Last Updated on 08/04/2021
While it is true that most new retro bikes come with a premium price tag, there are several cheap retro motorcycles available for those not wanting to break the bank. Here, Paul picks out 8 options for the budget conscious rider.
Sit back and imagine yourself bumbling along on a vintage motorcycle, open-faced helmet, and wearing a leather flying jacket on a beautiful spring afternoon. You can almost see the image of the ‘Gentleman Rider/Likeable Lady’, the well-spoken rider, the rider who understands respect and courtesy to all.
We all like this rider, and of course, it wouldn’t be a sports bike they rode into the village on. It would be something else, something with a bit more class and style. It would be a Retro. This simple, yet elegant, design always receives a second look.
If that sounds like the ideal way to spend your weekend then you’re in the right place as we look at 8 of the best budget Retro motorcycles in the current market.
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Royal Enfield Interceptor and Continental GT 650
- RRP: £5699 / $5799 & £5899 / $5999
- Engine: Parallel-Twin
- Capacity: 648 cc
- Power: 47 bhp / 34.5 kW
- Top Speed: 105 mph / 169 km/h
- Fuel tank: 13.7L / 3.62 gal (US) – 12.5L / 3.3 gal (US)
- Seat Height: 804 mm / 31.1 inches
- Wet Weight: 202 kg / 445 pounds
Two classic bikes built on the same platform. The Interceptor maintains a traditional styling and a comfortable riding position. The Continental GT is the Interceptor’s more extroverted cafe racer twin. Forcing you to lean forward with its lower clip-on handlebars, it puts you into a head down racing position that makes you feel like you’re traveling back to the 50s to take on the Isle of Man TT.
As with the rest of the Royal Enfield range, both the Interceptor and Continental GT stick with the ethos that less is more. No electrical wizardry to aid the rider, with the one exception of the EU enforced ABS. Even the rev counter and speedometer are analog, however it does miss the presence of a fuel gauge.
Royal Enfield’s new parallel-twin engine, their first for many years, does a sterling job keeping any vibrations at bay. It has a smooth and gentle power delivery, ideal if you’re stepping up to a larger motorcycle for the first time.
At sub £6k for a brand-new motorbike, it’s no wonder that the Interceptor was the bestselling bike in the UK in June 2020.
Husqvarna Vitpilen 401
- RRP: £4849 / $4999
- Engine: Single
- Capacity: 373 cc
- Power: 44 bhp / 32 kW
- Top Speed: 105 mph / 169 km/h
- Fuel tank: 9.5 L / 2.51 gal (US)
- Seat Height: 835 mm / 32.9 inches
- Wet Weight: 163 kg / 359 pounds
The Vitpilen, or ‘white arrow’ in the Swedish motorcycle company’s native tongue, shares most of its components with the KTM Duke 390. Knowing this gives you the comfort that you’ll be getting a high quality, performance machine.
I’ll be the first to confess that I’ve never taken a liking to KTM’s styling. But what Husqvarna has done here is take the best mechanical parts of the Duke and applying some Swedish flair to the design, giving the Vitpilen a futuristic feel that even I can appreciate. The LED headlight with halo and its minimalist smooth panel finish attributes to this modern look, akin to that of an iPhone.
Despite its modern styling, it still holds to its retro/cafe racer status with its single-round headlight, spoked wheels and single-piece flat seat merging into a slim rear end.
Due to the recent price drop, the Vitpilen is also a much more attractive option to your wallet these days.
Mash Five Hundred 400
- RRP: £3899 / $4599
- Engine: Single
- Capacity: 397 cc
- Power: 27.6 bhp / 20.1 kW
- Top Speed: 95 mph / 153 km/h
- Fuel tank: 13 L / 3.43 gal (US)
- Seat Height: 780 mm / 30.7 inches
- Wet Weight: 166 kg / 366 pounds
The Mash Five Hundred is the first of the three Chinese built ‘franchise’ bikes on this list but packs the biggest punch of the trio.
I’ve still yet to see a Mash motorcycle on the road, but Mash is a relatively young brand, established in 2014 by the French import company SIMA. With Mash going on to achieve success in Europe they are now branching out to the UK.
If we put the confusing name aside, the Five Hundred is actually a punchy middleweight 400cc.
With its styling, they’ve clearly taken inspiration from the classic BSA, Triumph, and Royal Enfield bikes. It’s a simple piece of engineering with rubber gaiters, a teardrop fuel tank, spoked wheels, analog dials, and round indicators sitting aside its circular halogen headlight. No LEDs here, this is the polar opposite to the Husqvarna Vitpilen.
