Top 10 living fossils

Long dead here, some old bikes live on in other corners of the globe

Top 10 living fossils

FROM THE LOCH NESS MONSTER to Conan Doyle’s Lost World the idea of living fossils – creatures that have survived extinction in hidden locations – has proved a popular one when it comes to fiction. And there are real examples, too; the coelacanth was believed to have become extinct 66 million years ago until a living example turned up in 1938.

So are there any motorcycling equivalents to the coelacanth? As it turns out, the answer is yes. Plenty of bikes that have been ousted from the European market, usually thanks to our eco-conscious emissions regulations, are still on sale in nations where attitudes to smog are a little more relaxed.

We’re not just talking about long-lived bikes – after all, Royal Enfield has made much the same bikes for years, the Vespa and Honda Cub have gone on in various guises since time immemorial and some Chinese sidecar outfits can be dated back to WW2. Instead we’re looking at machines that have been driven to extinction in much of the world but live on as time capsules in a few corners of the globe.

10: Yamaha XG250 Tricker

Back in 2001, the Yamaha Tricker concept bike was a star of the Intermot bike show in Munich, combining trials bike styling cues with a hint of BMX. The production version that showed up in 2004 was toned down a fair bit, but still kept enough of that concept’s style to stand out as a real oddity. And perhaps that’s why it disappeared virtually without trace. But over in Japan the Tricker remains on sale even in 2019, virtually unaltered from that original version.

9: Kawasaki ZX-6R (599cc)

This oddity is the old 599cc ZX-6R, which remains on sale in Japan, and until recently was still available in America, too. It’s a bike that first appeared in 2009, and was replaced in most markets with the restyled, reengineered 636cc version in 2013. Now that 2013 model has been replaced again, but the two-generations-old 599cc bike is still offered alongside the new one in Japan even though it’s not legal to road-register it over there anymore. Of course, the reason is that it’s the only version of the ZX-6R that’s homologated for 600cc supersports racing, so the notional availability of the bike is purely to satisfy race teams and to keep that racing homologation valid.

8: Honda NM4 Vultus

You probably remember the Vultus appearing on the market. It wasn’t that long ago that the sci-fi-styled creation went on sale here – 2014, to be precise. But it was a sales flop; in 2014, 18 were registered in the UK, a figure that was matched in 2015. The number dropped to 10 in 2016 and just three found new owners in 2017, when the bike was dropped from the range. But in both Japan and America, the NM4 remains on sale to this day.

7: Yamaha V-Star 250

Over here we knew the V-Star 250 as the Virago 250, which first appeared back in 1988 and remained on sale over here until 2001. But in America, where it’s known as the V-Star 250, it’s gone virtually unchanged. Sit a 31-year-old 1988 Virago alongside a 2019 V-Star and you’ll struggle to spot any differences. It’s not in the list because it’s a particularly beloved bike, but because it’s a surprise to find it still in production and on sale.

6: Honda ST1300

The ST1300 was launched with a fanfare in 2002, and instantly carved itself a spot as a dependable tourer and a favourite of police forces and paramedics. And it actually remained on sale here right up until last year; 8 were registered in 2018, even though the bikes on sale then were actually 2013 model year machines. And while production might have ended, it still remains officially on sale in America, albeit as a leftover 2012-spec version.

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EICMA 2018 - Honda