Motorcycles, like cars, have many similarities in their history that may not be apparent just by looking at them. Take the Japanese "take over" in the late 1970s by manufacturers like Yamaha or Kawasaki. While British bikes like the Triumph and the Vincent had the market for quite a long time, these bikes were notorious for electrical issues that were the bud of many jokes. The Japanese however, found a better way to "make a wheel" or in this case two wheels! Let's take a look at the top 10 most influential motorcycles, ranked.
10 Honda 1980 Gold Wing Interstate
Think of this bike as the Cadillac of motorcycles. It's luxurious and comfortable. The ride is really refined and is made for the road trip. With extra plush seats and room for two, this bike makes comfort fashionable. It was also influential in setting the standard on motorcycle accessories with frame-mounted fairing and luggage.
9 Ducati 1994 916
Italians are known in the bike industry for producing both stylish and performance capable bikes. Ducati is no exception especially in terms of designing a true piece of rideable art. The 916, while not the fastest-selling or the best selling bike on the market, comes out on top in terms of form and function. The design of this sportbike is masterful in its blend of purposeful mechanical detail like its under-seat exhaust design that has set the tone for sports bikes even to this day!
8 BMW 2019 R 1250GS
In compiling a list of this caliber it's difficult to list only 10 of the most influential but you can't ignore the big footprint of BMW. For this very reason, I'll list BMW now (and again later). The R1250 GS is the only "hybrid" bike on the list. It's not an alternative fuel bike (although these bikes are known for getting magnificent mpg.) This model is a road/off-road machine that's capable on nearly any terrain! So much so that it's been voted as best bike to own in a post-apocalyptic world! It's extremely reliable and powerful yet still has a refined ride for when you cruise into town for the zombie parade!
7 Honda 1969 CB750
During the 1970s the motorcycle world saw a big shakeup from an unlikely place, Japan. Until this bike came on the scene, they were only known as copy cat manufacturers, not trendsetters! Well, this bike changed the pecking order of who dominated the bike industry. Honda produced a four-cylinder powered bike that was smooth and affordable to purchase. In fact, it only took 4 years for this model to soar in sales of 6o,000 per year!
6 Kawasaki 1977 KZ 1000
Riding on the wave of Japanese bikes pushing their way on to the once British and American bike scene, Kawaski introduced its KZ line. Specifically the KZ 1000 in 1977. This bike featured a 4 cylinder 5 speed that put out 90 hp making it the fastest bike of its era! It was so fast Police departments used them in their line up as late as 2005!
5 BMW 1932 R32
While BMW is a powerhouse today, not only motorcycles but cars as well, it wasn't always that way. Prior to aircraft engineer Max Friz's design of the Boxer Twin engine in the R32, the company was only pennies away from bankruptcy. Once the riding public saw what the R32 brought to the table in terms of innovation and performance, BMW solidified its place in motor history. Friz's innovations were so well designed and executed they are still in use today! Like the recirculating wet sump oil system.
4 Indian 1953 Chief
Few bikes are as iconic as the 1953 Chief. While these bikes were also wildly popular to the public, the business of bikes in the boardroom was another thing altogether. This brand also suffered from financial woes and was shuttered after this model year hit the floor. While many attempts to revitalize the brand were made only Polaris' latest venture seemed to achieve success. Reintroducing its retro styling of the 1950's Indian is now a thing of the present. Its unmistakable style and performance that made the Chief popular to begin with, was now offered to a much deprived riding public with a large appetite for yesteryear styling.
3 Triumph 1960 T120
In the 1950s and '60s, the Brits held a dominant position in the motorcycle world. One of the most influential of them being the T120 by Triumph. The bike was a pleasure to ride since it was lightweight, had good torque with a top speed of 110 mph! It was so cool even A-listers like Bob Dylan and Steve McQueen rode these two-wheelers! There are few bikes that were trendsetters garnering attention from some of entertainment's best.
2 Harley Davidson 1949 FL Hyrda Glide
This bike is eye-catching as it is a true classic. Few other bikes set the bar for style and mechanical innovation like this one. The FL Hydra-Glide is still one of the most imitated bikes around as it captured both timeless style and performance. Utilizing an 1100 cc panhead engine and first of its kind hydraulic fork it was ahead of its game in terms of handling and performance.
1 1 Vincent 1948 Black Shadow
Many of the motorcycles on this list made it because of their actual direct contribution to the biking world once it splashed its way on the scene. The Black Shadow was a stand-alone bike because of what you can say was a "foreshadow" of what was to come in terms of future design. Attributes like a "frameless" chassis, a mono rear shock, adjustable controls to name a few, put this bike well ahead of its competition. With a top speed of 125mph, it was no slouch either! Powered by a 1000 cc engine Vincent really made its mark on history with this model that will endure for many years to come.