It’s certainly possible to ride a classic bike every day. In fact, some people go off-roading with them. But, as with other classic motor vehicles, that comes with a certain amount of required wrenching. And most people, understandably, don’t want to deal with that hassle, which is why restomods exist. Luckily, if you want classic motorcycle looks without the oil leaks or electrical gremlins, there are some bikes worth considering.
Triumph is arguably the brand that’s best captured the idea of selling old-school looks with modern reliability. It actually has an entire Modern Classics lineup based on the premise. The bikes include the Thruxton café racer and the Scrambler, which is genuinely capable of off-roading. But the poster child is the Triumph Bonneville.
The Triumph Bonneville is available in two trims, the T100 and T120. Both have water-cooled inline-twins, with the T100 using a 55-hp 900cc engine, and the T120 an 80-hp 1200cc engine. The T100 has a 5-speed, and the T120 a 6-speed. And despite their classic looks, both Triumph Bonnevilles have modern touches, like ABS, an LCD display, and fuel injection. The T120 also comes with standard heated grips (the T100’s are optional).
Cycle World’s Peter Egan, who’s owned classic Bonnevilles, gave the T120 a firm thumbs-up. And For the Ride reports the T100 can serve as a beginner bike, if you’re OK with the 472-lb dry weight. However, even the T100 can be pricey: it starts at $10,450; the T120 starts at $11,850.
Triumph Speed Twin and Street Twin
Triumph also offers other bikes with the Bonneville’s engines. Two of these are the Triumph Street Twin and Speed Twin. The former has the T100 engine and the latter the T120’s engine. Of the two, the Street Twin is the more affordable: it starts at $9,300. The $12,200 Triumph Speed Twin, though, is even more expensive than the T120.
Both, though, are lighter than the Bonneville. The Street Twin weighs just under 437 lbs dry, while the Speed Twin’s dry weight is 432 lbs. RideApart found both bikes to be extremely well-balanced, and their smaller size makes them great for shorter riders, especially female riders. The Twins also come with ABS and traction control, Revzilla reports.
Royal Enfield Interceptor 650 and Continental GT 650
If the Triumph Bonneville and Twins are too expensive or too large, Royal Enfield’s latest twin-cylinder bikes are an excellent alternative.
As Revzilla explains, Royal Enfield claims to be the oldest motorcycle company around, starting production first in Britain, then moving to India. For decades, the company focused on affordable single-cylinder bikes. And they still offer one, in the form of the Himalayan adventure bike. But, as Cycle World reports, Royal Enfield wanted to provide entry-level bikes that better fit the US market. Hence, the Interceptor 650 standard and Continental GT 650 café racer.
Both bikes use the same 650cc twin-cylinder engine, with 47 hp and 38 lb-ft. And although the engine looks like an air-cooled classic bike’s, it’s actually a brand-new air/oil-cooled unit, complete with fuel injection. Both the Interceptor 650 and Continental GT 650 also have Brembo brakes (albeit made by Brembo’s Indian subsidiary) with ABS. Instrumentation includes a speedometer, tachometer, and a digital display complete with fuel gauge.
The Interceptor starts at $5799, and the Continental GT 650 at $5999. Not only are they both cheaper than the Triumph Twins, but they’re also lighter, reports Cycle World. The Royal Enfield Continental GT 650 recently beat out the more-expensive Kawasaki W800 in a Cycle World comparison, with reviewers praising the Continental’s stability and engine performance.
Having ridden them back-to-back, I can confirm that the Royal Enfield twins are extremely smooth and stable, with excellent brakes. Both could be daily-riders and even good beginner bikes. The Continental GT feels lighter than the Interceptor, due to its handlebars and riding position. However, the standard Continental handlebars put more pressure on the wrist, although that should be fixable through the aftermarket.
Moto Guzzi V7 III
Although the Ducati Scrambler Sixty2 is cheaper, the Moto Guzzi V7 III better harkens back to classic Italian bike design. The V7 III is available in a variety of trims, but all but the limited editions sticker for under $10,000.
Each V7 III has a fuel-injected 744cc V-twin, putting out 52 hp and 44 lb-ft. Moto Guzzi modified the chassis in 2018, Gear Patrol reports, improving handling and lowering the seat. The V7 III also has ABS and adjustable traction control. All but the limited-edition Racer, Cycle World reports, get adjustable Kayaba shocks. Though, if you want a tachometer, you’ll need to get either the Special or Milano.
However, even without a tach, Cycle World reports the Moto Guzzi V7 III makes an excellent daily-rider. And, unlike every other bike here, the V7 III has shaft-drive, rather than chain-drive, which is easier to maintain. In addition, Moto Guzzi’s accessory catalog rivals Harley-Davidson’s, meaning you’ll be able to customize your bike to exactly your specifications.
Janus Motorcycles’ lineup
Janus’ bikes are arguably the closest thing to a modern classic bike you can buy today. All its bikes are powered by the same 229cc air-cooled carbureted single-cylinder, for one. And each Janus is built around a frame derived from a 50s British design. However, these design choices aren’t limitations.
Janus’ co-founders chose that engine for its simplicity and rugged design. It’s also 50-state-emissions compliant. The company even regularly produces YouTube videos detailing how to maintain and upgrade its bikes. And although the Halcyon, Phoenix, and Gryffon 250 only have a 70-mph top speed, the frame and small engine make these bikes extremely light and easy to maneuver.
At $6995 base price, Janus bikes aren’t necessarily cheap. But they are the cheapest hand-assembled American-made bikes available. Amish craftsmen hand-make the gas tank, frame, and seat, and most parts are made within 20 miles of Janus’ Goshen, Indiana shop.
Honda Monkey and Super Cub
The most-affordable classic-inspired bikes, though, come from Honda.
The $3599 Honda Super Cub 125 is the modern recreation of the original Super Cub, the best-selling motor vehicle ever. Like the original, the Super Cub 125 uses a centrifugal clutch, so those new to manuals will have an easier time acclimatizing. But the engine’s been upsized to a 125cc air-cooled fuel-injected single-cylinder, making 9 hp and 8 lb-ft.
The rest of the Super Cub was also modernized. Both the ignition and seat storage function via proximity key, Motorcyclist reports. And although the rear brake is a drum, the Honda Super Cub 125 does have ABS. Plus, at 240 lbs, the Super Cub is still lighter than even the Janus Halcyon 250.
If you’re after something a bit more scrambler-like, there’s the $3999 Honda Monkey, styled after a popular 60s mini-bike. It has the same 125cc engine, albeit with a traditional 4-speed manual.
At 236 lbs with ABS, the Monkey is also very light. In fact, I found it almost like a big mountain bike and preferred its seating position and weight distribution over the Super Cub’s. And although Revzilla reports the Monkey’s tires aren’t exactly high-performance tires, the bike can genuinely go off-road.
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