MotorcycleDaily.com – Motorcycle News, Editorials, Product Reviews and Bike Reviews

Motorcycle News, Editorials, Product Reviews and Bike Reviews

The Best Looking Retro Standard

V7

We thought it would be fun to have readers offer their opinions on the best looking, current production retro standard motorcycle.  We have photos of several examples here, including the Honda CB1100F, the Ducati GT 1000, Triumph Bonneville, Royal Enfield Bullet 500 Classic, and the Kawasaki W800.  For good measure, we added a photo of the Moto Guzzi V7 Classic. We are looking for current production models, or near current production.

In addition to offering your opinion about good looks, give us your thoughts about performance of the bike.  Obviously, if you own one, tell us what it is like to own and ride the machine.  In the comments you leave, you can provide links to photos, but make sure the links are safe for other readers to use.

CB1100

GT 1000

Bonneville

Royal Enfield

W800

237 Comments

  1. Kjazz says:

    how bout harleys, they’re retro without trying to be and some of em are sorta standard…..?

    I like the Thruxton (close looking to a Bonnie), but the most retro looking to me of this bunch are the Kawa and the Enfield.

  2. Tim says:

    The Kawai is very cool, but he Honda is drop dead gorgeous. Bring it here, Honda, pleeeeease!

  3. Josh says:

    Ridden a few Bonnevilles and a Thruxton. Not impressed with looks or performance.

    Owned a Ducati Sport 1000. Beautiful bike, but ill-handling due to cheapish suspension.

    For my money, the best looking retro right now is the Norton Commando 961.

  4. scorpio says:

    As the owner of a 2007 Bonneville I’m biased toward my own machine. It’s a perfect balance of performance (after the stage two kit anyway), versatility, and authenticity. Never had a bike that sparked so many conversations with strangers at gas stations either, and none have anything bad to say.

    Of the others, if cost were no object I would’ve picked the Norton 961 Commando – and promptly fitted the shortest custom shocks that would fit! The Ducati Classics (& to a lesser extent the ‘Guzzi V7 Sport) suffer from the same stance, but are almost as gorgeous anyway. Bernard Li totally missed the boat with his Vincents, although they would’ve been a blast to ride with that RC51 motor.

    Personally I think the Japanese UJM years are too recent to be retro; if I were younger I might see it differently as less time seems to pass with more years ;) That leaves the CB1000 & ZRX11/1200, and even the W650/800 & new Bonneville looking too “new” for true retro appeal.

    While authentic and beautiful, Urals & Enfields aren’t retro, they’re vintage! All very cool if you want an antique bike with low miles to admire in the garage and maybe on a Sunday afternoon with perfect weather, but if beauty lies at all in function, you’ll understand if I leave them out of the running.

    Bringing me back to my Bonneville. It’s my 11th bike and the one I plan to keep the longest, even if I transfer my sport-touring parts over to a new one eventually and convert my ’07 to a bobber. The Triumph slogan sums up this topic perfectly: Go Your Own Way!

  5. Austin ZZR 1200 says:

    The Kawi is retro class without pretention. Can’t say the same about the others. The Enfield is pretty but almost too precious to ride.

  6. denny says:

    They all look good, hands down…. eh maybe save of indian Enfield – they did too much mods and addons, that changed original spirit of it. Looks kind of away of original. What we should vote for is if ALL retros are the best looking bikes. My pick woud be W650/ W800. they are phenomenaly engineered, probably ahead of the rest. Shame there is nobody building by old Zundapps and NSUs!

  7. Dave says:

    The Guzzi is nice the Triumph T-100 is beautiful but the standard you have pictured is just so so

  8. JimW says:

    As an owner of a 2010 Triumph Bonneville SE (blue and white) I have to give it my vote. Looks cool, handles great, semi-underpowered but Triumph “off road” mufflers provide a bit more kick and a nice retro note.

    As others have mentioned the Kawasaki ZRX is an awesome bike and is retro too, but maybe not to the extent of the others. Gotta be lime green, or course (got one of them too!)

    Also like the new Honda but looks a little too “edgy” to be truly retro.

  9. John says:

    The soon-to-be available Cleveland Cyle Werks Misfit would fit on this list, though overall I think my vote for best-looking retro would go to the Bullet Classic first and the Guzzi V7 next. I probably won’t buy either one, but I might buy a Misfit…’cause I’m cheap.

  10. Frank says:

    I’d have to say the W800. To me it looks like it just came off a production line from the 1960′s. All the others have a retro look, but they don’t look like they were manufactured in the 60′s.

