Top 100 Ugliest Motorcycles - 10 Golden Age Bikes

1) Suzuki RE-5 - I will definitely agree that the Wankel engine in this Suzie was way ahead of its time and it's a technology that should have gone on to constitute a large percentage of the internal combustion engines installed today. Having said that, it is hard to imagine how Suzuki could have wrapped all that innovative engineering into a styling package more hideous than the RE-5. No, that's not a coffee thermos strapped to the top of the headlight, it's an instrument cluster. And no, that's not a rubber coaster at the leading edge of the sidecover, it's part of the most hodgepodged engine ever to come out of Japan. It's a rotary. It's round. We get it, Suzuki. Too bad you had to hit riders over the head with the visual allegory and ended up creating one of the ugliest motorcycles of all time!

2) Suzuki Katana - A one-two punch for Suzuki in the Golden Age Ugly Contest, as the Katana crammed a stereotypical Universal Japanese Motorcycle (UJM) powerplant into a strangely (for the age) girdered frame, bizarre two-tone saddle, equally strange front fender, randomly slotted side cover thingy that ended short of the actual side, and a mini fairing shroud jumble that featured a repulsive rectangular headlight playing hide and seek from within the swoop, like the headlights from a Triumph TR-7 but, if possible, even uglier. The Suzuki stylists should have used a Katana for seppuku.

3) Yamaha Vision - I am old enough that I was at the motorcycle show when Yamaha premiered their first V-twin, the Vision. They were massively excited about it, but it seemed that the public was either completely confused, or completely put off by this weird uglibike. Everything about this bike was misshapen, from the rectangular headlight, to the absurd crescent bottom of the fuel tank, to the straight line between rear cylinder head and taillight. The Vision sank beneath the waves never to be seen again, although the engine ended up powering the mid-range Viragos for more than two decades.

4) Honda CX Turbo - When the infamous air compressor transverse V-twin got mated with a turbocharger, Honda decided to celebrate by sticking knitting needles in the eyes of riders everywhere. From the front of its weirdly gold anodized ickywheels to the back of its misshapen tailpiece, the CX Turbo is beyond ghastly. It might have worked a bit better if they hadn't decided to use as many colors of paint and extend the rear edge of the fairing cowling to cover that gross flathead engine head, but there is no excuse for that saddle wraparound on the tank which itself slopes up in a hunchback pose. And could someone explain to me why it was necessary to write Turbo on the sidecover and repeat TURBO on the muffler? It's a TURBOOOOOOOOOOOoooooooooo!

5) Norton Rotary - Another Wankel "rounds" out the Top 5, but where the styling of the Suzuki RE-5 played on the circular, Norton chose to emulate the perfectly forgettable Aermacchi Harley Davidson Sprint models with their bulky and unwieldly horizontal single cylinder engines. Although the innards of the Norton Rotary were quite different from reciprocating pistons, the outside was eminently repulsive (perhaps even more so than the A-H-D Sprints), and fortunately for history precious few of these motorcycles were ever sold.

6) Kawasaki KZ 1300 - Did the Kawasaki stylists do anything right on this bike? Er... no. Let's start with the magnificent 1.3 litre transverse six cylinder. While Honda showed the world how to drop jaws with their superlative CBX six and its waterfall cascade of headers, Kawi smushed the whole front of the engine together, covered it with a huge radiator, and stripped the finning from the cylinder walls so that it looked like a single billet of gray ship metal. Although the Kawi Six wasn't the only bike of the age with hideous rectangular instruments and headlight, it does win the Golden Age prize for the single ugliest, flabbiest tank which must have been modeled after the view of a 500 lb. rider from the rear.

7) Suzuki GT 750 - Now I know why they called it the Water Buffalo, it wasn't because it was liquid cooled, but because it's uglier than a muddy Yak! First of all, Suzuki, lipstick pink is not a motorcycle color, and whoever told you that black tips on mufflers was cool deserves to be booted out the nearest skyscraper window. Besides, if the pinstriping wasn't bad enough, and the finless lumpy cylinders didn't finish you off, you can gaze lovingly at the sidecovers with their multiple slotted compound curves until you decide to put your foot through your computer screen.

