If a motorbike has a loyal following, on forums and groups on social media, it shows that riders are coming together and sharing their stories. This means it can be a lot easier to find any information you might need. The owners are a valuable source of the sort of information it isn’t easy to find otherwise.
One classic example of that information is that a cheap and reliable Toyota Camry fuel pump fits perfectly and is eminently better than the expensive and very hard to find fuel pump for all the Zane era Laverda’s, and many other bikes, but I digress.
The owners on these forums should help you with alternative parts sources, recommended upgrades, tuning tips and much more, and I say should here for one very specific reason. There are a few communities I wont be mentioning here who guard their secrets instead of sharing them.
Thankfully they are few and far between.
Anyway. The bikes here today all have communities that are the most supportive there is. Communities that welcome new riders with open arms and are always helpful when it comes to answering the questions any new owner has.
The motorcycles themselves may have flaws, but a good community will find its way around those flaws if the rider experience is worth it.
That is what I believe drives these communities to become what they are. There is something about the rider experience that separates these from many other motorcycles.
Now don’t get me wrong, these are far from the only motorcycles with close knit, supportive communities and I know by now you will all flood the comments telling me which bikes I should have included. As always, I look forward to reading them. I do enjoy hearing about the ones I have missed so don’t be shy.
Previously Mentioned Motorcycles
First of all I do need to get some previously mentioned bikes out of the way. These bikes have been featured in other videos and I don’t want it to get too repetitive.
First we have the Vstrom and its communities that I have mentioned on many occasions. These bombproof bikes have a fantastic and loyal community that are always glad to welcome and help newer riders. They were covered in the Bombproof Motorcycles video and I will put a link to this and the other relevant videos in the description below.
Of course there is also the legendary Honda Cub that was also mentioned in the BombProof Bikes video and the equally loved Honda CT125 Trail featured in the Motorcycles Guaranteed To Make You Smile video.
Then there is the KLR650 who’s avid loyalists managed to resurrect it from the dead. No mean feat.
The Yamaha RD range has features in several videos too, in its various incarnations. These bikes probably have the most hardcore following of all the two-stroke motorcycles ever made, just take a look around the channel, most of the videos they feature in are fairly obvious.
We also have to mention the Bandit riders. Another Suzuki community that are as helpful as they come. I featured the Bandit in the “Bargain Bikes of the 90’s” video but didn’t mention the many forums and groups that are there to help new owners and prospective buyers.
Then there are the BMW Air Head owners who jumped on me so heavily for not including them in the BombProof bikes video. That response and all the subsequent conversations showed me they are as loyal as any motorcycle community out there, and I salute that.
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Anyway, enough of that, now to this list proper and today I will be counting down for a change although I will happily admit there is not much that separates them.
Royal Enfield Bullet
First we have a motorcycle that has a history like no other, The Royal Enfield Bullet was first built in 1932. The very early engines were slopers with an inclined barrel and came in 250cc, 350cc and 500cc versions. Then, in 1936 the 500cc Bullet was redesigned with an upright barrel and this marked the beginning of a production run that ran continuously in one form or another for the next 84 years. You could even say it continues today in its 350cc form, with the Classic range of Royal Enfields, but this is a new motorcycle really, and their are newer models that now form the vanguard of Royal Enfields sales and marketing efforts.
Regardless, it is without a doubt the longest continuous producton run of any motorcycle by such a long way that no other motorcycle comes close.
You might see elsewhere the first production date as 1948. That was actually the start of the post war production of the 350cc Bullet, which was a developement of the 500cc model first made between the wars in 1936. In 1939 hydraulic front forks were introduced, and tested well during the war, when many new developements were introduced to improve the design.
By 1948 the design had been honed and had a rear swingarm with hydraulic damping as well as the telescopic front forks and The Royal Enfield Bullet really was at the cutting edge of motorcycle design.
During the war the Bullet had proved to be great workhorse, and it was the only motorcycle the army could rely on in the hottest conditions. In india, the devaststion of partition had created a need for fast reliable transport that could be used for communication and reconnaissance and the Royal Enfield Bullets used by the army were comandeered. They proved themselves in the most challenging conditions, and in 1949 an official importer was announced.