  11. Beaufort says:

    C’mon Dirck, please add photos of Guzzi’s V7 Classic and Suzuki’s TU250 to this article.

  12. Travman says:

    It is a tie between the Guzzi V7 Cafe Classic and the W800 for best looking retro. The Royal Enfield looks great, but I’m putting it in 2nd place The Guzzi wins because it is actually available in the U.S.

    The Ducati GT1000 and SC1000 don’t have the right line because of their ass in the air stance resulting in a massive amount of air between the rear fender & tire. Also the Ducati Sport Classic tanks are way to big when you see them in person because they also contain the air box. Next to an orginal or even a Ducati Monster the GT1000′s tank looks bloated.

    The Honda looks good overall. The tank is a little wonky. The tank seam is too obvious and the headlight bracket looks cheap.

    The Bonneville looks good. The engine looks a little chubby. From most angles the latest 17 inch rims don’t look right on a retro bike, so I would pick the T100 with 19 inch front tire or the Scrambler.

  13. Mickey says:

    The Kaw W650 is gorgeous but try and find a Kawi dealer that even stocks the brochure much less the bike. I know I tried, which is how I ended up with ….

    a Triumph T100 Bonneville, an 03 model, which was a great solo motorcycle if you don’t mind weak acceleration and weak brakes. It was smooth, reliable and looked good (although it does not have the stunning proportions,looks and sound of the mid 60′s Bonnevilles). After two years of ownership, I sold mine to my brother.

    The Royal Enfield looks the part but is gutless and un-reliable

    As far as the TU 250 Suzuki, it may very well be a great bike, and although I am not a speed or horsepower freak, I don’t know how anyone rides around on a 250 these days (I’ve ridden my DIL’s 08 Ninja 250 and you have to wind the vinegar out of it to go anywhere…no thanks). I outgrew 250′s in 1967 when I got my CL77 Honda (305 Scrambler), then my CB350 twin, and then my CB 350/4 then my CB450 and finally my CB750 (finally, a truly awesome bike for it’s time). Still wish I had gone all the way and bought a GL1000.

    The Ducati COULD look great, if they got rid of the foot gap between the rear tire and fender (Hey Ducati…it’s not a motocrosser with 9″ of suspension travel), put a decent looking seat on it instead of that pillow looking thing, and bring the back of the fuel tank down to where it sits level.If they did those things, I’d consider it, maybe even lust after it.

    The Moto Guzzi V7 classic is another that looks the part, although it needs a real metal gas tank, but again, I’ve ridden one and it is gutless.

    The BMW R1200R Classic someone mentioned, is a wonderful bike, good looking, plenty of power, outstanding brakes and a great do it all machine, probably my favorite of them all. Rode one for 2 weeks in Europe this summer and would buy one in a heartbeat if they were more reasonably priced and there was a BMW dealer within 100 miles.

    BUT … the one most likely to end up in MY garage, would be the Honda CB1100F. Honda reliability, fit and finish, plenty of power and although the tank is rather angular, it bike overall looks great, add in dealer network and at less than German or Italian prices for comparable machines, and it’s a winner in my book.

  14. ryan says:

    Maybe the ? should be…”what retro looking production bike looks best that may be purchased in the States”

  15. Jay Mack says:

    Doesn’t Moto Guzzi still make the California Classic? That is a great looking motorcycle.

    As much as I like Triumph, I do not like the tank seams on the Bonneville. The photo isn’t too good and I cannot quite see what the W800 has for tank seams, but it looks pretty nice. The Royal Enfield is great looking.

    Still, all around, of all these I’d probably buy the Bonneville.

  16. Joel says:

    With its ugly fuel-tank seams and bulging crankcases, the Bonneville might deserve some sort of prize for worst bastardization of a beautiful original. Great motorcycle to own and ride, but not to look at.

    I’d go with the Kawasaki, from this list, but for a retro bike that combines appearance and function, I’d pick the XR1200 over the other motorcycles here.

  17. William says:

    OK, I’m obviously biased here as one of my current bikes is a w650. So I would pick the w800 as the best looking bike. I just wish they had kept the kickstarter ( I use mine all the time when starting up my bike, just because I can).

    I really like the CB1100F also. I used to own a CB700SC Nighthawk S. and it was the best bike I ever owned. Bring it back with modern components (fuel injection, better brakes and suspension) and I’ll buy another one. Honda, are you listening?

