Anyone who has ridden for at least ten years can probably tell you about the worst bike they have ever ridden. Maybe it was a fluke. Maybe it was just a bad bike all around. Whatever the case may be, as much as we at X-Motorcycle love motorbikes and everything on two (and sometimes three or four) wheels, it wouldn’t be honest of us to say that there haven’t been some poorly made bikes over the past fifty years or so.
And, with that in mind, we present to you the first in a long list of articles that will point out where some companies have got it right, and where others have just crashed and burned (sometimes literally) with their bike designs. Ladies and Gentlemen, and bikers of all ages, we now present to you the X-Motorcycle Magazine’s Top 10 Worst Motorcycles of All Time.
1.) 1971 Suzuki TM400 Cyclone – Imagine having an amazing amount of horsepower you could turn on instantly like a light switch. Now, imagine never quite knowing when that light switch is going to suddenly flick on and accelerate you forward to the point of making the Kessle Run in less than 12 parsecs. Also, you’re off-road and it’s 1971.
2.) KTM 690 Enduro – Looks like a motocross bike vomited an orange duck with a broken tail. While the bike is plenty capable of actually moving a person from point A to point B, unless you want to do it on a bike that looks like it’s wearing a plague doctor’s mask from the middle ages, you’ll skip over this and get something a little less awful looking.
3.) Buell Lightning XB9S (Last Generation) – With gimmicky, see-through parts and headlamps that looked more like the eyes from a science-fiction fail-droid, this bike also failed to find an audience, and helped end the Buell company all-together (outside of its EBR current iteration). I owned a Buell for a while, and I loved the concept of an “American sport bike that also sounded like a Harley,” but bikes like the XB9S hurt more than they helped with that image.
4.) Piaggio MP3 – It’s a trike! It’s a scooter! It’s something no one ever asked for! And it comes from your nightmares, apparently. I’ve already talked a little bit in a past article about how I don’t really like trikes (the one big exception being Can-Am), but this…thing is just begging to be picked on. Like an unpopular kid who wears My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic shirts, this just adds insult to injury.
5.) Suzuki RE5 – There’s only really been one successful rotary engine vehicle that’s ever made it into production, and that’s the amazing Mazda RX-7. The Wankel rotary engine is such a good idea on paper that it’s not surprising that someone tried to mold one specifically for a motorcycle. It’s also not that surprising that since you probably haven’t heard of a rotary engine on a bike before, the motorcycle in question must have been a colossal failure (Hint: It was). The Suzuki RE5 was scooped off the production line faster than it’s 0-60 time.
6.) Yamaha RD350 – While not necessarily a “bad bike” as far as its looks or equipment goes, this machine was so light in the front end for the amount of power it had going to the back wheel that it caused countless young men and women to pop their first wheelies — usually coming as a complete surprise to the rider and the RD350 itself, as the riders (and any unlucky passengers) would quickly be thrown off the eager bike and land ass-down on the pavement.
7.) Boss Hoss (Any) – Motorcycle engines continue to grow in displacement and power, but, generally speaking, the actual size of a motorcycle engine hasn’t really changed in the last 20 years. Motorcycles are meant to be lightweight, light sipping, gas-consuming vehicles that get you from around town or the country in style. So, when you take a GM-built V-8 and strap it to two fat tires wheels you get an abomination to the motorcycle world known as the Boss Hoss line of bikes. I’m sure some people will hate on this, as the bikes do have a small, yet devoted following, but I just can’t let “the Boss” slide on this one. These aren’t the muscle cars of the motorcycle world. They’re the freight trains with bad graffiti.
8.) Kawasaki 750 Triple 1V and H2 – They didn’t just nickname this bike ‘the widow maker’ for nothing. Even though it was the fastest production street bike when it was introduced in 1972, that speed came at the cost of having any kind of decent handling or cornering. As long as your road was long and straight you were fine…but throw in a curve or two and you might’ve found out just how far a bike (and yourself) can fly. Today the bike is considered a collectors item, but even the collectors know better than to take this bike around town if they can help it. There’s a reason drag racing happens on straight track, and this bike is part of that reason.
9.) Yamaha TX750 – Massive. Failures. That’s what was wrong with this bike in two words. Almost anything that could go wrong, did go wrong. Engine problems, shoddy frame construction, awful braking system. Yamaha seemingly pulled all the parts from a junkyard to try and make an inexpensive bike, but instead just ended up with a bigger, more elaborate piece of junk.
10.) Harley-Davidson 1981 Sportster – Bad handling. And make that really bad handling. Even though the ‘Sportster’ moniker has always been just as much a marketing fable as is the actual ability of the bike to be a Sportster the 1981 version of this bike had some of the worst low-speed maneuverability ever seen before or after on a Harley-Davidson bike. This made the Sportster dangerous to ride, even by those who simply had to have the entry-level Harley back in the early 80’s.
There it is. The top 10 WORST motorcycles ever made, according to us here at X-Motorcycle Magazine. What do you think? Strongly agree? Adamantly Disagree? Somewhere in the middle or don’t really care? Let us know in the comments below, and tell us what YOU think, and let us know what bikes you think we missed.
EDIT: Our graphics dept. had confused a Kawasaki Triple 750 for a 4 Stroke 750. The picture has been modified to reflect the change.