Choosing ten most iconic motorcycles from the industries glorious history of over hundred years is quite difficult. With many facts and figures that could be put into comparison, the motorcycle selection depends largely on their interpretation of influence as well as the kinds of innovation that made them the talk of town when they were launched. This means finding motorcycles that had come up with great new ideas and new technological implementation that gave them an edge over the others and soon saw their ideas borrowed and adopter by other manufacturers changing the way motorcycles are ridden and perceived.
10. Kawasaki KZ1000 -
Today fuel injection has become a very common thing on motorcycles. While, back in the 1980s the Kawasaki KZ1000 was the first motorcycle to say goodbye to carburetors in lieu of this brand new technology. While other manufacturers didn’t really pay heed and jump right into the bandwagon FI onto their motorcycles until later when emission norms became stricter, but the KZ1000 was the first motorcycle in the world to show everyone how it is done.
9. Bimota SB2 -
Massimo Tamburini was a known for his abilities as a designer and a great stylists and the SB2 took his design and styling to a new level. In 1977 it was the first road motorcycle to sport a race-style fairing. In a way, the origins of super-sport motorcycles lie here in this marvelous creation. For the first time people could buy a race-styled motorcycle for the roads and it was not very long that this motorcycle style remained exclusive with Bimota, quickly adopted by many motorcycle manufacturers over the coming decade.
8. Vincent Rapide -
Vincents were the superbikes of their time. Made between 1936 and 1955 there are very few companies from that era that promised so much on innovation as Vincent did. The foot-operated gear shifter that has now become staple in every motorcycle came first to the Rapide. Also, the frameless design where the engine is used as a part of the chassis was also first seen on the Rapide. It was years before these technological advances hit mainstream motorcycles as they were quite ahead of their time back in the day, but it was this very motorcycle that set a standard for performance motorcycle design for the decades to come.
7. Hildebrand & Wolfmuller -
As of today’s standards this is one motorcycle that might not look or be called a motorcycle anymore, but rewind back to 1894 and you would understand its importance. The Hildebrand and Wolfmuller was the world's first production motorcycle. It was the first time that the word “motorcycle” came to existence. Designed from a design that came from steam-powered bike, its rear axle doubled as a crankshaft, with the connecting rods and pistons driving it directly without the presence of a flywheel.
6. Yamaha OW61 -
Back in the day of the bonkers two-stroke engines, the Yamaha OW61 was the first motorcycle to take the madness to a new level. Starting a new trend of V4 two-stroke engines that later became the standard engine configuration for Moto GP all the way till the early 2000 when they were replaced by four-stroke motors. Along with the monstrous two-stroke engines, the motorcycle also introduced a new chassis design that had an aluminum beam frame that we see in most of the superbikes today and what Yamaha soon after branded as “Deltabox”. The various iterations of the Deltabox frame are seen till today on machines from Yamaha and other manufacturers.
5. BMW R12 -
Today bikes like the BMW R1200GS are known for their amazing adjustable suspensions that can be tuned on the fly according to the road conditions. This is not the first time BMW came into limelight because of its suspensions though. Back in the 1930s the R12 was the first motorcycle to show the world what are now considered as conventional telescopic forks. This gave BMW motorcycles huge advantages specially in racing as compared to other motorcycles of the time which still ran on conventional springs, allowing them to snatch many victories including a triumph over the unbeatable Norton 500 at the Isle of Man TT.
4. Honda Fireblade -
There has been no other brand name as popular as the Fireblade. Since its origin in 1992, the Honda Fireblade is not so much of outright technology that it is philosophy and it is none other than the famous designer Tadao Baba who was the father of it all. The idea of mating a 1000cc plus engine to a chassis that gave the lightness and handling characteristics of a 600cc machine was unheard of. But soon after the Fireblade’s success in achieving such a feat, it soon became the template from which motorcycles from every brand have been made till date.
3. Honda CB750 -
There has been no other machine that changed the face of motorcycling like the 1969 CB750. The magic was not the motorcycle itself but the combination of parts that make it such a success. The first mass-produced transverse four-cylinder superbike the CB750 marked its arrival by bringing disc brakes as a mainstream component on motorcycles. Not just that, but the inline-four cylinder 750cc engine was one of the smoothest that the world had ever seen. And with Honda’s reliability and overall refinement, the CB quickly became the favorite and the stapled ‘superbike’ for many in its era. To a large extent, the CB750 took away the grease monkey image of motorcycles that came before it by offering a product that was simple to use, had the least amount of maintenance and service and suffered few breakdowns.
2. Yamaha RD400C -
All the motorcycles in this list are about breaking the conventional pattern that others used to follow in their respective era, and making their new technology a benchmark for motorcycle manufacturers to follow. In 1976, the Yamaha RD 400C was the first production motorcycle to adopt cast alloy wheels. At the time when wire spoke wheels were the conventional direction to go for, Yamaha had started using alloy wheels on their 500cc racing machines and the RD 400C was the first motorcycle to bring this new feature to the showrooms.
1. Gilera Rondine -
There is no better example of standardization of technology better than the Gilera Rondine of the 1930. Developed by Carlo Gianini and Piero Remor, the Rondine was the first motorcycle to carry an inline-four cylinder engine mounted transverse across the frame. While taking more than 4 years to perfect the engine configuration, the duo was certain that this layout gave better handling characteristic to the motorcycle as it was better for centering mass and transfer of lateral forces. Since then it’s been almost a century that every motorcycle manufacturer in the world, big or small, follows the same engine layout with alterations to increase or decrease the center of mass.