Chances are, if you’ve ever found yourself in a neighborhood like Bushwick in Brooklyn or Echo Park in Los Angeles or cruising the Pacific Coast Highway, you’ve seen a kind of bike and a kind of guy. The bike is vintage and low-slung. The guy is often dressed to match the bike. And chances are he hasn’t been riding for very long. You see, we’re smack in the middle of a retro-street-bike revolution. Just a few years ago, if you wanted to ride a motorcycle that had that combination of retro flair, rideability and reliability, you didn’t have many choices. But today, beginners have more options than ever before: The bikes are tastefully designed, and they look old but ride like new. Here are five damn handsome bikes for beginners and beyond.
TRIUMPH BONNEVILLE STREET TWIN
Starting at $8,700
The new model of the iconic English café racer is the most futuristic retro bike you can ride. Technologies such as ABS and traction control keep you safe in modern traffic, but a torquey 900 cc parallel-twin engine and quality running gear make it a blast to ride, even by 2016 standards. And it’s one of the few bikes that will charge your iPhone.
ROYAL ENFIELD CONTINENTAL GT
Starting at $6,000
This café-racer riff on the Bullet was first produced more than 50 years ago. Just like the scene that emerged in London in the 1960s, the Continental is a stripped-down vehicle ideal for blasting through city streets. As a bonus, owning an Enfield will turn you into a real mechanic: The build quality is straight out of the 1960s too.
Starting at $9,500
Its 847 cc inline-three engine is probably too powerful, and its chassis too sharp, for your first bike, but the XSR900 would be perfect after you’ve ridden something smaller, lighter and less powerful for a year. Hone your skills, save your cash, and you could be polishing this thing in 2017. Learning to ride a motorcycle for real never looked so good.
HARLEY STREET 750
Starting at $7,550
This bike wins races on the flat-track circuit for a reason: It’s the best Harley-Davidson model since the legendary V-Rod. It has a liquid-cooled engine and produces more power than the Sportster while still being an easy ride for beginners. With low-key paint, a bullet fairing, fork gaiters and long, low looks, the 750 is one bike that’s ready right out of the box.
Starting at $8,000
Basically all you need on two wheels. Ducatis are known for their powerful motors and race-winning handling, but with the Scrambler the company has delivered a bike that’s fun to ride, day in and day out, for anyone from experienced racers to white-knuckled newbies. Full of character, capable and easy to ride, the Scrambler is a simple pleasure for all.