8) Honda CB 400 F - I got a lot of heat for including this bike on the original Top 10 Ugliest List, but it hasn't changed my mind on it. Coming hard on the heels of the CB 350 F which is arguably the most beautiful design that Honda ever produced next to the CBX Six, this bike is a complete mess. The first thing that hits you between the eyes is that "I just slid along a siderail" four into one header. When you add the tank that looks like it just came off a CB 200 (minus the vinyl center strip) and a slabby saddle which is riveted into place, you see why this is a violation of the beauty, spirit and essence of the magnificent CB 350 F!

9) Benelli Tornado - During the Golden Age, Benelli truly embraced the "Don't Innovate, Duplicate" philosophy and cranked out a large number of xeroxes of Japanese motorcycles. The Benelli Sei, although not as staggering as the CBX Six, certainly is memorable for its three soaring stacked mufflers per side, a touch the CBX should have originated. But most of Benelli's clones suffered in comparison with the originals as does the Tornado next to the Yamaha XS 650 it ripped off, right down to the paint colors. Too bad that the tank scheme fails in every respect, the side covers are way too big and formless, and those pail-like cylinders look like they belong on a bike in the Forties. To see the extent of the rip, put a photo of the XS 650 next to this and see how many features are precise duplicates! I'm surprised they didn't get sued!

10) BSA Starfire - The BSA Rocket 3 has secured its rightful place in the Top 10 Ugliest List, but we couldn't forget Beezer's little single scrambler, the Starfire, could we? Scrambler styling can work! Look at the Triumph or even Sportster (concept) versions! But this pumpkin orange mini-thumper with its refrigerator grille cover on a spindly uncircumcised pipe, its bizarrely misshapen tank, and side covers that look like they were scooped out of a vat of fiberglass with a cupped hand, is nothing more than an embarrassment to the marque!

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Comments 35 comments

earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 7 years ago from Melbourne Australia

What's happenining? I cannot disagree with any of these either!


Hal Licino profile image

Hal Licino 7 years ago from Toronto Author

earnestshub, what's happening is that you are developing the same fine sense of discerning aesthetic perfection as your humble servant! :)


earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 7 years ago from Melbourne Australia

That shook my beer gut!


Hal Licino profile image

Hal Licino 7 years ago from Toronto Author

Hey, wanna have a beer gut contest? Mine must be jelly 'cuz jam don't shake like that! :)


ryan 7 years ago

have you any taste? only about half of these are actually ugly


Hal Licino profile image

Hal Licino 7 years ago from Toronto Author

I have great taste. I can tell the difference between white and black truffles with a blindfold on. As for my taste in motorcycling, these lists have nothing to do with taste. It has to do with eyesight and sanity, something that the detractors of these lists obviously have very little of. :)


Axel 7 years ago

You completely disappoint me, you can't put the RE-5 as the ugliest bike of them all, there are far worse. I can see the flaws, the not so pretty taillight and instrument cluster. But take a look at the whole bike instead, don't get stuck on part's and pieces, look at it's utter elegance. I'm also quite astonished over the fact that you managed to put in the GT750 in there, I agree that the water buffalo wasn't that pretty compared to the later models.The golden year for Suzuki was 76 if you where to ask me, The not so pretty parts of the RE-5 was replaced by classic parts, such as the taillight and instrument cluster, And as for the GT750 it looked at it's best the year of the 76.

http://www.suzukicycles.org/photos/suzuki-history/...

http://www.suzukicycles.org/photos/RE5/RE5/1976_RE...

