Biggest motorcycle flops: The one in India gave many a scare and there are Harleys, Suzuki and BMWs too!


  • Any motorcyclist who has been riding for a long time now can give examples of the worst motorcycles that he/she has ever ridden. Brands like Harley-Davidson, Suzuki, Indian, Kawasaki have given the world some of the most iconic motorcycles, however, every now and then a bad decision is made, the result of which is a motorcycle that is etched in history books as a flop. But not all of them are bad bikes, some of them ride well and were a failure for a number of other reasons. Here are the biggest flops in the motorcycle industry:

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  • 1975 Kawasaki H2 Mach IV 750: With 74 bhp from a motorcycle that weighed 204 kg, the H2 Mach IV 750 was a mad machine. The Kawasaki H2 Mach IV 750 triple was outrageous, loud and uncivilised unlike the Honda CB750 which was more of a controlled beast. Kawasaki themselves said of the bike, “It’s so quick it demands the razor-sharp reactions of an experienced rider.” 0-100 was done in 4.3 seconds and the brakes were weak. The H2 Mach IV 750 may have been well liked by speed-crazed boys, but it was a dangerous bike. (Image: Motorcycleclassics)

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  • 1979 Honda NR500: The NR500 has been called Honda's biggest failure. Back in the 70s, two-stroke engines ruled the racing scenes, but Honda decided to enter with a four-stroke one. Since four-strokes were not as powerful as the two-stroke competitors, the company designed a 32 valve V8 with a monocoque body which helped reduce weight, which later evolved into a V4 engine with four oval-shaped cylinders producing 100 hp at 16,000 rpm. This was not, however, fast or reliable enough. The street version of this motorcycle could not cut the mustard since there were faster and cheaper options in the market. (Image: MCN)

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  • 1974 Suzuki RE5: The RE5 has its name in history books for its unusual engine, but then the unusual rotary engine also led to its downfall. At the heart of the RE5 was a 497cc rotary engine that was capable of delivering 62hp but this amount of power was just not enough for the weight (255kg). The RE5 roadster did handle well and was fuel efficient, given the rotary engine, but it was underpowered and expensive. (Image: Motorcycletrader)

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  • 1981 Harley-Davidson XLH1000 Sportster: Harley-Davidson has been producing the Sportster series of motorcycles since 1957, so have a substantial experience in building good Sportsters. However, in early 80s, Harley wanted to do something new to compete with Japanese bikes. But the resultant 1981 Sportster did not just have bad handling, it had dangerous handling. Long forks with a steep angle, high centre of gravity, heavy engine and poor suspension – the combination of all this resulted in the worst low-speed maneuverability ever seen before or after on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. (Image: Sportyironheads)

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  • 2001 BMW F 650 CS 'Scarver': BMW planned to get the attention of the younger generation with this motorcycle. The company teamed up with Aprilia and the result is the F 650 CS or 'Scarver'. BMW was bold and the F 650 CS went against the marketing trends of those days, aimed at urban commuters, non-traditional riders, new motorcyclists, women and shorter riders. The 650cc single-cylinder engine was not very powerful, the dash was too futuristic and it too expensive. Sales numbers were in the basement and the F 650 was discontinued after just three years. (Image: Autoevolution)

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  • Chinese motorcycles: And now the big one. Chinese motorcycles were all poised to enter the Indian two-wheeler market back in 2002, and they promised ridiculously big numbers for fuel efficiency and tech gadgets like remote starter, for a price that was smaller than their Indian counterparts. The Monto Motors Cosmo Blaster went on sale in some states in India, but everything after that fell short from launching since the bikes never met Indian emission standards. (Image: Thehindubusinessline and Indiamart (inset))

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