Ahh style… beauty is in the eye of the beholder, one man’s dream design is another’s naff nightmare, glances that draw admiration and aghast. In short, opinion is just that.
So when the question ‘what do you think are the ugliest motorcycles you can buy new today’ [a query admittedly motivated by a particular model, see below] on the Visordown WhatsApp Group chat, it generated a bit of feverish debate among us staffers.
Naturally, opinions on the look of any motorcycle are subjective so far be it from us to compile a definitive list of motorcycles that – being polite – are aesthetically challenged just because ‘we’ think so.
So we’ve chickened out [sorry!] and instead delegated the responsibility to you out there on social media [you’re welcome!]…
The response was large and – perhaps surprisingly – threw up a pretty consistent list of suggestions, which we have tallied up and used to generate a rundown [in no particular order] of eight models that you agree have looks that only a manufacturer could love…
Buell SuperTouring 1190
Sorry Buell, we have to admit it is your brand-new Buell SuperTouring 1190 that sparked the question that has led us to this feature today.
Revealed a couple of weeks ago in Daytona, it is the second launch of its latest revival, which went live in November 2021 some five years after the US firm collapsed for a second time and 12 years on from when it was wound down by then owners Harley-Davidson.
First off the restarted production line was the reprofiled Buell 1190 RX Hammerhead, which with its single vertical headlight and side-fairing gills should have given us a hint that the new owners weren’t prepared to blend in with the crowd this time.
And yet, the SuperTouring 1190 – its first all-new creation – finds itself standing out for all the wrong reasons.
Pitched as a rival to the Harley-Davidson Pan America (we’ll come to that later…) despite not having off-road capabilities, the SuperTouring 1190 raises an eyebrow with its boxy, utilitarian aesthetic, which from some angles look like the unholy successor to the Ulysses, a model that was similarly segment-ambiguous and not exactly a stunner.
Trouble is, it looks almost unfinished, appearing as though it has married far too many ideas with no refinement. For instance, we ‘get’ the dual headlamps are inspired by the XB12R, but then why house them in a flimsy looking box, or the vents that are unusually very visible on the side, or the upright screen that appears as an afterthought.
While the render shown 12 months ago suggested this would be a chunky, imposing and distinctive new offering in the touring class, the result makes us wonder whether they were looking at the same sketch…
Harley-Davidson Pan America
We’ve led with the Buell SuperTouring 1190 here but if we were to rank these motorcycles in order of how many names and shames they received on social media, the Harley-Davidson Pan America was such a runaway winner/loser that it almost hogs the entire top ten to itself.
It’s not often Harley-Davidson has to design outside the box having refined the cruiser silhouette that forms the basis for most of its models over the decades, but the decision to diversify into new segments have put stylists to the test.
It’s tricky to make an adventure motorcycle look sexy when you factor in all of the function that takes precedence over form, but Harley-Davidson has at least tried to do something different with the Pan America and the result is as imposing and ‘bigger is better ‘ as you’d expect from the American firm.
However, whether you can stomach the Pan America rests almost entirely on whether you could lap up the unusual front-end… which is ironic, because the wide, angular snout has frequently been compared to the Hammerhead Shark, undoubtedly the kookiest of the shark family .
We’ll admit it looks better in person, while the rest of the Pan America is a handsome beast… but in such a competitive class, do you really want to be getting more attention for your bike’s design than what you’re doing on it ?
Suzuki didn’t escape the wrath of you out there with three of its models being nominated a few times for inclusion here.
Since we’ve kindly limited this to one entry per manufacturer, the GSX-S1000 and the Katana can rest easy, for neither generated as many comments as the Hayabusa.
Perhaps the Hayabusa is slightly low hanging fruit for this list, though it is a sign of how differently we view the extraordinary high-speed sportsbike-tourer in 2022 than in 1999 when it was first launched to gasps and awe.
Back then we happily accepted its bulbous proportions were part of the reason why it was the fastest production motorcycle in the world, the Hayabusa’s appearance evolving from the norm for a purpose, much like an Olympic athlete for instance.
However, there are many out there to blame for using the Hayabusa as a boastful example of customization excess with many examples in the world becoming at best outlandish, at worst a monstrosity.
It is a design that endured a full 21 years during the (long) lifespan of the first generation, so when we discovered a second generation was (finally) coming in 2021, we secretly hoped Suzuki would go for something more lithe and aggressive.
