Best Retro Motorcycles Available Right Now

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ducati gt1000

Nothing tugs at our emotions like a beautifully-styled retro motorcycle. Those classic lines, that gorgeous round headlight, the sculpted tank – it all of it traces back to a time when motorcycles were pure. Classic machines are at the root of everything we ride today, from their attempts to “do the ton” or go off-road. It’s no surprise there is still a huge market for newer, more reliable versions that retain the retro attitude and look. Here are the best retro motorcycles available right now.

2013 Moto Guzzi V7 Stone

The V7 is undoubtedly a beautiful machine. I spent a few months with it’s V7 Racer sibling and I’ve never been stopped more with questions or been told “nice bike” more often. People even took photos when it was parked. Personally, if it were my money, I’d take the V7 Stone over the racer as I prefer the riding position, tank finish, and price, but all of the models in this lineup are beautiful. RideApart’s Wes Siler reviewed the Moto Guzzi V7 Racer Record, the two sharing the same engine while receiving different aesthetic treatments and extra bits. The Guzzi’s are far more rare than your average Triumph, and showing up to your local rally will certainly turn heads.

2013 Ural Solo sT

At RideApart we are big fans of the Ural, if for nothing more than that their uniqueness just makes them so damned cool. They make a motorcycle with a sidecar and if that isn’t enough for you, I don’t really know what to tell you. Wes managed to break himself on one in the middle of nowhere and then had the cojones to accept an invitation for his next ride to take place in SIBERIA. Great thinking bud, I can’t poke any holes in a plan that involves getting as far away from civilization (and hospitals) to ride something that can be a tad fickle. The Ural Solo sT is the solo version which means that while you’ll look 75% as cool as you would with the sidecar, you’ll be 90% less likely to pull a Wes.

2014 Royal Enfield Continental GT

OK, I know the Continental GT was released last week to little fanfare and that the entire motorcycle community, and by that I mean you guys because no one else matters, pretty much hated both the press shots as well as the bike itself. However, it’s still a really nice looking motorcycle. The hipster in me loves the looks and the fantasy sports player in me likes the new unknown toy more than the older, known, under-performer. Yes, it’s too expensive. Yes, it has some really cheap components. Yes, the rear shock reservoirs are upside down. BUT, if I had an ungodly amount of money and wanted to show up to the local retro-bike cafe on something no one else had, I’d spend six grand to have this thing in my garage.

Had to try the whole helmetless thing my first time in AZ. Most terrifying 3 miles of my life. Never again.

2013 Triumph Bonneville

I owned a 2010 Triumph Bonneville for a few years (the one Jamie rode in an episode of our YouTube show) and am quite biased towards it. Yes, it’s heavy. Yes, the “upgraded models” are actually worse than the standard model. Yes, those are fake carburetors. However, it’s also the original, at least in my mind, of that style, and it feels the most classic to me. The engine is also woefully neutered, meaning that with a few dollars and few small upgrades, you an increase the bikes performance quite a bit. Their are a ton of aftermarket products available to tailor the bike to your imagination. Plus, the engine sounds like sex. Like I said, just a small bias.

2013 Honda CB1100 ABS

The Honda CB1100 is probably the best performing bike of the group. It feels like riding a Japanese standard motorcycle, albeit somewhat of a heavy one. Honda did a good job of not simply recreating their CB’s of old, but instead created a new bike inspired by the motorcycles of the past. This is the best option if you actually want to feel safe on your retro styled motorcycle, especially with the addition of ABS brakes. Wes absolutely adores this bike, choosing to ride it over most everything else we had while it was at the RideApart office.

Honorable Mention

2006-2010 Ducati Sport Classic 1000

Let me tell you about my friend Ken. Ken has the most beautiful bike that I’ve ever seen (short of 30k exotics). Ken’s bike has a round headlight, a tank that looks a little like the CB1100′s only with far better paint and nicer detail, and real sportbike brakes and suspension. Ken’s bike sounds like an angry bear having noticed you poked her cubs with a stick, which becomes a lot scarier when you see that sportbike rear tire and those beautiful gold rear shock reservoirs hanging off the back. It is then that you realize she’s a capable beast. Ken’s bike is the only one on the list that is substantially faster than my Bonneville was, not to mention that it also looked and sounded better. We used Ken’s bike in this short video about how to load a motorcycle into the bed of a truck and I, the bonehead that I am, forgot to take pictures of his motorcycle for our website. Ken’s bike is a used Ducati Sport Classic 1000 and he is way cooler than the rest of us.


