What do the words “retro classic” mean to you? To us, it means a bike that’s mechanically pretty modern, but with spot-on retro styling. If you like that idea, you may consider it the best of both worlds. If you don’t like that idea, you may consider it a cliché. Either way, there are quite a few options to choose from in 2022. The best bikes in this category represent a solid understanding that some things are good simply because they are GOOD, not necessarily because they’re older or newer.
Some bikes that might have made the cut in earlier iterations are conspicuously absent from this list, like Yamaha’s XSRs. While they may have totally fit the bill in previous years, the 2022 versions feature more modern styling than before—and thus, have placed themselves outside our scope for this piece. The same is true of Honda’s CB1100R. We’re sure they’re fine bikes; just not suited to the purposes of this list.
We also didn’t include a few bikes that are, for all intents and purposes, bikes of yesteryear that are still made today. While other modern accoutrements are nice to have, I think we can all agree that, at the very least, disc brakes should be standard. If Honda could manage it with the CB750 Four, OEMs should be able to at least do that much in 2022. Fuel injection is also a must. There are some bikes we very much like the styling of, but that didn’t make this list for those reasons.
Finally, there are two other important things we should note with regard to this list. First off, we will continue to update this list as new bikes that fit this description are released throughout the year. For example, the Honda ST125 Dax was recently announced, but it isn’t technically available for sale anywhere just yet. Still, you can rest assured that we’ll add it to this collection once it is. The second thing is, not all bikes on this list are available in all markets. The motorcycle world is a big place, and it certainly isn’t confined to any one geographic region—so we’ve tried to reflect that here.
Let’s dive in and see what kind of modern, retro-classic gems 2022 has to offer.
Like most OEMs that have been around for decades, Kawasaki only has to reach into its own back catalogue for styling inspiration. That’s not a bad thing, by any stretch. The end result draws styling cues from the W1, but features nice modern touches like disc brakes front and rear, ABS, 19-inch front and 18-inch rear wheels, and a frame the W1 could only have dreamed of—and yet, of course, there’s that lovely tuck-and-roll seat. The MSRP starts at $9,199.
Kawasaki Z650RS and Z900RS ABS
The Z1’s world-changing legacy lives on in 2022, in the form of both the Z650RS and Z900RS. That’s even more true with the special Z50th Anniversary editions of both bikes, which amp the retro classic beauty up to 11. Both bikes have twin disc brakes up front and single discs in the rear, as well as ABS. The Z900RS features a USD fully adjustable front fork, both bikes have LED headlights, and the Z900RS Z50th Anniversary Edition even adds traction control to sweeten the deal. The MSRP on the Z650RS starts at $8,999, while the Z900RS ABS starts at $11,749.
Royal Enfield Continental GT 650 and INT650
While some might debate whether Enfield mixed up these two model names (the INT650 has more laid-back ergos while the Continental is much racier), one thing’s for certain: Retro classic charms abound in both 650 Twins. There is, after all, more than one way to do retro-classic. Want a more aggressive seating position so you can do the ton in style and comfort? The Continental 650 is your bike. Want a more upright seating position? The INT650 may be for you. Both feature disc brakes and ABS, which will certain help whenever you need to stop. MSRP for both starts at $6,199.
Triumph Street Twin, Bonneville T100 and T120, Thruxton RS, Speed Twin, Bonneville Bobber, Street Scrambler, Scrambler 1200
Although Triumph does have some notable exceptions, you might say that “retro classic” is what the brand does—and does well, for the most part. All the different Bonneville variants can be difficult to keep straight if you’re not the most dedicated Triumph afficionado, but they collectively serve to remind us that “retro classic” is not a monolith, and there's more than enough aesthetic to go around. Featuring modern touches like Brembo disc brakes, ABS, and traction control along with excellent fit, finish, and attention to detail, what more could you ask for? MSRP starts at $9,695 for the Street Twin and ranges up to $16,645 for the Thruxton RS.
Jawa Forty Two and Perak
Classic Legends revived the Jawa brand with an eye toward hitting that sweet spot in retro-classic styling. Some models still have a rear drum brake to go with their retro styling, but the Perak has disc brakes all around, and the Forty-Two has an option for a rear disc brake. Both models also offer ABS, helping to bring that hefty dose of classic styling into the 21st century. MSRP starts at ₹178,357, or about $2,364 for the Forty Two and ₹206,187, or about $2,733.55 for the Perak.
Mutt Akita 125cc
This little runabout looks like it came from an alternate timeline, and we mean that in the best way possible. The tiny little thumper has black, spoked 18-inch wheels, a super beefy tank and a narrow little tail. Neat little CNC details give it a crispy modernity, while the diamond-stitched saddle and that little headlight grille are unmistakable nods to the past. Disc brakes stop you all around with Mutt’s combined braking system. Above all, this little Mutt is proof that a 125 doesn’t have to be boring. MSRP starts at £3,495, or about $4,584.
Honda Super Cub, Trail 125, and Monkey
You probably can’t get more accessible retro-modern than three of the heavy hitters in Honda’s current miniMOTO lineup. Featuring styling bona fides that stretch all the way back, there’s a reason these bikes are so hard to find in showrooms right now—and it’s not just because of supply chain issues. When it’s more than just a model announcement, the ST125 Dax will fit right into this category as well. MSRP starts at $3,799 for the Super Cub C125 ABS and ranges up to $4,199 for the Monkey.
Brixton Rayburn 125, Sunray 125, Felsberg 125, and Cromwell 250
Brixton’s pack of current models are almost all retro-classics, featuring hardy little air-cooled single-cylinder engines, disc brakes, and LED lighting all around. Their no-nonsense attitudes come with plenty of style to spare, in several variations to fit your preferences.
They’re currently available in a bunch of countries all over Europe and Asia, with Namibia, South Africa, and the U.S. all listed as “Coming Soon” on Brixton’s official website. (NOT SOON ENOUGH, we say.) MSRP starts at €2,999, or about $3,291.
Mash Six Hundred 650
While we fully admit that the model name could be better, the combination of retro styling and modern componentry may just make you forget the questionable nature of its naming convention. Disc brakes all around, that handsome air-cooled classic look, and LED lighting all around are just some of the things to consider when contemplating this middleweight beauty. MSRP starts at £4,999, or about $6,557.
Ducati Scrambler Icon
Some Scramblers look more modern, but the Icon appears timeless, which may be why it bears that name. Modern features including LED lighting all around, a multimedia-ready LCD display, and Bosch cornering ABS as standard only make the package stand out all the more. MSRP starts at $9,995.
Ural cT and Gear Up
Let’s face it, it’s difficult to not automatically gain some retro credibility with a sidecar—and even more if you happen to be the OEM most readily associated with sidecar bikes. Sure, people can and do stick sidecars on machines from plenty of other makes, but can you imagine a Ural without a sidecar? It’s pretty difficult. Anyway, the main differences are that the cT doesn’t have 2WD, which the Gear Up does—and the Gear Up comes with a bunch more useful accessories, including a spare wheel, luggage rack, and jerry can.
Although the looks are as retro as retro can get, Brembo brakes everywhere—including on the sidecar—have been standard for years. The Gear Up even comes with LED fog lights on the sidecar. (I wish I had LED fog lights sometimes.) MSRP starts at $16,999 for the cT and $18,999 for the Gear Up.