Having said that, I don't think you should bash an entire motorcycle series as you've done here.I recently acquired a Suzuki GT125 from 76 and again if you where to ask me it's one of the most elegant bikes Suzuki ever produced, I imagine that if I ever where to get my hands on a RE-5 I'd add it to my collection of Suzuki bikes, (Small as it might be) accompanied with my GT125 and K50


Hal Licino profile image

Hal Licino 7 years ago from Toronto Author

Look at the whole bike? What whole bike? The RE-5's engine looks like it belongs in the lower decks of a crab boat as a bilge pump! If you take out the horrific cylindricalized styling features what's left? The wheels? Even on the 76 that profoundly idiotic sidecover ruins everything. Now don't get me wrong, I'd love to have both Suzy and Norton Wankels in my collection from a technological and historical standpoint, but I might have to put a burlap tarp over them to keep my eyes from burning out. You might be surprised to learn this, but I think that the 76 GT125 is extremely attractive, especially the silver one and the royal blue one with the big white stripe!


Axel 7 years ago

Nice to hear that you appreciate the GT125, mine is royal blue and hopefully about to run soon.But don't you see the resemblance the RE-5 is a beautiful and classic touring style bike,

as for the side cover and the cylindrical air filter, it's not that bad, I believe that Suzuki managed to make it quite good looking and I have a hard time imagining any other form of air filter fitting in due to the oddly shaped engine that the Wankel engine is. Now just because I said it's oddly shaped that doesn't mean that it isn't attractive. As a matter of fact I believe that the Wankel engine is appealing in every aspect, sound, power, comfortable vibrations and looks, And I'm sorry to see that so few manufactures take use of this brilliant technology.


Hal Licino profile image

Hal Licino 7 years ago from Toronto Author

I believe that the Wankel engine (in the RE-5) is appealing in every aspect, sound, power, comfortable vibrations but unfortunately not looks. Although there has never been a nicely styled Wankel motorcycle engine, the basic structures lend themselves to a strikingly beautiful sculptured motor, but that just never happened. It's highly unlikely that motorcycle rotaries will ever make a comeback. Emissions and fuel consumption problems with those engines are effectively irresolvable on two wheels (unlike in the Mazdas).


Axel 7 years ago

But the rotary engine has a higher degree of efficiency than a usual four stroke engine.

Anyways I'd like to see if you can find a flaw in any of these two Honda CB models

http://213.132.112.100/images/92/9264898498.jpg

Raw uncut power accompanied with the classic touring elegance equals: "From my perspective" a compact fast sporty looking touring bike that you can ride both ways.

http://213.132.112.100/images/99/9964533290.jpg

This is just a beautiful machine not much to say about: It's not to big nor to small it's also a quite compact machine but not as compact as the 750 above, but 450cc is enough it gives you the ability to ride comfortably while still being able to squirt the carburetors and here the engine roar or purr might be a better word.

As you might be able to imagine seeing how I like the touring styled bikes I'd like to own an early CB model from the early or later 70's


Hal Licino profile image

Hal Licino 7 years ago from Toronto Author

The original CB750 is, of course, the seminal motorcycle for Universal Japanese Motorcycles and thus deserves genuflection, but it had a few aesthetic flaws which were thankfully addressed in models just a couple of years later. The oil tank filler cap has always looked out of place poking out of an oversized plastic sidecover and it really got in the way of a larger rider's butt or any passenger's leg. I also never appreciated the multi-segmented heat shield on the upper muffler as it destroyed the flow of the lines, and detracted from the WOW appeal (in the late sixties) of THAT THING HAS FOUR PIPES. On this particular bike, the paint color is atrocious, and leaving off the stripe makes the tank look even more bulbous and jerry-can-ish than it already is. I was much happier when Honda restyled the bike and removed all of these offensive aesthetic elements.

The CB450 is a classic and one that I absolutely adore. I would have an even higher appreciation for it were it not for the fact that the later Yammy XS650 (first two years of production) created what has to be the ultimate vertical twin, out-Bonnevilling the Bonneville. My favorite of this line has to be the 1975 CB500 Twin where they went the classy British pinstripe direction with the styling to create a model that simply has to be on anyone's 10 all time most beautiful Honda motorcycle lists.


Axel 7 years ago

Agree with me on this, the katana is way uglier


Hal Licino profile image

Hal Licino 7 years ago from Toronto Author

ALL the Katanas, regardless of year, are uglier than the CB750 Four, even the K0 model that I'm not that much of a fan of! :)

However, I may have misread your comment and if you're referring to the RE-5 being better looking, I have to hold my ground.