What do you think? Did we miss anything?


  • MichaelEhrgott


    • sean macdonald

      personally, i’m not a fan of the thrux. why pay triumph a premium to do all the fun stuff, when you could do it yourself and have a bike that has a few personal touches and isn’t a carbon copy of every other one on the road.

      the scrambler is awesome, but seemed redundant.

      maybe i’m in the minority, but i don’t really consider the smaller cruisers like the sporty or bolt in the retro category. they just dont connect to the same history we usually lump the rest of these bikes into.

      • Justin McClintock

        I’m with Sean. The Sporty isn’t retro. It’s just old. There’s a difference. And the Bolt just apes it.

        • Honyock Undersquare

          “Just old” as in real old vs. faux old? So much for the much admired Authenticity…

      • Brandon Nelson

        but the thruxton it’s cheaper than the Bonneville so how are you paying a premium?Also isn’t that exactly what the continental GT is? You’re paying Royal Enfield a premium to do ask the “fun stuff” to a C5 for you?? pretty biased opinion if you ask me my friend.

        • Joshua Drake

          The Thruxton is more expensive than a base Bonneville.

          • Piglet2010

            The base Bonnie is my favorite except for one thing – why no tachometer? I need to find an aftermarket one for mine (I expect that putting a gauge cluster from the SE on would cost a small fortune).

            • Aakash

              You can also get a Briggs and Stratton Sirometer if you just want the tach for maintenance purposes.

              I was annoyed at the lack of a tach on my ’01 Bonnie, but if you just tune by ear and feel, you’ll get close enough.

              • Piglet2010

                Since my Bonnie is fuel injected, tuning is not an issue. Maybe with more miles I will get a better feel for where peak power and end of useful over-run are.

                • Aakash

                  Of course! Unless you are one those peeps, you know, who ride with music blasting through the bluetooth…

                • Piglet2010

                  No, but I have stock pipes, which makes it hard to hear the engine over wind noise.

                • Aakash

                  I see, you’ll still get a feel for it. I was fortunate enough to pick up a set of Norman Hyde Togas for next to nothing. They sound amazing at full burn and aren’t too loud when just puttering around. I’d only trade ‘em for an Arrow 2-into-1 system, for the weight savings.

            • Curtis Caulfield

              I have put over 70k miles on my 2007 Bonnie, not having a tack did not hinder me ever…I would spend that $$ on suspension.

              • Sean MacDonald

                I went the same route and agree 100%

          • Brandon Nelson

            Hmmm a base Bonneville also known as the SE is $600 less than a Thruxton..So I guess I stand corrected. I let that one slip past me honestly I have no idea why anyone would want the SE. You could get a used T100 with low miles for less than that.

            • Piglet2010

              Well, the base Bonnie is the best looking, and is only missing a tachometer – but the purple/white colorway makes up for that. The T100 looks positively frumpy compared to the base/SE.

              • Aakash

                I disagree somewhat on the aesthetics department. I don’t like the design of the mag wheels on the SE, nor do I like the shortened rear suspension. But to each their own.

                That said, with the SE you get: 1. a lighter wheelset. 2. a tubeless wheelset and 3. A 17-inch front rim. All of these are worthwhile pluses. When I have the dough, I’m going for a new wheelset for my 01 Bonnie. Probably not mags, but sealed spoked wheels and a 17 inch front rim.

            • rudedog4

              I got a great deal on a 2 year old SE.

        • Richard Gozinya

          I don’t get the Thruxton, or the Continental GT. They’re labelled as racers, or whatever. Yet they’re clearly of no use racing anything. They’re good looking, but their looks are utterly wasted, since there’s no passenger accommodations. More and more, I see the modern cafe racer thing as a more pretentious version of the chopper craze.

