Top 10s

Top 10 bikes that no one* bought

*Well, hardly anyone.

ANY manufacturer in any industry will have its highs and lows. For every sales smash there’s a flop. For every iPhone there’s a Pippin (what do you mean you don’t remember Apple’s short-lived games console?)

So we’re taking a look at some of the bikes that simply never caught on. It might be due to design deficiencies, to fickle consumers, to off-putting prices or simply bad luck, but none of these achieved the heights that their manufacturers surely envisioned.

We’re steering clear of obviously limited-edition, low-volume bikes here, at least on the whole. If only a handful of bikes are intentionally made to increase their allure, they can’t be accused of falling short on sales.

Judging poor sales also varies based on the production capabilities of each machine’s maker. A firm like Bimota, hand-making a trickle of new machines each year, might see 500 unit sales as a record-breaking success, while the same number would be a disaster for Honda.

We’re also steering clear of machines that were never likely to sell well from tiny brands that few people have heard of, or those that folded before they even got established. All these are bikes that got significant press coverage when they were new but never achieved the sales that such coverage would normally result in.

But one thing’s for sure; you’re unlikely to see many of these machines on the road…

10: Aprilia RXV/SXV 4.5 and 5.5

Ok, so Aprlia’s 450cc (and later 550cc) V-twin off-roader and supermoto was never intended to be a huge, mass-market seller. But given the sheer effort that went into developing a completely new V-twin engine to compete in a category universally filled with singles should have been rewarded with more sales success. They were good bikes, but with two big drawbacks. One was the high prices required to get them, the other was the short service intervals of the competition-derived engine. New pistons and rings at 6000km might be fine for a pure racer or a two-stroke, but for a road-legal four-stroke it was seriously off-putting for many. Although several different versions were sold over the years, few ever reached double figures in UK registrations. A quick check online even revealed that you can buy a 2006 new old stock bike with 0 miles on the clock.

9: Gilera Nordwest

Remember the Gilera Nordwest? No? It was briefly the darling of the magazine press when launched in the early 1990s. Made between 1991 and 1993 it was a pioneer of the road-legal supermoto class, a precursor of far more successful bikes like KTM’s Duke. Journalists of the day raved about the Gilera’s handling and the sheer fun that the then-new supermoto idea brought. But buyers didn’t have the same enthusiasm. According to HowManyLeft.co.uk, there was just one Nordwest left on the road in the UK in 2016, and none in 2017. There are 12 of them with SORNs, though.

8: Cagiva 650 Raptor

The Suzuki SV650-powered 650 Raptor should have been Cagiva’s answer to the Ducati Monster 600. A mass-market bike with iconic styling by Miguel Angel Galuzzi, the Monster’s designer, and reliable Suzuki power, it was intended to be the machine that would bring Cagiva into the mainstream. It didn’t. Whether down to a paucity of dealers, a lack of recognition or simply that it was so much easier to just buy an SV650 or a Monster, not many bought the Raptor. There are still 53 on the road in the UK, which is actually an impressive survival rate (the highest was precisely 100 of them in use back in 2007).

7: Honda Vultus

Nobody quite knew what to make of the Honda NM4 Vultus when it was launched in 2014. Part scooter, part cruiser, part tourer, it was saddled with sci-fi styling, a sky-high price and a horrible name. We reported in 2014 that Honda was “having no trouble shifting the limited allocation for the UK this year”. Registration figures released the following year revealed that the number registered in the UK in 2014 was actually 19. In 2015 it dropped to 18, then to 10 in 2016. Last year just three of them were registered. Limited numbers are one thing, but that’s something quite different.

