Motorcycle design has changed dramatically over the years. The first motorcycle, created by Gottlieb Daimler (who co-created the Daimler-Benz company) was built all the way back in 1885 and would be barely recognizable to modern-day piston heads. Not only did it come with stabilizers, but it was also made of wood – not exactly designed for a smooth and speedy ride!
21st century motorcycles are an entirely different breed, made with lightweight materials for speed, and with as much thought given to the bike’s appearance as to its performance. Japanese companies like Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Honda are famous for their motorcycles, but more established names, such as Triumph from the UK and the iconic Harley-Davidson, are still making popular and cutting-edge bikes, decades after their first creations rolled off the production line.
Throughout the more than 100 years of motorcycle production, however, there have been a few misses along with all the hits. The bikes on this list are certainly among the most unusual and weird ever made, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing! Many bike riders like to stand out from the crowd, and riding one of the motorcycles below would definitely get heads turning!
Whether vintage models from the golden era of motorcycle production or futuristic bikes which look as though they would be more at home in a sci-fi movie, these motorbikes are unquestionably unique creations.
18 Rokon Trail-Breaker
The Rokon Trail-Breaker looks like a strange combination of a motorcycle and an off-road vehicle; imagine an ATV on two wheels, and you will have something close to the Trail-Breaker’s unusual appearance.
US-based Rokon has been making the Trail-Breaker bike since the 1960s, and it has even been used by the US Armed Forces.
The Trail-Breaker can tow weights up to 2,000 lbs and can climb hills with a 60% gradient, while the 14-inch ground clearance makes like work of most off-road terrains. The Rokon bike even has hollow wheels, which allow the river to store an extra 2.5 gallons of fuel or water.
17 Jaguar Motorcycle
Classic British car company Jaguar is famous for their stylish executive cars, some of which even make up the fleet of vehicles used by the British Royal Family. However, while the company itself has not yet moved into the motorcycle market, Massow Concept Cycles have created their own concept bike, inspired by the iconic Jaguar hood bonnet. The smooth bodywork on the bike looks almost impossible to ride, but once you get the hang of it, the Buell S3 1200cc V-twin engines make it an exhilarating ride. It is the little design touches which make this motorbike so unusual, such as the placing of the front headlight in the mouth of the Jaguar itself.
16 Haleson Steam Powered
The Haleson Steam Powered motorcycle is exactly as unusual as it sounds. Appearance-wise, it looked something like a regular bicycle, with a platform between the wheels where the paraffin-powered steam boiler sat, driving a 200cc engine.
Not many modern drivers would feel comfortable with a potentially explosive boiler between their legs, but in 1904 when the Haleson was first launched, it was actually pretty popular.
This weird creation was the brainchild of William Hale of Bristol in the UK and was in production until 1914, by which point technology had moved on, making the idea of a steam-powered motorbike obsolete.
15 Uno Dicycle
The Uno Dicycle, invented by a Canadian teenager in 2006, is about as far from a conventional motorcycle as you can get. It is actually a dicycle, with the two wheels sitting side by side, rather than one in front of the other. Although it looks a little precarious, the vehicle is self-balancing, speeding up when the rider leans forward and slowing up when they lead back. If you feel a bit too nervous riding the Uno in dicycle form, then you could always buy the Duo III vehicle instead, which adds a third wheel making it into a much more stable-looking tricycle.
Only two Roadog motorbikes were ever built by Wild Bill Gelbke in the 1960s – which is a good thing for both other road users and for the environment!
Made with a Chevrolet 153 engine, the Roadog’s shaft drive was constructed from a Chevy 1-ton truck differential cut in half, making the finished bike over 17 feet in length and more than 3,200 lbs in weight.
Driving the Roadog was a skill in and of itself, as the behemoth had to be traveling at least 15mph before the rider could even steer it accurately. Gelbke’s creation became something of an icon for bikers, and posters featuring him riding his Roadog became popular with motorcycling enthusiasts.
Built and designed by Fritz Cockerell in 1920, the Megola motorcycle doesn’t look too weird at first glance. Sure, it looks a little dated, but that’s only to be expected from a motorbike that is one hundred years old.
What makes the Megola very different from most ordinary motorcycles is that it was fitted with a five-cylinder radial engine, which was actually fitted inside the spokes of the front wheel.
This was fine on 1920 when there were few other road users, but if you wanted to bring the Megola to a halt, you had to turn off the engine – not much use in today’s heavier traffic.
Created by Carl Neracher in 1918, and sold to the public in Britain and the US between 1921 and 1928, the Ner-a-Car (a play on words, as the unusual motorbike was “nearly a car”) was a “feet-first” bike, which the rider sat on rather like a chair, instead of the more usual modern-day riding position we all know and love. It was a hub-center steered motorcycle, which means that the steering pivot points are inside the wheel hub, not above the wheel as in normal bikes. In fact, it was one of the most successful hub-center steered vehicles, selling 16,500 units.
Moving slightly forward in motorcycling history, the first Majestic was built by its creator, Georges Roy, in 1929.
In many ways, Georges’ creation was ahead of its time; he fashioned the metal bodywork into gorgeous curving art deco shapes which are vaguely reminiscent of some of the design touches in modern bikes.
He also led the way with new production methods, many of which allowed the automotive industry to expand and embrace mass-production, including the monocoque or unibody method of making vehicles which became the norm from the 1940s onwards. Vintage Majestics are very much in demand, and it is not hard to see why.
