The classic motorbike is a timeless icon, something that is part of our culture but also outside it, fiercely in a class of its own.
Motorcycles match form with function, combining effortless grace with raw power. Adored by the rich and famous, these luxury bikes have taken a basic concept – two wheels driven by an engine – and refined it into the ultimate road machine.
Here we look at the top five luxury classic motorbikes of all time.
This classic German motorbike represents BMW’s turnaround in terms of successful motorcycle design. In fact, the company had come close to abandoning motorcycle production in the mid-1960s.
Fortunately, it hired a new designer, Hans-Günther von der Marwitz in 1964. For the 1970 season, he designed the Slash series of motorbikes, including the R60/5.
The focus of the R60/5’s design was weight reduction, using a light alloy throughout and a lighter flywheel for the bike’s single-plate clutch.
This machine was considerably lighter than its predecessor, the R60/2, and packed a lot more power, at 46hp, compared to the R60/2’s 32hp.
With a faster cruising speed and lively acceleration, the BMW R60/5 swiftly became a classic motorbike of the early 1970s.
It combines solid dependability and predictable handling with a simple but effective construction, and, most importantly, powerful performance.
Perhaps the name most associated with luxury classic motorbikes, Triumph came up with its design of the definitive British classic bike in 1958, the Triumph Bonneville T120.
The company named it after its landspeed record in 1956, and the Bonneville soon earned itself formidable reputation, living up to its tagline as: The Best Motorcycle in the World.
Originally in production between 1959 and 1975, the Triumph Bonneville T120 became the definitive motorbike of the 1960s.
It was originally aimed at the US market, designed to meet growing demands for higher performance motorcycles.
With 46hp and a top speed exceeding 100mph, the Triumph Bonneville delivered on expectations.
It won the 1962 Thruxton 500 mile endurance race and the Isle of Man TT race in both 1967 and 1969.
The T120 has proved such an enduring, iconic model that Triumph has refashioned it for the 21st century, reintroducing it as a modern classic in 2016 and bringing out specialist Triumph clothing and accessories to suit riders old and new.
With its twin-powered 1200cc engine, the new Triumph Bonneville evokes its classic predecessor while delivering on contemporary power and performance.
Royal Enfield Bullet
As far back as 1901, Royal Enfield designed its first motorcycle, but it was in 1932 that this British company launched its most lasting design, the Bullet.
The Royal Enfield Bullet was a pioneering motorbike design, including many features for the first time, which would go on to become standard.
These included a saddle-type fuel tank and centre-spring girder front forks.
Its look was to become iconic, with its sprung seat for the rider and inclined engine with an exposed valve gear.
It came in three versions: 250, 350 and 500cc.
The company continued to refine the Bullet with later models, including a 350cc post-war prototype, and eventually had models manufactured under licence in India from the 1950s onwards.
Royal Enfield continues to manufacture the Bullet today, making it the longest running motorcycle in history.
The Norton-Villiers company originally produced the Norton Commando between 1967 and 1977.
This was a UK-manufactured motorbike that proved to be popular on a global scale, with an engine design that was traditional rather than revolutionary.
The thing that was different about the Norton Commando was its frame. This was designed around a single, 57mm top tube. Behind this concept was the need to try and eliminate vibration problems. Rubber mountings isolated the engine and gearbox from this frame.
The Norton Commando had a top speed of 115mph, with 58bhp.
Norton released various models of this bike, starting with the Mk1 750cc.
The bike reached its apex in the 1975 850 Roadster, but as with other luxury classic models, it has had a contemporary rebirth to give it a fresh look.
Harley Davidson Road Glide Ultra
This is very much a contemporary classic touring motorcycle. It evokes a tradition of two-wheeled American road travel but brings it bang up to date with advanced technological know-how.
It has distinctive shark-nose bodywork that is both dynamic and protective, and is incredibly agile despite its considerable weight of 423kg.
The performance is in the pacing, designed for eating up the miles consistently, which is perfectly in keeping with its design as a tourer.
Its engine is a massively powerful 1868cc, with 86bhp of power.
Is the Road Glide Ultra an all time classic? It’s probably as close as a modern motorbike gets.