I was a little surprised my kid liked the new Honda Rebel 500 as much as he did last week, but then all of us are surprised by our offspring, aren’t we? His daily driver lately is my old Yamaha R1. He finally got around to getting his motorcycle endorsement last month – on our borrowed KTM Super Duke GT… so he does have quite a varied motorcycle background for a kid who’s only 23 years old. In an effort to understand the younger moto-mentality, and as a service to all the manufacturers trying to figure out what the hell millennial motorcyclists want, anyway, I drilled further into my child’s mind to get down to the Top 10 of things.
He says he’s not a hipster, which he defines as “you want to seem retro and rustic but you aren’t”, but I think he’s in denial; he’d grow the beard if he could. Also, like many millennials, he has no conception of the value of a dollar. Why not rank these roughly in order of bikes he might actually be able to afford someday? Matter of fact, it looks like most of the OEMs are making appealing bikes, most of which are far less expensive than what the typical Boomer spends for a bagger or a tricked-out adventure bike. Here’s the kid’s list of the best motorcycles for millennials.
10. Royal Enfield Continental GT
This is a fabulous looking little motorcycle spoiled only by its archaic Single, which produces little in the way of power but at certain rpm enough vibration to make you think you’ve got a downed power line caught in your chain. There is hope, though: This January we reported that Royal Enfield is working on a new version of the bike to be powered by an all-new Twin, to be housed in a Harris frame (like the current one). The launch was supposed to happen this spring. Hmmmm… we hope nothing’s gone wrong.
9. Harley-Davidson Roadster
Say what you will, but a Sportster that looked almost like this also made the 1983 cool-bike list when I was 23. Adding an inverted fork, longer shocks, sweet wheels, bobbing both fenders and throwing on that little round headlight was all the old Sporty needed to compete with way younger motorcycles. Relatively inexpensive at $11,199.
8. Ducati Scrambler Cafe Racer
This thing’s pretty swell, with a standard Termignoni pipe, bar-end mirrors, black as the ace of clubs… and functional, too, with one of the best engines – an 803cc air-cooled Desmo Twin – in the history of motorcycling. As well it all should be, since the price is up to $11,395.
7. Triumph Bonneville Bobber
Another great choice. Triumph’s designers did a remarkable job conjuring the spirit of the original Speed Twin of yore, but the Bobber and its 1200cc High Torque Twin go about the business of being a surprisingly good do-it-all motorcycle in a completely modern way. Do it all except carry a passenger, anyway – beginning at $11,900. Heated grips and cruise control are a couple of many options.
6. Yamaha XSR900
Yamaha’s cure for the common FZ-09 does look quite a bit less disjointed than the original concoction, especially this special Abarth version: 695 of these single seat Triples were to have been built, with carbon-fiber nose cone and tail, low bars, rear-set pegs and Akrapovicexhaust. All that stuff is going to elevate the price well above the standard XSR’s $9,490 price tag, but the point is MOOT since this one gets no green card, no Visa, no entree into the Land of the Free.
5. Honda CB1100RS
Heck, I’d cosign for this one, if it was being imported to the U.S. Which it’s not. Seamless fuel tank, steeper rake and trail, upgraded suspension, 17-inch wheels, revisions to the 1140cc air-cooled Four that boost low-rev power, slipper clutch…
Instead, we get the 1100EX, which gets some of the same stuff but more chrome and on 18-inch wire-spoke wheels – I guess in an effort to unfreeze a few frozen 1969 synapses. EX base price is $12,199
4. Moto Guzzi Griso 1200 S.E.
It was either this Guzzi or the V7 Racer; I steered the kid this way. If you’re going to spend $9,990 for a bike, why not spend $12,990 and get one that’ll curl your hair a little, no? It can’t be retro because it never went away-o, and this 8-valve Guzzi produces an actual 95 rear-wheel horsepower and 73 pound-feet of rich Italian 90-degree V-Twin deliciousness. Roughly twice as much as the V7.
3. BMW R nineT Racer
A pattern seems to be emerging here at the end: really swoopy looking ’60s-inspired bikes that look like they’d be a PITA and wrists to ride more than 50 miles at a time. In my day, we had GSX-Rs for that, and BMWs were for old guys. I didn’t remember the R nineT being so swift, but the one in the 2014 Retro Roadster Comparo referenced above produced even more power than the Guzzi: 101 horses and 76 lb-ft. If you score a bit higher on the OCD scale, you might prefer it to the Italian bike. Yours for $13,295.
2. Triumph Thruxton R
So popular Triumph doesn’t even need our help selling them; they only just offered to loan us one a year after the bike became available in the U.S.
Complete with a High Power version of the new 1200 Twin that puts out 96 horses and 83 lb-ft (says Triumph), the R adds a Showa BP fork, Öhlins shocks, better brakes and $2000 to the already highly polished base package: $14,500.
1. Norton Commando 961 Cafe Racer Mark II
The kid says any old new Norton will do: I chose the 961 Cafe Racer Mk II so as to inflict maximum pain. Those low clip-ons and long tank reek of the special kind of masochism Nortonistas have embraced for decades, but it’s worth it to get to gaze down upon the carbon fiber fender. Yes it’s expensive, well over $20,000, but the fact that it’s a chunk of money makes it a short walk to justifying another $2995 for the aluminum fuel tank. Would carbon-fiber wheels be sacrilegious? They’re $2739. For me, the color choice is easy: Manx Silver with Red/Black Pinstripe.