To a certain extent it has, but the Hayabusa remains all bumps and bulges, which would be fine for aero effect if it wasn’t actually slower than the model it replaced. Still, while much of the Suzuki range has a tendency to stick to the basics, at least this is one motorcycle that you can never, ever miss.
If the Pan America was the first loser in this list, then chasing it in second position is the latest generation Yamaha MT-10… which is a worrying indictment for a model that has literally just gone on sale.
Yamaha is having something of a dodgy run when it comes to design that pleases the public. It all started with the launch of the MT-09 in 2020 with its single circular headlamp poking out of lashings of matte black fairing, then a similar approach with the revised MT-07 before being adapted more aggressively for the cyclops-aping R7 sportsbike.
Perhaps sensing the headlamp arrangement wasn’t the way to go after all, Yamaha has attempted to play it safer with the new generation MT-10, which sticks to the dual spotlight set-up of its handsome predecessor.
However, after streaming the front-fascia, Yamaha seems to have made a misstep by adding strip-lights to arc over the spotlights. The result is what appears to be a motorcycle with eyebrows akin to those you’ll see out on the town on a Friday night… or Johnny 5 from Short Circuit.
Once you see it, you can’t unsee it…
BMW R 1250 GS – GS Adventure
Now here is a contentious one…
The BMW R 1250 GS and GS Adventure have been among the best-selling motorcycles across Europe for as long as we care to remember, so we’re assuming there are plenty more people who find the looks palatable than unpleasing.
Perhaps it is their ubiquitousness on the road that has prompted the weight of negative opinion, but we’ll admit there remains some typically oddball detailing on the latest generation model.
The asymmetric ‘winking’ headlight arrangement is certainly quirky, but it gives the BMW some character all the same, while we can accept the chunky proportions are a touch ‘busy’ if we’re pushed.
Admittedly, BMW does have form where this is concerned though with the modern-day range certainly more conservative than some of its models from yesteryear.
Indeed, BMW has developed something of a reputation for getting it very wrong on the design front over the decades, with models like the bulky K1, the spider face doppelganger R1200C and sister ST, the F650 hoover on wheels and – of course – the atrocious roof-equipped C1 scooter rather living in infamy.
It’s no easy task to apply the design of a traditional motorcycle – with its slender frame and smaller surface area for detailing – onto a big hulking cruiser, but we’re pretty sure the Indian Challenger could have benefited from a different approach than what it ended up with.
In a class where not only size is king, in the battle of the American-flagged baggers, bigger is better… which is fine if you’re cruising down Route 66, but threading through Coventry on a motorcycle a wide as a car at one end and boasting boat-like proportions at the other is no easy task.
So admittedly, it’d help if you didn’t draw more attention to yourself with a gigantic dresser front-end and mammoth lighting arrangement. Then again, with its comfy seat and foot-forward position you may be luxuriating too much to give a damn.
After all, you don’t buy a model like the Indian Challenger if you wanted to blend… or filter.
Honda NT 1100
We reckon the Honda NT 1100 wouldn’t have ended up in this list had its design not being adapted from the quirky X-ADV off-road scooter.
Indeed, we can imagine the process working the other way around, but using a scooter – albeit a fairly unique one – to stretch a similar look around a large 1100cc sports tourer seems a little devaluing.
Granted, you wouldn’t exactly call the NT 1100 ugly per se but whereas the X-ADV’s rugged and chunky appearance condensed into a small size appears beefy, the NT 1100 looks a touch ungainly and unremarkable.
Bizarrely though, they aren’t all that different in price with the NT 1100’s £11,999 appearing rather good value compared to the – gulp – £10,949 being asked for the X-ADV.
Kawasaki has gotten a lot of value out of its so-called Sugomi styling direction over the years, though the success of its application has been occasionally a touch miss rather than hit.
What it isn’t though is subtle and none more so than on the bombastic H2 sportsbike which successfully applies the madness of its 999cc supercharged 210hp four-cylinder engine into a look that screams attention this way, please!
Sharp and angular to the Hayabusa’s bulbous, the H2 is the veritable equivalent of a manga motorcycle so let’s just say there is a ‘a lot’ going on in the look of this most hyper of sportsbikes.
Granted it isn’t pretty or elegant, but in terms of making an impact wherever it goes, the Kawasaki H2 delivers on that front with ease.
Interestingly, you out there gave more downvotes for the H2 than its arguably more bonkers cousin, the Bimota Tesi H2, which retains all of the crazy but dresses it in an even more distinctive bodywork. More exotic, but absolutely more
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