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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. GaryF says:

    Regarding the distinction between “true” retro and “wanna be” retro …

    I am old, see? Have been riding and racing more than 35 years. I guess that makes me a “retro rider.” I remember the original Nortons and BSAs and Ducatis. They were not “retro” back then … they were just “bikes.”

    And they pretty much sucked.

    I had a Bultaco Sherpa S that seized pretty regularly, with a transmission that shifted like it was filled with taffee.

    You may think a “true” retro bike is cool. If so, I invite you to own and ride one. It will leave a mark.

    I’ll take a modern bike with retro looks every day of the week … and twice on Sunday.

    • Scott says:

      “Best Looking” was the qualifier. If you want to talk about best performing… well then that’s a different thing altogether. The Ducati would likely get the nod, but, again, it isn’t really trying that hard to be an old bike.

      While we’re at it, the ultimate retro bikes are conspicuously absent from this article.

    • Charlie says:

      “You may think a “true” retro bike is cool. If so, I invite you to own and ride one. It will leave a mark”.

      I have only two bikes, both vintage. Both get ridden just as one would use a modern bike and both haven’t left their “mark” in any bad way. That is unless you mean oil drips on the pavement! :-) Both are usable in real world traffic, both are capable of doing 90% of what their modern counterparts can do. Both have been super reliable (I am a professional mechanic though) and require little more maintenance than modern machines. They both have “class” and the “cool” factor missing from just about everything nowadays. Simple, rugged, easy to maintain, cheap to fix – any wonder I don’t want a new bike?

      Oh – the bikes? ’69 Moto Guzzi V750 Ambassador (100k miles) and ’77 Yamaha XT500

      • GaryF says:

        Both excellent bikes. I had an SR500 Yammie back in the … ehhhh … early 80s, must’ve been. Rode that thing all over New Orleans and surrounding states. Was my only transpo while attending college. Great fun.

        But I still maintain that modern bikes are a whole lot mo betta … taking into consideration things reliability, performance and brakes. Especially brakes. I can remember bikes that stopped quicker if you just dragged your boots in the dirt, rather than try to get any real braking.

    • Mark Pearson says:

      I agree with you, GaryF. I’m not nearly as seasoned of a rider as you but I don’t see a market for bikes stamped out of 45-year old tooling. How many people are going to buy a new bike that leaks fluids and has fussy carburetors, points, plugs that foul quickly, wooden brakes, a rubber frame, pogo suspension, odd tire sizes and weird geometry? That’s for the restoration crowd.

      Any bike is a collection of compromises chosen to reach a target. Retro’s a theme – classic shapes wrapped around modern engineering. It can cover any past period. It could be argued that the Royal Enfield’s 50’s styling is as much out of place in this 60-70’s group as is the ZRX and it’s 80’s superbike theme.

  2. Wilson R says:

    W800 is truest to form. All the others show too much modern influence.

  3. Scott says:

    There are three different kinds of “retros” here.

    1. Truly retro
    Enfield

    2. Retro wannabe
    Bonneville
    W800
    Guzzi

    3. Retro-esque
    Ducati
    Honda

    #1.
    The Enfield has the looks because it’s basically the bike it’s always been.

    #2.
    The bonnie, no matter how much people love it, is a boring bike that’s painfully not right in proportion. Where the original had that lithe athletic look and feel, the new bonnie says “tank” in looks and handling. Sure, it handles better than most Harleys, but that’s a pretty low bar.

    The Guzzi is better than the Triumph, but has some of the same awkward not-quite-what-it-pretends-to-be going on.

    The W800 is gorgeous. Period.

    #3. The Ducati is italian, the good kind.

  4. tastroman says:

    Should have included the TU250.

  5. coloradoslim says:

    I own a 2006 Bonnie T100, and with suspension tweaks, new cans and the airbox removal, it provides an extremely gratifying riding experience. I love mine. The T100 is the best looker in this group outside of the Thruxton. But neither will ever match the raw exhilaration of the old pre-Bloor Triumphs. Beyond that, the V7 and the GT1000 get my blood moving. The W800? Why buy a copy of a copy of a legend?

  6. Hoshiko says:

    Kawi’s W800 just perfect, even the paint makes me turn mi eyes to it, Honda’s CB1100F second place, Royal’s overpriced, unsafe, slow but cute bike only if I had some other bike to ride on the daly bassis. Ducati’s GT100 love the rear end and pipes. Triumph is cool and I actually don’t like Guzzi’s engine (looks)

    What about Honda’s Shadow RS750 and the Ural Bike.