10 Imme R100
The Imme R100 was the beloved lifelong project of Norbert Riedel, a German engineer who spent WWII helping to build engines for Luftwaffe fighter planes. At the end of the war, in 1947, Riedel was finally able to start work on the motorcycle design he had been planning for several years; the Imme R100. The "Imme" – German for bee – was supposed to meet the demand for cheap transport in the post-war years, but what Riedel ended up creating was a unique motorcycle, that is still one of the best-looking bikes ever conceived if a little unusual compared to our modern-day tastes.
Böhmerland was a motorcycle manufacturer based in former Czechoslovakia between 1924 and the start of WWII. Known locally as Čechie, the company created a number of eye-catching and head-turning motorbikes, thanks mainly to the work of head designer Albin Leibisch.
The bikes they produced all featured long, welded frames, built-up front forks, and cast aluminum wheels.
Combine all that with the unusual color schemes embraced by Böhmerland, and it is easy to see why these bikes deserve their place on this list. Böhmerland didn’t just build motorbikes either, but also three-seater and four-seater versions of this same vehicle.
8 Ascot Pullin 500
The founder of Ascot-Pullin Motorcycles, Cyril Pullin, had grown up around bikes, winning one of the very first of the prestigious Isle of Man TT races in 1914.
In 1928, he and his friend, Douglas Groom, joined forces to create the Ascot Pullin 500 motorcycle, the first motorcycle with hydraulic brakes, and one which had an unusual horizontally mounted engine, enclosed in a pressed steel frame.
Sadly, the name proved to be something of an unlucky prediction for Pullin and Groom, as only around 500 of the bikes were ever sold, and the company was eventually forced to fold in 1930.
Bringing us closer to the present, but probably even further away from our expectation of what a motorcycle should look like, is the Quasar. The sci-fi name probably gives it away as a creation of the 1970s, and a limited number of these semi-enclosed, feet-forward bikes were sold between 1975 and 1982. Created by three British motorcycle engineers, the Quasar used an engine which had been taken from a Reliant Robin three-wheeled car, before being repurposed for use on two wheels. Unlike the notoriously unreliable Robin, the curious looking Quasar was able to reach speeds of up to 100 mph.
We have already seen a dicycle, but who would fancy taking a ride on a unicycle motorbike? The Ryno may seem like an outrageously dangerous concept, but there are plenty of people who are willing to give this unusual creation a try. And it isn’t as unbalanced as you might think; the microcycle uses a combination of gyroscope sensors and accelerometers, along with the rider’s own sense of balance, to keep itself upright. The Ryno doesn’t even accelerate like normal motorcycles – instead, the rider leans forward to speed up, rather like you might do if you were riding on a Segway.
5 Peraves Monotracer
The Peraves Monotracer may almost be unrecognizable as a motorbike, but given the amount of cutting-edge technology which has been used in the development of this vehicle, it could well be an indication of how the motorcycle industry is going to develop in the future.
It is a street-legal motorcycle, but the seated area is completely enclosed by a cabin made from an expensive combination of carbon and Kevlar – the material used in bulletproof vests!
You don’t climb onto this bike either, you get into the luxurious cabin via a set of gull-wing doors which would be more at home on a sports car.
Even among all the weird and wonderful machines on this list, the Boxx is a particularly unusual motorcycle. As the name suggests, it is a box-shaped scooter, running off an electric engine and designed to be portable, so you can stick it in the trunk of your car and use it for shorter journeys.
Despite its odd appearance, the Boxx is perfectly legal to ride on the road, and you only need a moped license in order to take it out for a spin.
It may not look like the most comfortable vehicle, but there are storage spaces for groceries, making it quite a handy runaround for city centers, and it even charges from ordinary home outlets.
3 Piaggio MP3
The Piaggio MP3 is a so-called “maxi-scooter” – it may look more like a scooter than a motorbike, but it is much more powerful than your average Vespa! What makes this scooter/motorcycle so unusual is its rather unorthodox wheel configuration. The Piaggio MP3 is a trike, but not a trike as we know it. Most trikes have two wheels at the back and one at the front, while the Piaggio MP3 has two wheels at the front, located close together, and one wheel at the rear, making it easier to ride than a scooter or motorbike, but still a more compact option than a genuine trike.
2 Boss Hoss Gangsta Trike
On the other hand, the Boss Hoss Gangsta Trike looks much more like the conventional trike vehicle most people would imagine – although even this motorcycle has plenty of unusual and eye-catching features. This is a beast of a bike, weighing in at 150 lbs. These custom-built machines can be tailored to your own tastes too, using either the back of a 1957 Chevy or Corvette to make the Gangsta Trike’s own rear section. Choose from two eight-cylinder engine options as well; the 295 hp LS300 engine or the impressively powerful 445hp LS445 engine. Guaranteed to get heads turning when one of these might machines drives past.
1 Evolve Xenon Lightcycle
If you’re a fan of the movie Tron, then the Evolve Xenon Lightcycle is definitely the bike for you. Looking uncannily close to the futuristic machines which feature in both the original 1982 movie and the 2010 remake, you could easily imagine yourself as part of a sci-fi world while riding one of these machines. Such fantasies don’t come cheap, however, and the Xenon Lightcycle will set you back a cool $55,000, although it does feature an environmentally friendly (and very 21st century) electric engine, which has a charge of up to 30 miles, and which can power the rider at speeds of 100mph.
Sources: Motorcycle.com, popularmechanics.com, rokon.com, theawesomer.com, silodrome.com