  18. Ken Davis says:

    I like the Ducati for a retro. My wife digs the MG V7 Cafe. I have to add though, why don’t you have the HD Sportster in this list? It is a retro bike and the only bike of the bunch that is still in production from the 50′s.

  19. William says:

    OK, I’m a little biased here since one of my bikes is a w650. I like the w800. I wish they would have kept the kickstarter (my preferred way of starting the bike).

    The Honda CB1100F is very cool also. I used to own a Honda 700 Nighthawk S. and it was definitely the best bike I ever owned. I would love to see it come back with modern components.

    I think the BMW R1200R could have made this list also. They released a “Classic” version for 2011 and it is a looker.

  20. Vrooom says:

    Best to ride I’d guess would be the Ducati. Best looking, hmmm, for me that’s a tie between the Honda, Triumph and Kawasaki….yeah pretty wishy washy. The Enfield has a true classic look, but also looks like an underpowered death trap. That Honda is surprisingly good looking, and likely the most powerful of the bunch. Unfortunatey, in Portland buying an unfaired bike means more time in the garage than I’m comfortable with, it’s just too cold and especially very rainy.

  21. jason says:

    The best retro-looking bike?
    1. Royal Enfield
    2. Kawasaki
    3. Triumph
    4. Honda
    5. Ducati

    The best riding experience?
    1. D@mn sure not the Enfield – the two I’ve ridden shared the distinction of being rickety death traps! It doesn’t have to feel like you’re about to die to be retro… I’ve got an original 74 CB350F here at the shop that doesn’t scare me anywhere near as much as the “new” Enfields!
    The Bonneville is capable, competent, and very predictable.
    I’ve not ridden any of the others, so I can’t speak from experience there.

    Like many have mentioned, the ZRX is still a strong contender for the retro standard crown. My personal ride is another twist similar to what harry mentioned: a 1998 Suzuki Bandit 1200 stripped of unneeded plastic. While I’d love the CB1100F, I’ll settle for building the real deal: 70s & 80s vintage Japanese steel can be modernized….

  22. GaryF says:

    Gi’me the Bonneville. It’s what a bike is supposed to look like. Clean, classic and spartan. Old school cool.

  23. Erndog says:

    Very nice bikes! Finally some practical machines with good looking exhaust; unlike many of the crotch rockets and far out customs. These bikes should sell.

  24. Don S. says:

    Isn’t the new Norton Commando a production bike now?

  25. The Best looking is the Enfield. Bit it’s likely the last one I would own strictly for performance reasons. There is a better more retro Triumph (without cast wheels fer crying out loud) and the Honda was a MUCH better looking bike as a concept than the actual production model. The Duck is lust material and quite a performer and would probably be my favorite actual bike to ride. But the “total package” to actually own would be the W800 or much more likely a bike not even included on this list..

    The Triumph Scrambler.

  26. Michael H says:

    I wouldn’t kick any of them out of my garage. And I’d add the BMW R1200 R to the list, especially in black paint with white stripes.

    • BoxerFanatic says:

      That straddles the line… But that is fine with me. I like BMW R-bikes.

      the new DOHC R12R has the old-school looks with the spoke wheels, and chrome/satin aluminum trim… but it has modern touches like a single-sided shaft-drive suspension, and telelever… and the big fuel tank doesn’t look narrow like the old /5 and /6 tanks, neither the big tanks, nor the small toaster tanks.

      BMW could go even more retro than the R1200R. Just like the V7 Sport and Cafe Classic is more truly retro than the V12 Griso, even though the Griso has some classic styling elements.

    • LarryC says:

      Y’know, BWM is trying hard to enhance its performance image, but they have great oppotunity to build a true retro bike that would recall their long heritage. Imagine knock-off R90S in silver smoke with a modern boxer mill.

  27. anon says:

    You could split hairs and call it a ‘cafe racer’ rather than a ‘standard’… but since you included the Ducati, I’m going to have to answer: Triumph Thruxton.

  28. Tim says:

    It’s not on the list because it’s no longer available but the late 90′s to early 2000′s Triumph Thunderbirds would be my tops anyway. Nearly as retro looking as the Bonnies but with a lot more poke. Of the ones listed, like others I’d have a hard time deciding between the GT1000 and the CB1100F. Hmmm. A bike that isn’t sold in the US or a bike that has been discontinued and can’t get along with ethynol fuels without the tank pulling itself apart. Tough call.

