The motorcycle world has gone through a lot of ups and downs over the years. But the ‘70s marked the dawn of something new and something big in the field. Back then, folks were introduced to motorbikes that continue to be popular and influential even to this day. Some of the trends from those days include highly specialized motor vehicles and vintage bodies. The truth is that the ‘70s saw the largest rise in the number of riders even to this day. We bet that you are going to recognize at least one or two of these motorbikes from that time!
Kawasaki H2 750
For five consecutive years, Kawasaki produced the H2 Mach IV. This meant that it was in production until 1975. At the time, it came with a 750 cc 3-cylinder engine. It was an impressive thing that could go down a quarter-mile in a matter of 12 seconds. On top of that, the company worked hard to upgrade what it gave the preceding model had, ultimately leading to the improved handling that this one had. The inspiration behind this model came from the H1 Mach III, the previous model that came with a 750 cc engine with 3,500 rpm but redlined at 7,500 rpm. It was the new and improved version of it!
Moto Morini 3
In 1937, Alfonso Morino designed this Italian motorbike for the company. In the past, its engine, body, and style have all been updated and changed in some way. The Moto Morini 3 ½ later housed stronger and faster V-twin engines. It was basically an updated model of the older one. The Moto Morini 3 ½ remains a hit among motorcycle fans even today. When it first came out, it had the same price point as the Honda CB750.
Hodaka Super Combat Wombat
A Japanese and an American company teamed up to create this design. The hybrid came about as a result of this merger. The company sold the Hodaka Super Combat from 1964 until 1978. It was very popular back in the ‘70s. During the 14 years that it was for sale, Hodaka sold more than 150,000 copies of this. The company manufactured this motorcycle in Oregon and used to be part of the Shell Oil Company.
Moto Guzzi V7 Sport
Moto Guzzi launched this sports motorcycle in 1971. The Italian company took inspiration from the V7 Roadster when it created this model. It gave the bike a new design and clip-on handlebars. Compared to the older model, it was less heavy and boasted better handling. This explains why it went on to be a bigger hit than the V7. In 2008, the company revealed its “V7 Special” to honor this ‘70s model.
Japanese company Suzuki manufactured and distributed the RE-5 from 1974 until 1976. The design came with a unique liquid-cooled single-rotor engine made by Wankel. These engines came with specific structures such as a smooth rotary that might have been basic yet powerful. They were also potentially more powerful yet had smaller displacement. It remains rare now just like it had been back then. How sad is it that it was underutilized back then? What makes it worse is that it still the case even to this day.
MV Agusta 350B Sport
During the turn of the decade, Agusta developed the MV Agusta 350B Sport in the early ‘70s. It had a new sporty look and a faster engine. Even though it does not seem like it is anything special now, the company gave it a top speed of 96 mph. This is not bad at all. In the next few decades, Agusta worked on the engine some more and introduced a number of body type variations.
The Suzuki GS750 was an entry in the GS series lineup and had a bunch of 4-stroke powered road motorcycles. This was quite impressive since it exclusively had 2-stroke bikes before this. When it came to 4-stroke engines, the company first came up with the Colleda COX with its 93 and 125 cc engines in 1955. Suzuki then worked on the GS series, which is how it perfected its 4-stroke bikes. The company also sold the GS400 alongside the GS750.
Benelli 900 Sei
Alejandro de Tomaso worked on the design of Benelli 900 Sei, which was sold from 1972 until 1978. This was a very popular Italian motorcycle compared to its peers in the industry at the time. The bike stood apart from the rest thanks to the speed and design. When it first came out, the Benelli 900 Sei had a maximum speed of 120 mph. People were also big fans of its angular design, which made it distinctive. You see, rounded forms were famous in those days.
1970 Triumph Bonneville
The 1970 Triumph Bonneville did not seem like a standout when it first came out. In fact, it is not a stretch to say that it was a regular twin 4-stroke engine bike. Bonneville perfected this engine after only three generations, which is quite impressive. The name of the bike was taken from the Bonneville Salt Flats. Triumph and other manufacturers competed hear to beat record motorcycle speeds back then!
In 1972, Kawasaki released the Z1. This made it a strong competitor of the Honda CB750. The Z1 was considered a pioneer of sorts and is considered to be a Universal Japanese Motorcycle. This meant that it followed the guidelines and regulations set by bodies in power all over the world. The Z1 came with a large-capacity 4-cylinder motorcycle with a double-overhead camshaft system. The bike has been credited for carving a path for many import trades that came after it.
