The top 10 ugliest motorbikes of the modern era
Should a Ducati belong in a list of the top 10 ugliest motorbikes? Should two? And is it fair including the Mammoth, a bike that was once the star of its own movie?
In our opinion, a hamfisted Doberman with a crayon could do better than the designers of the bikes in our top ten list of ugliest motorbikes.
We love an ugly list. They are entirely subjective, of course, unless you are doing the top 10 ugliest contestants on Britain’s Got Talent. Which is why hardly anyone will be in 100% agreement with ours. So if you think we’ve missed a bike out or violently disagree with our putting the ‘Busa in this list, you can have your say over on our Facebook post on the same subject.
*Takes a deep breath…*
Ducati Multistrada 1000 DS/1100 S
Ducati’s design department is without a doubt the producer of at least two of the best-looking motorcycles of the modern era, the legendary 748/916 and today’s Panigale.
So perhaps you can forgive them for the lobotomy that is the 2003-on Ducati Multistrada. No other single-headlamp bike has managed to look like Cyclops, with perhaps the exception of the ’08 Versys. It’s not just me – you try finding a front-on PR shot of the bike. Ducati doesn’t seem to be proud of this one themselves.
Side on, the bike also has a bit of the prancing horse about it. Not in a Ferrari way, but in dressage-in-the-Olympics stylee. Shame really, as with a bit of fettling to the front end it could have been a very pretty looking horse.
Aprilia Pegaso 650
Talking of horses, let’s look at the early Aprilia Pegaso (geddit?). Ugly might be stretching it a bit but this is no design thoroughbred.
Basically, a BMW 650 GS but with a face so ugly nobody selling one can risk putting in a full frontal shot in an ad when they are selling one. Don’t believe me? Go and check eBay.
Where the Multistrada’s horse impression is marginally stallion, the Pegaso is totally filly. That’s just plain wrong for the mini-adventure bike class, where at least some pretence of rugged off-roadiness should be present. Thankfully, the design had an overhaul sometime in the min noughties and it now looks a little more purposeful than the dainty effort that went before it. So we don’t need to carry on the crappy horse analogy any longer.
Contentious, we know, but hear us out.
There used to be a guy in the 40-50st range that would cruise around North London on a white ‘Busa, wearing little other than a t-shirt and a giant bum crack. Maybe this has put us off a bit, but we can’t look at the rear end of a Suzuki Hayabusa without thinking that’s one fat bastard of a bike.
Including what was once the world’s fastest production bike on this list is obviously going to stir things up a bit, as so many people love them for what they are. But this list is not about what a bike is but what it looks like, and this is one could have done with a trip to Champney’s before it left the production line.
2008 Kawasaki Versys
There is so much to love about the Versys, especially as you take in the lower half side-on, which somehow looks a bit chunky despite the small engine.
Then you look up and realise this is the bike Quasimodo would have designed in his self-image, had motorbikes been around in his time. Whatever you do after clocking this, don’t walk around to the front of the bike… Once seen, it’s hard to dispel and impossible not to hear Notre Dame’s bells tolling every time you look at its hideous, deformed face, sorry, headlamp.
The 999 was not Ducati’s finest moment. We are not going to do any of those lame emergency number jokes. Oh go on then: When the Ducati 999 was born it was so ugly its mother called for an ambulance to take her away from the hospital.
The true test of a bike’s ugliness is whether, over time, the look can start to grow on you. Even allowing for it having to overcome the hurdle that is following one of the prettiest bikes ever, in the 748/916/996/998, and also allowing for the fact the rest of the bike is clearly so well sculptured, it has simply not grown on us. Or judging by second-hand values, anyone else either.
OK, we’re stretching the term ‘modern era’ with the Mammoth. We had to include it because, if the ‘Busa is maybe contentious, then this bike definitely falls into the love it or hate it category and these types of lists need to stir up a bit of thought, otherwise what’s the point?
