They are classics for a reason and that’s because they got it right! However, for todays riders there is technology and modern performance elements that can be implemented to make the riding experience so much better.
Combining retro looks with modern performance, manufacturers created the perfect storm for an explosion of retro motorcycles and new modern classics.
With new retro motorcycles still appearing each year such as Triumph’s new release of the Trident 660 (taking the name from the original 69’ Trident 750), it doesn’t appear that the retro bike scene is about to slow down anytime soon.
They say fashion goes round in circles. So, as I’m wearing my throwback Nike’s in 2021, the same model I had in the 90’s; I thought we should take a look at some new retro motorcycles for 2021 that have been inspired by the classics of another era.
Yamaha XSR900 2021
The Yamaha XSR900 was introduced in 2016 as an offering to the neo-retro scene. In 2021 pricing starts at $9,499 (£9,499 in the UK).
For 2021 the XSR900 gets a new colour scheme – radical white and rapid red with black lines sat above a pair of gold wheels giving it a definite 1980’s vibe.
The ‘neo-retro’ style is very much prevalent in the bike; it oozes modern and classic in equal manner.
The 874cc liquid-cooled DOHC inline 3-cyclinder engine is based on the FZ-09 (MT-09 in the UK) and has 4 valves per cylinder. It has a 6-speed transmission and a wet weight of 430lbs.
The XSR900 is derived from Yamaha’s rich race history which shows itself in the sportsbike geometry; this combined with the aluminium lightweight frame ensures it is nimble making it exhilarating and fun to ride. The bike also has sportsbike-spec brakes and as an added security comes standard with ABS.
The bike has ride by wire engine control, adjustable D-MODE throttle response and an adjustable traction control system; with an LCD panel in the cockpit displaying all the information a rider could possibly need. A far cry from the get on and ride XS models of the late 60’s and 70’s.
There is a single piece stepped saddle which accommodates 2-up riding and an embroidery stitched logo adds an extra touch to the bike’s style.
Lightweight 10-spoke cast aluminium wheels throwback to a by-gone era and set the bike off.
Yamaha has a range of accessories for the XSR900 including tank kneepads, clubman bars and an aluminium seat cowl which combined would really turn the bike into a get your head down, tuck your elbows in cafe racer machine.
With 115 Horsepower though, I am pretty sure you don’t need to tuck your head and elbows in to go faster!
When the R18 first surfaced on the internet as a concept like a lot of people I thought “What is that?” Although not to everybody’s taste, the craftsmanship and artistry that has gone into it is well worth appreciating.
The R18 is priced at $17,495 and £18,995 for the base models.
The Classic Edition is $20,190 or £20,980 respectively the predominant difference being a touring package is added.
At the heart of the bike is the largest displacement boxer engine BMW have ever built. 1,802cc two-cylinder engine delivering a max torque of 116 lbs-ft. at 3,000rpm and at 4,750 rpm delivers 91HP.
As much as BMW set out to create a genuine retro cruiser, they have managed to walk the line with subtly injecting modern tech into the design including: Automatic Stability Control, Full LED headlight and rear light, Keyless Ignition, 3 riding modes ‘Rock, Roll and Rain’.
BMW have scaled back the bike to its core so that riders can have full control over the customisation and supply a vast catalogue of accessories to accommodate this.
The base model can have several packages added to it, including the First Edition Package which is limited to the model’s first year. Essentially it is an addition of classy white pin striping paint scheme and a chrome package including a ‘First Edition’ chrome plaque on the engine.
Other additions include, pro headlights, alarm system, headed grips, also hill start and reverse assist, which given the 345kg weight of the beast could prove most useful.
Triumph Trident 660
As one of the founding motorcycle companies of the original Scrambler and Bobber scenes as well as being at the forefront of the Cafe Racer culture, there are expectations on Triumph to keep delivering classically styled bikes while keeping pace with modern performance.
With the new addition of the naked Trident 660 to the line-up it seems they have yet again hit the mark. Priced from $7,995 (UK, £7,195) the bike has a 660cc liquid cooled, DOHC 12 valve, 3-cylinder engine and delivers 80HP with a max torque of 64Nm.
With looks not dissimilar to the original 1994 Triumph Speed Triple, it comes with ABS as standard and a 10,000-mile service interval (leading the way in its class), the Trident offers a lot for its price tag.