In 1968, the Yamaha Motor Company released a medium-sized motorcycle called the Yamaha XS650. It sold this model until 1979. After that, Yamaha created a “Special” cruised that it sold into the mid’’80s. The XS650 original designs go back to the ‘50s. Thanks to some ownership problems over the Hosk single overhead, Yamaha ended up taking over the reins and turning the engine into a 650 cc twin.
When Yamaha developed the YZR500, it wanted to make a good racing bike. This model represented the company in 500cc Grand Prix races from the ‘70s to the ‘2000s. It caught the attention of the public and the motorcycle world since it was one of the fastest models on the planet. Most racing bikes failed to meet regulations, so it was not road legal. Due to its high demand, Yamaha went on to mass-produce it.
There are three models of BMW R69S in existence: the R69US, R69, and R69S. It piqued the interest of people looking for a cool-looking luxury sports bike. BMW designed and manufactured these units in Munich. The models all came with a 594 cc boxer twin engine. From 1955 until 1969, it sold 15,000 units. Aside from that, BMW fixed up the components so that it would fit the region where it was sold.
The Yamaha YZ250 is still manufactured to this day. It has been on the market ever since it came out in 1974. This is a popular choice among racers and riders since it excels in both of those things. It has quite the collection of accolades to its name. The model has bagged 5 AMA National Motorcross awards and 9 AMA National Supercross titles. If you want to buy one, get ready to pay over $12,000 for it.
In 1978, Yamaha Motor Company introduced the Yamaha SR500. It was an air-cooled single-cylinder motorcycle with seating for two. It was for sale until 2000. Most people looked at it as a street version of the Yamaha XT400. It was sold across the globe from Asia to Europe to North America. The engineers and designers of the Yamaha SR500 created it with the intention of making a bike that was “easy to use.” Even though Yamaha discontinued it by 1981, it continued to be on the market for 18 more years.
When it developed the KR250, Kawasaki wanted a motorcycle that did not just perform on the track but also on the road. The Japanese company created the KR250 and distributed it form 1975 until 1982. It was popular among riders and racers, even winning world championship races. The KR250 brought home consecutive medals from 1978 until 1981. It was a truly impressive piece of machinery!
From 1973 until 1975, Yamaha distributed a 2-stroke motorcycle called the Yamaha RD350. There was a high demand for this five-speed motorcycle. It came with a front drum brake and a piston port. Not only that, but it also had an air-cooled 2-stroke engine with a reed valve and a 6-speed transmission. Despite this, it was deemed a sports bike. Every single unit was also equipped with an automated oil system that it called “Autolube.” It helped prevent the combination of oil and gas. The RD400 came after the RD350.
We will be frank here. The Honda CG125 is just not as exciting as the other bikes on the list. It is a safe option that was easy to drive, lasted long, and could reach a max speed of 65 mph. Honda made it with accessibility and quality in mind. It proved popular and was produced in Turkey, Brazil, and Japan.
Royal Enfield 750 Interceptor
The British motorcycle manufacturer distributed the Royal Enfield 750 Interceptor from the early ‘60s to the ‘70s. It was the result of upgrading the Constellation. Royal Enfield continued to modify it until it reached the conclusion that it was great enough for all domains. The 750 Interceptor came out in 1962. It is best known for the new 736 cc twin-cylinder engine with better torque and extra force.
Tunturi Super Sport
The Tunturi Super Sport is among the rarest entries on our list. The company distributed this model from the late ‘70s to the late ‘80s. There were not many Finnish products when it came out, which is still true even to this day. This proved to be a huge success! Tunturi also made fitness equipment and bicycles.
Suzuki GT750 Water Buffalo
Did you know that the Suzuki GT750 was the first Japanese motorcycle that had a water-cooled engine? It had a 3-cylinder 2-stroke engine! Suzuki manufactured the model from 1971 all the way to 1977. The company first debuted it at the International Tokyo Motor Show in 1970, however. It became such a big hit among customers that it is now part of the 240 Landmarks of Japanese Technology list by the Society of Automotive Engineers of Japan.
As you might have noticed, there are not many Indian motorcycles on this list. Let us change that by introducing the Roadking. Yezdi sold it from 1978 until 996. In the 1974 Motorcross World Championship races, it was declared the first runner-up. The bike came with a 250 cc engine, a semi-automatic clutch, and dual exhausts.