6: Bimota V-Due

We haven’t included Bimotas on this list so far because most of them are made in such tiny numbers that small sales can’t be counted as a failure of any sort. The V-Due was different, though. Not only was it the firm’s one and only attempt to make its own engine, and a two-stroke at that, but quite a lot were made (at least in Bimota terms) – 185 of the original, fuel-injected versions and another 26 carb-fed machines. But that wasn’t close to the 500 per year that the firm envisaged. Insurmountable reliability problems meant that sales were weak and eventually most of the bikes were bought back by the factory. Later, the bought-back and unsold machines were reworked and sold again by a separate company, V-Due SRL, in various guises. Now V-Dues are expensive collectors’ items, but largely as decoration rather than as actual motorcycles…

5: Aprilia Moto 6.5

A peek at HowManyLeft.co.uk reveals that just 10 of the Philippe Starck-designed Aprilia Moto 6.5s are on the road in the UK now. That’s actually the highest number since the modern records started back in 2001, when only 6 were listed as being licensed. Basically, however much people desired a Starck-designed Alessi lemon juicer, it was a big leap for them to opt for a motorcycle by the same guy. These days, a Moto 6.5 might be an interestingly quirky choice, and its styling is probably more appealing now than it was 20 years ago. But with so few sold in the first place, you won’t have many to choose from.

4: MZ 1000S

Back at the turn of the millennium, MZ appeared to be on the rise. It had made the leap forward from the Soviet-era two-strokes to a range of Yamaha-engined singles that were actually pretty good. The Baghira and Mastiff made reasonable sales, although the Skorpion sports bike was another contender for this list… However, the one we’ve picked is the 1000S (and the SF and ST derivatives) because they promised so much. The all-new parallel twin got more press coverage than any MZ in years and promised to leapfrog the firm into a new era. It did. An era of bankruptcy. Only a couple of dozen of the 1000cc machines found buyers in the UK, and today only 11 of them remain on the road.

3: Benelli Tre-K

Benelli’s adventure-style Tre-K, complete with its powerful 1130cc triple, should really have been a breakthrough bike for Benelli. It was its entry in the rich adventure bike seam and appeared to have much in its favour, including impressive styling and a more balanced character than the firm’s other machines. It was the most useable bike the firm made but never managed to sell in large numbers. In fact we could have included the naked TNT or even the gorgeous-but-uncompetitive Tornado 1130 here; they also sold in tiny handfuls. A lack of dealers is likely to have been behind the weak sales of all three machines, which were all given plenty of publicity but never achieved their sales potential.

2: Kawasaki VN2000

You couldn’t blame a lack of dealers for the slow sales of Kawasaki’s VN2000. Appearing early in the 21st century, it picked up on the desire for ever-larger engines in cruisers and was, for a while, the biggest V-twin on the block with its 2-litre capacity. It wasn’t a bad bike, either. But for some reason, sales didn’t hit the big time – Triumph’s Rocket III, launched around the same time, took the idea of big engines to a new level and outsold the Kawasaki by a huge margin. Even Honda’s VTX1800 achieved far more sales than the VN2000, despite a smaller engine and facing the same problem of being Japanese in a market where buyers really wanted an American badge. On the plus side, VN2000 owners are clearly a fastidious and careful bunch; nearly 15 years on from its launch almost all the bikes that were registered in the UK are still on the road.

1: BMW G650 X series

BMW’s G650 X models – the XCountry, XChallenge and XMoto – really deserved to do better. They were something of a departure for the company, based around the familiar 650 single-cylinder engine but with much more purposeful styling and design than the strong-selling F650 machines that preceded them. BMW was also on a roll with everything ‘GS’ badged by the time they appeared in 2007. So why did so few people buy the ‘X’ models? The supermoto-style XMoto, which might have been expected to be the least popular, actually did best; there are still 101 of them on UK roads today. There are just 86 XCountries and 51 XChallenges left, and even a decade ago at their sales peak the numbers weren’t that much higher.

Comments

Had experience of these. They would overheat the rear cylinder. If you were riding them hard the service interval was even less than recommended... Great ride, service nightmare.

fluke's picture

So please share where I can find one new online as I can't find any - even through all the horror stories I still want one

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