Triumph have gone out of their way for rider comfort by including a span adjustable brake lever and a slip and assist clutch that provides a light clutch to help reduce rider fatigue.
The bike comes in 4 colour schemes and Triumph’s attention to detail on a design front hasn’t been cut back. There is sculpted knee cut outs on the tank and aluminium Triumph branding can be found on the TFT display panel, fuel filler cap, headlight, rear light and handle bar clamp.
The rider ergonomics are relaxed despite the sporty and somewhat aggressive stance the Trident holds. The twin seat is comfortable and practical, while aluminium cast wheels add to the agility of the ride as well as stylistically fitting in with the minimalist rear end with touches such as the swing arm mounted registration plate holder.
In terms of tech Triumph haven’t held back here either offering as standard the TFT display panel with road and rain riding modes for full rider control.
A total of 45 Triumph accessories are also on offer including the My Triumph Connectivity System which allows the rider to control navigation, go pro, phone and music from the TFT screen.
The new Triumph Trident looks to be competitively priced and is likely to dominate the middle weight market in the next year or two.
Triumph Street Twin 2021
Triumph continues their Modern Classic line with the Bonneville Street Twin with pricing starting at £8,100 or $9,300 in the US.
This is Triumph’s most successful custom classic, bringing Torque-rich Bonneville power, higher-specification equipment for more control and comfort, first-in-class technology, and premium style.Triumph Motorcycles
The Street Twin is also Triumph’s best selling motorcycle to female riders by some distance.
The Street Twin truly evokes the spirit of the original 1959 Bonneville combined with all the modern comforts riders have since come to expect.
900cc engine; 59ft-lbs of peak torque and an engine upgrade means the bike now delivers 65HP.
Initially introduced for new riders to bring them into the Triumph fold, before moving up to the T110 and T120 Bonneville’s. The true selling point of this modern classic is the personalisation options available.
Triumph offers 145+ accessories for the Street Twin, so riders can truly make it their own and this has carved the Street Twin its own place in the Modern Classics line-up.
BMW R NineT 2021
I have to admit I am in love with the BMW R Nine T and have been since it was released in 2014. The crazy colours and aggressive stripped back look sold itself to me. The colours are muted for 2021, with 4 paint schemes and only 2 offering some colour in either red or yellow detailing.
They start off at $15,945 or £13,150.
The air/oil-cooled twin-cylinder 1170cc displacement boxer engine produces 109HP and 89ft-lbs of max Torque.
Spoked wheels, classic dual instrument panel, large round headlight, clean lines and the visible classic Boxer engine create a pathway into BMW’s history. However, don’t be fooled into thinking the bike is any less modern than others in the line-up.
For 2021 BMW have included Rain and Road modes, ABS and Dynamic Engine Braking Control as standard for all the R nineT models.
There’s also a new rear shock with travel dependent damping, LED headlight and indicators plus a USB charging point, all standard for the 2021 R nineT models.
Heated Grips, Cruise Control and more are available as added extras.
Also new is the cylinder head which has improved air fuel swirl producing a leaner burn and enabling the BMW to meet Euro5 standards.
It is worth noting that any extra’s added do carry a premium; it is very easy with BMW to suddenly be throwing an extra few grand on the upfront cost alone in accessories. The optional tail stop and tail tracker however, do finish the bike off quite nicely.
Kawasaki Z900RS Performance 2021
Priced from £10,649 or $11,299 in America.
The Z900RS is one of the best looking of these new retro motorcycles. It’s as retro as it gets and truly encompasses the spirit of the 1970’s Kawasaki Z1, certainly a legendary superbike worth remembering.
A 948cc liquid cooled, 4-stroke, In-line four engine powers the bike with 111HP and a Max Torque of 98.5Nm.
The retro tank, dual instrument panel, huge round headlight, chrome exhaust and traditional paint schemes complete the classical styling.
Homage to the 1970’s Z1 is thoroughly represented and then added too, with the modern spec that makes the riding experience completely up to date with what riders have come to expect in 2021 from Kawasaki who delivered us the incredible H2.
- ERGO-FIT is Kawasaki’s interface system that allows a wide range of riders be 100% comfortable on their machine. Essentially the chassis interface can be adjusted to suit individuals through a range of adjustable parts or alternative parts.
