The Greatest Ever Motorbikes
Motorcycles from all walks of life
Harley Davidson Knucklehead
No 10. Harley Davidson Knucklehead.
The first post-war Harley which was to prove the making of Harley Davidson. Launched in 1936 the returning servicemen from the battlefields of WWII, looking for some peacetime excitement, took to the Knucklehead in vast numbers. Hugo Wilson, a Classic Bike Expert says: "Without a doubt, if the Knucklehead hadn't existed then Harley Davidson themselves would not exist today". While earlier Harley's could do 65mph, the 1000cc V-twin Knucklehead could do 100mph. But, they still weren't fast enough. Owners started chopping bits off to reduce weight, and re-christened them Choppers.
Moto Guzzi V8 Race Bike
No. 9. Moto Guzzi V8 Race Bike
The 1955 V8 Moto Guzzi was a multi-cylinder engined motorcycle when no other bike maker was attempting anything like it. In order to get 8 cylinders into a motor cycle engine Moto Guzzi, literally, had to miniaturise all the components. They achieved this to produce an engine that weighed only 45Kg. Taking the Guzzi V8 apart was often likened to stripping down a watch. The race bike was capable of 190mph, a full 30 years before other race bikes would reach this speed. However, it was plagued with reliability problems and, amid spiralling costs, was scrapped in 1958.
Piaggio Vespa Scooter
No. 8. Piaggio Vespa Scooter
In typical Italian fashion, the Vespa oozes style and practicality. Another post-war machine, designed by an ex-aircraft designer who, in fact, hated motorcycles. But then it was never bought by bikers, it was used by commuters, by women and by English Mods. It was COOL!
Vespa is the Italian word for wasp, as the Vespa, in plan view, is the same shape as a wasp.
SS100 JAP Engine
No. 7. Brough Superior SS100
The Brough Superior was built for speed and luxury and was called the Rolls Royce of Motor Cycles. In an age when most cars could only reach speeds of 42mph. The Superior's JAP engine would propel this machine at an incredible 110mph.
George Brough was a great publicist and made sure that everyone knew how wonderful his motorbikes were even if they didn't want to know. Lawrence of Arabia had 7 of these machines and this was considered a great publcity coup.
V1000 Race Bike
No. 6. John Britten's V1000 Race Bike
In the early 1990's John Britten, an engineering genius from New Zealand, stunned the world with a race bike that he built in his garage.
The V1000 won many races in it's time, not with the fastest engine but because it was the best designed motor cycle. Remarkably, John Britten built every component for the bike himself. He saved weight by designing the engine to support the front and rear forks so that no frame was needed. He was also an innovator in the use of carbon-fibre.
No. 5. Triumph Bonneville
Power and beauty where what made this bike a classic helped no end by Marlon Brando when he rode one in the film "The Wild One".
The name came from a modified and streamlined Triumph that set a land speed record of 214mph at Bonneville, Utah on 6 September 1956. The Bonneville defined high-performance on two wheels for 10 years, but with a lack of investment, Triumph were forced into bankruptcy in 1969.
Y2K Gas Turbine Bike
No. 4. Y2K Gas Turbine Bike
The Y2K is powered by a Rolls Royce Allison gas turbine engine producing over 320hp. The bike weighs 500lbs and holds 8 US gallons of diesel, kerosene or jet fuel. Literally anything that will burn this motorcycle will run on and is capable of speeeds over 250mph. The jet turbine engine was taken straight from a Bell Ranger helicopter intended to lift 6 men and equipment.
Mat Oxley, a racer and critic, says: "To me, the Y2K isn't about motorcycling, it's an excercise in technological masturbation".
No. 3. Honda CB750
Described as the first superbike, the Honda CB750 came out in 1969 the same year as the first moon landing. The competition of the day were the British bikes which looked decidedly antiquated alongside the space-age Honda.
Here was a bike that could do 0-60 in 7.5secs and had such high-quality engineering it could run for over 100,000 miles trouble-free. This state-of-the-art engineering included the first ever disk brakes on a production motor bike and on top of this was the revolutionary in-line 4 cylinder engine.
No. 2. Ducati 916
The Ducati 916 started it's life as a production sport's bike but became a race icon when it won 3 consecutive world titles. It's engine was the winner it's V-twin had a distinct advantage over the Japanese inline 4 cylinders with greater torque for better acceleration out of corners.
Mat Oxley talking about the 916 says: "What Ducati did, was introduce a seriously beautiful design to a high-performance motorcycle like no-one had done before them".
No. 1. Honda Cub
It has been in production for almost 50 years, is the bike that made Honda and was the motorcycle that took over America. It is the biggest selling bike of all time with more than 40 million Cubs made.
Soichiro Honda, when he designed the Cub, wanted an incredibly simple machine that would have huge mass-appeal. The engine in the Honda Cub is no more complex than the engine in a lawnmower. Although it has only 4bhp it can manage 50mph with it's single cylinder air-cooled engine and 3-speed automatic gearbox. You don't get much simpler than this.
CREDITS: All of the above information was taken from the UK's Channel Five "Greatest Ever" documentary series.