The one downside I can see with the Mash is that it has a rear drum brake. A modern disc brake would give better stopping power and easier maintenance. Yet at less than £4000 this is a standout cheap retro motorcycle with (mostly) modern engineering.
So, if you have your heart set on a Triumph Bonneville but don’t have the budget to match your dreams, don’t fret, Mash has you covered.
NOTE: Mash Motorcycles is not available in the US. The bike is available badged as the Genuine Motorcycles G400C with a few minor changes.
Still on a CBT or A1 license? Not to fear, there’s plenty of great retro bikes on the market for you to choose from.
Hyosung Aquila GV125S
- RRP: £3595 / Not currently available in the US
- Engine: V-Twin
- Capacity: 125 cc
- Power: 14.8 bhp / 10.8 kW
- Top Speed: 68 mph / 109 km/h
- Fuel tank: 12 L / 3.17 gal (US)
- Seat Height: 710 mm / 30.7 inches
- Wet Weight: 165 kg / 328 pounds
Currently imported into the UK by Sinnis Motorcycles, many people incorrectly assume Hyosung is a Chinese brand, however they are in fact a Korean company. Hyosung has been building engines and gearboxes for Suzuki for years before deciding to take a chance at developing their own bikes.
I owned one of the earlier Hyosung models back in 2008 and even then was impressed with the quality vs price. I can only imagine how much further they’ve come with an extra decade of experience.
The Hyosung Aquila GV125S is one of the more expensive 125cc motorcycles on the market today. Given that it is the only 125cc with a V-Twin engine currently still produced, you are quite literally, getting more bang for your buck. This extra power of the V-twin also gives you the ability to accelerate out of trouble if needed, and when opening the throttle its throaty burble is a glorious soundtrack just in itself.
Like most of the bikes on this list its styling is simple, yet it also has a hint of a bobber aesthetic due to its matt black colour scheme, chunky tyres and exhaust.
The biggest problem you’ll face if you own the Aquila GV125S is to explain to everyone that, yes, it is a 125…
AJS Cadwell Clubman 125
- RRP: £2699 / Not currently available in the US
- Engine: Single
- Capacity: 124 cc
- Power: 9.2 bhp / 7.1 kW
- Top Speed: 60 mph / 97 km/h
- Fuel tank: 11.2 L / 2.96 gal (US)
- Seat Height: 740 mm / 29.9 inches
- Wet Weight: 125 kg / 272 pounds
In its stylish black and gold colour scheme the AJS Cadwell Clubman gives a quaint nod to the 60s and 70s. For that extra special touch, you can have custom lettering inscribed on the panels below the seat, the font in gold perfectly matches that of the brand name giving a seamless finish.
Its single 124cc feels somewhat underpowered and I would not relish the thought of taking it on a Motorway. That being said, the bikes in this article are listed for their presence and style rather than being capable as long-distance touring machines, and the Cadwell Clubman has style in excess.
A good friend of mine has the Cadwell Clubman, (in the approved black and gold scheme) which she uses for city commuting and weekend rides. As she is averse to speed and seldom goes over 40 mph, the AJS suits her perfectly.
She is particularly fond of the styling, size, and gentle persona of the bike and it seems everyone else is too. When we rode to Rykas Cafe, Surrey one weekend, the little AJS got more people gathered around taking photos than the loud and proud sports bikes that usually frequent the place. Very much style over substance here.
Second Hand Retro Motorcycles
If you’re looking for something that’s stood the test of time and will retain its resale value then why not try second-hand? With a bit of research there are some amazing bargains to be had if you are after a better-engineered bike.
Here are a few to get you started.
Moto Guzzi V7
- RRP: £7999 / $8499 (USED £5595, 2016 version II model with 1.5k miles)
- Engine: V-Twin
- Capacity: 744 cc
- Power: 51 bhp / 38 kW
- Top Speed: 100 mph / 161 km/h
- Fuel tank: 15L / 3.96 gal (US)
- Seat Height: 770 mm / 30.3 inches
- Wet Weight: 209 kg / 461 pounds
The Moto Guzzi V7 has been around for a while, 13 years in fact, and now on its third generation. Changes have come slowly but with larger steps forward each time.
Moto Guzzi design their machines in a traditional Italian fashion. Much like the world of fashion, the V7 is about making a statement to everyone around you, this is a bike you wear rather than ride.
Its distinctive 90° mounted V-Twin keeps the V7 unique, and the additional bulk this gives increases its presence around more traditional retro motorcycles. The separate exhaust pipes emerging from each cylinder head keep the V7 looking perfectly symmetrical, holding my OCD at bay.