With continued success and massive orders of the bike from the Indian military, in 1955 the ‘Enfield India’ company was born. Work began on a factory near the modern city of Chennai, which was then known as Madras. You could say the rest is history, but it is a comlicated history.
By 1967, Royal Enfield were in trouble. In the UK there were only 2 models left in production, the 250cc Continental GT and the 750cc Interceptor. However, in India, the Bullet lived on. The main Royal Enfield factory in Redditch was closed and sold to developers to pay mounting debts and the small underground facility at Upper Westwood concentrated its efforts on production of the final 750 Interceptors.
In 1970 the last door was finally closed and the company was dissolved. That left ‘Enfield India’ as the sole producers of what was still considered a reliable and somewhat iconic motorcycle.
With the beginning of interest in retro motorcycles, in 1977 These Indian made Royal Enfields began to be imported back into the UK. Sales steadily increased and in 1989 a new 500cc model was introduced. However, the company in some ways became a victim of its own success.
As sales increased production was ramped up, but with the increase in production came a lowering of quality control, and the once bombproof Enfield Bullet became strewn with small but important reliability problems. This inevitably led to a drop in sales.
1994 brought a big change. The Eicher Group, a company manufacturing tractors and commercial vehicles, purchased Royal Enfield and began their expansion into the modern company we have today. Orchestrating those changes was a man called Siddhartha Lal. New factories were built and a massive new dealer network put in place in India. He reached outside India, using the design skills of AVL group in Austria to improve on the design process as well as developing the new all aluminium ‘lean burn’ 350cc Bullet engine.
Then he turned to the skills of Harris Performance, one of the best known British motorcycle engineering companies, and a whole new generation of Royal Enfields began to take shape. This eventually led to the purchase of Harris Performance, who are integral to the modern Royal Enfield company.
Throughout all of these changes, the Enfield Bullet continued in production. All of the production faults were gradually rectified and the reputation of the Bullet was restored.
This all coincided with the growth of the ‘Retro’ motorcycle sector in western markets. Many riders were just getting fed up with the expensive plastic rocketships and huge touring motorcycles on offer in most showrooms and the Royal Enfield Bullet was the perfect antidote to the quest for more power.
In India, you will be hard pressed to walk down any street and not find either a genuine Royal Enfield Dealership or a back street specialist of some sort. The back up of mechanics who have grown up to live eat and breath Royal Enfields is second to none. I would say that whatever part of any Bullet ever made, could be fixed or replaced faster than most manufacturers can be bothered to find something on their shelves and post it out. Something many manufacturers completely fail with.
The result today, is a massive worldwide support network of owners and riders as well as parts and repair shops. I remember speaking to a business development executive at one point and he made the comment, ‘Do the basics well and the rest will fall into place’. I think Siddhartha Lal must have had that same conversation.
With a product that does exactly what it was made to do, Royal Enfield have managed to do what most manufacturers seem to have failed at. Their marketing is slick and polished without being flashy and they are one of few manufacturers attracting new younger riders in western markets.
What more can I say except long live the Royal Enfield Bullet.
Next we have some motorcycles from a company that got a bad rap off me not so long ago. I do have some issues with the company, but i have owned 2 of these bikes, so i can speak from experience, and regardless of their flaws i do love them. The Triumph Triple’s and their riders are a tight knit bunch, but break through the surface and they are helpful and very useful.
The endless array of Hinkley Triumph Triples have created a warm space in the hearts of many since the relaunch of the company in the early 90’s. These triples formed the backbone of the new range of motorcycles when the company was relaunched and have only grown in popularity since.
From Touring bikes to naked roadsters, adventure bikes to more laid back custom style models there is a Triumph Triple to fit most riders. They do have a unique charm in an industry dominated by big V-Twins and increasingly complicated high power four cylinder bikes.