- ABS as of 2021 is standard on the Z900RS.
- Assist and Slipper Clutch ensure a light clutch lever.
- Kawasaki Traction Control (KTRC) helps rider be reassured that the back wheel won’t spin on various surfaces.
- Dual Throttle Valves offer increased power and ease of use.
- Also, an eco-riding indicator light.
All of that in addition to the accessories that Kawasaki offer for the Z900RS make this machine pack quite a punch into modern riding, while still looking like a special ‘barn find’ laying dormant since the 70’s.
Norton Atlas (due 2021)
In late 2018 I was at a Motorcycle show and it was here that my eyes were cast over the Norton Atlas Nomad and Atlas Ranger.
Triumph and Ducati has success with their addition to the rising retro based Scrambler market and were abundantly popular (and still are).
However, there was some debate about how effective either bike would be at actually going off road, despite marketing campaigns affirming the bikes capabilities.
Now, at first glance it seems Norton saw what was going on in the market and created a machine actually capable of a pleasurable and practical, on and off-road experience. With a price yet to be confirmed but estimates suggesting below £10,000 it makes the prospect even more exciting.
This is what we know so far about the Atlas:
- 650cc Parallel Twin Engine, 84HP and 64Nm Of Torque.
- Incredible attention to detail as one would expect from Norton.
- Round headlight, (LED), dual instrument panel add to a very classic look.
- ‘Solid Components’ as quoted by Norton make the Atlas fit for purpose – which is a bike that you can take literally anywhere.
- The Ranger is meant to lend itself more to off road riding with longer travel in the rear suspension and 19” front wheel, 17” rear which is different to the Nomad’s 18” and 17” respectively. Stronger handlebars, sump guard and a higher mounted mudguard is also expected on the Ranger.
Interestingly, Norton have fitted a steel sub frame which in case of an off-road spill can be bent back into shape unlike aluminium.
There is initially only to be 250 models made with deposits having already been taken; however, Norton are hoping to produce 2000 units a year.
Ducati Scrambler Nightshift
Ducati on release of their Scrambler in 2015 have gone from strength to strength and popularity increases every year. So, it comes as no surprise they keep adding varieties to the line-up as such with the Nightshift.
The Scrambler Nightshift is priced at $10,995 (£9,595)
The power comes from an L-Twin, 2 Valves per cylinder, air-cooled, 803cc engine, with 73HP and 66.2Nm Max Torque which was the original Monster engine.
A Chic new Aviator Grey paint scheme, which essentially blacks out the bike, is very apt for the name ‘Nightshift’. The bike wears spoked wheels with MT60 Pirelli Tires, which Ducati claim are great for asphalt and dirty roads.
Flat-track type side number plates bear the Ducati logo, wide handlebars with cafe-racer bar end mirrors and a new cafe racer dual seat completes the retro inspired look.
Ducati have a selection of accessories to add to the Scrambler models including metal grills for the headlight, tinted fly dart screens (which would add to the cafe racer vibe on the Nightshift) and a whole host more to really own your Scrambler.
Ducati Scrambler Icon 2021
Ducati market the Icon as nonconformist, essential, affordable and the Icon is certainly competitively priced at $9,695 or £8,395
The engine is shared with the Nightshift and the key difference in the variant is aesthetics.
Bright colour options of yellow, orange and red really bring out the ‘land of joy’ that Ducati are aiming for.
For 2021 there are new interchangeable aluminium muscular side panels; new 10 spoke aluminium wheels, new comfortable seat for rider and passenger and a new suspension set up. For 2021 the Scrambler is also equipped for Euro 5 regulations.
You will also find a whole Scrambler clothing and accessory range that Ducati are marketing to attract riders into the ‘lifestyle’.
For those that want to add a little colour and fun into their retro riding dream, the Icon is for sure the way to go.
So, there you have it, a wide range of new retro motorcycles that are the best offerings in 2021 for a classic look but with all the comfort and performance of a modern bike.
If money was no object, I would undoubtedly put my name down for a First Edition BMW R18. I would need to remember it was built to be ridden though and not to just sit looking pretty.
Maybe the Norton would be a more suitable choice for piling the miles on and getting dirty, with that said it’s a Norton and deserves respect, so I’m not sure I could do that either!
With such a great list of options it truly is a difficult choice.