Riders are always comparing the best motorcycles in every category, but today, we decided to talk about the apparent worst motorcycles in history. They come from a variety of manufacturers, even the most popular ones. Here are ten of the worst motorcycles ever made, in no particular order:
Kawasaki 500 H1
In 1969, Kawasaki introduced the 500 H1. I guess during those times, it was all about extreme power with little to no regard for safety. Well, this bike was considered to be one of Kawasaki’s more dangerous motorcycles to ride, with mindless power above 4500rpm, coupled with skimpy brakes and handling.
Kawasaki 750 Triple 1v / Kawasaki 750 Triple H2
Three years after the introduction of the 500 H1, Kawasaki introduced two 748cc versions of the street bike that became the fastest of their kind at the time. Unfortunately, they were only really safe to ride fast on a drag, because they were deemed to have possibly the worst handling and braking system of any motorcycle ever. How bad, you ask? The bikes were dubbed the “Widowmaker”.
Honda CX 500
The Honda CX 500 was introduced in the late 70s, a time when powerful street bikes were gaining popularity, and as you would expect, a bike as handsome as the CX 500 had a lot of sales. However, things very quickly turned bitter for Honda when they received complaints about engine and handling malfunction. Apparently, there was a huge problem with the crankshaft rotation, causing the bike to pull right when decelerating. On top of that, it also had a similar wheel locking problem to the C50 series. Hence, it very deservedly belongs on this list.
Honda C50 C70 C90 C110
Also very popularly known as the Honda Cub, the Honda C50 and its brethren were seen everywhere in the late 1950s till even the 1990s. You wonder, how did it make it to the list of worst bikes if it was so popular? Well, these three-speed motorcycles had two major flaws - the wheels would lock up when changing gears down too quickly, and the suspension was way too soft. Put the two together and you have a recipe for unwanted loss of control, especially when you decide to decelerate quickly around corners.
Harley-Davidson Sportster 1971
You might wonder, how does a brand as established and loved as Harley-Davidson make it to this list? The Sportster 1971 was an unfortunate product of the respectable brand that did not come out as planned. The bike was deliberately built with longer forks and a heavy top, but the combination somehow made the top even more heavy, resulting in poor handling on corners. On a straight line, no problem, but when taking turns, the motorcycle had to be ridden at very low speeds. To make things worse, because of the heavy top and long forks, handling at low speeds was generally worse. See the problem?
Ariel, the British manufacturer, launched their Arrow series as a more affordable, less powerful sister-machine to the Ariel Leader motorcycle. The Ariel Leader was incredibly popular and it was sold between 1958 and 1965, and even won the Motorcycle of the Year Award by Motor Cycle News in 1959. On the contrary, the Arrow didn’t perform as well. The main problem with the Arrow model was that the mufflers were located too low on the motorcycle, making it difficult for riders to achieve ground clearance on bumpy roads and tougher curves. This became an issue among riders, subsequently landing the Ariel Arrow in this list. Great looking bike though.
Suzuki GT 380/550/750
Similar to the Arrow, the Suzuki GT series also had bad ground clearance thanks to the poor location of the muffler. But, it had a more pressing issue which was that the front disc brakes didn’t work so well when riding on wet surfaces. That was a major turn off for riders because if it’s a safety issue, it’s a really bad issue. In addition to that, the bike was claimed to have worse handling than other models of the same make because of a swing arm that was too flexible, and shock absorbers that were too soft. Despite its poor performance, the Suzuki GT series sold pretty well and remained in the market for almost a decade, from 1972 to 1980.
Moto Guzzi (Older Models)
Moto Guzzi was founded in Italy in the year 1921, and is the oldest continuous motorcycle manufacturer in Europe. They intended to revolutionize riding comfort and came up with what they thought was a fix for vibrations sent from the wheels to the handlebars. Rubber mountings were installed for the handlebars of the earlier models of Moto Guzzi, and they did achieve the drastic reduction in vibration, but a new problem arose - the handlebars became too high and unergonomic, causing the riding stability to be even worse. Riders were unable to properly maneuver their bike because of the uncomfortable and unsafe steering position.
Husqvarna 250 MX
One of two scramblers that made it to this list, the Swedish-make had an array of issues that came with riding it. Although the issues weren’t much of safety, they definitely caused a lot of discomfort. First of all, the Husqvarna 250 MX was really fun to ride because it had pretty good power for a 250, however, the fun only remained on straight-line riding. There were two main issues with the motorcycle - the suspension system was inadequate, causing the rear end of the bike to sway from side to side on hard braking, and second, Husqvarna developed a seat that would prevent the rider from sliding forward when braking, but also caused a lot of discomfort in areas where the sun doesn’t shine on. In a nutshell, not a comfortable ride.
Notice the front forks? They’re called leading link front forks, which are generally difficult to ride on. And as for all bikes with similar forks, the kickback from front braking was undesirable, more so on the Greeves. The front suspension system was so much of a failure that it was almost non-existent. Riders would endure the full force of the kickback during braking or when going on uneven surfaces. Greeves Motorcycles was established in 1951, and due to an apparent fire, met its demise in 1977. However, the rights to the Greeves name was later bought by a Richard Deal, reviving the brand. The first motorcycle under new ownership was launched in 2009, and of course fitted with a much better suspension system.
So, there you go. Ten of the worst motorcycles made with exception to Greeves, because every bike made by them initially had the leading link forks installed. Need a tune up on your suspension? Get in touch with us.