Each biker has their own story for where their love story with motorcycles began. For some, it might be something passed down to them by a relative or friend. However, for most people, it was that one particular bike from back in the day or from a certain movie, commercial or print that lit the fuse for a lifetime of motorcycling. Let’s take a look at 10 such machines that can be considered as Holy Grail motorcycles in terms of significance, nostalgia or value.
Triumph Tigers have been the favorite companions for the stereotypical heartthrobs from Marlon Brando, Steve McQueen to Brad Pitt. The sweet twin cylinder, British charm and solid built went a long way in cementing its status as the ideal hipsters motorcycle. It was also a much leaner and trendier alternative to its butch Harley-Davidson counterparts. The greatest contribution to this cause must have come from James Dean who rode around Hollywood in his beloved customized Tiger 100 . It even landed the bike a part in his 2015 biographical drama, Life. A later model, a TR6 trophy was the motorcycle that performed the famous jump in the 1963 McQueen movie, The Great Escape.
The T100 eventually evolved into the modern Bonneville and a scrambler version of the same can be seen riding alongside Velociraptors in the 2015 movie, Jurassic World.
Harley Davidson Panhead
The name came about from the shape of its rocker covers, which resembled cooking pans. The Panhead engine was the replacement for the Knuckleheads and was cast out of Aluminum instead of cast iron to make it lighter. It was also done to aid in cooling the engine better to handle the higher horsepower output of the engine as compared to the old Knuckleheads.
It was the popular cruiser of its time and became pop culture royalty when it appeared as the "Captain America" chopper used by Peter Fonda and the "Billy Bike" ridden by Dennis Hopper 's character in the movie Easy Rider (1969).
The knucklehead was the predecessor to the Panhead. The knucklehead engine valve covers have contours resembling knuckles on a person's fist that give the knucklehead its name. As Harley-Davidson engines evolved , the distinctive shape of the rocker covers led Harley enthusiasts to recognise an engine simply by identifying the head, with names such as "Flathead", "Panhead", "Knucklehead" and "Shovelhead". It was the fastest production motorcycle at its time clocking a speed of over 106mph.
It was the last bike that the Harley-Davidson founders released together.
The CB350 came as part of the Japanese wave of motorcycles that dominated the world markets in the 60’s. It had an four-stroke OHC parallel twin cylinder engine, weighed next to nothing and went like stink. They had a then claimed top speed of 110mph. With its reliable engine and dual Keihin carburettors, it became one of Honda's best-selling models. They were the trusted choice for people in their 20’s who couldn’t afford an expensive bike.
A modified CB350 was the protagonist’s weapon of choice in the popular David Fincher movie : The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011).
This bike is the first image that comes to the mind of the enthusiast when they hear the name ‘Ducati’. This bike was designed by legendary Italian designer Massimo Tamburini and was “bite the back of your hand” beautiful. They stunned the world when they unveiled the bike in 1994 and that sense of awe is still fresh on the face of anyone who happens to clap their eyes on it. It had 916cc to play with, and that combined with a body and frame that weighed as much as your average salad, you had a bike that could literally destroy your face if you didn’t wear a helmet.
It debuted the single-sided swingarm and had underseat exhausts that trumpeted the glorious v-twin scream. These features have now become synonymous with Ducati.
There really can't be a holy grail list of motorcycles without including a motorrad. The Germans did things a bit differently and it showed in their motorcycles, with their shaft drive and legendary boxer engine layout. The engine was a piece of art on its own and the bike was light years ahead of its competitors when it came out. It was forever etched into motorcycling folklore by a certain Steve Jobs who used it as his daily driver. Talk about being too cool!
Brough Superior SS100
You know your motorcycles are good when they are dubbed the “Rolls-Royce” of motorcycles. And with good reason too as every bike was designed to meet specific customer requirements, with even the handlebars being individually shaped. It came from the factory with a guarantee of doing 100mph. All this meant that it cost more than the average annual income at the time of its production.
And when you have an exclusive list of clientele that included the likes of the Lawrence of Arabia, you know you are at the top of the food chain. The Lawrence owned a total of eight motorcycles, each with a name to it. He eventually died riding George VII leaving George VIII undelivered as it was still being built at the time of his death.
They are now among the most expensive bikes in auctions and are highly sought after by collectors.
Royal Enfield Bullet
Let’s not forget the working man’s champion, the evergreen Enfield Bullet. The Bullet was introduced in 1948 and was one of the fastest motorcycle you could buy at the time. It still remains in active mass production and is probably one of the slowest motorcycles you can buy now. It also does not boast anywhere near the charm, performance or value in fact of its other comrades on this list. But in terms of importance and the fanatic following it enjoys, not to mention the number of motorcyclists it inspired, it is as worthy as any of its fellow list mates.
The bulletproof British engineering and relatively easy maintenance along with its evergreen vintage looks has ensured that the bike has somehow withstood the test of time and still continues to be huge crowd favorite. The trademark legendary single cylinder thump synchronizes with ones heart as you ride into the sunset with your thoughts rather than a destination on your mind. The bike has also won the hearts of many through its many appearances in movies and adverts.
Vincent Black Shadow
The black shadow held the title of the fastest production motorcycle from its time of introduction in 1948 well into the 70’s. It did 125mph when doing an honest ‘ton’ or 100mph was considered an impossible feat for most bikes. It may not be as impressive in terms of performance and hardware as the Vincent Black Lightning, but it is a much more important model for the brand in terms of people recognizing them and their reputation.
One can only dream of wearing a black jacket and retro shades and just cruising on this machine on their favourite roads as their prices have now reached astronomical levels. This is one relatively unattainable motorcycle in this list of motorcycles. The well known collector of motorcycles and automobiles, Jay Leno, describes the Black Shadow as his favourite motorcycle of all time.
1939 Norton 500cc (La Poderosa II)
The big daddy of them all. The 1939 Norton is etched in every comrade’s and motorcyclists mind as Che’s unicorn, on which he travelled across the then poverty stricken North American continent. The name 'La Poderosa' stood for “The great one” in Latin and carried both Che and his friend Granado on the trip that came to be the basis for the biblical motorcycling literature, Motorcycle Diaries.
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