The first motorcycle was invented in 1885 by Germans Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach. To create the motorized vehicle they attached a small diesel engine to a wooden bicycle. In the 130 years since then, the motorcycle has become one of the most popular forms of transportation in the world. The evolution of the motorcycle has also meant that over the years, some of the coolest, slickest, and most interesting models have been discontinued or upgraded for new generations. These are the best first-generation motorcycles we wish would make a comeback!
The Ducati GT1000 Was A Modern Throwback
Looking like it came straight out of the ’70s, the Ducati GT1000 was actually released in 2005 with retro styling in mind. Just because the bike looked older, though, didn’t mean it lacked the modern essentials.
The GT1000 “SportClassic” was a great commuter motorcycle with a high-quality build. While production of it ended in 2010, finding one for a decent price on the secondary market today is no easy task. For that reason alone, we wish Ducati would bring this bike back.
The Ducati 916 Was A Trend Setter
The Ducati 916 was released to the world in 1994 and had a magical four-year run where it seemingly revolutionized the motorcycle industry. The bike was praised for its stylish design and single-sided swingarm that allowed tire changed to happen faster in a race.
Aside from being game-changing in the tire game, the Ducati 916 was also lighter than the competition, making it one of the era’s most desirable bikes.
The Ducati 996R Was A Beefed-Up 916
A souped-up version of the Ducati 916, the 996R was given an upgraded braking system and lighter wheels. It was released as a limited edition bike and only 500 were built, skyrocketing its secondary market value.
The bike, which we wish was re-released, won the “World Superbike Championship” three times. It had all the features a true bike enthusiast could want. The 916 might be nice, but the 996R included the sugar and spice.
The Honda VTR1000 SP-1 Was Designed To Compete With Ducati
Looking to step up to the plate against Ducati, Honda introduced the VTR10000. Everything about it, from the top speed to the handling to the acceleration, was expertly crafted. The problems only came when drivers tried to take turns.
Designed to go fast, Honda may have overlooked the bike’s turn radius, but that hardly mattered to speedsters. Buying one of these used today will cost a pretty penny, proving that Honda might be wise to consider bringing it back!
The Suzuki GSX-R1100 Was Fast And Powerful
Known for its power, speed, and ease of handling, the Suzuki GSX-R1100 was ahead of its time in the late ’80s but would fit right in today. Not always the most attractive bike, what the GSX lacked in looks, it made up for in performance and fuel efficiency.
The cost to maintain this beast was relatively low in comparison to other models at the time. While that cost might be higher today, if the bike were brought back, we’re sure it would be worth every penny!
The Triumph Triple Speed T309 Was A Racer’s Dream
Sharing an engine with the almighty Daytona meant the Triumph Triple Speed could hold its own on the racetrack. It was also designed with comfort in mind and made for a great casual ride as well.
This particular model of the Triumph was one of the first to introduce the idea of “naked bikes,” motorcycles that dismissed aerodynamics in favor of exposed engines. It was revolutionary at the time and is still a popular style of bike today.
The Yamaha XV535 Was A Great Value Bike
The Yamaha XV535 was in production from 1988 until 2004, so it might seem out of place on this list. The long-running motorcycle was the perfect bike for a casual Sunday. On longer trips when higher speeds were needed, though, the ride could get bumpy.
The big reason this bike should make a comeback is for how user-friendly it was. While it might not be the most desirable for a seasoned veteran, it was a great bike for beginners looking to take things a little more slowly.
The Aprilia Moto 6.5 Was Motorcycle Chic
When it was originally released, the Aprilia Moto 6.5 was criticized for its chic design by Philippe Starck. Once riders took a chance on it, they discovered how well-crafted this bike really was.
The Moto 6.5 had a narrow seat, easy steering, and a pothole proof suspension system. The downside was the bike tended to age faster than other models. Perhaps an upgraded release with higher quality materials would should just how amazing this bike really was.
The Honda VFR 750R Deserved A Longer Production Run
One of the most iconic superbikes of all-time, it’s shocking to us this machine only had a three-year production run. With Fred Merkel on the seat, it won the “World Superbike Championship” two times in a row!
During its run, it was estimated that 5,000 bikes were produced, making the VFR 750R more common than other bikes on this list. Just because the production numbers are higher doesn’t mean this motorcycle shouldn’t get a second act, though!