English manufacturer Velocette manufactured a single-cylinder motorcycle called the Venom. It had a 4-stroke 499 cc engine and was distributed from 1955 until 1970. During that time frame, the company sold 5,721 units. As if it were not an impressive enough vehicle, it is also a record holder. Did you know that a team of riders set the world record for driving at 100.05 mph for 24 hours in the manufacturing plant? It was the first vehicle of that size to do such a thing.
The Japanese company did not make the NR500 for the general public. Instead, it was designed for the Grand Prix! At the time, Honda had released a couple of faster models, so this one was made solely for the track. Sadly, it failed to reach the end of the race when it took part in the British Grand Prix in 1979.
Triumph X-75 Hurricane
Let us take a look at another Triumph. The X-75 Hurricane was a factory special model. Craig Vetter came up with the concept. This bike came with a 3-gallon gas tank, fiberglass bodywork, a right-hand triple exhaust system, and lowered gearing. Even to this day, it serves as an inspiration to bike enthusiasts. It did not spend very long on the market since Triumph only sold it from 1972 to 1973.
If you are familiar with bikes, you have probably seen the Honda MB50 in the past. This is among the most popular mopeds ever made. It was fairly slower than the rest of its contemporaries during the ‘70s. On the bright side, it was also more affordable. This must be how it got so big in Europe and the US.
The German manufacturer distributed the BMW R90S from 1973 to 1976. It was a 900 cc sports bike. It is largely thought to be the flagship model of the “/6” range. Some of the best things about this model were its new tail and two-tone paintwork. The company produced and distributed 17,455 of these bikes.
In the ‘70s, it felt like BMW was coming up and selling one bike after another. The manufacturer did extremely well during that decade. In 1978, it released the R65. It was the right move for the company to make this variant of the Mercedes R Series. This was meant to be a faster bike for people who had a ton of experience. It reached a speed of 109 mph at most. Hans Muth designed its triangular fairing.
Who doesn’t love a good ol’ Harley? The company took inspiration from the ‘40s as it designed the FL. Its name came from the approach to the large frame size of the model. In 1977, Harley-Davidson debuted a Confederate Edition of its FLH Electra Glide. This was done in an effort to show put its decals and paint into the spotlight. The company only manufactured 44 units of this special edition.
From 1979 until 1983, Honda manufactured the beloved CY50. It did this in an effort to join the moped hype of the time. This was another trusted and cheap entry to the segment with a top speed of 25 mph. During its promo, it was shown off as a bike that was equipped with a clean engine and ran on gas.
For nearly a decade, Bimota sold the KB1 as a way to show off the Kawasaki powerplant. This was made for Kawasaki owners who were on the lookout for a new ride. Bimota offered a new solution that came with new tech. Bimota sold it in kits but ceased its production in 1982. It sold only 827 units by then.
In 1976, Yamaha introduced the XT660. It was dubbed a multi-purpose motorcycle that was equipped for off-road trips as well. This was a faster and lighter option than the XT600. It had been a success for the Japanese company. As a testament to that claim, the US Military did not shy away from using it!
Thought to be the flagship model of Honda, people got to buy the CBX from 1978 to 1982. It came with a 1047 cc 6-cylinder in-line engine that could put out up to 105 horsepower. During the ‘70s and ‘80s, it was considered to be the best model in the lineup of the Japanese company. How awesome is that?
The XT500 was produced out of Shizuoka, Japan. It was yet another addition to the popular motorcycles in the Yamaha lineup. Its success had not been limited to the Asian market but also in North America. This was popular thanks to its weight ratio. Many people even said that the XT500 perfected that aspect.
The 750SS was one of the models in the Ducati series of motorcycles with air-cooled 4-stroke V-twin engines. It came out in 1973 as the first one in the SuperSport series. The prototypes for its GT and sport models were made with the bodywork of the Imola motorcycle. This was developed with the 900SS.
Ducati 860 GT
Fabio Taglioni and Giuorgetto Giugiaro teamed up as the engineer and designer of the 860 GT. Ducati released it to the public in 1974. In those days, it reached a maximum speed of 109 mph. According to Giugiaro, he took inspiration from a folded paper. That is the reason it has such straight edges and lines. Volkswagen Golf adopted the same look, as did the 192 Lotus Esprit and other models.
