The worlds worst handling motorcycles.
Some truly beautiful motorcycles are gonna get a good workout in this short article, as these are bikes I have ridden and found wanting in the handling department. Many of these machine's handling problems make them unworthy of spending the time doing modifications. There are wonderful exceptions though, such as the Norton Commando.
Where do I begin? Early models are easy to criticise when it comes to handling anyway, as they had neither decent suspension or brakes to begin with.
Despite the aforementioned low opinion of early model motorcycle handling, some bikes still stood out like sore thumbs for being bloody dangerous, especially at speed!
WLA Harley Davidson 750 from 1942.
No rear suspension, none! it was in the seat instead! The result was that the rear end would bunny hop away from you at the slightest provocation, then, if you fell off it, the bloody ugly old thing was likely to spin around on it's footrest bolt and run over you! Awful!
BSA 125cc Bantam D1, or 2, or 3!
Forgot to fit brakes that actually work, and fitted suspension that was more like riding a spring cart than a motorcycle. Thank goodness they were so slow!
Norton Commando 750 with isometric suspension.
These felt great to ride, and handled great, and even had brakes! Hard to beat a company like Norton, having race breeding counts you know.
After a few weeks that all changed on the Commando as the frame/engine rubber mounts started to move, so did the bike. Sideways in corners!
Scared me spitless the first time I found out about it. Became common knowledge later, at least in the motorcycle industry, and Norton did away with the shims and replaced it with an adjustable system. Problem solved and back to the good handling Norton were renown for.
XS1 650 Yamaha.
The First XS650 Yamaha vertical twin was an awful handling bike, that not only gave your hands and arms a very uncomfortable tingle from a constant vibration at the handlebars when riding at the speed limit, (fixed on the later XS's with rubber isolation.)
They also refused to stand up properly when coming out of corners because of their "comfortable ride" geometry and swing arm length. Lousy rear and front suspension units threw the weight of the bike forward and back again halfway through corners too, which was very disconcerting!
Velocette have made some very nice motorcycles that handled really well, the MSS was not one of them.
As a large single designed to take Vellocete's brilliant racing pedigree to the average rider, the MSS should have been great. It wasn't. It was very heavy, and hard to bring out of a corner at speed because of it's tendency to run wide, and it's refusal to turn in. Just wrong!
I know all you racing fanatics are gonna think I made a mistake even mentioning Ducati and bad handling in the same sentence, but I can list several models that scared the hell outta me when they felt solid as a rock in a corner, only to convert to a tank-slapping pile on the way out!
One of their nicest bikes fits this category well.
The early GT750 leaps to mind. As well as the later model 900 Darma. Both had a tendency to fall in to a corner at an alarming rate when pushed hard, and then wobble like a dog's tail on the way out..
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