It’s not the doltish-looking twin headlamps that are the issue. Or that clearly we have a thing about headlamps making the rest of a bike seemingly ugly. Or that seen from the side the rear looks a bit, erm, stumpy. It’s the fact that, seen from the side, the whole bloody thing looks stumpy.
It’s almost like the Clymer-Münch Mammut, to give it its full and proper title, has been put in a giant vice and squeezed together.
To get around having to use a car engine in one of the best motorcycle frames ever, the Norton Featherbed, they put it across the frame.
Almost like a Hayabusa of its time, the Mammoth was built specifically to reach high speeds, 140mph at the time, and stay there for long periods without tiring the rider.
Even though we are technically challenged, even we know that when trying to achieve high-speed stability a design would usually have a longer wheelbase. But the Mammoth features one of the most perpendicular rear shocks we’ve ever seen. Without getting the tape measure out, surely this bike has one of the shortest swingarms ever put on a bike?
The result is that the bike is perhaps a wee bit too short, at least visually. That doesn’t make it ugly. But combined with the dumb-look headlamps and Soviet-style rear mudguard then seen as a whole, it kind of looks, well, stumpy. Not many people love stumpy bikes, as a rule.
We could be wrong though. After all, it was this bike that was the inspiration for and hero of the movie of the same same, featuring one Gérard Depardieu no less. Mind you; he’s no looker himself.
There will be loads of you who love the Vision, but we simply don’t get it.
To distance the bike from HD’s UltraGlide and the Indian Roadmaster, the designer was inspired by the aerodynamics of the American car industry of the 50’s. So that’s a bike that is based on old cars, which were designed to look like rocketships from the future…
Yeah, that’s why it doesn’t work for us.
Even though you can let them off a bit because it was the era of the Sinclair C5 and Space 1999, there is still the overwhelming feeling of ‘WTF were they thinking?’ about the K1.
To be fair, the principles behind the aerodynamics that resulted in the supersized front mudguard are sound. But once those principles were established they should quickly have been thrown away – just look at the result!
The design principles weren’t entirely functional either. Despite those bulbous sides, the rear lockers struggle to hold more than a pair of undercrackers, and the front fairing directs engine heat directly at the rider.
Although the bike was way ahead of its time, with ABS and 16 valves some ten years before the rest of the industry, ultimately the bike is resigned to the ‘you’ve got to try really hard to love it’ section of the motorcycle design history book.
Buell RR 1000 Battletwin
Now, if the K1 hasn’t left you with a visual headache, feast your eyes on the Battletwin.
Same idea, roughly the same time and definitely the same level of Fail Army kudos, the Battletwin was the curvier exercise in bike aerodynamics.
Arguably, it was more true to the principles of reducing drag, by creating a shape which would flow through the air with as little opportunity to disrupt the sky as possible.
With the exception of the indicators and mirrors, air was forced over and around the bike beautifully. Except it wasn’t beautiful to look at, mainly thanks to continuing the front fairing over and beyond the engine and rear wheel, to reduce any hint of drag from sticky-out bits.
Whereas the car world’s Citroen DS managed to be both wide-bodied yet aerodynamic and beautiful from any angle, motorcycling’s attempt manages only to look bloated and lumpy. Nice idea, shame about the execution.
According to those in the know, the Mantra is one of the best Bimota riding experiences. A pity then, that the front end seems to have been designed by the same person who designed the rear end of the Invacar, the 1970’s mobility carriage.
Visually, the rest of the bike isn’t too pretty either. The jury is out on the frame and the duel pipes that later settled quite nicely on Ducati’s Monster, but the sum of everything else is just a bit of a dog’s dinner.
The designer, Sacha Lakic, who went on to make a plausible stab at futurism with the Axis 749, was perhaps trying a bit too hard with the Mantra. That or he dropped his eraser and couldn’t find it again.
Get yourself wound up:
As we said, these lists are always subjective, so have your say over on our Facebook page.
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