The 5 Greatest Classic Motorbikes of all Time

Norton Manx

If you’re the owner of any of these machines then count yourself very lucky indeed.

#5. The 1950 Manx Norton

Manufacturing of the Manx Norton may have ceased over 50 years ago, but that hasn’t stopped it from sneaking into our top classic motorcycles countdown at number 5.

The innovative design of the Manx Norton brought together a variety of exciting features, such as forward rider and engine positions, swingarm-and-telescopic-fork chassis and hydraulic damping, and demonstrated to everyone just how well they could work together.

It was a revolutionary bike that forced Italian manufacturers to “Nortonise”, and banished the likes of girder, leading-link, sliding-pillar and spring-hub designs to the annuls of history.

#4. Benelli 250

Established over 100 years ago in 1911, Benelli is one of the oldest motorcycle manufacturers currently in operation, and the 250 is certainly one of the Italian brand’s most notable highlights in a long and distinguished legacy.

The combination of aluminium DOHC top end, cam drive and an oil cooler worked brilliantly together, and brought worldwide recognition for engineer Giuseppe Benelli during the 1930s and ’40s. Influential, fantastic to ride and great to look at, the Benelli 250 is a deserved addition to the top 5 classic motorcycles of all time.

#3. Kawasaki H2 Triple

Boasting incredible power but not much in the way of brakes, the Kawasaki H2 Triple was not one for the faint-of-heart, but it is still a bike that is highly sought-after thanks to the dramatic ride it provides as well as the remarkable sound it produced.

#2. Vincent Black Shadow

Take one look at this gorgeous classic motorcycle and you will understand exactly why it is number two on our all time list. Sleek, powerful and an absolute dream to ride, it was an object of obsession for Gonzo journalism Hunter S. Thompson, leading to him referencing it in his book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

It was first manufactured in 1948 but it held the title of the world’s fastest production bike into the late 1960s. An absolute beast.

#1. BMW R32

During World War I BMW, now known for producing some of the world’s finest and best performing luxury vehicles, was busy manufacturing airplanes. However the German brand was prohibited from doing so following the Allied victory, and thus turned their attentions to building motorcycles instead. In hindsight, it was an inspired decision.

The R32 was the first bike to introduce what would later become standard for BMWs: a boxer-twin with shaft-drive, and it is a design that delivered a remarkable performance that helped to transform the brand from aircraft manufacturers to one of the most recognised brands in the world. As for the aesthetics? Simply stunning.