  7. Artem says:

    My vote goes to W800.
    Have to mention Enfield, but because of other reason.
    It looks much like Jawa 250 of the late 60s. That
    model was so much common in our country that there are
    no reason to adore it.
    Found recently that Jawa those time produced pretty sophisticated
    recing motorcycles. It’s a pitty they were not durable.
    http://www.autosoviet.altervista.org/jawa350-1967-GP.jpg
    http://www.autosoviet.altervista.org/jawa_v4_350.jpg

  8. Bones says:

    The fact that each of these retro bikes is so appealing demonstrates their timeless designs. If someone is handing out keys, I won’t be choosy. If it’s my own coin, I’ll take the CB1100.

  9. GeoK says:

    I think the 2006 Triumph Scrambler (1st model year with polished engine cases) in the Caspian Blue and White two-tone. I have a 2007 with black cases, but the 2006 looks better. It may not be an exact replica of a previous model, but the polished high side exhaust, bluing manifold pipes, fork gaiters, and REAL carbs does it for me. I linger in the garage sometimes just looking at it, and still can’t help taking the odd occasional picture of it when I ride to work.

  10. LT says:

    BellaCorse:

    How’s Bonnie compared to GT? TIA.

  11. Jeremy in TX says:

    If price were not an option, I’d run out and order a Norton Commando 961 SE right now. It is the best looking retro IMHO and makes just enough power.

    But price is a criteria for me unfortunately, so…

    Ducati GT1000 – Solid brakes, relatively light weight, a decent suspension and enough power to keep my blood running. It isn’t the best looking – I think the Triumph, W800 and V7 all look better – but it is the one I would spend my money on despite the price premium over the others.

  12. The Royal Enfield, CB 1100, W 800, Triumph,

  13. Bruce Fenimore says:

    I own a 2009 Bonneville T-100. Shoulda bought one back in 2001 whan they first came out. This bike is by far the best overall, do-it all bike I have ever owned. It tours, commutes, & bike nights with the best of em. I rode H-D for thirty years and I kick myself everyday for not making the jump sooner. The Guzzi is pretty hot too, and like the Bonnie, its a very true too its roots which is very cool.

  14. LarryC says:

    Well, I have three Guzzis in the garage, all LeMans V’s, so I am partial to sporting Guzzis in general. Their cruisers leave me cold however. Too bad the V7 isn’t available in a 1000 with great suspension and brakes. I had a 1000S in green and black and it was easily the most striking motorcycle I’ve ever owned. Guzzi could do better than refrigerator white or the bile green (yeah, I know it’s retro) that the V7 comes in.

    I owned an ’06 Bonneville in red and black and it was beautiful. Easily the best looking of the whole Bonneville T100 series. Unfortunately, the Triumphs need suspension improvements, at the very least better shocks. The single disc is pretty marginal too. And a six speed would be nice. However, the 5 speed was among the best shifting bikes I’ve ever owned.

    I’d love to own the Honda, I had two CB750 K1’s. But of course it isn’t available in the USA, probably never will be, and won’t sell well if it is. I don’t think it should be included on the list for that reason.

    I lust for the Ducati and have test ridden the GT1000. Neat bike with up-to-date components and a nice motor, but alas its seat is lacking for two-up work.

    The Kawi looks exactly like what it is, a Japanese knock-off of a Britsh bike. I guess you need to think of it as an updated W2, which legitimizes it somewhat. It’s my least favorite, I’d rather have a nice original W2SS. An early Yamaha TX650 wouldn’t be bad either. Think Kenny Roberts street tracker. Nice.

    Hey, where’s the Triumph Thruxton? Now there’s the best looking bike in Triumph’s whole line-up. Highly likely a Thruxton is destined for a slot in the garage soon. I’m already looking at atermarket parts!

    All these bikes have more personality than plastic wrapped faux generi-racers or cruiser clones, but that’s just me. YMMV.

  15. Ward Bond says:

    The Moto Guzzi V7 wins hands down. Who couldn’t resist the simplicity of the Italian design. It has character will be a timeless design for many years to come. I’m getting one!

  16. Bruce says:

    The CB1100 Honda is clearly the choice given mass market abilities, parts, dealer network, service personel, and resale.

  17. JD says:

    Like them all but the CB1100F does it for me. I hold out hope it will be available one day soon in the US.

  18. Jose says:

    Let me see..
    Moto guzzi: I like it alot but no parts…
    Honda: don’t like the rear end.
    Ducati: Allways like it.
    Triumph: Love it..I have one.
    Royal Enfield: Now this one do not make sence..Only 27 horses, 7K+ and very scary at 70 mph…I know.
    W 800: My next buy…Love it!

