What are the best retro-style motorcycles you can buy?
With classic vehicles losing none of their appeal as time goes by, retro motorcycles have become increasingly popular, with bikers seeking a combination of old-school cool and modern features.
In this article, we’ll cover the best retro-style motorbikes available today, capturing the spirit of the past without compromising on contemporary technology.
The Best Retro-Style Motorcycles You Can Buy
Build quality, reliability, and classic vintage aesthetics are all factors we’ve considered when compiling this guide to the leading retro bikes available to buy.
Here’s our list of the 15 best retro-style motorcycles you can buy:
15. Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Revival
The Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Revival is the first bike in the iconic Milwaukee-based brand’s new Icons Collection, modeled on their vintage motorcycle from 1965.
It’s an authentic replica, sporting the same oversized fenders, white wall-tired wire-spoke wheels, and chrome-accented triton livery.
The solo saddle is slightly higher than the Standard model, giving riders the feeling they’re sat up in the clouds and transforming the riding experience from the traditional low-slung configuration.
This makes it ideal for taller riders, while the addition of its own shock absorber reduces fatigue and makes it a great ride over longer distances.
Costing $29,199 when it was first launched, the Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Revival is on the pricier end of the retro motorcycle spectrum but still a cheaper way to get around than the most expensive airlines.
14. Indian Chief
The Indian Chief retro bike is a cruiser motorbike built around a Thunderstroke 111 engine, modeled on the bike of the same name first released way back in 1921.
This latest iteration keeps the aesthetics but delivers an array of innovative technology features, including cruise control, keyless ignition, and three unique ride modes, bringing it into the 21st century.
The V-Twin engine delivers 108 foot-pounds of torque, with an updated TFT display informing the rider of their current speed, turn-by-turn navigation, and other helpful information.
It’s also constructed from an aluminum frame, inherited from the 2008 Vision bike, making it lighter and more durable than its century-old inspiration.
This weight reduction inhibits the Indian Chief’s suspension performance slightly, but this is compensated for with progressive springs to help smooth out the riding experience on rough roads.
13. Kawasaki W800
The smooth curves, exposed engine, and elongated seat of the Kawasaki W800 demonstrate the core appeal of retro bikes, where comfort and engineering meet the classic look.
Based on Kawasaki’s W models produced in the 1960s, the W800 retains the wire-spoke wheels and air-cooled engine, along with the low-slung peashooter exhausts.
With plenty of torque to play with, it’s the kind of bike you can unleash in city centers to dodge rush hour traffic, as much as it is suited to wind country lanes.
Build quality is top-notch, delivering an overall reliable and robust ride along with its retro detailing and comfortable seat height.
It’s also reasonably priced, and the Kawasaki W800 will set you back slightly under $10,000 as of early 2022, the equivalent of a few boxes of the world’s most expensive cigars.
12. Suzuki Katana
Suzuki first released its Katana bike model during the 1980s, making it a comparatively recent influence for today’s much-admired retro motorcycles.
It’s easy to see why the renowned Japanese company wanted to bring this back; the Suzuki Katana is a gorgeous, sporty-looking bike with unique bodywork offering a modern twist on the Hans Muth-designed 1982 GSXS1100 Katana.
Handling this retro bike is a pleasure, with quality steering and grip in all weather conditions and plenty of wind protection from the naked riding position.
Its 999cc long-stroke, inline four-cylinder motor gives more torque than its predecessor and comes encased in a lightweight cast aluminum chassis for extra kick throughout the full range of revs.
While the company has occasionally been left in the lurch when manufacturing its cars, the Suzuki Katana is one of their most popular bikes on the market.
11. Ducati Scrambler Icon
With a price tag just shy of $10,000, the Ducati Scrambler Icon offers bikers a cool café racer retro ride for less than the cost of the most expensive laptops available.
As its name implies, this is a retro bike designed for multiple terrains, making it an ideal choice for those who prefer to take their adventures off-road.
It’s one of Ducati’s most popular bikes, too, comprising over a quarter of their overall global sales, not least because it is small, light, and easy to ride.
The air-cooled engine is based on the 796 Monster unit first released in 1962, bringing in all-new injectors, exhaust, and airbox to compete with the best modern motorcycles in its range.
There’s no doubt the Ducati Scrambler Icon is a cool-looking motorcycle, effortlessly blending classic aesthetics with modern technology.
10. Yamaha XSR 900
Japanese company Yamaha has been around for decades, manufacturing everything from keyboards and amplifiers to tornado-proof upright pianos.
They’re no stranger to motorcycles, either, as the retro-inspired Yamaha XSR 900 ably demonstrates.