          • the otto cycle

            Actually the Thruxtons have a passenger seat.. under the seat cowl… and there’s this…

          • Aakash

            Nevermind, see the otto cycle’s response below

        • sean macdonald

          a) the bonneville is cheaper than the thrux. dunno where you got you facts…but they’re wrong
          b) triumph has way more aftermarket parts available to choose from
          c) there are way more thruxtons around, making the “stylized” version way more common, which would not be the case with the continental GT

        • rudedog4

          I just wish that RE would put a rear disc brake on the C5.

      • carbon

        If people would just meditate away the hate™, they would see the sporty is a retro without going through the ugly-duckling performance phase. Ha!

        • Robert Horn

          New Sportsters aren’t retro – they are like looking at a 1960′s Olympics gold medal winner in a 1970′s polyester leisure suit.

          That it was once the quickest mass produced bike is forgotten, even by its makers.

          • carbon

            We are saying the same thing, i.e.: The reason the sporty isn’t considered a retro is because it never was improved on, unlike, say, the CB750, and thus people don’t look fondly upon the bike of their youth, because, er, it’s still sold new.

            • Robert Horn

              I sure don’t see anyone doing anything like this with a Sportster anymore:


              OK – Buell did even better, but look where that got him (Not to subject drift, but…)

              • carbon

                Awesome link! Just so you know, there are guys that are doing stuff with sporty’s like those guys:

                Trouble is, you’d have to shit-can the stock harley boat-anchor frame to get the bike sub-400lbs.

                I say, make a street legal XR750 (Harley still makes the motor for $15k). It’s gotta be light though, and with good suspension. Stock sporty’s suspension stinks (I own one).

                • Robert Horn

                  Oh yeah – if I ever get another ’88 (Or similar) Sportster, a visit to NRHS (about 30 minutes from my house) for some wallet lightening would be in order!

      • the otto cycle

        It isn’t as easy as you think to make the Bonneville like the Thruxton. Different rake, clips-ons ( older Thruxes ), two gauges ( depending on the model of Bonny ), foot peg position, exhaust angle, etc… You can get close to creating a cafe racer with the Bonny but it will be more than just paying the extra for the Thrux up front. And yes.. i am biased ;)

  • Guzzto

    Great list Sean (I would add the W800 though) Yep Ducati killed the sports classic just a year shy of the retro thing having another explosion, wonder if their scrambler will be released before everyone moves onto retro endurance racers and mid 80,s muscle bikes ?

    • Justin McClintock

      I’m guessing the W800 didn’t make the list because we never got it in the US.

      • Guzzto

        Ah that would make sense then.

      • Gare’

        The W800 was available in the US but my best guess is for only a couple of years. It came out just after I purchased a Triumph Thunderbird Sport in 1998.

        • Justin McClintock

          Yeah, it’s been a good 10 years or so since the W650 was available here.

  • JP

    If you had to pick one of the above and could ONLY ride that bike for the next 4 years, which do you choose?

    • George Herbert

      CB1100…. maybe.

    • E Brown

      The Triumph, with the Guzzi getting honorable mention. The Bonnie combines the best of both worlds – it’s a solid modern bike, and the most convincing retro; owners constantly talk about old-timers complimenting them on their “restoration.”

    • Chris Cope

      The CB1100, because it’s a Honda. Which means it will run for 40 years. So it can go from being hipster to being totally out of date to hipster again.

      • Piglet2010

        I would not be surprised if the Bonnie offers similar longevity, especially if the engine is kept in stock tune.

  • Motorcycle Extremist

    The CB1100 looks interesting, but having to perform or pay someone else to perform that PITA shim under bucket valve service every 8,000 miles is completely unacceptable. Also, since I generally perform all of my own bike maintenance, that Guzzi engine looks like the one I’d prefer. Valve service just doesn’t get any simpler and easier than that!

  • chupa

    You forgot the TU250X!

    • Jay

      …which is the most practical and reliable of these “bests”.

      • Piglet2010

        One could have lots of fun riding back roads and around town on a TU250X – sometimes less is more.

      • chupa

        I have one. It’s a great fun bike. Though I wish Suzuki would make a 50hp version of it with ABS.

        • Piglet2010

          Yeah, a parallel-twin Suzuki “TU500X” would be a nice all-around retro-standard.