  29. Mike says:

    It’s not made in the US anymore, but the Kawasaki ZRX1100 was a great retro styled bike with up-to-date components. I’m sorry I sold mine. Several blasts from the past I’d like to see remade are:

    - Honda VF750F Interceptor
    - Honda Hawk GT
    - Honda Nighthawk S

    • Chris says:

      Good list. I’d open up the Interceptor remake to include the 500 and 1000.

      Retro’s and standards/nakeds don’t really do anything for me. But I could see owning a modern Nighthawk S. Even at the old tarrif beating 700cc displacement.

    • BoxerFanatic says:

      I have a Hawk GT. Great bike, the only thing out of date are the power level out of the engine, and the damper-rod forks.

      But I wouldn’t call it Retro. It was modern for it’s introduction in 1989, and still looks clean and modern today. It is a naked sport standard, but not retro.

      The VF bikes in the ’80s are also modern for their time, and not retro. But very nice bikes.

      I wish Honda hadn’t abdicated the Hawk GT’s market placement to the Ducati Monster and Suzuki SV650, which ran rampant. Hawk GT was before it’s time, and overshadowed by the cheaper-price Hurricane/CBR-F2.

  30. Vinny Falcone says:

    Are you kidding? All of the above plus the Guzzi V7 and Suzuki TU250!!!! Minor preferences notwithstanding, a classic standard is the most versatile, useful and fun bike to have.
    Keep it naked, add a few performance parts and you have a back road thrasher. Clamp on a plexiglass fairing and some soft bags and you’re touring in relative comfort. Just a backpack and a half-helmet needed for frugal commuting.
    I would only add that Kawasaki bring the W800 to the states and Suzuki make a 600cc+ TU.
    If you like more modern fare, a Gladius will do exactly the same, but won’t look as cool.

  31. TJ says:

    They all good, in a Retro way, but the list should also include the base model Sportsters and Super Glide, as well as the Ural.

    • Zombo says:

      Did you Harley complainers actually read the article title of BEST LOOKING RETRO STANDARD ? Cruisers or touring bikes ARE NOT STANDARDS – the last standards with the Harley name on them were the Italian made Aermacchi line of bikes . I realize you Harley fanboys are proud of the way your bikes look (since they don’t handle or accelerate very well) , but they don’t fit the standard classification by any means .

      • TJ says:

        Been riding for over 4o yrs and the new Sporsters are still similar in appearence and power to the 54 KH I owned from 66 – 69. I’m not a Harley fanboy at all, but have been around bikes long enough to know that some haven’t evolved much over the decades.

  32. BoxerFanatic says:

    All of those bikes look great… but I would probably pick a Ducati Sport 1000, rather than the GT 1000.
    That is until BMW brings it’s Lo Rider concept to production, and makes a 1200 DOHC tech-updated retro of the /5 or /6 era bikes.
    The Moto-Guzzi V7 Sport and Cafe Classic are nice, too. The Clubman Racer is downright hot. Too bad it doesn’t have more power, and 4-valve-per-cyl heads like the V12 series engines.

  33. ziggy says:

    Ummm…

    Kawasaki ZRX 1200!

    Sheesh….

  34. Erik S says:

    My choices for the podium;
    1) Sportster Nightster
    2) Guzzi V7
    3) CB1100F

    Never liked the Bonneville, reminds me more of the CB350 than a late 60′s Triumph, Hinckley should just rebadge the Kawasaki, they got it right.

  35. Beej says:

    Sorry, V7 classic not 750.

  36. Pou says:

    In their heyday, standards combined performance with comfort and practicality. The bike that fits these qualities best is the CBF1000. Simple, strong, fun, and does it all. If you upgrade the tires and suspension, it works well in the twisties too.

    Is it obvious that I put 80K miles on my ’94 CB1000?

    Second place goes to the Kawi. Reintroducing that bike at 800cc was a great idea.

  37. Eddie says:

    In order of looks:
    Duc
    Enfield
    Kaw
    Honda
    Triumph

    In order of which would personally buy and ride:
    Duc
    Honda
    Triumph
    Kaw
    Enfield

  38. Beej says:

    What, no Moto Guzzi 750 classic?

  39. Mr. Mike says:

    Ordering by looks/retro cool factor alone:

    1) W800 (nailed it)

    2) Bonneville (nice but a bit chubby)
    tie
    2) Royal Enfield (looks great but way retro – maybe too much?)