Build quality is good in general and although as you know from some of my other videos, i do have a love hate relationship with Triumph, I have owned 2 Hinkley Triples, the first was a 1994 Trophy Triple i owned from 1998, and I still have my Daytona 955. I honestly have loved riding both. and i love the howl of that Triple engine.
Personally I would say as an engine for use on the road, it is the perfect balance. Most V-Twins will have more torque but fall short when it comes to top end power. Most Four cylinder bikes can produce more power, but fall short on bottom end torque. The Triumph Triples have a balance of both which means the acceleration curve is in my view unrivalled. That surge of power that just keeps going is truly addictive.
The various forums and owners groups are another loyal bunch and there is usually someone around who can lend you one of the ridiculous list of Triumph special tools you will inevitably need when you start to maintain the bike yourself. Parts can be another thing entirely. Triumph are notoriously bad at parts supply, many seals are non standard sizes and genuine Triumph parts are stupidly expensive in general. Are they worth it? I will leave that for you to decide.
Next we have a motorcycle which is not just one model. The Honda Hornet, and I am talking about the original across the frame four Hornet’s, came in both 600 and 900cc forms. Both were great bikes and offered different solutions to the same problem.
Motorcycles were getting increasingly expensive and more complicated and sales were falling. Honda decided the parts bin was the answer. They used the detuned engines from the CBR600 and Fireblade in a stripped down naked package that had basic but decent quality brakes and suspension.
Both models had plenty of power for road use and were an engaging ride that had few inherent problems. They were flexible UJM’s, like the bikes that made the big four Japanese companies so succesful in the first place. This was a refreshing change from the ever more focussed motorcycles the industry had been moving towards.
Both were equally at home as a commuter in the city or flying along back roads at the weekend and both could happily be used for longer journeys without ending up with permanent spinal injuries from a ridiculous riding position or a black hole in your wallet from expensive running costs.
Using the detuned engines from their proven sportsbikes meant reliabillity was as good as anything Honda had ever made, and both bikes were a joy to ride, you just had to ring the neck of the 600 more to get it singing. The 900 was better for longer journeys or if you were carrying a passenger and the 600 was better if you were doing more short stop city miles. However both were great for twisty back roads or any other tarmac rides.
They might not have the status of some more expensive motorcycles, but the Hornet rider forums and communities are a no bull bunch of riders who will happily help and advise anyone who decides to join their ranks. With masses of aftermarket upgrades and good tunability if that is even a word, customising these motorcycles to suit your own riding is easier than with most modern motorcycles.
They might not have the high tech performance of a Panigale, but let us be honest, neither do most of us. Both Hornets pack more than enough of a punch for the average rider and their simple turn it on and ride approach is a sure-fire way to make every journey the source of many smiles.
Next we have a group of owners and riders within another group. I have mentioned the MZ rider groups previously and all of are fantastic, but the MZ Skorpion riders are a memorable, helpful and supportive bunch of people worldwide who will always take the time to help and advise new or prospective owners.
They are fully aware of and have found ways around this motorcycles few flaws and will help you to do the same so you can enjoy these fantastic motorcycles to the maximum.
The MZ Skorpion in several forms was one of the last motorcycles, built by the once great MZ brand, before the sale of the company to the Malaysian Hong Leong Group. It was the antidote or possibly a complete anti thesis to the ever more powerful Japanese fours of its day. There was a definite “less is more” philosophy in the way this motorcycle was designed. Simple and lightweight rather than searching for endless more HP this was a refreshing change, and it sort of lived on after the takeover in 2 new forms, the Mastiff and Baghira, but these were aimed at a new market.
The MZ Scorpion was just a fantastic all rounder. Powered by the 660 Minarelli/Yamaha engine used in many bikes from the XTZ660 Tenere to the Aprilia Pegaso, this was a dependable, economical and strong engine, that was a great starting point.
The chassis is one of this bikes glorious successes. A sort of compound chassis built from tubular perimeter rails and a cast centre section to mount the swingarm. Suspension was top drawer fully adjustable WP forks at the front and a 4 way adjustable WP Gas shock on the rear.
