Iconic Motorcycles – A Personal Take on the Most Significant Bikes from 1980 to 2010

Just my take on things and written a few years ago now. I might choose differently now, but still an interesting read

1980. Yamaha RD350LC:

Took two stroke lunacy to a new level, in neat and fantastically well styled package.  The little brother 250cc variant even triggered a change in the law

A modified LC. The bike really lends itself to this treatment

1981. Suzuki GSX1100 Katana.

A radical styling departure and a bike that formed a bridge from the bruisers of the 1970’s to the race reps that came in the 1980’s. It’s influence on bike styling remains to this day.

A modified Katana – so many were.

1984. Kawasaki GPz900R.

First of the new generation hyper bikes, and the start of a blood line that can be traced directly to the likes of the ZX10R today.

Gpz900R. The most quoted fact…’it was a 750 in Top Gun you know…’

1984. Suzuki GSXR750.

The first of the true race reps. The ‘Gixxer’ as it soon became known, quickly established itself as the nutters tool of choice. Many have also been “fightered” and are at the start of a whole new biking sub culture: The Streetfighter The GSXR is also the granddad of the GSXR1000. Enough said I think!

1984. Yamaha RD500LC.

Perhaps the high water mark for the two stroke road bike, we will not see the like of this again. Some say it is overrated and the RG500 was a better bike. However the RD was on the market first and so it gets the ond over the Suzuki

1985. Kawasaki GPz600R.

The start of the superb 600cc sports bike wars. This class has seen some of the finest bikes to ever turn a wheel.

1988. Honda RC30.

A seminal machine, that even now can hold it’s head high with the very best sports bikes. Racing technology and bespoke build quality mean this is a two wheel engineering master class.

Honda RC30. This example was on show at the 2005 Festival of Speed, Goodwood

1990. Kawasaki ZZR1100.

The bike that launched the arms race for the top speed between the big Jap factories. The Honda CBR1100XX joined the fray  soon after. Ultimately this led to the 201mph straight from the crate Suzuki GSXR1300 Hayabusa of 1999.

This very bike was owned by a journalist when new. It was in his hands when hitting 175mph on the runway at Bruntingthorpe 

1991. Triumph Trophy 1200.

Not a particularly iconic bike in itself, but it was the bike that saw the proud Triumph brand back in the market place.

1992. Honda CBR900R Fireblade.

1,000cc power, 600cc weight and size, the Blade blew the FZR1000 and GSXR1100 into weeds and moved the game on several paces in one huge leap. Now in 2006 it is turning up on the covers of classic bike mags. A classic and the bloodline continues to this day

Still a stunning bike 

1994. Ducati 916.

The best looking and sounding bike of all time. Revived the fortunes of once great Italian marque and became the Ferrari of biking. Spine chilling!

1998. Yamaha R1.

Like the Blade the R1 took the sports bike on to a new level that some thought would be hard to beat. Or would it…

The mighty 1998 R1

2001. Suzuki GSXR1000.

1 bhp per kilo. Performance only James T and his crew can relate to.

Suzuki GSXR1000R K2

Where do we go from here?

Well the 2009 Yamaha R1, with it’s incredible ‘cross-plane’ crank and V8 like howl indicate that the great bikes are going to keep coming for a while yet.

The 2009 R1

I think we need to reflect that while the roads become ever more crowded and watched over by the dreaded ‘scameras’, we are actually in the midst of a biking Golden Age. The bikes we can choose from have breathtaking capabilities and it is still possible to get out there and use your bikes on some fabulous roads.

So lets keep positive about our biking as we pay Fiesta money for our Ferrari humbling performance!!

Words and Pictures: Tony Donnelly