    3) GT 1000 (nice up front but doesn’t flow well into rear)
    4) CB1100F (something very wrong with proportions and lines. Beautiful engine but tank/seat/rear/side cover look like they are from different bikes)

  40. kirk66 says:

    My order: #1- Bonni has great looks and wonderful feel on the road. 2- The new CB looks like a hoot, but I suppose it’s not coming here so that’s why it’s 2. 3- The Bullet, but I like the military green version better than the one pictured. I’ve ridden a current FI model and had a blast on it and never broke 50mph. 4- I’d pic the W800 untested becasue the W650 was such a cool bike. 5- GT. I used to sell them. Nice enough bike but slightly off the mark. Must be an Italian thing. Nice enough but last for this crowd. Mark’s right, though, the Sport or the few years old PS are great looking.
    And what about the Moto Guzzi V7. That’s an awsome looking little bike. No respect for tractor motors?

  41. Angus says:

    Greetings, It would have to be the Kawasaki W800 as it looks like it came right out of the mid 60′s when I started riding. The spokes, fork shock covers, and seat seem to be correct for that time period.

  42. Chango says:

    I’m awfully fond of my 2009 Suzuki TU250X. To me, it represents the essence of basic motorcycling. While many scoff at the 15 or so arm-stretching rear wheel horsepower, it manages to get my 250 pound self up to 75 mph on the interstate when I need it to; but that’s not what the bike is best at. For bimbling around town, the TU beats the ever living poo out of my last four bikes (3 600 supersports and a 2001 Bandit 600).

    The fuel injection is nice too. So far I’ve ridden it in temps into the 20s and all I have to do it hit the starter and it fires right up every time. No choke to forget about, no stumbling until the engine is warmed up, just start and go.

    The “high speed” handling is interesting as you can feel the frame flexing when you push it, and while it may all be in my head I swear at times I can feel the rear shocks going in opposite directions (one compressing the other rebounding) if I hit a bump mid-corner. Then again, that’s why I have a track-only bike…

    It’s obviously not a long distance tourer, but for getting around town it really is quite nice.

  43. Brent says:

    I like them all especially the Honda but in the end I love twins. The Bonnie is nice but I never thought the heads looked right, kind of odd looking to me. So it’s gotta be the W800.

  44. harry says:

    Give me an inline 4 retro (type 2) or nothing. I love that buzzing in my ear, I hate power pulses in my rear. Did anyone at MCD see the new almost retro 2011 Suzuki
    GSX1250FA? Put a round headlight on it and voila a retro.

  45. Michael White says:

    The best design is the Honda. It’s not only an exquisite retro homage, it’s clearly just a good bike. The original Bonnie or CB were not trying to look like something from the past, they just were. That’s what the Honda is . . . I like the Ducati, except for the ungainly rear end. The other bikes are lovely, but for me they are a little too backward-looking, rather than creating something new.

  46. jim says:

    can’t view thread

  47. LP says:

    You missed this one:
    http://www.motorcyclenews.com/upload/204161/images/motoguzziv7classic.jpg

    Personally I like the Kawasaki W650/800 of the ones you have here. I’m too young to have ridden one of the original Bonnies, but they just got the proportions right on this one: Motor. Cycle.
    The new Honda CB looks good too, but UJMs from the 70s are still around in large enough numbers that it takes a bit of a squint to see the ‘retro’ there. Oh, and another ‘retro’ that I’ve always liked: Kawi ZRX1100/1200r. In Eddie Lawson green, of course. And what about the XR1200, or is every Harley by definition retro?

    Anyway, my list:

    1 – Guzzi V7/ Kawi W650/800 (tie)
    2 – CB1100F/GT1000 (tie)

  48. trent says:

    i’d saw the w800, but since kawasaki in their easily measurable “wisdom” isn’t bringing it to the states, i believe the royal enfield bullet c5 classic is the best looking retro standard. compared to the other bikes, it’s easily the most “retro” looking of all.

  49. narendra says:

    ROYAL ENFIELD……STANDS FIRST!!

  50. mark says:

    I’ve got a 2001 Bonneville. I absolutely love it. The Bonneville is a terrific platform for customization to create a bike that’s truly your own; mine has received the cafe racer treatment, upgraded suspension, and a few engine performance mods. Of course it doesn’t accelerate or handle like an R6, but it’s still an enormously fun bike to ride with lots of personality. Every time I ride it, even now after years of ownership, I find myself thinking, “Good God, I love this bike!”

    That said, another bike that should be on the list is the Ducati Sport 1000 — better-looking than the GT1000, and enormously fun to ride.