5 Of The Most Underrated Motorcycles Ever Made

The automotive landscape is molded by bold new designs and powerful engines. Drivers have consistently flocked to high performance automobiles, as well as cars that sport iconic history and a classic design. The same can be said of motorcycles that dominate the attention of gearheads around the world. In the United States, there has recently been a resurgence in motorcycle sales (with 2021 recording the highest motorcycle sales figures in 15 years).

This means that a huge new volume of people are getting into the biker lifestyle and enjoying the open road in all its glory. With this decision to go all in on the biker life comes the all-important choice of selecting a great ride to carry you along on your journey. 

For those seeking a new motorcycle and looking for something that's perhaps less mainstream, but still brings excellent drivability and road feel, these underrated motorcycles are sure to spark your imagination. From the KTM 1290 Super Duke GT, to the classic Triumph Bonneville's younger sibling, these five bikes offer an amazing experience while often remaining just outside the marketplace's spotlight.

Indian FTR 1200

Indian has remained an underappreciated motorcycle brand for years. Halting production in 1953, the brand would spend nearly 60 years middling along without consistent leadership or a cohesive vision. It was bought in 2011 by Polaris, and the classic motorcycle has since returned with a vengeance to the marketplace. However, due to its prolonged absence from motorcycle innovation throughout the decades, many riders overlook Indian as an option when hunting for their next bike.

The FTR 1200 is a classic example of a fantastic cruiser that simply doesn't get the love it deserves. This Indian motorcycle is powered by a liquid cooled 1,203cc V-twin engine and a six-speed transmission. The bike produces a respectable 120 horsepower, and is completed by minimal forward fairing additions. 

This gives the motorcycle a classic street racer ambiance that can be easily let loose on the open road. The bike is also fitted with an adjustable front suspension and piggyback rear shocks. This makes creating a customized ride that suits your style easy to achieve on a truly iconic, yet often underappreciated bike.

[Featured image by Decio "desmodex" via Wikimedia Commons | Cropped and scaled | CC BY-SA 2.0]

Honda Gold Wing

Honda is well-known for producing racer-style motorcycles. However, one of the brand's most iconic offerings is the Gold Wing, a touring legend. Those who haven't made a long distance trek on their motorcycle before likely won't understand the luxurious road feel that riding along on a touring bike provides. 

These models are purpose built for the open highway and hours of unadulterated freedom of the road. Other bikes prize speed, handling, or even off-road capabilities over a long, smooth voyage. But tourers truly make driving the highlight of a motorcycle adventure.

Introduced to the market in 1975, the standout Gold Wing instantly became a touring classic among riders in the know. In the 1972 prototype models, the Gold Wing was powered by a 999cc flat four engine that was far bulkier than the company's existing superbike, the CB750. The Gold Wing continued to evolve, becoming a luxurious motorcycling experience that's perfect for solo or companion riding. 

The modern GL1800 Gold Wing is propelled forward with a massive 1,833cc flat six engine that produced 170Nm of torque. The motorcycle also includes state of the art infotainment and navigation systems, as well as an adjustable windscreen to fine tune riding for comfort and distance.

KTM 1290 Super Duke GT

With racing DNA underpinning its build, the KTM 1290 Super Duke GT is a head-turner. The motorcycle utilizes all the same stylization as other track stars that might factor into a conversation surrounding the Super Duke. Yet, KTM remains a major player in the European market (itself hailing from Austria), but stands distinctly in the shadow of brands like Suzuki, Yamaha, or Kawasaki when it comes to American motorcycle sales.

KTM was long known as an off-road bike maker as well, further lending itself to a lesser stature when it comes to KTM's equally high-quality lineup of street and track-style rides. The 1290 Super Duke GT's engine is a massive LC8 V-twin that KTM claims should be thought of "as a comfortable ballistic missile." The engines displacement measures 1,301 cubic centimeters and is built with two cylinders and liquid cooling. 

Riders will enjoy the addition of heated grips, and three position options for the gear shift lever and brake to work seamlessly with the foot pegs, regardless of foot size or boot style. The bike also utilizes a nine-position windshield that can be manipulated with one hand, meaning a stop isn't strictly necessary for quick adjustments while on the move.

Triumph Bonneville T100

Smaller and less gritty than its older brother (the T120), the Triumph Bonneville T100 still packs a serious amount of style and classic engineering prowess. The T100 model is run on a 900cc engine that produces 64.1 horsepower and 59 lb.-ft. of peak torque. These are minimal in comparison to other modern bikes, and the stats can't exactly stand up to the larger T120 either (sporting a 1,200cc Bonneville Twin engine, for instance).

However, at roughly $1,600 cheaper than the T120, a rider looking to get into motorcycle ownership might seriously consider the T100 as an excellent option for getting out on the road. The smaller frame is easier to handle for a newer rider, weighing 436 pounds to the T120's 494 pounds, and measuring slightly shorter from front to back and ground to top. 

With these somewhat stripped back vehicle specs, the Bonneville T100 offers itself as a competent daily driver that retains all the classic flourishes of the legendary Triumph Bonneville moniker. It's a smaller bike, but one that provides no less style and class to the owner.

[Featured image by TR001 via Wikimedia Commons | Cropped and scaled | CC BY 3.0]

BMW R 1250 R

Hidden among a treasure trove of other great BMW bikes, the R 1250 R doesn't garner the attention it likely deserves. BMW motorcycles often stand out as large, touring-type vehicles. Some of the most visible are the decked out varieties utilized by global police forces.

But the BMW R 1250 R stands out as an excellent example of BMW motorcycle design, and one that more people should likely take notice of. It's run on a 1,254cc, twin-cylinder four-stroke boxer engine that produces 136 horsepower and 105 foot-pounds of torque. 

The small bike also makes room for a spacious 4.7 gallon fuel tank. The R1250 R can produce a blast of power, but it also comes loaded with Eco mode for greater fuel efficiency and rain settings for improved driving performance on difficult roadway conditions (including ABS Pro braking and Dynamic Traction Control).

Another feature that sets the R 1250 R apart from many other bikes on the market is its high tech Core Screen Sport. Rather than an analog display panel (or a small digital screen), the Core Screen adds a new, technical dimension to your ride that offers up a wealth of information with just a quick glance down at the panel. The bike even comes with a heated seat to keep you at your best, even when the weather won't let up.