          • Nick Mather

            Riding one of these at the moment. They sound surprisingly wicked with some ‘gentle persuasion’ to the muffler.

    • Mr.Paynter

      I wish we got those here! They look rad!

      • Damo Von Vinland

        Are you in the US? I actually just sat on one at the Suzuki dealer last week.

        • Mr.Paynter

          Nope, I am in South Africa, a country with a similar popular outlook on bigger, bigger, faster motorcycles which I hear you guys complaining about often.

          Smaller bikes and modern-nakeds often dont get out here, we have the Sp/St triples and the Z800s but like for example the CB500F is still in doubt, we will get the R and probably the X though.

          • Damo Von Vinland

            Yeah we deal with the same “bigger is better” issue here. I have already been through the liter bike mill and we are just now starting to see nice middle to small bikes here.

        • Piglet2010

          Our local community college has 7 or 8 TU250X’s in the BRC fleet.

          • Matthew Wenzel

            My BRC fleet had only 2 TU250Xs (which were claimed quickly) and all of the rest were busted GZ250s. I missed out.

  • Christopher

    Why do you keep calling rear shock reservoirs “brake reservoirs”?

    • sean macdonald

      Because I’m an absolute bonehead who wrote this while trying to pack and plan for the launch/trip I left for this morning.

      Good catch and I’ll fix it once I get on a computer.

      • Jen Degtjarewsky

        Thanks for the fix Sean.

  • Jack

    I think the Ducati pictured is a Sport Classic 1000, not a GT1000. A small difference, though noticeable as the bikes look different and ride differently.

    • Richard Gozinya

      Yeah, definitely right on that. Front fender, handlebars, front fender, rear shock, and the pipes.

    • the otto cycle

      The Duc pictured is a Sport 1000 Biposto ( two seats, exhaust on each side, dual shocks, etc ). without the seat cowl. The whole line was considered Sport Classic. There were Sport 1000 Bipostos, Monopostos, Paul Smarts and Limited Editions… and then there was the GT1000 which was the cruiser bike of the Sport Classic range, upright handlebars, different peg position, etc. ;)

      • Stewart

        Correct. The bike with the tubular handlebar pictured at the top of the story is a GT1000, the bike pictured lower down with the clip on handlebars is a Sport 1000 biposto. Both are part of the Sport Classic line, which ran from 2006 to 2011 model years.

  • IronRung

    Yes it is pricey, no I’ve never actually seen one in the wild, but I do think that any of the current Norton Commando 961s should also be on this list.

    Some will say the additional 10K$ will never be justifiable next to a Bonneville which is essentially the same set-up, save for some choice bits in brakes and suspension, which could be dealt with aftermarket parts, but you did ask if you missed any.

    • Richard Gozinya

      Are those things even actually in production? They’re certainly beautiful, but I’ve never seen much of anything that they have in common with the old Commandos. The 961s are total cafe racer style bikes, whereas the old Commandos were standards. Upright riding position, no rearsets, and actual pillion accommodations. The 961 looks like what someone would come up with if the only old ones they saw were customized cafe racers. But at least a plurality, if not an outright majority, of Commando owners keep their bikes looking pretty stock. They may swap an Interstate tank for a Roadster tank or vice versa, maybe convert it to a Fastback, but they are definitely partial to keeping them a standard.

      As for a modernized Commando, you’re better off getting an old one and having Colorado Norton Works or someone else fix it up. Better reliability record, you’ll be a lot cooler, plus you’ll actually be able to take the girlfriend for a ride.

      • Piglet2010

        As far as I can tell, the new Norton has never shipped a production bike to the US.

        • the otto cycle

          I’ve seen one at South Bay Triumph in SoCal getting upgraded… and I believe they have a new one on the floor as I write this ;)

      • Hooligan

        Yes they are alledgedly in small scale production. Though I have never even seen one anywhere in England. There was a lot of negative publicity about them a while ago. People were putting down 100% deposits but never getting a bike. I agree a well sorted original Commando is probably the better option.

