1949 Harley-Davidson FL Hydra-Glide This is the bike that inspired a million imitations, both from within Harley-Davidson’s own styling department and, decades later, from halfway around the world, when the Japanese jumped on the bandwagon and began building “American-style” heavyweight cruisers. It's the archetypal motorcycle, with a timeless look that’s as compelling now as it was back then. Harley-Davidson debuted its FL chassis—a variation of which is still its best-seller today—way back in ’41, and introduced the famed, 1200cc Panhead engine in ’48. But it wasn’t until the following year, when the antique springer fork was replaced with a modern telescopic unit, that the quintessential American cruiser silhouette took form. Dubbed the “Hydra-Glide” in reference to the new hydraulic fork that delivered twice the travel of the old springer, this latest Big Twin offered much-improved ride quality and road-holding ability. The new fork also imparted a modern look more in line with the telescopic-forked British bikes that were beginning to food the American market. The deep-skirted front fender and thick, widely spaced fork legs—the upper halves enclosed in streamlined, stamped-steel nacelles—give the Hydra-Glide a broad-shouldered look that has never gone out of style. The rest of the bike, including the Fat Bob-type tank with its center speedometer and the sprung saddle cantilevered high above a rigid rear triangle, is just as memorable. Compare a vintage Hydra-Glide to a modern Heritage Softail Classic—or even a Star Roadliner—and you’ll count more similarities than diferences. This is style with staying power. 1980 Honda GL1100 Gold Wing Interstate Honda’s Gold Wing invented the modern luxury-touring concept, and at every point in its evolution has continued to redefine that segment of the market. Te biggest step forward came in 1980, when Honda’s legendary mileeater received a larger, 1100cc fat-four engine as well as the Interstate touring package with a frame-mounted fairing and hard luggage that set a new standard for motorcycle accessory integration. Still now, 38 years after its introduction, nothing approaches the ’Wing in terms of performance, function, comfort or style. 1980 Honda GL1100 Gold Wing Interstate Honda’s Gold Wing invented the modern luxury-tour 1983 Honda VF750F V45 Interceptor Honda debuted its wild NR500 GP racer in 1979, replete with radical technology like a liquid-cooled V4 engine, 16-inch wheels, Pro-Link rear suspension and the sophisticated, Torque-Reactive Anti-Dive Control (TRAC) fork. The cursed NR500 may have been the least successful GP bike ever built, but the streetbike it inspired— Honda’s V45 Interceptor—was one of the most sublime. With all of the above technology in a fne-handling, aggressive-looking package, the Interceptor was an immediate best-seller—and Japan’s frst real repli-racer. 1983 Honda VF750F V45 Interceptor Honda debuted its wild NR500 GP racer in 1979, replete 1985 Suzuki GSX-R750 Early sportbikes were crude machines, all overpowered engines in spindly frames with squishy suspension and worthless brakes. Suzuki’s GSX-R750 changed all that. The proverbial racebike-withlights, this was basically Suzuki’s world championship-winning XR41 endurance racer with the minimum necessary modifcations for street use. Everything—aerodynamic bodywork, aluminum frame, 18-inch mag wheels—was lifted from factory racebikes, and the oil-cooled, 106-horsepower inline-four delivered racetrack acceleration. “A true milestone,” we called it at the time. ’Nuff said. 1985 Suzuki GSX-R750 Early sportbikes were crude machines, all overpowered engines in sp 1994 Ducati 916 There have been more innovative motorcycles, and motorcycles that accelerated faster or sold better, but few will argue there’s ever been a more beautiful motorcycle than Ducati’s 916. Massimo Tamburini’s masterpiece brilliantly mixes purposeful mechanical details and purely sensuous design. Te cat’s-eye headlights and underseat exhaust defined sportbike styling trends for almost two decades, and the 916 virtually dominated World Superbike racing as well. Tis was unquestionably the most infuential sportbike of the ’90s, and it still remains relevant today. 1994 Ducati 916 There have been more innovative motorcycles, and motorcycles that accele « | 1 | 2 | 3 | View Full Article By Aaron Frank Enjoyed this Post? Subscribe to our RSS Feed, or use your favorite social media to recommend us to friends and colleagues!