10 of the Best Handling Motorcycles Ever Made

Close Up Of Shiny Engine
Noel Albeza / EyeEm / Getty Images

The way a motorcycle handles is determined by a number of factors. Some of these things are within the control of the rider; for instance, riding style, maintenance of the chassis (engine tuning also plays a part) and location for riding (a touring bike is not the best for a track day).

However, one factor is not within the control of the rider is the bike's design. If the engineers who designed the bike were restricted primarily by price, the handling may well suffer. If the cost of the best shock/s were outside of the price range for a given design, then the handling may be adversely affected.

To come up with a list of the 10 best handling classics of all time, it is necessary to select one considered the best. Most riders who have experienced a Norton Featherbed’s (based on the famous Manx Norton's frame) handling will use this chassis to judge all others. It was a revelation in its day, and can still put to shame many modern bikes.

01
of 10

Triton

A classic Triton outside the Ace Cafe in London.
Wallace classicbikes.actieforum.com

Utilizing the Norton Featherbed slim-line frame and a Bonneville engine, these iconic cafe racers can still make their more modern cousins look bad. Originally developed for racing by Rex McCandless with the Manx Norton’s, this frame is hard to beat for good handling. The frame has a twin loop design with extra bracing around the headstock. Torsional rigidity was very strong with this design.

02
of 10

TZ Yamaha

Yamaha TZ
John H Glimmerveen

The TZ Yamaha racers (125, 250, 350, 500, 700, and 750) have won more road races than any other motorcycle range. Ironically, some of the bikes in this range (the 700 and 750 in particular) were considered some of the worst handling racers ever made. But a well set up and ridden Yamaha 250 or 350 was a match for most racers in their day.

03
of 10

Suzuki GSXR 750

Suzuki GSXR
classic-motorbikes.net

Developed by Suzuki as a street bike that could easily be raced in the many production-based series around the world, the GSXR series are excellent handling bikes. With good brakes and quick steering, the bikes’ handling belied their engine size.

04
of 10

Norton Commando

Cammando
John H Glimmerveen

In many ways, Norton set the standard for some of the best handling motorcycles due to their Featherbed frame. The Commando offered rock-steady handling further proving Norton’s ability to produce bikes that showed their lineage. Countless years of success at the Isle of Man TT proved invaluable for Norton, who transferred many of the lessons learned onto their street bikes.

05
of 10

Velocette Viper

Valocette Viper
John H Glimmerveen

A quote from the English motorcycle magazine Motorcycling says it all about the Viper in particular and the Velocette’s in general: “For many years critics (professional and otherwise) have failed seriously to fault Velocette handling and steering…”

06
of 10

Honda 400/4

The Honda 350 and 400
Wallace Classic-motorbikes.net

The Honda 400 four set new standards for the handling of Japanese bikes. Prior to these machines, Japanese bikes were reliable but lacked a good chassis for their engines. Although the Honda 400 four was not as good in the handling department as contemporary European bikes; it was, nonetheless, a stable, predictable motorcycle.

07
of 10

Laverda Jota

Laverda Jota
Wallace Classic-motorbikes.net

U.K. Laverda importers, Slater Brothers, came up with the idea of the Jota. The bike was eventually supplied to the U.K. in 1976 after approval of Massimo Laverda, although a prototype was displayed at the Milan show as early as 1971.

The Jota won many production-based races and was the first production-based bike to record a genuine 140 mph.

Although relatively heavy and with a slow response from rider input, the Jota won many races and fans with its ability to take fast sweeping bends in its stride.

08
of 10

BSA Gold Star

The BSA Gold Star
Ron Cobb

Produced from 1938 to 1963, the BSA Gold Star is a classic British motorcycle. First produced in 1938 (model code JM24) the Gold Star was not known initially for its handling. However, the relatively high-performance engine made this bike capable of 90 mph and helped BSA win many races. In fact, it was not originally intended for street use as a quote from their 1961 BSA catalog states: "its specification is such that it is neither intended nor suitable for road use . . ." However, as motorcycle riders who have been lucky enough to ride, or own, a Gold Star will testify, this bike is one of the all-time great handling classics.

09
of 10

Ducati 750SS

Ducati 750 SS
John H Glimmerveen

When Ducati released their 750 SS in 1972, the bike was considered a machine with outstanding handling, particularly on long fast corners. A ​modified version went on to win the first F1 TT in the Isle of Man, ridden by legend Mike Hailwood. Street versions were made available known as the Ducati Mike Hailwood Replica (MHR)

10
of 10

Vincent Black Shadow

Vincent Black Shadow
John H Glimmerveen

Vincent was long renowned for their classic good looks, performance, and handling. The Vincent Black Shadow ‘C’ series was first introduced in 1948 and was a development of the Rapide. This motorcycle was considered to be the first superbike.

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Glimmerveen, John. "10 of the Best Handling Motorcycles Ever Made." ThoughtCo, Nov. 2, 2017, thoughtco.com/best-handling-motorcycles-743423. Glimmerveen, John. (2017, November 2). 10 of the Best Handling Motorcycles Ever Made. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/best-handling-motorcycles-743423 Glimmerveen, John. "10 of the Best Handling Motorcycles Ever Made." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/best-handling-motorcycles-743423 (accessed November 24, 2017).