Its compact size and sharp geometry made it a perfect bike for most riding conditions but in the twisties it was often in a league of its own. Brakes were strong and originally I believe made by Grimeca, although being honest I’m not sure if this was changed after the prototype. The strong 50HP engine could pull up to and beyond any legal speed limits and was powerful enough to pull 2 people and luggage around Europe.
There are some pictures here from Andy Tribble, a guy I passed going the other way in Europe. The bike has toured in England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Denmark, Sweden, Poland, Holland, France, Austria, Switzerland, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Italy, Sardinia, Corsica, Portugal and Spain to name just a few countries. In his words “I try to avoid motorways, and take the roads over the mountains or along the coast, because they’re bendy”. His ride is a Skorpion Sport modified to take the panniers off a Traveller. I can’t imagine what his odometer reads now.
Henry Mifsud built this special. It has a Weight of 151Kg or 330lbs wet, has larger header pipes, a Suzuki SV rear wheel, Brembo front wheel. TIG welded rear subframe, improved aluminium oil tank. Brembo brakes and master cylinders, Keihin flatslides, carbon footfibre rear mudguard, Full floating front disc. Ignitech ignition unit, Aprilia 125 radiator with Arduino controlled large er650 fan and improved engine breather. He wanted me to thank Bill Jurgenson for his advice on the build which sounds a serious job. This is no inexperienced rider and he describes it as the best bike he has ever owned.
Thanks to everyone in the MZ Four Stroke riders forum on facebook and i can highly recomend them as a source of information and I will link them below.
One of the few major things to check is the frame, the bent plate at both sides which connects across the bottom can crack, but it can go for years unnoticed. One rider said his broke after 22 years. Probably from a crack when it was built.
That is an example of what this bike does to riders, Once a Skorpion rider always a Skorpion rider it seems.
Harley Davidson Sportster
Next we have a motorcycle that i know will split opinions before i start. After the Royal Enfield Bullet there is one motorcycle that has been ALMOST as long in continuous production. The Harley Davidson Sportster. First built in 1957, although the original may have been discontinued in Europe in 2020, it lingers on in the USA and certain other countries. In Europe, it was superseded by an all new Sportster, powered by the new water cooled Revolution Max engine.
Now, I could go on about the changes and specs of the many model variations that have happened but i don’t think that would serve much Purpose to be honest. The Sportster’s cult status is not based on any spec sheet. Whichever model you look at is almost irrelevant. What this motorcycle brings to the table is something quite different, it is the way that it serves as possibly the most customisable base bike platform ever produced that makes it so special.
We don’t have the cheaper prices that drove sales for so long in the states, but nevertheless, the popularity of this bike made it a success everywhere around the globe. Tuning houses and custom parts manufacturers good and bad are everywhere and if you want to, there really is very little to limit the level of personal customisation you can do with this motorcycle.
The Sportster can be split into 2 eras, or three if you count the new Rev Max as a 3rd generation. There are the Pre Evo Sportsters and the Evo Sportsters. The engine swap was significant but to be honest, there are many people who can talk about that with much more authority than i can.
I briefly ran a cut down Evo Sportster before I bought the Dyna, and it was a damn good bike. What I learned is that there is a singularly critical disease that spans the whole globe, That disease is ‘That Sportster Sickness’ A disease that means once you have owned one, no other motorcycle will ever do.
For good or for bad, i escaped, I joined the dark side and got the Dyna, but most never do. They never escape that sickness and will forever be seen riding off into the sunset with a self affirming rumble, roar, or growl, depending which exhaust they have chosen.
For anyone who does want to find out more, there are endless Sportster and Harley forums everywhere, but as you can see from the photos and videos, there is no better place to start than ‘That Sportster Sickness’ Facebook group, I will paste the link below.
The variety of the bikes here will give you some idea of the endless options for personalising this motorcycle. It really is a case of the only limit is your imagination.
The Sportster, contrary to popular opinion, isn’t about posing. There are far more gaudy bikes if that is what you want to do. The Sportster is about riding, wherever the road might go. It is a basic but solid canvas for you to create the perfect bike to suit you. That is what makes it so special.