  19. MinnJim says:

    +1 they all look great, but to buy and ride, I’d take the Kawi…

  20. Jim H. says:

    Boy, if you like that sort of look, the Royal Enfield is the stuff. I have to vote W800 Kawasaki though, with the Guzzi in the runner up position. My blue 03 ZRX1200 with T-Force pipe and fender eliminator still looks better than any of them though!

  21. BulletBob says:

    For retro look the Guzzi and W800 are my favorites!

  22. Tim says:

    I wish that Triumph would take another look at a retro triple.

  23. gt928 says:

    It’s the V7 for me, though I really like them all. Gorgeous, retro and imminently practical. 2nd, maybe the W800.

  24. RichBinAZ says:

    I have an ’01 Bonnie, very nice and easy to ride, just a little underpowered for todays traffic. I am always in the market for a new standard and I would trade my ’07 Bandit for the 1100 honda. The Enfield is the most retro and pretty one of the lot, but at 1/2 the power of the bonnie, it would be a museum piece.

  25. tbook says:

    The HD Sportster 2011 Superlow fits nicely in the classic retro niche.

  26. Bonnie limey says:

    Has to be the Triumph Bonneville…The clever way they hid the fuel injectors in the ?carburetters….big powerful parallel twin motor with the very latest build technology in handling ,brakes and tires…what more could you ask for?..

    • RussellP says:

      I can only ask for one thing more. BELT drive. Then I would buy one.
      I don’t understand why manufactures don’t design bikes with the option
      of chain or belt drive. Look at all the Harleys sold, since they switched to belt drive back in the 80’s.

  27. BellaCorse says:

    I’m a hardcore fan & owner of the modern Bonneville & GT1000. I’ve never been a big fan of anything Japanese, but I got to say, that Honda & Kawasaki just look fantastic. I hope someday they hit the US shores.

  28. asphalt surfer says:

    My pick is the V7 Guzzi. I used to have a 70 Amby but also a 72 Duke GT. I think the Guzzi is closer to the original. Nice group overall. Good option to Harleys as retro.

  29. Larry Geiger says:

    I like all of them, especially the V7 and the Bonneville, but I would buy and ride the Honda.

  30. paul246 says:

    I’ll take the Kawasaki w800.

  31. Don says:

    I own and very much like my Ducati GT1000 but if my decision had to be based solely on the pix posted here it’d have to be the Honda CB1100. Would I buy one? Not likely. But the Kawasaki would truly tempt me. So would the Guzzi if it had their larger motor.

  32. Ray says:

    Sorry to say but “standard” is exactly what they all are
    Spoke wheels – check, air cooled twin – check, same suspension, same single light…
    Like the old UJM, just a “standard”
    BORING

    • BoxerFanatic says:

      With the advent of aluminum frames, cast aluminum wheels, and other modern bits… the spoke wheels, and tube-frame look, and the old-school tank shapes and such… are “retro”.

      Not just standard, but new revivals of ‘old-school’.

      A Suzuki Gladius or a Honda 599 or something like that… would be a current-tech ‘standard.’

  33. mark217 says:

    The W800 by far, I’d go buy one right now if I could.. Sad to hear they are not coming to the US. Maybe Kawasaki will change their mind, looks like they have a winner here. Maybe a cafe model too? That would be awesome..

  34. Jurgen says:

    Where I live on the Southern tip of Africa, the only bike on the list that I can actually buy is the Triumph Bonneville. I once very nearly did, and I regret to this day that I did not. But that can be rectified. However, I must say, if Kawasaki ever brought the W800 to our shores, I would take that above the others. Very interesting thread!

  35. Chris C. says:

    I have owned a 2001 Triumph Bonneville since new. It gets ridden daily and now has over 116,000 miles. The bike is simply awesome. It may not have the power, brakes and handling of a modern sportbike, but the sit up and beg ergos are nearly perfect and it does many things very well including long interstate trips, commutes as well as weekend canyon carving. I wish I had a dollar for every time someone has asked what year it was or what a nice restoration it is. So my vote with obvious bias is the Triumph Bonneville.

  36. Stinky says:

    I hate to be one of those “if it was only bigger, heavier, more complicated” people ,but, I’d have been looking hard for a Guzzi if they’d have used the bigger motor from their lineup.
    I like touring on standards (sometimes through the mountains) with my big butt and overpacking, the old aircooled 700 twin, I’m afraid, would be taxed. I always wanted an Italian bike and found an old Ducati 900SS. Sorry but it’s not a standard, shoulda woulda coulda.