The Les Harris Matchless G80 Is Rare
Launched by businessman Les Harris and designed by Brian Jones, the Matchless G80 was an incredible bike that suffered from poor sales. With a low cost for maintenance, the bike is considered a classic today, even though finding a G80 of your own is no easy task.
If the bike were brought back, this would solve the problem. Nostalgia for the once-forgotten bike would also prove that like others on this list, it was just ahead of its time.
The Honda CB1100R Was Considered Exotic
During its one-year production run, only about 1,500 models of the Honda CB1100R were sold. The bike was considered to be more exotic than other models, which may have been seen as a turn-off to consumers at the time.
Looking back now it’s a shame because the motorcycle was built for comfort. It was noted for creating a smooth ride with amazing suspension. If there was a real negative, it was the fuel consumption, but we’re sure that would be addressed if the bike was brought back.
The Ducati 900SS Was Electronically Fuel Injected
One of the slickest-looking Ducatis of the early ’90s, the 900SS was built with more than just looks in mind. It may have been small, but thanks to a fuel-injected engine it was fast and powerful, too.
Off the factory floor, the 900SS was praised as one of the easiest bikes to jump on and ride. It’s steering was a dream and it always felt more like a sports bike than a consumer bike.
The Suzuki GSX1300R Hayabusa Was Faster Than Fast
When it was released in 1999, the Suzuki GSX1300R Hayabusa was the world’s fastest production bike. It wasn’t just a speed demon though. Car critics praised its overall performance including its handling, comfort, and fuel efficiency.
The first generation of the bike lasted from 1999 until 2007 before it was discontinued for a second generation. We’d love to see a revival of the original, especially to see how it competes against the current generation!
The Yamaha YZF750 Raised The Bar
When the Yamaha YZF750 was released, it set a new bar for expectations in motorcycle manufacturing. It was built with the highest standards in mind and was given top-of-the-line mechanics and aesthetics.
One of the main features of the YZF750 was the five-valve per cylinder engine that increased fuel efficiency and lowered emissions. With how ground-breaking this bike was, we’re surprised it only lasted five years! How about giving us five more, Yamaha?
The Honda Fireblade Was Reliable And Durable
Maybe we miss this bike for the name more than anything. The Honda Fireblade was produced by the vehicle manufacturer from 1992 until 1994. The bike was reliable, durable, and was designed to compete with the brands more competitive models.
Most notably, the Fireblade was cost-effective, making it a great option for the motorcycle enthusiast without an endless bank account. Were there better bikes at the time? Yes, but not all found the niche market that this model could still live in today.
The Yamaha XT 600 Could Handle Any Terrain
Anyone who bought or rode a Yamaha XT 600 could tell you it was the perfect multi-terrain motorcycle. Produced over a 20 year period, the bike us fondly remembered today as a classic. We’d love to see it come back modernized.
Most importantly, the XT 600 proved to be a jumping-off point for countless other Yamaha motorcycle models that are still popular today. Most of these models were larger and more ambitious.
The BMW R1100 GS Was A Top Seller
For five years, from 1994 until 1999, few motorcycles were more sought-after than the BMW R1100 GS. It came equipped with a massive gas tank that could hold up to 35 liters without sacrificing power or style.
To many, riding this beast with its wide seat and tombstone windshield was like riding in a car. A reactive braking system and swift handling made it more fun, though. If this model made a comeback, we’re sure it would be a top seller all over again.
The Yamaha YZF-R1 Was A Designer’s Dream
At the time the Yamaha YZF-R1 was produced, it was ahead of its time. Of course, the bike is still in production today, but we want to focus on the first year. After 1998, it went through a sizable overhaul.
And while the original bike only was produced for one year, its uniqueness had a lasting impact on the future of motorcycle manufacturing. This bike really was the total package, with a great engine, a lightweight body, and amazing handling.
The Kawasaki ZXR 750R Was Reasonably Priced
Kawasaki launched the ZXR 750R with high expectations. They wanted to make a motorcycle that would define a generation, and in many regards accomplished just that. The bike was big and powerful and didn’t like going slow.
Unfortunately, the bike didn’t really like going fast either and was a struggle to handle. Priced reasonably, the model still managed to sell and stayed on the market for 14 years. We wonder if bringing it back would help fix some of the problems.
