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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Is it its looks? Its technology? Its age? Its impact on the scene when new? Or a combination of some or all of the above?

For me, it is foremost the looks, but also partially its technology. Primarily, I see it as a motorcycle with wire wheels shod with diagonal tires, round steel swing arm supported by twin rear shocks, normal forks, preferably with covers or gaiters, an air-cooled engine with kick-starter, chrome exhaust, round clocks without anything digital showing, a nicely shaped fuel tank and a flat seat without tail piece.

Think British sporty motorcycles from the 50s and 60s.

The closest you get this, uhm, role model? today is with the Kawasaki W800. The W650 from 1999 was even closer, what with its slightly cleaner styling, carburetors and a real kick-starter. But apart from the digital information display in the analogue speedometer, fuel injection and front disc brake, the W800 would not have raised any eyebrows in the 1960s.

Going back to when what we call classics today were new and state of the art, we have the Yamaha XS-1 650.


Some years later, Yamaha showed that it was possible to make a classically styled motorcycle incorporating a tail piece in the form of the GX750.


During the 70s, cast wheels came in vogue. Surely, these are too modern for a classic motorcycle? Usually, yes, but not entirely. One successful example is the XS650 Special. While not quite as classical as a XS-1, the understated styling and lack of a tail piece allow the US Custom, as it was also known as, a clean style.


But what if we combine a tail piece and cast wheels, how will that turn out on the classic scale? Quite well. Of course, next to the XS-1, the XS1100 does look quite modern, but it still carries classic lines.


What I especially like about classic motorcycles, especially the “real” ones as represented by the current W800 below, is that they appear more organic to me. They tend to get absorbed and accepted by the nature it rolls through, while perhaps feeling less at home in a modern city filled with skyscrapers.


However nice they appear, they do lack in performance and comfort. Especially the original ones dating back to the 70s and earlier have primitive suspension, brakes and handling. Comfort usually suffers from poor suspension and engine vibrations. At least compared to modern machines with semi-active suspension and internal engine balancers to quell vibrations.

Luckily, there are something in between. Motorcycles that still looks good (many, like me, think they have the best look) yet also perform quite nicely. An example would be the Yamaha XJR1300. It will stick out in company with an XS-1, a GX750 and a W800, but not nearly as much as a current XSR700. The Superbike-based styling and extra performance from suspension, brakes, engine, wide wheels with radial tires and general chassis upgrades learned over many decades of development really put bikes like the XJR into another category.


Currently, the XSR700 and 900 are flying the classic flag for Yamaha, although for me they are appearing too modern to really fit in that classic theme. Then again, Guzzi, Kawasaki, Royal Enfield and Triumph are offering really classically styled motorcycles, so perhaps the XSRs are just right?


So what do YOU think about my chosen models and my probably weird ponderings?
 

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That XS 650 is what I made my first chopper from.
I wanted the 750 and the 1100

I really like the style of the XSR
 
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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
The first big bike I planned to buy was a 1976 XS750, the one with the 7500 rpm redline. And a troubled engine. Later versions starting in 1978 got a 9000 rpm redline, a bigger oil pan for more oil capacity, more resilient valves and a stronger primary chain. It was also in a higher state of tune.

But I digress. When we came to pick up the bike, it would not start. We decided to unscrew the spark plugs, but the middle one would not budge at first. After lots of huffing and puffing, we got it out. Along with the threads in the head. The end of the spark plug was hammered flat and wide, and there was a hole in the piston where the dropped valve head had gone through. We walked away. I then looked at a Suzuki GT750, but it also needed work. Ended up buying a very well used 1978 Honda CX500 that had been used at a riding school. 3 months later I crashed it into a tractor and completely destroyed the bike. And caused quite a bit of harm to myself as well.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
The lines are (still) very wrong, with the highest point being where tank and seat meeting. From there, the bottom of the tank drops towards the steering stem, and the sat drops towards the tail. Very disturbing. Also, the seat is about 3 times as long as the fuel tank. Just weird.
 

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Where is the Honda Dream it made motorcycling available to everyone. The little bike that started a craze and turned Honda into the power house it is today. At the time British motorcycles were the rage, fast but frustrating to keep running. I had a 65 Trophy and I know they were picky. The Dream was a totaly new design in engine and frame.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I decided to keep it within the Yamaha brand, but I could easily have used Honda or Kawasaki or Suzuki. Honda currently has a retro that, while not quite as old-fashioned as the W800, is still pretty classic.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
For me, it is, what I tried to describe, that timeless design that never really gets out of fashion. I mean, any Triumph Bonneville looks quite good to most people. Some versions better than others, but few would call any of them ugly. Bikes like the CX500 or XZ550 Vision (I like both...) OTOH are not universally seen as pretty.
 

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I think of classic for me it would have to be the Honda dream and the CB750, those were the bikes I grew up around. I had a white Dream 150. I loved it! My cousin had a Yamaha dirt bike that we rode all the time and it never failed us.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

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Prior to my 20 year riding hiatus my last bike was a 1979 Yamaha XS 1100. Prior to that was my 82' Honda CB 650, I ultimately sold it to my brother-in-law and he rode it for many, many years.
 
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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Was that a standard style XS1100 or a Special? Back then, Yamaha did this unusual thing of giving the Special, a cruiser, adjustable suspension including rebound for the shock absorbers and air for the forks, whereas the sportier(?) standard version got simpler suspension adjustable for preload at both ends only.

In 1982, I believe there were two versions of the CB650; the "standard" that looked more like a soft chopper than standard, with wire wheels and a semi-stepped seat, plus the SC Nighthawk with a 4-4 exhaust and sport-cruiser(?) styling. Which one did you have?
 

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Was that a standard style XS1100 or a Special? Back then, Yamaha did this unusual thing of giving the Special, a cruiser, adjustable suspension including rebound for the shock absorbers and air for the forks, whereas the sportier(?) standard version got simpler suspension adjustable for preload at both ends only.

In 1982, I believe there were two versions of the CB650; the "standard" that looked more like a soft chopper than standard, with wire wheels and a semi-stepped seat, plus the SC Nighthawk with a 4-4 exhaust and sport-cruiser(?) styling. Which one did you have?
It was the standard version, I bought it used like every motorcycle I've ever owned. Same with cars and trucks, I never buy brand new, too much value depreciation as you drive it off the lot.
 
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I decided to keep it within the Yamaha brand, but I could easily have used Honda or Kawasaki or Suzuki. Honda currently has a retro that, while not quite as old-fashioned as the W800, is still pretty classic.
What you're saying is SJM...standard Japanese motorcycle. That's why you could "...easily have used Honda or Kawasaki or Suzuki."
I guess the general SJM is classic ?
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Never heard SJM before, only UJM. Same thing. However, only the Japanese have gone full circle uninterrupted. BMW has never gone for retro in the classic style, and Triumph today is not the same company, while Harley have not made UJM/Brit style bikes. Of course, these are entirely my subjective opinions.
 

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"BMW has never gone for retro in the classic style,"

I would suggest that BMW's horizontally-opposed twins are ALL in the classic style (of BMW). Their Superbeast 1800 line is especially following the "classic" genre, to the extent of naming one of them the "Classic". Or maybe their marking dept is just wishful thinking...
 
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