The 1960s was a great time to buy a motorcycle. Big brands were coming out with hair-raising machines designed to tap into the new, younger motorhead markets. While European and American manufacturers still ruled the roost, there were signs of the oncoming Japanese takeover, with companies like Honda producing some of their first great import motorbikes. Here is a guide to some of the best bikes of the 1960s. It’s time to go extremely fast in the Summer of Love.
Honda CB77 Superhawk
Let’s start this list by talking about one of the most important Japanese bikes ever: the Honda Superhawk. The Superhawk was Honda’s first sports motorbike available in the United States. It set the bar for Honda and gave the company a reputation for creating affordable, reliable bikes that moved at a serious pace. The CB77 could reach speeds of 100 miles per hour and could out-accelerate even some of the big British twins. These bikes are well-loved by collectors: not just because of their historical significance, but because they are incredibly reliable and have stood the test of time.
BSA Rocket Gold Star
The BSA Rocket Gold Star is the ultimate British twin, produced in an era when they still dominated the high-performance motorcycle market. The Gold Star was only produced in small numbers between 1962 and 1963, and today commands a price of over 20,000 dollars for a mint condition vehicle. You’ll need to hire a specialist motorcycle transport company to handle any shipping needed to get one of these from the auction house: you might not want to subject it to road conditions. British 1960s bikes like the Gold Star are absolute joys to ride, but they are notoriously oily and unreliable. You have to put some love into these machines to make them rideable, so it’s a big commitment if you’re intending to ride one.
In the early 1960s, dirt scrambler bikes were all the rage. Low-capacity, low-performance vehicles were being cobbled together by teenagers in their parent’s garages using cheap bikes as bases. Famous motorcycle importers, the Berliner brothers noticed this trend and informed Italian bike manufacturer Ducati that they believed there was a gap in the market for a high-performance commercial scrambler. Ducati obliged and designed their iconic two-wheeler. The Scrambler was not meant for serious off-road racing. Instead, it was designed for light off-road use and plenty of on-road showing off. Ducati was probably glad that it took a break from the construction of racing bikes to focus on this massive commercial success. These days, 250 cc engine Scramblers are available for very reasonable prices.
Norton had a great deal of success in the 1960s, selling its big twin bikes to the US market. The problem was that twin engines vibrated a great deal, causing reliability issues. The Commando used a revolutionary suspension system to dampen shaking and enable the rider to use all of the engine’s power without fear of vibration damage.