  37. Ron says:

    Yeah me too. Trade in my BMW for a W800 in a heartbeat.

  38. chris says:

    Hasn’t been made for quite some time (maybe it’s a classic itself???) ut my vote is for Honda GB500. Perfect in looks and execution.

  39. Ed Chambers says:

    I think they’re all beautifull and wish they were more readily available .I’ve always been a fan of the Bonneville and I like the Guzzi too.Unfortunately I’d have to travel over 150mi to get to a dealership that might have either.So I’m currently in the process of turning my 06 Harley Street bob into something resembling a very big, very heavy retro standard.

  40. Mike says:

    Why a picture of the standard Bonnie? The Thruxton should have been included, or one of the special T100s. The Thruxton and the new Norton Commandos win hands down. I suppose that you could call these “retro standards” as well, even if they are more cafe’ racer than upright.

    The Kaw is too funky for my taste.

  41. yamasarus says:

    Is there any chance kawasaki is reading this thread? I have already contacted them regarding the W800. If you want it in the US, tell them! I really want one……

  42. Jeff Roberts says:

    Is it OK to love them all? I do, but having owned 3 CB900F’s, I love the CB1100 most. A really surprising bike is the ’09 and later Bonneville which is possibly the most fun bike I have ridden in a decade.
    Any of our opinions will no doubt be influenced by past loves.

  43. Grof says:

    Horex VR6 (Germany) will beat all of them together.

  44. jimbo says:

    Looks alone I’d pick the Royal Enfield. I’d purchase the CB1100, presuming it has the greatest overall performance and smoothest motor. Looks fantastic too, but then again, every one of em’s way above average and make the race replicas look like crap.

  45. PN says:

    It’s the Guzzi V7 Classic by a mile. Everything’s perfectly proportioned, it’s Italian, and what could be better? Next is Kawi W800. It looks like a jewel. The Duc GT 1000 is too long and the Honda CB1100 looks efficient but a little cold and clunky, the way a CB750 did compared to a Z1, and the engine looks too high. I’d like to like the Bonnie. It works better than the original, of course, but can’t hold a candle to it in looks, and I don’t care for its engine in black. The Scrambler is pretty good though. The Royal Enfield? Please. Not a serious motorcycle. Maybe when they relocate the O2 sensor.

  46. Travman says:

    You should post up the funky green V7 Cafe’ Classic and the Triumph Thruxton. Both of these are gorgeous. But perhaps they aren’t considered standards since they have lowered handle bars.

    Several have mentioned the Kawisaki ZRX1100/1200r. Great bike, but it really belongs in a class by itself. It’s styling is not from the same time period as the others.

  47. mstack says:

    I own an 02 Bonnie and it’s a fantastic bike. With the 19″ hoop and Staintunes it looks “right”. It works better than I imagined too. Sportster? A heavy slug compared to the Bonnie. I love the Ducati Sports and Paul Smarts but, like the Thruxton, my old bones don’t like it. The Kawi is cool but why buy something that looks like a Bonnie when you could buy the Bonnie? The new Norton looks great but I like Dreer’s original wasp tail with the monoshock over the twin shock rig. Off the showroom GREAT retro look goes to the Guzzi sport. It nailed it.

  48. Ross Livingston says:

    I love the look of the Guzzi v7 and would buy one if there was a guzzi dealer.
    I have a Kawasaki w650 and love it but I think the 800 should have front and rear disc brakes and FI would be a good enhancement.
    I would absolutly buy the Honda CB1100 but doubt honda will bring it to the states cause all us americans like is v-twin cruisers and sportbikes.
    How bout some lightweight 350-400 twins like the old honda cb/cl but with modern amenities?

  49. trent says:

    I love the look of the Kawi, but it’s not available in the U.S. and I’m not sure what kind of performance it offers. Of the bikes here, the Duc is light and powerful and a little bit retro, so that’s the one I’d get. The Bonnie is porky, but I could probably grow to love it.

  50. Mark Pearson says:

    I’m more of a late 70’s/early 80’s superbike guy than a café racer. My heart says ZRX but my current budget said ‘78 CB750F. When there’s a little more room in the budget (once/if my track day career is over) I’m going to have a hard time deciding between a ZRX or restoring the CB.

    Of the bikes listed above I believe the V7 best captures the spirit of the retro theme. Triumph deserves the success they’ve enjoyed with the Bonneville. The XR1200 should have made the list and is the bike I would buy if money were no object. If it were my money then I’d probably get the Honda.

    I’d like to think that the recent interest in café racers will bring more bikes like these to the States.