The XSR 900 is essentially a restyled MT-09, a versatile and fun bike for everyday use which performs well and boasts impressive specs for its reasonable price.
The mechanical grip gives the rider impressive feedback, and the overall engineering is characterized by high build standards and reliability, which exceeds most of its rivals.
With traction control and ABS included as standard, the Yamaha XSR 900 also adopts other features found on a modern bike, with LED lighting and a TFT display indicating speed, ride modes, and remaining fuel.
9. Norton Atlas
The Norton Atlas retro motorcycle bears more than a passing resemblance to some of the modern classics put out by Triumph or Ducati, although without the same levels of mass production.
Fortunately, this comparative scarcity hasn’t driven up the price of the Norton Atlas to the extremes found with the most expensive guitars, and you can pick one up for around $16,925 at the time of writing.
This is a scrambler-style retro bike featuring a 650cc parallel-twin engine, classic-inspired dual instrument panel, and a traditional round headlight.
More substantial handlebars, larger wheels, and higher-mounted mudguard set this apart from road bikes, and riders who want to get the most out of the Norton Atlas will be best served by taking it off-road.
It’s a stylish, sporty bike that manages to bring modern performance expectations while still retaining that 1960s-era visual appeal, which makes retro motorcycles so unique.
8. Triumph Speed Twin
As British motorcycle manufacturer Triumph looks to break into the electric motorbike market, the celebrated company still retains an eye on its illustrious past with the Triumph Speed Twin retro motorcycle.
Inspired by the Triumph Thruxton, the Speed Twin brings additional comfort to the table while improving a range of other factors, including stopping power, poise, and overall ride quality.
An affordable slice of retro riding, Triumph’s Speed Twin, upgrades its latter-day counterpart with the addition of ABS brakes, a Euro5 compliant exhaust system, and a 1200cc parallel twin-cylinder engine.
This engine is lighter than the Thruxton, capable of delivering 99bhp and packing a punch when the rider dials in the revs, with additional torque, delivered down the lower ranges.
Of course, Triumph has seen fit to include plenty of modern tech, so expect to get the usual selection of riding modes, traction control, ABS, and immobilizers for your money.
7. Royal Enfield Continental GT 650
Another retro motorcycle that takes on the look of a classic café racer is the Royal Enfield Continental GT650, an excellent value motorbike geared towards riders on a low budget.
Manufactured by the India-based company Royal Enfield, the Continental GT 650 takes its inspiration from the 1950s and ’60s Continental GT 250, featuring a humped café tail, knee-dented tank, and headlight cowl.
Despite its low price, it’s a retro motorcycle with considerable performance capabilities, its Air & Oil-Cooled 648cc Parallel-Twin engine capable of putting at 48bhp.
ABS-linked Brembo brakes are paired with a Harris Performance-developed frame, with gas-charged piggyback rear shocks for additional suspension.
You get an excellent riding position from the Royal Enfield Continental GT 650, and while it’s more suited for Sundays out on a winding country lane than it is over long distances if you need to put in some miles doing so won’t leave you sore.
Bear in mind that this retro bike is single-seat only, so if you’re planning on having someone along for the ride, you’ll have to consider one of the other retro motorcycles on the market.
6. Honda Monkey
The original Honda Monkey on which this retro motorcycle is based was released in 1964 under the more prosaic name, the Z50, hitting the streets of America a few years later and exploding in popularity.
The bike’s proportions have been increased for its latest iteration, replacing the original 50cc standard engine with an air-cooled 124.9cc single-cylinder engine with fully manual transmission.
It’s a compact retro bike with a distinguished old-school look, and while this is a small bike that taller riders might want to steer clear of, for everyone else, its agile and light handling makes it a great deal of fun to ride.
Indeed, its diminutive size makes it a perfect ride for city commutes, cutting through tight gaps in traffic and accelerating from changing traffic lights before the nearest cars have a chance to get off the mark.
Best of all, picking up a Honda Monkey will set you back less than one of the most expensive laptops; its $3,999 initial release price tag makes this one of the best budget retro motorcycles available.
5. BMW R18
German manufacturer BMW are world leaders in luxury cars; their pedigree is enhanced through collaborations with some of the leading artists in the world.
While they’re best known for cars, their motorbikes regularly turn heads, and the BMW R18 retro bike is no exception, taking its inspiration from Depression-era bikes of the 1930s.
The R18 was a long time in the making, finally unleashed in the spring of 2021 to enthusiastic responses from bike lovers worldwide, impressed with its1802cc boxer engine capable of 89bhp & 117ft-lbs.
