WHAT defines a classic bike? Does it have to be technologically ground-breaking? Should it be a head-turning beauty? Made in small numbers? Successful on the track?
Any and all of those attributes can surely be applied, but the creation of a classic isn’t as quantifiable as merely ticking certain boxes. Sometimes, bikes break through to become classics for reasons that are harder to pinpoint.
Before you write to complain, we’re not doubting the classic status of any of the machines listed here. They’re all bona fide collectibles. But they’re models that might not have been picked out as future classics when they were first launched, and often drew derision or – worse – indifference when in the first flush of youth.
10: BMW K1
When BMW designed the K1, ‘aerodynamics’ was the fashionable buzzword of the era. Cd figures for cars were briefly as important as 0-60 times, and no four-wheeled advertising copy was complete without mention of wind tunnels. So it’s understandable that BMW thought it could get an edge on the increasingly-dominant Japanese manufacturers by applying some of that car-inspired aero to its flagship. And it threw on other car-derived ideas like ABS and built-in luggage compartments too.
The K1 was the result, but unfortunately for BMW the aero-obsession in the car market never quite carried over to bikes, where weight, handling and power were more important numbers. And on those fronts the K1 didn’t deliver like some of its rivals.
The quest for wind-cheating ability also took its toll on the styling. Now it’s seen as ‘distinctive’ or ‘unique’ but back in 1988 the word was ‘ugly’. That most carried a paint scheme seemingly inspired by Ronald McDonald didn’t help; everyone knows that clowns are scary. But perhaps it’s all that – the ugliness, unpopularity and the resulting rarity of the K1 when it was new – that now gives it classic status.