        • Piglet2010

          Here is the best I have found on the Norton situation:

          • Hooligan

            That’s all there is basically, no one else has dug into it. Maybe no
            one wants to put the boot into Norton and kick a famous name when it’s
            down. Especially after the Isle Of Man TT debacle when Norton tried to
            run a Norton badged bike – a Aprillia RSV4 engine in a Spondon frame,
            but could not even get it to work well enough to get it into
            scrutaneering. But as i said I have never even seen a Norton on
            the roads here. I live in London where there is plenty of people with
            the disposible income to fork out for one.

    • sean macdonald

      If Rikki Rocket from Poison can’t get one, I doubt anyone else in the US will be so lucky.


        The Norton Owners Association had one out at the most recent Mods vs Rockers event in Toronto. $21K.

  • Mark D

    I really like the CB1100. It reminds me a bit of the old CB700s, which is a pretty solid used bike if you can find one.

  • karlInSanDiego

    I liked the Ducati Sport Classic 1000S with the half fairing until I sat on one at Moto Forza. It’s riding position is prone to a fault, but instead of dialing that back to a GT or a Thruxton, I built my own Cafe Racer, which is still the cooler thing for anyone to do in my book. But it takes lots of time, tools and a some experience to do it. If I had to choose one for sale, I’d probably buy the 1000S used and punish myself. Still the one with the most retro style IMO.

    Or buy one from Jay. He seems like a cool builder:

    • sean macdonald

      His shop is real close to my place. He makes some nice bikes.

  • Alex Tsinos

    Where would you rank the Kawasaki ZRX ? If you’re going to list a used bike (Ducati – which is AMAZING btw) perhaps some consideration should go towards the modern iteration of a classic? I settled on a ’01 Bandit 1200 because ZRX’s are more difficult to find but damn I wish Kawa would bring them back. I guess they’re not quite “retro” but definitely a classic, in my opinion.

  • Fu Man Chew

      This is a sweet ride; looks like a miss for this article, but def a looker.


    My fav is the Ducati GT 1000. But fellas, seriously hows the seat on the Ural, solo? ;)

  • Zachary Church


  • Thomas Buckley

    Surprised you didn’t mention Tha Misfit. It get’s mentioned a lot on here as being a decent bike for the money

    • sean macdonald

      it is!

    • the otto cycle

      The Misfit is garbage… If you ever see it in person, it looks like it might break just from sitting on it. Everything on the bike is small and cheap looking. Better off buying a used Bonny for the same money.

      • Mark D

        I’ve never seen a used Bonnie for $4k. Those things hold their value remarkably well.
        I haven’t seen the Misfit in person, but its anything like the SYM 150 Honda clone…yeah, it doesn’t scream quality, but it seems durable in a simple sort of way.

  • Corey Cook

    The GT1000/ SC1000 is a much better bike than the others on this list, but the suspension and brakes are still terrible! It’s an improvement over the bonnie, but hardly sportbike quality as stated. I won’t even get into the tubed tires…

    • Piglet2010

      My Bonnie has tubeless tires. :)

    • HammSammich

      For some reason, I thought the SC1000′s ran on tubeless wirespoked wheels, is that not correct? The only one I’ve ever been up close with was an acquantance’s Paul Smart ed. though, and that might have had some custom wheels or something.

      • Corey Cook

        No they both have tubed wheels, the only difference being aluminum rims on the SC and steel rims on GT. However most people end up getting the inside of the rims sealed to allow for a tubeless setup. Get a flat on a tubed wheel and you need a tow truck, no quickly patching up on the those old things…

        • HammSammich

          As a 2007 Bonnie owner who had his bike towed w/ a flat, I totally know about the trouble tube tires can be…I’ve read on the Triupmhrat forums about guys “sealing” their wire-spoke wheels to varying degrees of success. Might be something to consider…

  • Jonno

    Looking forward to the Norton’s arriving here in Sydney soon …

  • Aakash

    Duc GT1000 prices are wayyy inflated on the used market. As I’ve said elsewhere, I’d wager they plummet once the Ducati Scrambler is released (along with the high-performance Triumph modern classic model).

    • sean macdonald

      he gets offers for 3-5k more than he paid for it pretty regularly

      • Aakash

        I’m still kicking myself that I passed on this last year when it sold for around $7k:

        I was just 3 months into my riding career at the time and couldn’t justify it. But it would have been a tidy investment if I had known what they go for now.

