9 most iconic motorcycles in history

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Ducati Desmosedici RR

Ducati-Desmosedici-Gear-Patrol

If you’ve ever dreamed of being the next Nicky Hayden, the Ducati Desmosedici RR is the bike for you. Only 1,500 models of this street-legal version of Ducati’s 2006 MotoGP entrant were produced. The all-new 200 hp, 90-degree “double-L twin” V-4 engine would scream through its vertical exits in the rear tail all the way to its 10,500 rpm redline and 194 MPH top speed. Componentry was top notch all around with Ohlins, Brembo and Marchesini put to the task of keeping riders alive and justifying the $72,500 sticker price. The Desmosedici RR is often regarded as the ultimate Ducati experience, a mechanically and aesthetically faithful reproduction of a genuine MotoGP racer — it even came with sponsorship stickers, were you so inclined.

Buell RS1200

Buell-RS1200-Gear-Patrol

Buells were the brainchildren of Harley-Davidson engineer Erik Buell, all-American sportbikes that employed new and never-before-seen technologies and were powered by the parts-bins of Milwaukee’s Motor Company. The Buell RS1200 was a half-faired, short-wheel-based version of Buell’s first bike, the Battlewin. Now featuring Harley’s new 1200cc Sportster motor, the RS1200 cradled the power plant in its custom trellis frame, complete with rubber mounting. An underslung exhaust system (a staple of Buell bikes) and a hidden steering damper kept the center of gravity low and delivered less head movement than a dutiful dad at a Justin Bieber concert.

 

2007 Aprilia SXV

Aprilia-SXV450-Gear-Patrol

While the concept of a supermoto-type motorcycle has existed in the minds and garages of off-roaders forever, the Aprilia SXV is credited as the bike that brought it all home. Essentially a dirt-bike with street shoes, the SXV introduced the masses to the wonderfully sideways world of supermoto. It’s dirt-track racing on asphalt, and it’s beautiful: corners drifted with an inside heel clipping the apex rather than a knee, all while bars are twisted to full opposite lock. On the road, the powerful and light Aprilia is well-mannered and easy to ride, further fostering its following of enthusiasts and commuters alike.

 

Harley Davidson Sportster

Harley-Davidson-Sportster-Gear-Patrol

The Sportster is the best selling bike branded with the Bar and Shield and has been on the market since 1957. Originally intended for flat-track racing, the fast and nimble Sporty found favor with riders seeking speed over the comforts usually afforded by Milwaukee’s finest. Harley Davidson has smartly done very little with the Sportster recipe. Power has always come in the form of a 45-degree V-Twin which was, until 2004, rigidly mounted to deliver its signature responsive ride. With a factory-forged variant to suit almost every style (five different versions are currently available) and Harley’s typically limitless catalogue of bolt-ons, the success of the Sportster should keep thundering on.

 

BMW R1200GS

BMW-R1200GS-Gear-Patrol

The BMW R1200GS was designed to handle any terrain. Long travel suspension, wide, flat foot-pegs and an upright seating position mated to BMW’s punchy boxer twin combine to create the ultimate getaway tool — this is the swiss army knife of bikes. It’s also the Motorad division’s best seller. Ewan and Charlie may have helped move some extra metal, but BMW’s GS bikes have long been a favorite for riders of paths less traveled. This potential alone makes it a bucket-list bike for most of us around the office, and its take-no-prisoners looks don’t hurt either.

Kawasaki EX500 (Ninja)

Kawasaki-Ninja500-Gear-Patrol

Crotch-rocket looks and gutsy performance in an inexpensive, rider-friendly package: this is the Kawasaki EX500. An easy choice for new riders and veterans alike, the entry level Ninja even spawned its own racing class that still clips apexes today. The 498cc parallel-twin developed a broad and usable powerband to propel the bikini-faired Ninja into a market of its own. Comfortable ergonomics, a wide, flat seat and amazing fuel economy meant long days on the road were a relatively painless affair; it even had a six-speed transmission. Sadly, this little Ninja disappeared in 2009 — undoubtedly to avenge a master’s death.

Triumph Bonneville

Triumph-Bonneville-Gear-Patrol

Icons cannot be killed. Production of Triumph motorcycles has ceased three times and yet the Bonneville thrives. Whether it’s an early Triumph Engineering effort, a Norton Villiers Triton, a Devon Bonnie or a new model from Hinckley, the Bonneville oozes cool from every angle. Brando, Dean and, of course, McQueen have all swung legs over this plucky Brit, escalating a status originally earned at the track. Its parallel-twin engine has grown from 650cc to 865cc and carburetors have given way to injection, but its silhouette remains as constant as our desire to be seen riding one.

Suzuki Hayabusa

Suzuki-Hyabusa-Gear-Patrol

Translated, Hayabusa is Japanese for Peregrine Falcon — a bird of prey that tops 200 MPH just to snag a snack. Launched in 1999, the Suzuki Hayabusa did its namesake justice. Depending on whom you believe, the enormous dual-overhead cam, 1300cc inline-4 churned out upwards of 170 hp. That was enough to launch the 500-pound ‘Busa across the ¼ mile mark in single digits and demolish the old top speed record by 10 MPH (186 MPH). So fast and powerful was the Hayabusa that a “gentleman’s agreement” was coerced by the Western World to impede others from laying waste to future benchmarks and lives. Its aerodynamically sculpted bodywork didn’t win over everyone, but it certainly works for us.

 

Confederate R131 FighterR131-Fighter-Gear-Patrol

The designers at Confederate Motorcycles don’t mess around. Straddling the line between kinetic sculptures and mechanized, apocalyptic “horses”, their bikes are what Satan would ride if he had the balls. Case in point, the Confederate R131 Fighter. In-house milled Aircraft grade 6061 aluminum abounds, along with carbon fiber wheels and a carbon/ceramic/aluminum matrix compound for the brakes to hammer home that function dictates form. A huge 2.1-liter, thumping V-twin is used to push a mere 460 pounds in the Fighter, meaning it will undoubtedly pack a punch. With an extremely limited production run and pricing at just over $100k, we may want to start being nicer to the devil

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