Norton 850 Commando
The British motorcycle came with an overhead valve engine. Norton distributed the 850 Commando from 1967 to 1977. During the decade that it was being produced, it was received well in different parts of the lobe. For 5 consecutive years, Motor Cycle News dubbed it the “Machine of the Year.” The team behind it drew inspiration from the ‘40s.
The Honda CL200 did not last more than a year of distribution. People like to compare it to the Honda CB200. It had an exhaust system located above its gearbox, while pipes were aligned to its left side. This was released in a time when the public had not been interested in smaller bikes. This explains why the Japanese company stopped its production during its very first year.
The company made the XR750 for racing on the dirt road and a regular one. Mark Brelsford, Evel Knievel, Cal Rayborn and Jay Springsteen all drove one of these things. It got so popular that collectors now actively seek it out. In 1998, the Art of the Motorcycle and the American History on the Move exhibits featured this model. Needless to say, it was a truly iconic entry from Harley-Davidson.
The Supersport bagged both the 1st and 2nd places in the Imola 200 race. Ducati manufactured the model from 1972 until 1981. It had smooth handling, a new body style, and a twin-cylinder engine. It made it all easier for the bikes that succeeded it. Bruno Spaggiari and Paul Smart drove it in the Imola 200 race!
1975 Honda GL1000 Gold Wing
Honda also found a lot of success with the touring motorcycles that it released in 1975. The public first learned more about it at the International Cologne Motorcycle Show in 1974. It was also added to the 240 Landmarks of Japanese Automotive Technology list. Honda sold more than 640,000 units of it.
In the early ‘70s, Yamaha designed the TX50. It was for sale for three years from 1972 until 1975. The model was introduced to the public during the International Tokyo Motor Show. This happened only a couple of months before the released date. It was a good thing that it did not fail to impress!
Honda CB 750
There is a good reason the Discovery Channel called the CB 750 one of the best motorbikes to ever exist. It came with an air-cooled 4-cylinder in-line transverse engine. Honda actually spent years to get it right. This is another Universal Japanese Motorcycle. It truly upped the ante for all motorcycle manufacturers.
The CL100 only had a 4-stroke cylinder engine that was nothing out of the ordinary. However, it won over the general public with how cheap and accessible it was. Honda made it with the same tech as the rest of the models in the lineup. This dual-sport bike had a 99 cc engine and a max speed of 50 mph.
Harley Davidson XLCR
Willie G. Davidson is the man responsible for the design of the XLCR. He based it on the XLCH Sportster and made it for his personal use. The truth is that it was not supposed to be mass-produced for the general public! Despite this, the company manufactured and sold 20,000 units from 1977 until 1979.
1973 BMW R90S
The R90S was the fastest among the R90 models that BMW released. Not only does it have the highest max speed but the highest horsepower as well. Hans Muth designed it as the flagship model of the “/6” range. These models were some of the best that Honda ever made! It had 67 hp and a max speed of 124 mph. Not only that, but it could also cover a quarter-mile in no more than 13.5 seconds.
1971 Yankee Z
The Yankee Motor Company started out in Schenectady, New York. The 1971 Yankee Z was a motorcycle that came with an air-cooled, 2-stroke engine. Eduard Gir and Manufacturing designed and produced this model. At the time, the manufacturer was based in Spain. Despite this, some components were made and assembled in the United States.
1977 Kawasaki KZ1000
Kawasaki released the KZ1000 in 1977. It was among the fastest production bikes in history. It came with a 4-cylinder in-line engine and a 5-speed transmission. This was why the KZ1000 could give off approximately 90 horsepower. At the time, the company was already working on the model that was coming to come after this one.
1976 Moto Guzzi 850 Le Mans
In 1976, Moto Guzzi released the 850 Le Mans. If this sounds familiar, it might be because it was named after the yearly 24-hour endurance race that takes place in France. This came with a nose fairing and clip-on handlebars. It eventually came with a three-quarter fairing as well. Over the years, it underwent a number of adjustments. This model turned into the Series I, Mark I, and Series II. The Italian company produces fewer than 10,000 units, however.
1975 Laverda 750GT
This model was named after the body size and the engine size. The 750GT came with a 750 cc engine and succeeded the Laverda 650. Once it came out, the sales of the predecessor ceased. Did you know that the 750 S and the 750 GT were both considered to be important milestones in the motorcycle world?