Five bikes that should have been classics

But weren't

Aprilia SL1000 Falco

LOOK back into the not-too-distant past and there are countless bikes that have come and gone. Of the models that got left at the roadside, we think there are a few that never managed to achieve the status they deserved. Here are five such bikes – models that, we think, with the passing of time should have become classics.

1. Aprilia SL1000 Falco

It’s safe to say that the SL1000 Falco was a bit of a flop for Aprilia. Undeservedly so, we think. When it was on sale it was often overlooked by buyers who favoured similar models from Honda, like the Firestorm, and Suzuki, like the SV650S. Nowadays, it’s a bit forgotten. There was nothing wrong with its makeup which consisted of a characterful detuned RSV engine, sporty chassis and a decent  half-fairing, which all came together to make a less focused, more road-friendly version of the RSV Mille. The Falco’s weaknesses include a heavy clutch and iffy slow speed handling manners thanks to a high centre of gravity. Sadly, this V-twin sportster didn’t take off in in Europe.

2. Ducati 999

WHEN it launched in 2003, the Ducati 999 had some enormous 998-shaped shoes to fill. Although it had a lot of on track success, winning World Superbike Championships in the hands of James Toseland, Neil Hodgson and Troy Bayliss, its styling was always a contentious issue. It was regarded as a better forming bike than the 998 but that wasn’t enough to make it one of Ducati’s more adored superbikes and it suffered from disappointing sales before being succeed by the 1098 in 2006.

3. Suzuki TL1000R

BASED on the bad boy TL1000S – a machine with reputation as wild, torquey and a prone to a bit of tank-slappery due to an ineffective rotary damper, the TL1000R was its softened replacement. Compared to the S, the R had more weight, and more stable geometry – all stuff designed to combat the flak the S had received in the press. Although it was a bit tamer, it still offered an exciting and engaging ride, but its combination of direct, torquey engine paired with imprecise, strange handling meant it was never the superbike Suzuki intended it to be.

4. Cagiva Raptor 1000

THE RAPTOR was a minimal bike, and the half-faired V Raptor had some interesting (or challenging, depending on your viewpoint) styling. Power in the 1000cc bike came from the Suzuki TL1000 engine and although it had a good chassis, brakes and handling manners, it could still be a handful at high speed thanks to a tendency to wobble and weave. The combination of Italian styling and Japanese reliability from the engine should have made the Raptor 1000 a common sight on the UK’s roads but it was a bit pricey when it was first on sale, and was up against tough competition from bikes like the Ducati Monster, and has leftfield look, so never quite fulfilled its potential.

5. Buell Lightning

BOTH THE XB9 and XB12 Lightnings both had plenty of attitude and eye catching looks. They were quick and handled well, and were sure to be a talking point at your local bike meet because as you might expect from a bike made by a marque that was at the time the sporting offshoot of Harley-Davidson, the Lightning was  a quirky bike. It suffered from a clunky gearbox and heavy clutch and was known to have reliability issues, although when the larger capacity XB12 came out, some of the bike’s problems such as a tendency to snap drive belts was addressed.