10 motorcycles that changed history

We have a bunch of new motorcycles every year, some of them are improvements of already existing machines while others, are made to fill gaps between bikes of the same fabricator or machines made to fight competitors’ bikes in the market.

However; only a few machines out there stand out of the crowd and create something never seen before, these are highly popular machines that re-define the market and the way motorcycles are in history.

It is not our aim to show you the best ten motorcycles or anything like that, the number of bikes which changed history is much bigger than ten, and you can consider these ones were chosen at random.

1 – BMW R75

The entire world was at war, and that brought some technological changes. BMW designed an indestructible machine for the Nazi Army able to deal with the muddy battle fields, snowy and icy roads and with an unprecedented speed.

This machine was so good  that the allies did their best to capture it and copied its amazing mechanics . The shaft drive proved much superior than a chain and some brands even copied the boxer engine as you can see from Russian Ural bikes.

The gunned sidecar allowed soldiers to shoot for defence or attack while they were on their duties, which basically consisted of sending post, carrying message doves, spying and who knows what else!

2 – Triumph Thunderbird

The British manufacturer has never really wanted to get rid of the Thunderbird name, and has used it a couple of times, including the current Thunderbird cruiser, but this article pays tribute to the original Thunderbird.

Marlon Brando immortalized this bike on the successful film ‘The Wild One’ in which a group of bikers terrorised an entire city riding their Triumphs.

The motorcycle came in production in 1949 and saw many different changes throughout its history, and let’s face it, once it held the title of the fastest motorcycle in bonneville salt flats, they changed its name for a Triumph Bonneville, which is essentially the same flagship for Triumph and for the motorcycle industry.

3 – BMW GS

Enduro bikes must face their toughest test at the Dakar rally, can you imagine a motorcycle winning it in its first year of existence? That’s the GS! This bike has created its own -and very trendy- niche and have made everyone else make their own version.

The evolution of the model has been immense as these two pictures show, but the spirit of it has remained unaltered.

Ewan McGregor contributed to the fame of this motorcycle with the successful Long Way Round and Long Way Down, in which together with Charlie Boorman made us dream of a motorcycle trip around the planet… my personal Jupiter Travel!

4 -Harley Davidson Road King

What’s touring? Getting lost with a your motorcycle, no rules, no boundaries, no time… that’s essence of the brand, and that was their first touring bike, a concept we still love today and it’s such a great looking bike too!

Baggers are trendy these days, and this one has proved everything. The bike comes from the knucklehead production in the 40’s, and this machine has proven its design is worth more than half of a century, and I think this model might reach a century old as it is getting more and more appealing to all kinds of riders.

5 – Honda CBR

Having undertaken several changes throughout its history and having been issued in so many different sizes, the CBRs are reliable, beautiful and fast, very fast. It’s a motorcycle for the intrepid who wants to imitate professional Superbike or GP riders with a street legal machine, but don’t get me wrong, it behaves incredibly well in the race tracks.

This bike had its biggest success in the 90’s in which a whole generation of new riders had their appeal for speed, its incredibly good manners, its affordable price and the welfare society allowed it to happen. I am still waiting to see the CBR shine as it did before with much more advanced machines as it seems the Kawasaki Ninjas or the Yamahas are winning the battle in our decade.

6 – Montesa Cota

And with this bike, the trial bike was born! It was first issued under the name of Montesa trial, but it is essentially the same concept which was a total revolution in the world.

Trial has always been a discipline in which Spanish riders have thrived, with the exception of Dougie Kampkin, of course. We’ve seen legends as Jordi Tarres or Toni Bou doing impossible things on these light bikes, defying the laws of physics. This bike was developed in Barcelona, and the asian giant Honda bought the factory just to produce this Montesa for modern competition.


7 – Norton Commando

Beauty on wheels, faithful to its heritage of being the fastest Café Racers of their time, when rockers fought mods and you had to be quick for a coffee in the next bar as the last rider to get there pays the bill of all the others.

The images of Triumphs Vs Nortons in England back in the sixties and seventies might have been incredible.

And we’re lucky enough to have this magnificent motorcycle reissued as a modern classic. Beautiful among the prettiest.

8 – Yamaha V-Max

The legend says that Mr Araki, Yamaha operations manager, went to USA and found some fellas racing the quarter of a mile on a bridge over the Mississippi river which was exactly 400m long. Those youngsters were only concerned about racing in a straight line and Mr Araki decided to build a motorcycle for that only purpose. In October 1984 this concept bike was presented in the USA motorcycle exposition and created a unique niche on its own. The american roadster on two wheels was born.

Taking some old fashion concept such as a V engine, they needed a V4 for the power delivery wanted, and they created the fastest launching bike of its time. The motorcycle is so beloved that we have a modern version of this roadster with the essence of the old timer.

9 – Triumph Rocket III

Hey, why don’t we make the biggest motorcycle engine in the world? After that concept a 2300cc engine was built, and a monstrous beast was built around that three-cylinder engine.

The Rocket III surprised the world making the bigger is better reach a whole new level. Only the Boss Hoss or other concept bikes have a larger displacement, but they’re not mass produced like this Rocket III which make any Harley look tiny next to it.

It has some power cruiser capacities, some sport behaviour if needed and an impressive looking image which make people look back when it has passed by. A totally unnecessary size we all love.

This is the bike of my dreams.

10 – Harley Davidson V – Rod

How can we improve a brand which sells pure riding experiences with classic spec engines? Well, winding roads might not best environment for a Harley, but we can make it launch real quick!

The roadster concept we mentioned before had this amazing interpretation from Harley Davidson with a little support from Porsche making their superbike engine fit a real Harley and make it sound and look this amazing. The new generation of Harley V-Twin arrived liquid cooled for the first time.


4 thoughts on “10 motorcycles that changed history

  1. The Bultaco Sherpa T changed the trials scene much more than the Montesa Cota. Pre 65 trials exists because of the first Sherpa T developed by Sammy Miller.


    • That’s a good point Ryan, as expressed these 10 bikes are not the very best in history, just ten that did their part and it would be impossible to address only ten bikes I think.

      I must admit I’ve always been more fan of Bultacos than Montesas, but they’re both great bikes I saw men at work riding during my childhood carrying tools and farm groceries and they both remind me of better times when I only dreamt of motorcycles and didn’t ride them.

      Thanks for your comment!


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