Going back in time is easy, you just need the right machine. Getting a retro motorcycle, whether used or merely designed to be a piece of the past, is a way to connect with the history of the hog. A flashy new Ninja or a sparkly Desmosedici might be fun, but they all blend together pretty quickly, whereas a café racer or a 1940 German job complete with sidecar is a reproduction worthy of drawing admiring glances.
When you’re ready to ride or die with style, then it’s time you snagged one of the 16 best retro motorcycles around. They’ll complement your vintage helmet, and prove who is Hell’s finest Angel.
Below is our list of the best 16 retro motorcycles for this year:
Cheap Date: Your basic budget low-rider complete with that fine Honda engineering. The land speed record is in no danger from the Rebel, but it’s still a fun little pony to whet your appetite for bigger and better things. A unique commuter bike, it turns heads and can become a beater when you upgrade.
Airborne: The KTM name might be new to you, and that’s great. They’re a relatively unknown racing bike brand who’s still making their bones with great bikes like the 390. Zippy and inexpensive, this is a racing street bike that can tackle a switchback or dig into serious traffic with buzzing vigor. So light it feels throwable with a 373cc that makes it move.
Getting There: Unlike brands that put retro style with contemporary technology, the SR400 didn’t need to improve very much when it was re-released onto the world. A classic kick-starter, you’ll find friendly, soft-tuned suspension and a gentle 400cc single cylinder engine that will get you from A to B with no jostle and style to spare.
Royal Enfield Continental GT
Real Looker: Does RE deserve your scorn? Absolutely. Does this bike have some cheap parts and rear shock reservoirs that are put in upside-down? Sure. Is it a truly unique retro café racer that no one else will have? You bet your boots. It makes this list on looks alone, and the fact it’s decent…for an Enfield. Price: ~$6,000
Backlash: The argument over whether or not this is considered “retro” in the motorcycle world rages even today. Both camps make their points, but ours is this: Holy hell this is a fun little bike. A real V-twin roadster with the heart of a vegan, the low emissions, enhanced fuel economy, and ramped up performance belie the middling size and fair sticker price. Green and still great, there’s simply no downside. Price: $7,499
Ducati Scrambler Sixty2
Real Scamp: Few brands avoid the retro motorcycle build more than Ducati, which is why this stripped-down version of their 803cc Scrambler is such a marvel. Crafted like a 1970’s dirtbike with a low-slung body made for hugging turns and keeping shorter riders on their game, there’s nothing to complain about in this little 399cc wunderkind. Price: $7,995
Ural Solo sT
Lone Wolf: Make a note, the Solo is the version without the sidecar, so if you really want to take a trip in the wayback machine, you should look up the Sahara. Though a little fickle, Urals bear a unique style that sets them apart from the pack. Emissions and performance have been upgraded, so these new models are almost as good as your average 80’s ride. Price: $7,999
Triumph Street Twin
Hungry Hunter: Triumph goes in the opposite direction of the Royal Enfield, in that it’s a liquid-cooled 900cc juggernaut that would be a great bike no matter how it looks. Throw in that sweet vintage styling and you’ve got yourself a winner in any category. A slipper-style clutch lets you come off the line like a panther, and it has a traction control system to counteract slipping. There’s even a damn USB port! Price: ~$8,700
Moto Guzzi V7 Stone II
Dark Horse: You can’t go wrong with a standard V7, but if you want a more comfortable riding position, a bitchin’ tank finish, and a look that really draws a crowd, the Stone II will get you noticed. Traction control adds a greater element of safety to the transversal, 750cc V-twin. ABS brakes let you stop on a dime, and since it’s as rare as a Russian athlete who isn’t on roids, it’ll get you noticed. Price: $8,990
Indian Scout Sixty
From the Ashes: When Polaris brought the Indian brand back into production, we knew our prayers had been answered. What we didn’t expect was that the answer would give us this much pleasure. A reboot worthy of your time, the Sixty cuts the engine to nearly a thousand cubic centimeters while chopping thousands off the price. It’s a ride for the middle-man who dreams big. Price: $8,999
Import Amazement: You won’t be able to find a W800 in the United States, and that’s reason enough to move. An air-cooled vertical engine gives the bike a limited amount of heft, which allows for more speed off the line. It’s a sport steed come to play, or a commuter with a sense of fun. Best of all: Customize to your heart’s content to land a feel and look you’ll love. Price: ~$9,224
Harley Davidson Forty-Eight
American Original: Sure, any Hog can go on this list and be welcomed with open arms, so we decided to go with one that isn’t overpriced and overloaded. The Forty-Eight has a big front end and the iconic tank sitting in front of one of the cushiest seats we’ve ever sat. Lightweight wheels with a V-Twin right in the middle hit all of Harley’s roots in a way that’s pitch perfect. Price: $11,199
BMW R nine T
Evasion Tactics: If you can find yourself a BMW R60/5, then it shall make all your vintage dreams come true. Since that’s a rare and expensive steed to track down, the R nine T should help ease your longing. A pumped up café runner with a big 1,170cc 4-stroke twin, you’ll need the whole 6-speed gearbox when you make your run. Price: $15,095
Norton Commando 961
Homecoming: Norton has undergone some serious missteps and mistakes in their storied, history. This isn’t one of them. Following in the footsteps that began with bike designer Kenny Dreer, the nostalgia of the 961 isn’t all you’re going to enjoy. It’s as gorgeous as any Norton you’ve ever seen with a silhouette that sparkles, and an engine that roars. Price: $16,995
Zero Engineering Type 5
Costly Kicker: The Gooseneck rigid frame gives the Type 5 a serious throwback appearance, but there’s nothing old-school about the performance. An S&S Evolution engine is coupled with a 5-speed Rivera Primo tranny capable of handling short street drags and long, hard rides equally well. Easy to modify for more HP, it’s pricey, but a true heirloom piece. Price: $24,180
Chop Shop: While not a production line vehicle, we’re not above giving some love to a well-designed piece of hardware just because. Part WWII motorcycle and part Alien, you might ride this piece from Yuri Shif to fight Nazis, or Ripley might need to save you from it.