Today it’s the 650cc motorcycles that dominate the middleweight class with the 750’s few and far between.
Apart from the odd Adventure bike we’ve currently got the new Honda CB750 Hornet, the Triumph Street Triple R, the Suzuki GSX S750, the ever present (since 1985) Suzuki GSX R750 and the soon to be released Suzuki GSX 8X. All these are naked bikes except the GSX R750 SuperSport.
It wasn’t always the case though and some of the most influential and iconic bikes of the past have been 750cc motorcycles, here’s 9 of the best.
Suzuki GSX R750 Slabside
The 1985 GSX R750 Slabside set the benchmark for sportbikes; there are those that came before the GSX R750 and those that came after.
In terms of iconic 750cc motorcycles the Suzuki GSX R750 is arguably the most iconic of them all and it was widely regarded as one of the best motorcycles of the 80s.
Suzuki wanted a sportbike that could be entered into competition races in the 750 class, so they got to work on producing a bike that would have track performance and be usable on the street.
It was the first ever oil-cooled production motorcycle and was capable of over 100 horsepower, and up to 130 horsepower with a tuning kit.
The Japanese market had previously received the Suzuki 400cc GSX-R, it was this model that pioneered the alloy frame, four-cylinder layout and slab-sided styling.
The model was incredibly light weight and the streamlined design came from the factory’s F1 racers as a result the bike had sharp handling and was ready to be thrown into the corners at speed.
There would later be a Suzuki GSX S750, which used the GSX R750 platform but was turned into an upright, naked streetbike. The GSX S750 and GSX R750 are both still in production today.
It is the slab-sided bodywork on the Suzuki sportbike that made it memorable to look at and the bikes performance that cemented it’s legendary status.
Honda Shadow 750
Honda released the Shadow as a means to provide worthy competition to Harley Davidson in the US. It was actually beaten to the market by the Yamaha Virago but the Shadow 750cc beat it onto this list purely on perseverance.
The Shadow name has since been lent to various capacity cruisers from 125’s to 1000 cc’s, the most consistent model however, has been the Shadow 750.
The bike was first released in 1983 but was soon restricted by the US to be a 700cc, so it was 1985 before the 750cc was back on US soil until 1988.
Then there was a break before Honda released the Shadow Ace 750 in 1997. After that there have been various Shadow variants with the Shadow Aero and Phantom in the lineup today.
Initially the Shadow was chain-driven before moving to a shaft drive which provides fuss-free maintenance.
Despite being in production for over 38 years not all that much has changed with the Shadow.
The chassis is very similar to what it was when it was first released, with classic cruiser styling, a beefy tank, smooth curves and low rear end.
The Shadow is fun for both experienced and novice riders, it has the presence of a much bigger motorcycle thanks to the chunky chassis and chunky-sized V twin.
Ducati Paso 750
The Ducati Paso 750 was Massimo Tamburini’s very first Ducati project, and the first bike produced under Cagiva ownership.
Tamburini, later credited with the Ducati 916 and MV Agusta F4 750, had just left Bimota after the release of the Bimota DB1.
Much of the Paso design was owed to Tamburini’s involvement with the DB1 project and it even shared the same Pantah 750 engine.
The Paso was one of the most balanced chassis the Italians had ever produced, with Ohlins suspension and Marzocchi forks. The steep rake and calm trail provided sharp, confident and stable handling.
It is said that despite the exotic aggressive styling (that made it unique from other sportbikes), the care taken into the engine tweaks and chassis design the Paso 750 only sold 4,863 units.
It wasn’t the big sales hit Cagiva had hoped for Ducati but it is safe to say that without Tamburini having been allowed to work on the Paso, there would be no 916, no Ducati Monster or indeed no Panigale.
The creative freedom allowed to Tamburini at the start of his career with Ducati for sure sparked the incredible line of bikes that came thereafter.
Kawasaki H2 750
Before Kawasaki released the turbocharged H2 that we know today, with ride modes adjusting throttle response, launch control, traction control and every other kind of electronic rider aid known to man and machine, there was The Widow Maker.
Kawasaki immediately lauded the H2 750 as the fastest production motorcycle, faster than any other manufacturer. They were leading the pack for supersport bikes and claimed their new model was the sportbike to beat them all.
Released in 1972 the Kawasaki H2 750 had a 3-cylinder engine, with Mikuni carbs and was air-cooled, the simple motor produced 74 horsepower, beating the closest competition by around 20 horsepower.
