What is the greatest motorcycle of all time?

If there was ever a question that could polarise the motorcycle community opinion, then surely this has to be right up there with whether aliens exist!

The greatest label seems somewhat out of place when referring to the tangible because whilst there is measurable comparisons to be made, you cannot discount the personal perspective. A point of view that cannot be measured in 0-60, Nm, Hp…it is a subjective interest and one that relates to interpretation of aesthetics, function and form, suitability of purpose and any other of the million variables that are thrown into the mix to make a particular bike the greatest for a certain individual.

I have my personal favourites…be them classic Japanese performance bikes, modern sports replicas, cruisers, tourers, roadsters, dirt bikes, scooters…but I magnificently fail to name a single motorcycle that I would deem the greatest of all time.

Time? What does that mean anyway? Are we referring to our recorded time or our memory of time itself? How can you compare a motorcycle from 50yrs before you were born to a modern bike which you ride. Some of the older generation would look towards a 1920s Brough Superior or a 1930s Ariel Red Hunter? What about a 1980’s Suzuki GSX1100 Katana? The list is endless…to a point.

We all have our best riding experiences and motorcycles that we associate with good riding times. Those bikes that fit the bill, were reliable, fast, comfortable or just had great character. Someone’s Harley Davidson Shovelhead is another person’s Triumph Bonneville.

I have regularly internal battles to decide a top ten of motorcycles…and this list constantly changes. It includes bikes I have owned, some I have ridden and others I just know about.

One of the markers for me for any bike to be considered is that it needs to have had any kind of global impact in the motorcycle sense but also how that has moved people to employ two wheeled vehicles, assisted them in growing as human beings but also furnished a life long love of riding…and for that to happen the motorcycle itself should have sold in big numbers.

The Honda Cub in the various engine sizes over the years fits that bill perfectly. Yes for sure it is not the ‘GREATEST’ in terms of performance, looks, sound etc but it ticks so many other boxes that it would be rude not to include it also.

Perhaps motorcycles that were simply ground breaking at the time and changed mindsets. Like the 70s Honda CBs or the Suzuki GTs then GSs or even the Kawasaki Zs? We could go further back to 50s & 60s Norton and Triumph. Perhaps the motorcycle as a whole is not the key aspect but rather a component…like the featherbed frame by the McCandless Bros of the time?

If you’re looking at European brands then what about the R or K series motorcycles from BMW…or latterly the GS which took over the adventure riding world.

In the USA, perhaps the Harley Davidson EVO engine is the most important aspect as could be considered the greatest or spurned the greatest motorcycles?

There are so many to choose from but fundamentally the greatest is a personal choice and the top 10 is for your own thoughts too. The best of the best could likely be thought of as the motorcycle that delivered the best riding experience…in whatever shape, size or depth. Your choice will most likely be a lot different to mine. Perhaps by some random chance our thought may align in common ground but our experiences may tell a different version of the truth.

For me…my greatest motorcycle of today is the Honda Cub…but tomorrow it could very well be a Kawasaki z900 and next week could be my beloved Harley Davidson Sport Glide.

What’s your greatest?

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