Expectation vs Reality | 12 Concept Motorcycles that didn't need toning down

Some motorcycle manufacturers are just sneaky motorcycle-teases as this collection of bold, beautiful and bizarre concept motorcycles testify to

Royal Enfield Concept KX

You’ve probably seen those rather woke social media posts titled ‘Expectation vs Reality’ filling your news feeds in recent years that debunk the myths with cold, hard actuality.

But, if you’re a keen observer of the motorcycle industry, you’ll know it’s a theme that was around long before anyone had ever heard of ‘memes’.

Take concept motorcycles for instance. Often wild looking, boasting futuristic tech and proving wholly impractical, these one-offs offer curious windows into the far-out minds of various firms when they allow their imaginations to run riot.

For some it’s just a way to go crazy without consequence, but for others they serve a purpose by giving a hint of what’s to come in future. 

Either way, it has led to some intriguing concept motorcycles over time that were quickly forgotten after their 15 minutes of fame… here we make sure that while they may be gone, they’re not entirely forgotten.

1986 Suzuki Nuda

Suzuki has produced so many concepts over the decades that we could have dedicated an entire listicle to it alone… which is ironic given the glacial pace at which it gets around to replacing its models.

Wacky concepts like the Tron-esque Falcorustyco, the steam punky Biplane and the handsome Recursion - a definite shoulda, woulda, coulda SV650 replacement - show Suzuki has plenty of imagination within its design house… it’s just a shame very few seem to actually go beyond the show stand.

One concept that did - perhaps - inspire a future legend is the curiously titled Suzuki Nuda, a sort of pre-Hayabusa sportsbike that looks as deliciously futuristic as it is clearly of its time.

A slinky, aerodynamic form hides rather more conventional Suzuki GSX-R750 underpinnings, but it was the then-unusual hub-centre steering and front swingarm, plus the fact it was two-wheel drive that really made you wonder ‘what could have been’ had Suzuki pushed it into production.

2007 Yamaha XS-V1 Sakura

While retro motorcycles are today’s fashion at the moment, it’s fair to say they follow a fairly similar theme in terms of design.

Which is why Yamaha’s latest creation - the XSR900 - cuts a rather refreshing dash with its 80’s inspired finish. Indeed, the Iwata marque has some form when it comes to playing around with the retro form, as demonstrated by the elegant Yamaha XS-V1 Sakura, revealed at the 2007 Tokyo Motor Show.

With its smooth lines - framed by shimmering glossy paint finish - stylised engine and swooping exhaust, the XS-VI Sakura is a 1000cc roadster that would have brought a healthy dose of sophistication to an honest sector.

2019 BMW Vision DC Roadster

BMW peered into its crystal ball in 2019 to envisage what an sporty electric motorcycle wearing the famed propeller badge would look like… and what they saw was the BMW Vision DC.

Quirky yet rakish, impractical but not implausible, the Vision DC catches the eye with its aggressive sloping front-end, chunky bodywork on an otherwise minimalist silhouette and single-sided swingarm connected to an electric powertrain inspired by the Boxer unit of the famed R32.

There are some nifty touches, such as the laterally protruding cooling systems and a more linear frame design that takes advantage of the space saved by not having a fuel tank. There is even ‘smart’ riding gear with a rucksack that magnetically nestles into the riding gear…

2008 Honda CB1100R

The words ‘striking’ and ‘Honda’ don’t often come hand-in-hand, less so when we’re talking about its larger, more conventionally positioned motorcycles.

But in 2008 the Japanese giants let loose on two sister concepts in the CB1100F and CB1100R. However, while the former made it to sale, the latter - unfortunately - was left to gather dust.

A spiritual successor to the classic model of the same name, the rebooted concept shares the same red, white and blue colourway and bulbous front-end, even if the oddball dual headlights of the concept were perhaps an acquired taste.

On the plus side, the CB1100R is now effectively living on as the recently introduced Honda Hawk 11 which has certainly borrowed a few traits from the forgotten concept.

2001 Aprilia Blue Marlin

There are still people out there who haven’t forgiven Aprilia for not putting the Blue Marlin into production.

The distinctive, sporty cafe racer was revealed in concept form in 2001 boasting the 1000cc engine from the RSV sportsbike. However, its compact shape was a headache for engineers to squeeze the unit in, leaving it with the only option but to detune it from 130hp to 80hp.

