Top 10s

Top five big-capacity retro bikes

They make going fast look good

THINK traditional styling means agricultural performance? Not any more. There's now a whole class-full of machines that offer traditional style and character with exhilarating performance.

They're the bikes that make going fast look good.

And these are our favourite five...

1. Triumph Bobber

The latest addition to Triumph's new 1200cc Bonneville range defied expectations when it was launched in December last year. 

It looks like a big lump of minimalist laid-back cruiser, but that impression is quickly confounded by its superb handling, egging you on to ride it as hard as you can.

On paper the liquid-cooled parallel-twin is less impressive than the retuned version of the same plant in the Thruxton R, where it makes more power and torque, but it really doesn't matter when you're riding the Bobber faster than it seems it ought ever to go.

Yes, the pegs scrape, but that just adds to the fun, as does the Bobber's beauty. 

Read our full review of the Triumph Bobber.

Price: from £10,500

Engine: 1200cc liquid-cooled parallel-twin

Power: 77hp @ 6,100rpm

Torque: 78lbft @ 4,000rpm

Dry weight: 228kg

2. BMW R nineT Racer

BMW was an early adopter in the big-capacity retro bike class when the original R nineT debuted back in 2013, three years before Triumph finally launched its revamped Bonneville range.

The BMW instantly raised expectations of the class, and the lastest version, the R nineT Racer, offers that same combination of traditional air-cooled boxer character and contemporary performance but now with irresistible café racer looks. 

Specs have been lowered, notably in braking and suspension components, but of course that means it costs a bit less, starting at £10,675 to the R nineT's £12,200.

Visordown's Simon Greenacre said after riding it: 'The R nineT Racer is a gorgeous and indulgent motorcycle. It’s a superb looking, ready-made café racer that delivers an evocative, personality-rich and nostalgic ride experience.'

It brings the number of versions of the R nineT to five, the others being the Scrambler, Pure and Urban G/S.

Read our full review of the BMW R nineT Racer.

Price: from £10,675

Engine: 1170cc air-cooled boxer-twin

Power: 110hp @ 7,750rpm

Torque: 85lbft @ 6,000rpm

Kerb weight: 220kg

3. Triumph Thruxton R

If the R nineT raised expectations of the class at its launch back in 2014, Triumph's Thruxton R raised them again two years later. 

Perversely, while the Triumph is the one of the two which has made the concession of liquid cooling, it's also the one that feels more air-cooled, lending it a sense of authenticity that even the Bavarian boxer-twin can't match. 

It doesn't make quite as much power but it pumps out immediate torque and there's just something about it that compels you to ride it as fast as it will go from the moment you get on to the moment you get off. 

What more could you ask of a motorcycle? And we haven't even got on to the styling...

Read our full review of the Triumph Thruxton R.

Price: £12,000

Engine: 1200cc liquid-cooled parallel-twin

Power: 97hp @ 6,750rpm

Torque: 82.6lbft @ 4,950rpm

Dry weight: 203kg

4. Honda CB1100RS

How could we have a list of our favourite big-capacity retro bikes without the CB1100, Honda's Universal Japanese Motorcycle, given exquisite styling updates for 2017 including that seamless tank. 

There's also this new RS version, which has gone all sporty on us with new geometry and uprated suspension.

Simon Hargreaves said after riding it: "You’re instantly engaged with the chassis. It has more aggressive steering with far more feedback from the front wheel and the brakes; you can feel the discs gripping in the calipers as if biting on them between your teeth. The RS dives into corners more hastily, chasing the apex, and lays down its traction more effectively on the other side. You can hustle the sporty CB11 with surprising pace – and when you’ve had enough of all that, park it up and admire it; because it looks the absolute tits."

Read Simon's full review of the Honda CB1100RS.

Price: £11,139

Engine: 1140cc 16v in-line-four

Power: 88hp @ 7,500rpm

Torque: 69lbft at 5,500rpm

Kerb weight: 252kg

5. Yamaha XSR900 Abarth

It may have less cubes than the other machines on the list but it makes up for it elsewhere in the specs, with the most peak power and lowest weight. 

That's because underneath all that styling it's an MT-09, with that torque-rich three-cylinder engine we can't get enough of. 

As well as the styling, it's got a new café racer riding position and of course the Abarth name on it, being a collaboration between Yamaha and the car maker. 

It's the cheapest bike on the list, at a penny under ten grand, and that Abarth name could make it a keeper. 

Hurry though - numbers are limited. 

Read our full review of the Yamaha XSR900 Abarth.

Price: £9,999

Engine: 847cc liquid-cooled triple

Power: 115hp @ 10,000rpm

Torque: 64.5lbft @ 8,500rpm

Kerb weight: 195kg

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