        • CP

          wow, what a deal!

        • sean macdonald


      • the otto cycle

        some Sport Classics are going for close to $20k used.. especially the Limited Edition and Paul Smarts… Bottom line is, they were awesome bikes that blow away any others listed here ( in regards to performance and style ) and were only available for a couple of years…. The later Biposto models were much more comfortable than the early Monoposto…

  • JerseyRider

    Can we get more pics of your buddies bike? I’ve loved it ever since I saw that vid a couple months back. What mods has he done?

    • sean macdonald

      I’ll try and hound him but he’s on tour for a while.

  • Thomas

    Surprised that BMW R1200R Classic wasn’t mentioned. I know it probably looks a little modern, but it performs than any of the bikes mentioned here.

    • sean macdonald

      yep, not a retro.

      • Aakash

        I wish I had that trick telelever front suspension on my Bonnie.

    • Richard Gozinya

      That’s not the Classic. But then, the Classic’s not really retro either.

  • CP

    Love the Ducati sport classic, gorgeous styling with sport bike handling, what more can you ask for? if only they still build those…

  • Larry

    Since you opened up the floor to the used market with the Sport Classic, it’s worth name checking the Kawasaki W650. It might take some looking but they’re just plentiful enough and common enough (read, Japanese) to be reasonably priced, if you’re willing to take a sub-concours quality example. And while we’re at it, could someone please send this link to whoever is in charge of importing over at Kawasaki? Yes, the W flopped 12 years ago, but the market has changed…we have hipsters now, so bring the W800 over here already! The increased displacement and fuel injection just barely makes the lack of a kick starter forgivable. I’m positive that there are more than enough skinny-jeaned kids over here that would love to throw a leg over one.

    • Brian

      agreed, and worthy of also bringing up the Honda GB500.

    • chupa

      I have a W650 and it’s a great bike but I’d trade it in for the 800!

    • Alpha_Geek_Mk2

      The W800 is a very cool bike. I would ride this, non-ironically.

  • Chris Davis

    Er, “…gold rear brake reservoirs…”

  • HammSammich

    I’m still dreaming of a new iteration of the Triumph Trident: Bonnie styling, with the 800cc Triple from the Tiger 800 should do just fine with some work to make the water-cooling a bit more subtle.

  • DeWayne R.

    How about the 2014 Star Bolt bobber throw-back?

  • zombarian

    How many lists are some of these bikes in? Best cheap, best new, best retro, best beginner, best college?
    I’m certainly exaggerating but seems like we see the same bikes over and over, in some sort of list/article, all seems a bit re-re-hashed. But I read it and commented on it so there’s that.

  • Noah Joseph

    A great selection, for sure, but I’d have included the Kawasaki W800 and Cleveland Misfit too.


    Where are LS2 helmets available in India? Can i get ordered online?

  • Jonathan Pine

    The best of them all yes : The W650 (the one with a kickstart, remember ?)

  • Jonathan Pine


  • ThinkingInImages

    The Moto Guzzi does it for me. Add a traditional quarter fairing or half fairing and it would be perfect.

  • Shaun

    I bought a Thruxton after falling in love with the styling about two years ago. Since then, I’ve been reading the reviews and opinions about the whole Triumph modern-classic range and they pretty much echo my own experience with it: It looks great, but darn is it heavy. I think I purchased the wrong bike.

    Now it comes time for me to make a decision: do I keep it and put in the time and money to make it better, or do I try to trade it in for something I might like more (after trying as many bikes as I can to know what that might be) ? It’s a question that’s been rattling around my head for a few months now and, though ultimately I’ll have to answer it myself, I’m curious about other people’s opinions.

  • who cares?

    Retro anything sucks dogshit. If you want to look like you own an old bike, BUY AN OLD BIKE!

  • Davidabl2

    “Most terrifying 3 miles of my life” You mean miles in daylight, in dry weather, with no traffic, and no animals on the road, don’t you?

  • MrCusanelli

    i know this is an old article but considering you wont find the ducati for less than 15-20k in decent condition it shouldn’t be on this list.