The Kawasaki KR-1S Was Underappreciated When It Was Released
The Kawasaki KR-1S was underappreciated when it originally came out, resulting in a stunted three-year production run. Once consumers really just how fast this bike could go, though, it became a hot item.
Sadly, the bike was also a doomed item. By introducing the bike, Kawasaki was hoping to compete with Suzuki. Even though the KR-1S was comparable to Suzuki bikes in most regards, the brand just couldn’t find footing quickly enough in the market for the model to survive.
The Honda CB77 Was One Two Super Hawks
Honda produced two motorcycles dubbed Super Hawks. There was the VTR1000F and the CB77. The CB77 was known for its reliability and craftsmanship. The body was made from tubular steel instead of the traditional pressed steel.
This type of body made the bike lighter and easier to ride. Honda produced the CB77 from 1961 to 1968. With retro stylings coming back into fashion in modern times, we would love to see a new version released.
The Triumph Bonneville Is An American Icon
During its lifetime, the Triumph Bonneville has seen production stopped twice only to come back to life. Made famous by American icons including Marlon Brando, James Dean, and Steve McQueen, it’s the original run of the Bonneville we would love to see make a comeback.
Originally produced from 1959 until 1983, the company has more recently revealed a “modern classics” lineup, but that’s just not the same and revving up a true original.
The Honda CB750 Was Fast
Introduced by Honda in 1969, the CB750 is considered one of the first “superbikes” to ever come out. It was created as a result of the automaker’s desire to break into the American market.
The original CB750 could reach speeds of over 120 miles per hour and had front-mounted disc brakes that revolutionized the market. To top off the innovation, Honda included a kill switch as well as an electric starter.
The Kawasaki Z1 Was In Direct Competition With The CB750
The Kawasaki Z1 was known internally at the company as the “New York Steak.” It was designed to be direct competition to the Honda CB750, and was both bigger and faster.
After years in development, the Z1 hit showroom floors in 1973 and was an instant hit. It was noted for its ability to reach speeds over 130 miles per hour. In the racing world, driver Paul Smart became synonymous with the bike and won numerous awards on one.
The Kawasaki Triple Is A Collector’s Item Today
Today, the Kawasaki Triple is one of the most sought-after discontinued bikes around. Originally in production from 1968 until 1980, the bike was known for its incredible power to weight ration and its blazing quarter-mile time of under 13 seconds.
For as popular as they were, there was one major flaw — the handling. As accidents mounted, the bike became known as “The Widowmaker.” The inability of the company to address the problem proved to be the bike’s downfall.
The BSA Gold Star Took The ’50s By Storm
The BSA Gold Star Clubman was produced from the 1930s through the 1960s, and cemented its reputation as a classic in the ’50s. The bike was one of the fastest of its era, reaching a mind-melting 1,000 miles per hour in 1937.
For years the BSA was the motorcycle standard in the United States. The end of the bike’s production run came when its manufacturer decided to undergo a massive overhaul.
The Norton Commando Was Called “Unapproachable”
Even though the Norton Commando was deemed “unapproachable,” it was actually the bike’s approachability that made it so popular. The bike was easy to ride, and was perfect for beginners and experts alike.
Developed by a former Rolls-Royce engineer, the was given a rubber mounting for its mechanical systems, which eliminated vibrations at high speeds. This feature helped revolutionize the industry and made riders go for broke on the road with how fast they could get.
The Norton Manx Dominated The Competition
During its time racing, the Norton Manx dominated the competition. In 1950, the automaker updated the bike, including the 25-year-old engine. The frame was also lightened, allowing for the bike to hit greater top speeds.
The upgrade re-energized the bike, and it won five of six races. Today, we can’t help but wonder about a redesign and a retro revival of the Manx. We bet consumers would go wild for it!
The Ducati PS1000LE Is A Modern Classic
Since ending its production run, the Dcato PS1000LE has become one of the most collectible motorcycles of all-time. It was originally designed to pay tribute to Paul Smart and his first-place finish in 1972 on a Ducati 750SS.
Ducati designed the tribute using their Sport Classic series. Everything about the bike, from its green trellis frame, wire-spoked wheels, and bubble-shield were created to a classic look with a modern look.
The Brough Superior SS100 Was The “Rolls-Royce” Of Motorcycles
The build and design of the Brough Superior SS was so perfect that it was dubbed the “Rolls-Royce” of motorcycles when it came out. The bike could hit 100 miles per hour with no problems, which is pretty amazing considering it was made in the ’20s. By one record it could even hit 130 MPH with the right rider.
