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Retro + Vintage Motorcycles

Retro + Vintage Motorcycle reviews and road tests include old (vintage) motorcycles, such as those featured in Clement Salvadori’s Retrospective column each month, as well as motorcycles styled to look like those that rolled off the assembly line decades ago (retro). Cruisers can be considered retro due to their styling, but they’re a more natural fit in the Cruiser + Touring Motorcycles category. Whereas the irrational exuberance of the 2000s brought us overpriced, blinged–out choppers and painful–to–watch TV shows about customizers with short tempers, motorcycle guides suggest that back–to–basics vintage motorcycles have enjoyed a revival since the Great Recession. Harley–Davidson has its Dark Custom line, Victory offers blacked–out 8–Ball versions of several models and DIY builders are snapping up low–cost bikes on Craigslist and eBay for café racer and bobber projects.

Retrospective: Honda NC/NA50 Express: 1977-1983

1980 Honda NA50 Express II

Clement Salvadori
February 4, 2013

When the price of gasoline rose to 60 cents a gallon back in 1976, Honda figured it had a whole new market. Americans were approaching panic status at the thought of spending more than 10 bucks to fill up the tank of that Buick or Dodge. OPEC (Organization of Oil Exporting Countries) had us over the... Read more »

Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance 2012

1922 Megola Touring

Basem Wasef
January 4, 2013

The 14 German motorcycles on display at the 2012 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance weren’t sprawled on the vast expanses of grassy real estate occupied by their four-wheeled counterparts, but the bikes exuded their own unique charisma during an unseasonably warm Sunday in Monterey, California. A broad... Read more »

Retrospective: BMW R25/3 250: 1953-1955

1954 BMW R25/3

Clement Salvadori
January 2, 2013

Some people think that until the last turn of the century, BMW built pretty stodgy motorcycles that were good for the touring rider, but rather weak on performance. To a degree that is true, but back in the ’30s, Bavarian Motor Works was as much a pioneer of innovation as it is today. In 1935, BMW... Read more »

Retrospective: Kawasaki 350 S2 Mach II Triple: 1972-1973

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Clement Salvadori
December 4, 2012

Here was the successor to Kawasaki’s kick-butt A7 Avenger 350, a two-stroke twin using rotary valving. When the A7 appeared, the factory claiming some 40 horsepower, the quarter-mile fanatics were going through the lights in under 15 seconds. Not bad. But Kawasaki engineers understood that two-stroke... Read more »

Retrospective: Yamaha XJ650RJ Seca 650: 1982

1982 Yamaha XJ650RJ Seca 650

Clement Salvadori
November 12, 2012

Some people say that the Golden Era of Japanese motorcycles was in the early 1980s, when everything seemed to come together—engine, chassis and price. The Universal Japanese Motorcycle was in its heyday, an air-cooled in-line four being the main powerplant for all four Japanese companies. And one... Read more »

Motorcycles at the Audi Museum

Motorcycles at the Audi Museum

Greg Drevenstedt
October 29, 2012

When German car manufacturer Audi purchased Italian motorcycle manufacturer Ducati last April, many motorcyclists scratched their head in confusion. Ducatisti wept, concerned that the automotive giant would impose Teutonic rigidity on their beloved, flamboyantly Italian marque. The hand-wringing wasn’t... Read more »

Motorcycle Cannonball Run 2012

An ancient line-up at the Motorcycle Cannonball Run 2012.

Andy Saunders
October 10, 2012

How about a 4,000-mile ride on the saddle of a 100-year-old motorcycle? In 16 days? With one rest day, when you can rebuild the bike? Sound like fun? Then you’d love the Motorcycle Cannonball Coast-to-Coast Endurance Run, which began at Motorcyclepedia in Newburgh, New York, and finished at Dudley... Read more »

Ridden & Rated: Triumph T100 Steve McQueen Edition

Based on the T100 Bonneville, the Triumph Steve McQueen SE is enjoyable to ride and looks great.

Bill Stermer
October 4, 2012

We all recall Steve McQueen’s character Virgil Hilts jumping a motorcycle over a fence in the iconic 1963 WWII movie The Great Escape. And it doesn’t matter that, for insurance reasons, the jump was actually performed by McQueen’s friend and fellow racer Bud Ekins. McQueen was the real deal. He... Read more »

Retrospective: Moto Guzzi Eldorado 850: 1972-1974

1973 Moto Guzzi Eldorado 850.

Clement Salvadori
October 4, 2012

Change can be good, even when it’s incremental. When Moto Guzzi upped the ante with the 850 Eldorado, replacing the 750 Ambassador, it was all good. The new model had a slightly larger engine, another gear in the transmission, neither anything to complain about. This was a big, comfortable motorcycle... Read more »

Retrospective: Suzuki GS1000SZ Katana: 1982

1982 Suzuki GS1000SZ Katana.

Clement Salvadori
September 4, 2012

In the 1950s and ’60s motorcycle styling was of little concern to either the OEMs or consumers. Two wheels with an engine in between was the standard of the day, with minor differences in the shape of the gas tank. Then in 1973, Triumph USA and designer Craig Vetter came up with the Hurricane, and... Read more »

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Retro + Vintage Motorcycles, Who Uses Them?

According to reviews Retro + Vintage Motorcycles appeal to older riders who feel nostalgic for the motorbikes they longed for when they were young, as well as to younger riders who appreciate styling and technology from years past. Rare and exceptional vintage motorcycles have become quite popular among collectors, with auctions fetching record prices year after year. With recent economic times requiring folks to do more with less, many motorcyclists have pulled dusty old bikes out of their garage and restored them to working order. Others who want the look of a vintage motorcycle but not the spongy brakes, dodgy tires and clapped–out suspension buy modern–built, retro–styled motorcycles.


Retro + Vintage Motorcycle Standouts

The July 2010 issue of Rider is one of the most popular issues ever published. Its cover carried the headline “Retro Rides” (July 2010) and featured guides, reviews and road tests of the Moto Guzzi V7 Classic, Harley–Davidson Sportster Forty–Eight, Royal Enfield Bullet C5 and Triumph Scrambler–all modern motorcycles that can trace their roots back decades. Popular retro models available today also include the Honda CB1100, Moto Guzzi V7 (Racer, Special and Stone), Suzuki TU250X, Triumph Bonneville and Triumph Thruxton, as well as scooters made by Vespa and Kymco.

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