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Common Tread

Ugly motorcycles: The incomplete list

Feb 01, 2016

Beauty, they say, is in the eye of the beholder. But if most beholders wish something was on fire, maybe it’s just ugly. 

Many products tend to be conservative in their design. Hammers. Jump ropes. Gas cans. Motorcycles are not among them. Any old schlep can ugly up a motorcycle in the comfort of his shed, but factory-produced garbage is more fun to pick on. Ugly factory bikes aren't just the product of one guy with insomnia, an angle grinder, and a J&P Cycles catalog. Rather, they are the culmination of untold designs, sketches, meetings,  and engineering. Ultimately, the toad that emerges is the brainchild of a whole bunch of people who remained oblivious to the obvious.

Here’s a little list of some of the OEM bikes I have found to be foul and repellent. Fair warning: the number of Hondas in here is artificially low. Picking on Honda is too easy; it’s like shooting fish in a barrel. NM4, Rune, DN-01. Gross. (This article is written under a pseudonym to protect the author from the attacks of all those who actually own one of these turds.)

Here we go, in no particular order:

Suzuki Madura
Suzuki Madura. Suzuki photo.

Suzuki Madura

What the hell happened here? It’s as if the design team at Suzuki found the Honda Magna to be too conservative in terms of styling, and decided it needed more engine, more sissybar, less fuel tank, and a rear end that appeared to hover in space. Spoiler alert: it did not need those things. At least it kind of went fast.

BMW R 1200 CLC
BMW R 1200 CLC. BMW photo.

BMW R 1200 CLC

Batwing fairings belong on Harleys. Why? They look nice. Protip: Stuffing four headlights into a batwing does not improve the looks. I really never thought that I would not choose the R 1200 C as “Ugliest BMW Ever,” but then I saw this bike. I can sum this up in three words: Shitty Electra Glide.

Honda Pacific Coast. Honda photo.

Honda PC800

The only Honda on this list. They'd better send me at least a T-shirt for that kind of protection. The PC800 is the bike for someone who somehow landed a motorcycle but always wanted a scooter. It looks like the bike is composed of a fork and wheels and a large fairing at the front of the bike. The rear, however, looks as though someone mushed the fender, bags, and tank all together in one piece like some sort of grotesquely pregnant Tracy body kit. If I had one of these, I would ride it with a modular helmet on, so I could puke occasionally without getting chunks in my beard. This thing has to share hundreds of parts with a CRX.

Ariel Arrow.

Ariel Arrow

I tend to think of earlier bikes as generally better looking, but the Arrow is the exception to the rule. The two-tone tank sitting on the hideous monocoque chassis reminds me of a small dog humping the snot out of a larger one. Sure, pressed steel needs volume to make up what it lacks in material strength, but great Hades is this ugly. That brake cover somehow manages to draw your eye to the brake, and then be way uglier than the actual hardware itself. This was Ariel’s last bike before the company went tits-up. Color me unsurprised.

Victory Vision
Victory Vision. Victory photo.

Victory Vision

The Victory Vision, as a touring bike, has so many things going for it mechanically: Fully gear-driven primary. Linked ABS brakes. Replaceable tipover protection. Heated grips and seat. Good looks, however, do not come standard. Good Lord, is this bike swoopy or what? It really looks like the love child of a WCC chopper and a Honda Gold Wing, assuming it was made at a hundred miles an hour, making everything look as though it was blown backwards. I don’t care how competent this bike is, I simply could not stand to hand a cop my registration and actually have to admit I owned something so ugly.

Ducati Indiana
Ducati Indiana. Ducati photo.

Ducati Indiana

I bet Ducati rivals Honda for the number of times someone in a board room said “Screw it, it’s different! Let's see if they buy it.” This Italian bike is as sexy as a hairy mole. The Indiana is proof positive that Ducati emulated the emulators. It’s like they tried to make a cruiser, more or less defined by Harley-Davidson, using the cruiser pattern that the Japanese manufacturers attempted to figure out. (Which they sort of missed. They ran better and looked worse.) My pity goes out to anyone who has to ride one of these in public. And the name? It brings to mind the Moto Guzzi Nevada, with the same "let's name it after a part of the U.S.A. so the hillbillies know to buy it" thinking.

Harley-Davidson Super Glide
Harley-Davidson Super Glide. Harley-Davidson photo.

1971 Harley-Davidson Super Glide

It pains me a bit to put this on here, because I happen to love this bike, but I am one of about nine people who feel that way. Harley has generally done an exceptional job cranking out good-looking motorcycles, but the first half-year of the FX is a turd in Harley’s punch bowl. Willie G. is the design guy who reinvented H-D every time the chips were down. My guess is he started really hitting the bong hard in the mid-1960s and by the Summer Of Love he must have been a three-hits-of-acid-a-day sorta guy. People hated this bike, and I kind of can't blame them. "Here's a cool custom bike that you don't have to build! Also, we threw in a hideous fender no one has ever used on a custom bike before. Ta-ta!"

In early 1972, someone in corporate had the genius idea to stick with the chopper look but switch to a conventional fender, and the bikes sold like hotcakes, right up to the present day. These first bikes, cherished though they may be by a very special few, generally are agreed upon to be as appealing as dog farts.

Thus ends this incomplete list. Apologies to those of you whose feelings got hurt. If you own one of these bikes and you think it really looks nice, I do feel sincerely bad for you. Recognize that I don’t care enough about your motorcycle to hate it, but if I see you upon one of these steaming piles, I will shake my head after you ride off.

In closing, allow me to leave you with a final motorcycle that’s rather vulgar. It looks like a 1987 Honda Hurricane smashed into a Suzuki RF900. Ladies and gentlemen, behold the Ducati Paso.

Ducati Paso. Ducati photo.


Pasta rocket.


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