The 2 stroke engine was undoubtedly bulletproof, but the bike itself was a tad anti-social, pushing out blue smoke with every pull on the throttle, and the frame was a little too lightweight to cope with the bikes power.
Wheelies were all too common and the frame would flex and weave in an attempt to cope with the motor’s performance hence how the bike gained The Widow Maker title.
With some modern performance parts swapped on the bike like suspension and brakes, you could still have a blast on this old two-stroke today.
Honda VFR750R RC30
Honda designed the RC30 for homologation purposes, it was a limited edition road bike, with the intention to sell just enough so Honda could enter World Superbikes.
The RC30 sold out rapidly and was restricted to just 77 horsepower in Japan but the European version got the derestricted 112 horsepower version.
The RC30 was built to a very high spec as the manufacturers now had to produce competition bikes to a road-worthy standard and vice versa, this was the result of World Superbikes stating that track-only bikes couldn’t compete.
The result of this meant that the RC30 was held to an incredibly high standard, it was equipped with advanced racing technology, an aluminium frame and single-sided swingarm.
It was powered by a V4 liquid cooled engine that produced 118hp and a top speed of 155 mph.
Honda produced a nimble handling, ultimate sportsbike that competed directly with the GSX-R but came with a price tag twice as high. Even this steep price didn’t put riders off.
The Honda RC30 is a coveted racer today, and has many race titles to its name including the World Superbike, Isle of Man TT and Macau GP podiums.
Harley Davidson XR750
When it comes to 750cc motorcycles it would be rude to ignore the Harley Davidson XR750 as it is one of the best motorcycles to ever grace the dirt.
The XR750 is now over 50 years old and has earned the title of being the ‘most successful racer of all time’.
If being the ultimate flat track racer isn’t good enough, the XR750 was the bike favored by Evel Knievel and used in some of his famous jumps including the 129 ft jump over 29 cars.
The XR750 was built to win races, that was its only mission, so there is nothing fancy about it, it uses the Sportster engine and the flat-tracker chassis molds itself around the V-twin.
If looking for an original 1970’s XR750 be prepared to dig deep as around $50,000 is the going rate – surely that’s petty change for such a legend?
Norton Commando 750
The Norton Commando is a worthy contender for the one of the best motorcycles of all time.
During the 10 years it was in production over half a million units were sold and in the many years since it remains a favorite among classic bike enthusiasts.
The Norton Atlas engine was fitted into a new frame and this eliminated the vibration issues British parallel twin engine bikes had been suffering from. Dr Stephen Bauer, a former Rolls Royce worker produced the Isolatic Suspension which revolutionized engine design.
The new frame was also quite a feat; it aided excellent handling and allowed the engine to perform to its fullest capabilities.
There were several models of the Commando during its decade-long run, some of which were coveted and others which were less successful.
There are few British bikes that are as universally appreciated as the original Norton Commando.
Triumph Trident 750
The Trident 750’s story has a sad beginning because the bike received very little support initially from Triumph. The Honda CB750 actually beat the Trident to the title of ‘World’s First Superbike’ as a result of this lack of backing at the time.
However, the Trident is finally getting some credit and rightly so because frankly it is a really great thumper of a machine.
The Trident and BSA Rocket 3 was the first venture between Triumph and BSA.
Things did not run smoothly as Triumph was storming ahead with the Trident to beat Honda to the post, BSA held up proceedings as they wanted their own model.
Production was halted to produce BSA engine casings for what would become the Rocket 3.
Eventually the Trident was released but despite being faster than the Honda, it was not as revered, the styling fell short of what was expected and it was not a huge sales success.
However, the original Triumph Trident 750 today is appreciated for what it was, a revolutionary triple-cylinder in an all-new frame that performed and handled superbly.
Lastly we have the 1969 launch of the CB750 – the ‘World’s First Superbike‘.
Arguably it is this very model that laid the foundation of the 750cc class and everything that was to come afterwards.
The CB750 was Honda’s first push into the bigger capacity market, it was the first production motorcycle with disc brakes and an inline four-cylinder engine. The model was also the first to use an electric starter.
Over half a million units were sold between 1969 and 1978, with Honda’s initial sales estimates being blown out the water from the very first time bikes rolled out of the factory.
There isn’t much to say about the original Honda CB750 that hasn’t been said, it is one of those bikes that even non-bikers are familiar with.
Its silhouette is burned into rider’s minds forever, and whether the bike stole the ‘First Superbike’ title off Triumph or not, the Honda deserves all the praise and accolades it gets.