Axel 7 years ago

I was referring to the RE-5 being better looking. And are you serious the katana is horrific


Axel 7 years ago

Oh and what's your opinion on Café Racers.Especially Honda CB Café Racers


Hal Licino profile image

Hal Licino 7 years ago from Toronto Author

Yes, Katana = Puke. It's close, but I'll still take it over the first generation RE-5. Maybe in the second generation the pendulum swings back to the Katana for masterful ugliness! :)

CB Cafe Racers... well there weren't many of those in the era we're discussing, so do you mean today's Fireblade types?


Axel 7 years ago

More like Custom Rebuilt CB's from the 70's

http://www.cb750cafe.com/photo.php?photo=upload/photos/1283_0.jpg&folder=photos


Hal Licino profile image

Hal Licino 7 years ago from Toronto Author

That is one absolutely awesome sweet bike! One of the nicest K0s I've ever seen. The Vincent type logo and tank are just spectacular. I love the entire paint job, the custom-stitched saddle looks incredible, and I even love the tail light. I'd be worried about running the carbs without even as much as a mesh screen on them though... suck up a bug in there and kiss your motor goodbye! :( For my own personal taste, I'd have those clipons a little higher (I'm too old to ride like I'm caught halfway through a pushup) and change the rim color to match that lovely gold anodization on the centerstand and then rock and roll! :)


bsa 650 7 years ago

still thinkin your an idiot


Hal Licino profile image

Hal Licino 7 years ago from Toronto Author

And I'm still thinkin' you don't have enough brain cells to think! :)


Jim 7 years ago

Oh my god, who are you ? thats your best ugly top ten !! and you put the kat and the CB400 + Z1000 what ! all these bike now command big bucks, didn't mumy give you enough attention ? good lord your tast is in your mouth.


Hal Licino profile image

Hal Licino 7 years ago from Toronto Author

Wow... what an erudite response! Would you like to discuss medieval English literature next? :)


clawbrant 6 years ago

Alright, lets get this straight. the Benelli Tornado is NOT a clone of an XS1. It is a clone of the British 650s of the time, the same bikes the XS1 cloned. However, the Benelli Had a better motor than any of these bikes and plus better handling than the Yamaha.


Hal Licino profile image

Hal Licino 6 years ago from Toronto Author

Benelli had a better motor? It had the reliability of a grenade with the pin pulled. What are you talking about, dude?


Dave W 6 years ago

I have actually owned all of those bikes bar the Norton Rotary. You forgot to mention the "OBRUT" Honda put in 3" high dayglo paint on the front of the CX650 Turbo fairing. Yep, shows up nice in the rear mirror of the car you're tailgating.


Kinda Agree 6 years ago

The vision and virago are not the same (virago = air cooled)


Hal Licino profile image

Hal Licino 6 years ago from Toronto Author

Dave W... you're the collector of my dreams. Are you actually Jay Leno? FYI, I backed you, not Conan! And ya, the OBRUT is pretty funny!

Kinda Agree: Absolutely correct, but the innards of the motor ended up in the Virago.


Clawbrant 6 years ago

What gave you the idea that the Benelli motor was unreliable? It may not have been Japanese reliable, but it was close; it was far better than the other Italian or British bikes of the time. More to the point, what is your complaint with the Benelli's styling? All you have said is that it looks like one of your favorite bikes. In fact isn't that what you like, foreign companies copying other companies designs? That seems to be your opinion of metric cruisers.


ron521 6 years ago

I have to second the question regarding the Benelli comments. You've posted a photo of the Benelli...have you ever SEEN a Yamaha 650?

The Yamaha 650 was intended to resemble a Triumph Bonneville. The Benelli looked nothing like either of those, all it had in common was two wheels, two cylinders, and 650cc.

