any true cruiser fan. Encrusted in black and dipped in gold accents, it flies through the streets like a fearsome phantom with gold-glinting eyes full of mischief. Harley took their iconic Screamin Eagle Twin Cam 110 engine, set in a Dyna frame and handed us the reigns. With hefty low-end torque and shifting as smooth as double-churned butter, no wonder it’s dropping jaws, filling garages, and low-riding right into our top 10 best motorcycles list.
Yamaha has been a steady competitor throughout the years, and recent years are no different. Their XSR900 may just be the best middleweight street bike out there today, with a heavy-hitting inline 3-cylindar engine—847cc and liquid-cooled. Its powertrain flaunts refined multi-mode power-delivery profiles and improved sporting suspension calibration. Pairing a retro-style, with a heart-stopping performance that reviewers are raving about, Yamaha has topped the charts again.
All of these stunning machines have the grit, grease, and grace necessary to cruise into history, and therefore, into our list of most iconic motorcycles. They’ve won races, killed chicanes, mastered maneuvers, and probably even saved some babies—who knows.