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The worlds worst handling motorcycles.

Updated on July 16, 2011

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!

Harley Davidson
Harley Davidson | Source

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 MSS.

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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    • earnestshub profile image

      earnestshub 7 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      Glad to have your comment as always Hello, hello. I have a much longer list in mind for this hub, which should have included the 500 Matchless twin. I may add it.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 7 years ago from London, UK

      I am not argue with you because I haven't got a clue. You are the expert and enjoyed reading a well written hub.

    • earnestshub profile image

      earnestshub 7 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      Thank you irepgermany.

    • irepgermany profile image

      irepgermany 7 years ago from Nuremberg

      fun reading, just stumbled upon.. keep on sharin :)

    • earnestshub profile image

      earnestshub 7 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      HM, you have listed some nice machinery there. These European makes all made spectacular bikes.

      I recall that in 1979 I was preparing a TT500 Yamaha for a desert race. Our problem was how to pass the Husky which had been geared for 110 mph for the race, and had the longest suspension travel of anything entered.

    • earnestshub profile image

      earnestshub 7 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      An EH? A block of flats or the QE2 handle better than an EH! I could add the Heinkel motor scooter!

    • jobister profile image

      jobister 7 years ago from Anaheim, California

      Well I will definitely keep this list in my mind when I go get my first motorcycle. Thanks!

    • hardlymoving profile image

      hardlymoving 7 years ago from Memphis, TN

      Also in the late 60's leading to the early 70's when the Europeans were dominating Motor Cross, Trials and Flat Track racing, people avoided Japanese built dirt bikes because of their poor weight and handling characteristics. By the mid 70's, factory sponsored racing teams like Suzuki, Honda and Kawasaki took what that learned from the track and applied it to their bikes. Now bikes like Bultaco, Husqvarna, Maico and Jawa CZ are all part of nostalgia having been overwhelmed by Japanese bikes.

    • profile image

      diogenes 7 years ago

      You should have bought an E Haitch, mate!

      Just kidding. Interesting article, I expected more of the early Brit bikes, such as the Triumph Dom., and the Douglas with the horizontal opposed cylinders...Bob

    • katrinasui profile image

      katrinasui 7 years ago

      A nice hub about worst handling motorcycles. i love the topic:).