Its overall performance is exemplary, with firm but comfortable suspension helping to ease those potholes, solid brakes, and an overall ride quality you’d expect from a brand with such a great reputation.
This fantastic piece of machinery doesn’t come cheap, but for your hard-earned cash, you’ll get a combination of top-level build quality and reliability, which is virtually unrivaled at this price point.
4. Moto Guzzi V9 Roamer
The only retro Moto Guzzi motorbike available for under $10,000 is the V9 Roamer, adopting a vibe straight out of the 1960s and 1970s merged with modern fuel injection and ABS.
Considerable work was put in to make this compatible with modern standards, including an all-new air-cooled, twin pushrod engine increased to 853cc and an additional auxiliary air system to comply with Euro4 compatibility.
It’s an approachable bike ideally suited to novice riders, with a sportier forward-canted riding position that delivers an all-round, more aggressive experience.
In addition to a good dose of old-school cool, the Moto Guzzi V9 Roamer is packed with smart riding features, including USB ports and smartphone connectivity.
With a recommended retail price of $9,990, the Moto Guzzi V9 Roamer is an iconic retro motorcycle that packs a punch thanks to its enlarged V-twin engine.
3. Triumph Bonneville T120
Returning once again to England and the home of Triumph motorbikes, this time for their classically-inspired Bonneville T120 retro motorcycle.
Triumph has effortlessly blended modernity with charm for the Bonneville T120, a luxurious bike to ride with all the classy styling you’d expect to see from this iconic manufacturer.
The 1200cc parallel-twin purrs open up on fast straights, and its rumbling engine is capable of handling any road conditions, assisted by Kayaba suspension and twin shocks featuring a five-way preload.
USB charging ports, LED lighting with daytime running lights, and a torque-assist clutch brings this retro bike up to date with modern safety standards and exceptional reliability.
If you’re interested in buying a Triumph Bonneville T120 for yourself, you won’t need to have Kanye West’s net worth on hand, as this beautiful machine can be picked up for just $12,050 as of early 2022.
2. BMW R Nine T
BMW’s R Nine T is one of the most eye-catching retro motorcycles you can buy, a gleaming mixture of chrome available with red or yellow detailing and extra-wide horizontally positioned cylinders.
With a low center of gravity, the R Nine T handles well at low speeds, but with its air/oil-cooled twin-cylinder 1170cc displacement boxer engine, you’ll really want to open up the throttle on long stretches.
It comes with a classic dual instrument panel, classic large round headlight, retro spoke wheels, and well-placed curves, which add to its vintage appeal.
Since this is BMW, it’s also stacked with features to make the riding experience as pleasant as possible, with heated grips, cruise control, and an all-new rear shock with travel-dependent damping delivering a bump-free ride.
New riders might find this bike a little on the daunting side, but the inclusion of Rain and Road modes alongside ABS and dynamic engine braking control makes this as accessible as it is sexy.
1. Kawasaki Z900RS
Kawasaki’s retro takes on the Z900 formula, the Z900RS, offers excellent detailing and build quality for just a fraction of the cost of some of the world’s most expensive motorbikes.
The classic Z900 has been souped up to sport a 948cc incline-four naked engine, coupled with vintage bodywork modeled around the appearance of Kawasaki’s Z1, which was also known as “The Widowmaker.”
As well as the retro tank, the Z900RS gains additional power thanks to its dual throttle valves, helping it achieve an impressive 111HP and maximum torque of 98.5Nm.
It’s a bike geared towards safety, too, with ABS as standard, Kawasaki’s bespoke traction control system to prevent the back wheel from spinning, and Assist and Slipper Clutch to deliver a light clutch lever.
Kawasaki has considered every aspect of the design. The attention to detail shows in the rear LED lights designed to glow like a 1970s light bulb, delivering a near-perfect retro bike for the discerning biker.
The best retro motorcycles bring together the perfect combination of vintage bike aesthetics and shapely designs, with the cutting-edge features and handling found in contemporary rides.
We’ve covered the 15 best retro bikes available today, from classic manufacturers Triumph to the leading Japanese brands Yamaha and Kawasaki.
As new retro models come onto the market, we’ll update this article to keep on top of the latest releases, so be sure to check back for the most up-to-date information.
Here’s a quick recap of the 15 best retro-style motorcycles:
- Kawasaki Z900RS
- BMW R Nine T
- Triumph Bonneville T120
- Moto Guzzi V9 Roamer
- BMW R18
- Honda Monkey
- Royal Enfield Continental GT 650
- Triumph Speed Twin
- Norton Atlas
- Yamaha XSR 900
- Ducati Scrambler Icon
- Suzuki Katana
- Kawasaki W800
- Indian Chief
- Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Revival