Deciding it would make the Blue Marlin too flaccid for its striking looks, the difficult decision was taken to can the model altogether.

2015 Yamaha PES2

Yamaha hasn’t been afraid to use its imagination when it comes to creating motorcycles that will inspire future models.

So it’s no surprise it was already thinking about an electric future as long ago as 2015 with the PES2 its take on marrying stylish sportsbike looks with a zero emissions powertrain.

Unusually it comes with a front-hub motor to make the PES2 a two-wheel drive motorcycle, while it was complemented by a helmet equipped with augmented reality and a heads up display.

2018 Royal Enfield Concept KX

A manufacturer better associated with honest but humble motorcycles brimming with nostalgia, it’s fair to say no-one was expecting Royal Enfield to reveal a sexier side when it pulled the wraps off the stunning KX Concept at the 2018 EICMA show.

A slinky bobber drenched in desirability, the Concept KX isn’t just show and no-go either with its 838cc V-Twin engine, a nod to the original KX of the 1930s with a vast 1160cc unit nestled into it.

Four years later and the legacy of the Concept KX will finally transfer onto the roads having served as inspiration for Royal Enfield’s incoming 650cc-engined Super Meteor cruiser and Shotgun bobber.

2021 Ducati 860-E Italdesign

Having spent many years going on the record as dismissing the notion of ever offering an electric model, Ducati has been forced to change its tune recently as a result of sweeping legislative changes that will eventually see conventional ICE motorcycles phased out.

If anything, the Italian firm - with its racing heritage and premium image - has a harder task than most to convince its loyal customers that Ducati and electric can go together.

We’ve already seen plenty of Ducati’s new MotoE racer - due to hit the track in 2023 - but it has also dipped its toe into EV waters with the 860-E, a design project delegated to legendary styling house Italdesign.

A modern reimagining of the classic 860 roadster, the 860-E is a chunky, yet compact looker bearing all the Ducati signatures without giving too much away about what’s powering it.

2021 CFMoto SR-C21

When you consider just how many Chinese manufacturers shamelessly copy existing designs for their own models, then the fact CFMoto revealed an original design in concept form at EICMA last year deserves some applause.

Better still, it didn’t play it safe either, CFMoto diving straight into the unforgiving sportsbike space with the moody looking CFMoto SR-C21.

A slightly mysterious model in that CFMoto wouldn’t be drawn on exactly where in the market it belonged, the SR-C21 nonetheless brims with quality sporting touches, such as a single-sided swingarm, Brembo brakes and Ohlins suspension.

While we ‘had’ hoped we were looking at a mid-size 600cc supersport, it has instead re-emerged in production form with toned down styling, none of the aforementioned features and a modest 450cc engine.

2013 KTM E-Speed

Scooters are big business in Europe, so it is perhaps surprising KTM - one of the continent’s biggest manufacturers - has never offered one.

That’s not to say it hasn’t considered it though, as demonstrated by the E-Speed concept revealed - somewhat curiously - at the 2013 Tokyo Motor Show.

While the electric powertrain demonstrates a brand thinking way ahead of its time, the real star of the show is the unmistakable KTM signatures of an exposed trellis frame, sporty decals and unmissable orange colour that make it look like a certain sales winner to us…

2007 Suzuki Stratosphere

Suzuki’s second entry in this list, the Suzuki Stratosphere is another example of the Hamamatsu marque going to lengths to tantalisingly dangle a stunning-looking motorcycle that would never otherwise see the light of day. 

Or did it? Indeed, with its beaked front end, there is certainly a hint of Katana in that chunky front-end before the design changes tact with its wavy top line across the fuel tank and seat, while the polished pipes look resplendent in helping the 180hp six-cylinder engine clear its throat.

While the rebooted Katana did reach production more than a decade later, we can’t help but wonder whether Suzuki would have been better off biting the bullet and slapping the same badge on this years earlier.

2001 Sachs Beast

Before we go any further, you need to say the name of this motorcycle out loud to get it. You hear it now, yes?

Boasting a thoroughly engaging minimalist quirky design, while we wouldn’t go as far as to describe it as a ‘Sex Beast’, it is hard to tear your eyes away from it.

Doing away with the frame to leave its 998cc V-Twin engine right on show, the Beast was light, nimble and discerning. It was also originally intended to be called ‘Sachs Bomb’ before the events of 9/11 prompted a rethink.

Alas, it never made production as is, instead morphing into the rather dumpier B-805 roadster.