EVERY design feature of the Benelli was done in a different manner from the Yamaha, from the oversquare pushrod engine with INCLINED cylinders, the belt-driven generator, the angle and placement of the kickstarter, the shape of the fuel tank and side covers...it was considered at the time to be a very modern, handsome, contemporary motorcycle, instead of a throwback to the 1940's.

If people didn't buy them in large numbers, it was more because of Benelli's sparse dealer network and lack of confidence in Italian electrical components, not because they weren't considered attractive.

I'll agree with you on some of the others, especially the BSA 250...I had one, and people AT THE TIME said it was the ugliest thing they had ever seen.


Flooze101 5 years ago

Thanks for the great hub - still love my Katana, though!


ben 4 years ago

fk u all bikes a sacred


Ok wtf 4 years ago

Cb350 f is a fucking kid. Only good for a cafe racer. Maybe with a more flowing special exhaust. Witch the 400f has stock. 350 with its fucking ugly shit with the two split muffler. Come on? That's gay. The seat on 400f is cool and more punk. I like the road style detailed, if of course one has a taste at all. The backlight o. All Hondas can be trashed tough. Cbx six???? That just makes this blogging your taste more pathetic man. A good bike has simple detailed, class elegantness history to it. The cafe racers and choppers is bare essential are awe. And you have put a 400f on this list, if you don't want to look like a ass. Remove it. It's a awesome source for the coolest cafes http://www.google.it/search?q=cb400f+cafe+racer&oe... I know a lot more ppl with dirty hands with style working on this bikes than one silly personal twisted taste, the arrow exhaust for triumph 2 to one is even inspired by this jap elegant ace poker win. The cb400f many would opposite actuly have as the best jap bike ever man. Since its history and feel. The bigger ones got fluffy, and the smaller was like mosquitos! Know mc history before you keep this judgement. Anyway you are not the f judge. Ppl on the street are. And taste is culture.history. Details that has been restored or not. Like it's a reason why modern superbike japs bikes die out and classic historical moments last. Bell and some new Harley is American crap. Choppers and sportster is awe and cool. Norton triumph and Honda rules 60 70s cb400f being the only reasonable mc of Honda ever. Today just guess the future... Guess your taste will not be in it. 10pst to one thing only, coining all this big warrior bikes a mess, because they are and was. ,money in the toilet. Bigg bike small dick. But300 come on then by a scooter. Re real


CBX six is the ugliest motorcycle 4 years ago

why? 24 valves! like having a fat fucking bacon hanging from its chest. anyways triumph bonneville beats all motorcycles designed all time, even the new design of the future. Triumph modern classics! The moto guzzi v7 and some hondas, like the one on your list.. lol.and the 700. harley sportster is an all timer. CBX six is the ultimate worst golden age"" mc. ive seen it some times and only wankers driving them.


MC1500000miles 4 years ago

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder! I agree on about half of this blog and vehemently disagree on the other half.

Of course like the choice to ride a motorcycle you have to throw out reason when discussing the beauty of anything. Beauty is a subjective value. Then, are you talking beauty of styling (I think this is what Hal is talking here), beauty of design, beauty of execution, beauty of performance & handling?

One has to call into question Hal's judgement when he states the Vision engine is the same as the Virago engine, two completely different beasts as noted before.

I would also bet that 99.9% of people would vote the 400F better looking than the 350F. The CB400F is a highly sought after classic where as the 350F is an also ran. Of course I am biased as I put just over 150K on a CB 400F and loved it to death. I wish I could have a modern version of this bike, along with the original. When running with the first gen of the Honda V45 Interceptor, they never had to wait for me, and if I was in front on a twisty road, would never get a chance to get by me. That was a beauty of a bike. I got questions and complements everywhere I went. The CB350F on the other hand was an abomination, slower and less reliable than the 350 twin. Of course the 400F had it's roots there, so it was a necessary evil.

Bottom line, if you are on two wheels you are doing great. If you are on two wheels I can talk to you all day long. It doesn't matter if you are on a $20K Harley, a $20K exotic Euro bike, a Bergman, a scooter or anything in between.

Keep the shiny side up and have fun. You are unique!

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