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As we sit waiting for the decade that started in 2010 to run its course we can start to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the seventies — and what better way to kick things off than with Bikesure’s list of the best bikes of the 1970s.
Best bikes of the 1970s: The Fantic Chopper
While there are many contenders for the most seventies bike, most lists pass over the Fantic Chopper, which is arguably one of the most seventies things ever. It’s the slightly older brother of the Raleigh Chopper, and also one of the fastest mopeds of its era. You could hit 70mph on the 50cc version and 80mph on the 125.
Nowadays that speed and that style will cost you, with second hand models in decent condition costing in the region of £12k. Like all the most desirable classics there’s a healthy market for individual bike parts and new/old stock of items like stickers, so if you find a doer upper then you might be able to bring it back to its original glory with time and patience.
Suzuki was the brand Barry Sheene raced to victory time after time during the decade so the bikes make our list of best 70s bikes. His victories helped make the Japanese marque incredibly popular. While his race bikes, like the TR500 and the RG500, were out of the financial reach of most people, you could easily pick up one of the T series and imagine you were Barry.
The models to look out for now are the GT series, with the GT250 being the most affordable for recreating that mid-seventies Sheene vibe.
For further camaraderie, the GT750 is one of those bikes that people love enough to form a club for, such as The Kettle Club.
Proving that the exciting bikes weren’t limited to Japan, Beemer’s R90 managed to shake off the company’s somewhat staid image and become something extremely desirable.
With the almost clichéd German attention to detail, each bike was assembled by just one technician, and each of the airbrushed paint jobs was unique too.
Whether you manage to find one in the incredibly seventies orange or the silver and black, you’ll have found a bargain if you manage to pick it up at £7k now.
Of course one of the things with looking for the best 70s bikes is that a lot of them don’t look like products of the seventies.
As William Gibson pointed out, the future is not evenly distributed, which is why most of the UK still looked like the 1950s throughout the 1960s, and like the 1960s during the seventies. The Z1’s predecessor, the Z1000, is another fine machine but with a rather old fashioned, let’s be polite and call it “classic” style. It wouldn’t look particularly out of place in any decade prior to the 70s.
Whereas the Z-1R, released in 1978, could only be the product of one decade. While it might be a bit of a stretch to directly link it to the success of Star Wars, that film did mark the point where a lot of the things we really associate with that decade starts: disco, punk, a slightly more streamlined look to fashion, and generally trying to be a bit more futuristic than the previous overabundance of hair and flares.
The Z1-R, with its straight lines and more stylised appearance is quite a break from its predecessors’ design. If you’re looking for that authentic late seventies bike hotness then this has to be high up your wants list.
Best bikes of the 1970s: Ducati 450 Mk3
All of the bikes on this list have reputations that precede them, but there’s nothing like a hint of Italian style to pique interest and that’s why Ducati accelerates into most people’s list of the best bikes of the 1970s.
The Mk3 was the first production motorcycle in the Ducati range to include the fantastically named Desmodromic engine, a v-twin designed by Fabio Taglioni, the descendent of which is still used in every Ducati.
The bike itself is a classic scrambler, and that engine was nippy enough to establish itself as a must have. You’ll be looking at anywhere between 8k up to 12k if you want to pick one up in working condition.
MV Agusta 350 Ipotesi
While Ducati managed to make it through the seventies, MV Agusta is one of the manufacturers that did not get to see out the decade.
The company’s finances never recovered from the death of Count Agusta in 1971, with the Ipotesi being its last roll of the dice in 1976. It was unsuccessful, and they stopped manufacturing in ’77 until Cagiva resurrected the brand in the 1990’s. It’s also a relative bargain as far as classic bikes go, at around £8k.
Yamaha RD series
With the launch of the R5 in 1970, Yamaha’s powerful family of 2-stroke Race Designed roadsters gained an army of fans.
At the time it was fairly standard in the industry to release bikes with an almost absurd variety of engine sizes, which meant that in the seventies you could take your pick from the RD50, 60, 125, 135, 200, 250, 350 and 400.
Some of the highlights include the sleek RD200, which has become one of the more desired of the range largely due to scarcity, and its bigger sibling the 250, which can still raise prices in excess of £10k, in certain circumstances at least.
Best bikes of the 1970s: Triumph Bonneville T140
Bonnies have a long, proud history so naturally Triumph makes the list of best bikes of the 1970s.
The T140, released in 1974, was a 750cc development of its 650cc predecessor the T120. It was created at a critical time during the company’s history, when Norton Villiers Triumph, its then owners, announced they were going to move production away from Meriden.
The workers staged a sit in for two years in protest, and would go on to form a worker’s co-op in order to keep production where it was.
In 1977 they bought the marketing rights from NVT, but despite improvements to the design and limited editions, including a now incredibly rare Royal Jubilee version, vital overseas sales were hindered by the strong pound which made it an expensive purchase.
After a valiant fight, production at Meriden ceased finally in 1983. That wasn’t the end of the story though, with the brand being bought by John Bloor when the firm went into receivership. Today Triumph remains one of the best loved motorcycle brands on the planet, and the Bonneville one the cornerstones of its appeal.
The sound of the T140 revving can be heard in Triumph (of the good city) on JJ Burnel of the Strangler’s 1979 solo album Euroman Cometh, which also included a tribute to the Meriden workers co-op on the sleeve-notes.
This is, as these things tend to be, just a snapshot of some of the bikes released throughout the seventies. Sound off in the comments and let us know what your favourite seventies bike is.
And come to Bikesure if you need a quote on your 1970s dream machine.