It’s also the only bike within this list that features a drive shaft, hopefully keeping maintenance costs down in the long run.
The new 2021 model, currently unreleased, will see a power increase from 744cc to 850cc, sharing the same engine as the popular V85TT. With its launch imminent, there will be plenty of pre-loved high-quality previous generation V7 models to take your pick from.
- RRP: £8499 / $9199 (USED £5000, 2015 model with 3.5k miles)
- Engine: Parallel-Twin
- Capacity: 773 cc
- Power: 48 bhp / 35 kW
- Top Speed: 110 mph / 177 km/h
- Fuel tank: 15L / 3.96 gal (US)
- Seat Height: 790 mm / 31.1 inches
- Wet Weight: 221 kg / 487 pounds
A truly authentic retro motorcycle, the W800 is a full-on homage to Kawasaki’s first motorcycle, the 1966 W1 650cc. Under license from BSA, the W1 was essentially a clone of the popular BSA A7. The W1 was the bike Kawasaki planned to use to take on British dominance in the growing motorcycle market.
The W800 is proof of Kawasaki, once again, taking the fight to the competition, this time in the current retro market. Despite using modern components, you would be hard-pressed to notice the difference between the W800 and its predecessor. The only visual differences from the W1 are the LED lights and disc brakes. Even the engine uses a bevel-drive system to replicate the sound and feel of the original.
Its badge and branding may not give off the same nostalgic feel as a BSA or Triumph, but you will be getting a genuine modern replica of the bike that launched Kawasaki into the world of motorcycles. Built by Kawasaki themselves, this is reason alone to own one.
A look into the future
Now to throw a curveball into the mix. The world is moving steadily in the direction of Electric vehicles being the dominant means of personal transport. The motorcycle market, despite being behind the car industry, is making steady progress.
Super Soco TC MAX (EV – Electric Vehicle)
RRP: £4249 / $5449
Capacity: 125 cc (Electric equivalent)
Power: 6.7 bhp / 5 kW
Top Speed: 60 mph / 96 km/h
Fuel tank: 45 Ah (60 miles / 96 km)
Charging time 7-8 hours (Standard) / 3-4 hours (Fast charge)
Seat Height: 770 mm / 30.3 inches
Wet Weight: 100 kg / 220 pounds
The TC Max from Super Soco is currently relatively unheard of but watch this space. The visual design of many electric motorcycles started poorly (much like the hybrids and electric cars of years past). However, manufacturers have begun to realise their mistakes and are moving the styling back towards what we know and are comfortable with.
Super Soco has delivered on the styling front with its futuristic cafe racer that looks very much like the Husqvarna Vitpilen 401. Spoked wheels are available at an additional £100, I would personally choose this option to give the TC Max a more complete retro feel.
The TC Max comes with CBS, a maintenance-free drive belt, the option of spoked wheels, keyless ignition, 3 drive modes, and a smartphone app for those who like to look at all the data the bike collates. It’s a juxtaposition of very modern technology and classic looks that works surprisingly well.
The range of 60 miles and charging time will be a sticking point for some, but if you’re doing a daily commute or a short weekend ride, then this shouldn’t affect you.
I love the looks of the Super Soco and the technology behind it. But as a long-distance rider I’ll be waiting a few more years to jump on the EV bandwagon.
If I were 18 again in 2021 and looking for a retro bike, what would I choose?
The extra power and presence of the Aquila, as well as the fact that is has been around for a long time, make it the number one choice for 18-year-old me. But (and it’s a big but) only if a good quality one was available second hand. Spending £3595 on a 125cc is a big ask when you’re 18 and likely to be studying, adding on the high cost of insurance and it becomes unrealistic.
Returning to the now, I’m in my 30s, have a full license, job, and a wider range of options.
At this stage in my life the bike for me would be the Husqvarna Vitpilen 401. However much I love the look of the Kawasaki W800 and both Royal Enfield 650s, the Vitpilen is a fusion of designs done right.
It’s both modern and retro, completely oxymoronic in a positive way. Its sleek lines and smooth panel transitions gives it a clean look. Yet it manages to keep the classic designs of a retro bike. With proven high-quality components from KTM as well, you’re on to a winner.
At its original launch price of £5599, I would question its value for money. Now they’ve adjusted it to £4849 it’s a much better deal, which doesn’t leave a sour taste in the mouth. I do have doubts that it will retain its resale value as well as its sister bike, KTM Duke 390, or either of the second-hand bike choices listed here.
But if you’re buying a retro bike then you don’t do it for the resale value. You do it for the style, for how it makes you feel, because of that spark you get every time you think about it. It is very much like falling in love, and this is exactly what it is.