Picking a future classic is never easy. Sometimes legendary status comes from rave reviews and huge demand when new. At the other extreme, some models are considered unexceptional at the time and only really longed for decades later. This means the bikes that become classic could be very popular or very scarce, which doesn’t help to narrow down the list of candidates. Price doesn’t help much either. Relatively cheap bikes can still become classics, like the early Honda CB125 singles, while rare and expensive bikes don’t automatically gain cult status. Yamaha’s GTS1000 with its novel forkless front suspension comes to mind.
Falling firmly in the ‘popular’ category are the Suzuki Bandits, both 600 and 1200. A classic example of a finished bike being more than the sum of its parts, the Bandits were offered as budget machines with modest specifications yet somehow captured the X factor that makes any machine fun and rewarding to ride. With crisp styling, good ergonomics and excellent all-round performance, any Bandit is likely to become sought after. Top of the list would be the unfaired 1200, so beloved of stunt riders, but finding a tidy standard example is becoming increasingly difficult.
At the top of Suzuki’s range was the ballistic Hayabusa, which in 1999 became the world’s fastest production motorcycle, thanks to its comprehensive aerodynamics package and 1300cc motor which developed over 170bhp. With a top speed over 190mph, the early Hayabusa made its place in motorcycling history because subsequent machines from all manufacturers carried a speed limiter set at 300kmh (186mph).
Of the early Hinckley Triumphs, the Speed Triple and Thunderbird look most likely to become classics. The Speed Triple was basically just a Trident with clip-ons and traditional instruments but its aggressive stance, particularly with black paintwork, has made it an icon. The Thunderbird, with its detuned triple motor and relaxed riding position, predated the Hinckley Bonneville as an ‘easy to live with’ retro. The Sport version with stacked chrome pipes down one side is the most sought after.
Kawasaki’s take on the retro theme, the W650, has been described as more faithful to the spirit of a classic British twin than Triumph’s bigger and heavier Bonneville. When new, it was considered unremarkable but is gaining a growing number of fans. It provides exactly the right combination of classic styling, easy handling and modern convenience that many riders are looking for.
Coming more up to date, the BMW S1000RR made a huge impact on the sports bike scene when it arrived in 2010. Just as the first Honda Fireblade and the first Yamaha R1 had done, the BMW moved the goalposts for super sports bikes. Its four cylinder engine was massively oversquare at 80mm bore by 49.7mm stroke, allowing a redline of over 14000rpm and making around 200bhp. Good as the motor and chassis were, it was the BMW’s electronics package that made such a difference. The integrated system included Dynamic Traction Control, sensitive to lean angle, which gave riders the confidence to use the bike hard in conditions where other bikes would be less forgiving. Race victories, including TT wins, followed and secured the BMW’s place in sports bike history.
What bikes do you think may be future classics? We'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!
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