T.E. Lawrence owned three Brough Superiors, and his passing after crashing one resulted in the normalization of helmets being worn.
The Royal Enfield Bullet Deserves Recognition
Normally we wouldn’t include a motorcycle still in production on a list like these, but we think the Royal Enfield Bullet shows what other bike makers could achieve if they brought back their classics. The Bullet first began production in 1931 and has never stopped.
Over the years, the bike, of course, has had several upgrades and updates, but the classic design and retro good looks have always stayed the same.
The 1940 Indian Chief Is Timeless
Even though a new version of the Indian Chief came out recently, the 1940 model is a classic that deserves a renaissance. Known for its smooth ride and handling, this bike blew away the competition when it was originally released.
More than just a performance bike, the 1940 Indian Chief looked as good as it felt. It introduced the maker’s trademark fenders and showcased skirts covering the tires that still look good today.
The Triumph Twin Speed Changed The Industry
Te Triumph Twin Speed is recognized today as one of the most influential motorcycles ever created. It was given a light package and powerful engine that instantly placed it at the top of the field.
The first models came with gold pin-striping and red pants that stood out and made you want to buy one of your own. And even though the bike was introduced in 1937, the design of its fuel tank is still the standard today.
The BMW R32 Brought The Brand Notoriety
In 1923, BMW was reeling from the aftermath of World War I and looking for purpose in the ever-changing world. From this era, the R32 was born.
The R32 was a brilliantly designed bike with a boxer-twin engine and horizontally opposed heads that helped increase cooling. The drive train arrangement created by BMW for the R32 remained exclusively with the company until 1993 and is still used on their bikes in 2020.
The Ariel Square Four Was A Four-Cylinder Masterpiece
The four-cylinder Ariel Square Four was a new concept when it was first designed by Edward Turner. The beautiful engine was something never seen on a bike before, leading most other makers to ignore the revolutionary ride.
Sadly, the gorgeous bike had several initial issues. Despite promising a top speed over 100 miles per hour, it rarely topped out over 90. The bike also tended to stall under 13 miles per hour, an issue that took the maker 20 years to fix.
The BMW R60 Could Go Anywhere
BMW hit a home run when they designed and released the R60. Designed to be taken off-road or anywhere a rider’s heart could desire, the bike was one of the best of its era.
For 13 years, the R60 was the top of the line bike, and all we wish is we could revisit the glory of it today. The shining moment for the bike was when Danny Liska took one on a 95,000-mile journey from the Arctic Circle to the tip of South Africa.
The Vincent Black Shadow Was A Rebel
Speaking about the Vincent Black Shadow, Hunter S. Thompson once said, “if you rode the Black Shadow at top speed for any length of time, you would almost certainly die.”
The bike could hit close to 130 miles per hour, but looked faster going past thanks to its slick design and black enamel paint job. It was a bike built for rebels and has earned a reputation as a retro classic.
The Harley-Davidson VRSCA Was Underappreciated
In 2002, Harley-Davidson unleashed the VRSCA on the world. It was their first bike in 99 years to use liquid-cooled technology and was met with mixed reviews. Even though the bike was top of the line, breaking with tradition proved divisive with the maker’s consumer base.
The upgraded engine was developed with Porsche and generated 115 horsepower. That power wasn’t enough to sway the public, who missed out on a bike that deserves a second chance at glory.
The Harley-Davidson WL Is Legendary
During World War II, Harley-Davidson created a cultural revolution when the bike maker introduced the WL. The bike was used during the war, and when peace was finally achieved, it was met with commercial success from consumers.
Without the success of the WL, some bike historians question how large motorcycle culture would have become in the United States. We imagine bringing this bike back in a limited edition design would start a second revolution.
The Honda Rune Looks Like One Of Batman’s Toys
Unfortunately for Honda, the Rune looked more like one of Batman’s toys then a bike people wanted to ride in 1996. It was big, bulky, and even though it was fast, it just wasn’t consumer-friendly.
Honda put a 1.8-liter boxer-six engine in the bike, assuring that despite its size, it was still fast. Maybe the bike was ahead of its time. While it may not have looked attractive in 1996, there is something beautiful about it today.