Anyway, to finish the list for today we have not one, but a whole family of Iconic motorcycles with the most loyal, helpful, knowledgable and determined of any group of riders I have ever known. The Cagiva family of owners and riders are as exceptional as the motorcycles they ride.
Don’t expect the ordinary, as that is something rare in the Cagiva community, but with motorcycles like the Elefant, Mito, Gran Canyon, Raptor and others would you really expect their owners to be ordinary?
Cagiva built exceptional motorcycles and I guess any flame that burns that brightly will never last forever, but the legacy of the Castiglioni family is undeniable. The European motorcycle industry would never be what it is today without them. Ducati would have gone bust, as would Husqvarna, MV Agusta would never have been resurrected and Aprilia’s fate may have been very different. If they hadn’t sold Husqvarna to BMW who then sold to KTM then would KTM be the company they are now?
The Cagiva Elefant dominated the Dakar, and shaped the future of Adventure motorcycles arguably even more than the iconic BMW R80 or the original Honda Africa Twin.
The Cagiva Mito deserves a feature of its own, and the Mito riders again are as fantastic as their bikes. This is the motorcycle that launched Valentino Rossi’s career and I wonder where the world of racing would be today if that hadn’t happened.
Something else to remember, is that the tiny Cagiva factory won more MX GPs than any other European manufacturer between 1980 & 1989. Their race bikes and the road-going versions still fight on, with avid riders prepared to do pretty much anything to keep these bikes going.
The Gran Canyon is another Iconic motorcycle designed by Massimo Tamburini, who’s influence shaped the face of many of the Cagiva’s. It was a more refined and road focussed mile eating motorcycle to complement and then supersede the Elefant. Then came the Navigator, after the sale and subsequent arguments with Ducati. The Navigator became the most powerful adventure motorcycle ever built at the time, and that is an example of the Cagiva way.
All of their motorcycles stand out as special in one way or another, and their owners appreciate and epitomise that more than anything. Anyone who shows an interest will be welcomed and bombarded with information on any questions they might have, or pointed to the right place to find out if that happens to be a different forum.
People happily share their knowledge and help with an endless array of alternative parts sources for the inevitably hard to find items.
Owning a Cagiva can be a challenge, but it is also one of the most rewarding challenges you could ever have. You may know already, but I was a Cagiva owner for many years. I had a Navigator for a few years to see if it would make a good replacement for the Vstrom and it is without a doubt one of the best motorcycles to ride on the road I have ever had. It was a comfortable rocket-ship that could eat miles with the best.
My other Cagiva was a W12 trail bike. This is the one I personally miss the most and one of the bikes I do really regret selling. It made green laning and any off road riding easier than any bike I have ever tried. The motor was smooth and strong and the design kept very simple, with great cycle parts from Marzocchi and Brembo. It was another example of that Cagiva way. Do it as well as possible.
Well I think I have shown my bias there, but what I have said is true, take a look around the forums to see if you don’t believe me.
Other Cult Motorcycles
Anyway, before I end I am going to include some notable omissions.
These bikes all have a loyal following, but they didn’t quite make the cut.
The Series 1 Kawasaki Z900 and in fact the 650 too, both deserve a mention. These 2 motorcycles with their unforgettable silhouette were designed by the great Ken Inamura, one of the true masters of motorcycle design.
Then we have the legendary Honda CB750 K series. called by many the first superbike, the CB750 is without a doubt one of the motorcycles that shaped the industry as we know it today.
Then we have the Laverda Jota. The fastest production motorcycle of its time, it was a monster of a motorcycle built in an era where extremes had become the norm.
All these motorcycles have their own cult following, and do deserve a mention, but more than the bikes that I included in the list, they now command prices which put them in the realm of rich boys toys, and unfortunately despite there being many still around, they are all too often tucked up in a hermetically sealed cupboard, wheeled out at shows and rarely if ever ridden.
Each to their own, but to me, that is a shame. After all, that is what they were built for.