Modern bikes might be loaded with safety tech, but the road hasn’t always been this smooth. Throughout history, some motorcycles have been notorious for their danger, earning scary reputations among riders. From unpredictable beasts to raw powerhouses, these machines weren’t just fast—they were terrifying.

We’re revealing 13 motorcycles that strike fear into even the most experienced riders.

1970 Kawasaki H1 500 Mach III

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The 1970 Kawasaki H1 500 Mach III is a vintage dream machine, notorious and adored in equal measure. This bike’s a real collector’s item but it’s got a wild streak. Known for its heart-stopping power and less-than-predictable handling, riding the Mach III is like taming a bucking bronco. It’s fast, it’s furious, and it definitely demands respect. If you’re looking to ride something with a lot of history and a bit of an attitude problem, this is your bike.

2019 Suzuki Hayabusa

The 2019 Suzuki Hayabusa is a legend in the motorcycling world, known for its blistering speeds and solid cornering capabilities, even with its long wheelbase. It’s also surprisingly comfortable for touring. But here’s the catch: it’s too easy for anyone with a license to hop on one of these and get in way over their head.

This bike packs nearly 200 horsepower and has little in the way of electronic aids to keep you in check. Novices beware—this bike does not suffer fools gladly. One slip on the throttle and you could find yourself in a world of trouble.

1955 Vincent Black Shadow

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The Vincent Black Shadow of 1955 set a new standard in motorcycling, albeit with its share of flaws. The 1955 Vincent Black Shadow was a beast on the roads that tested even the bravest riders. This bike packed a punch but didn’t exactly play nice with curves.

The chassis had a tendency to twist up when you needed stability the most, and the brakes? They weren’t reliable, often deciding on their own whether or not today was a good day to work. If you’re going to take this classic for a spin, gear up—safety isn’t optional with this one.

1997 Bimota V-Due

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The Bimota V-Due hit the scene in 1997 as a sleek speed machine, but time has revealed its wild side. This bike may look good and move fast with its near 100 horsepower, but it’s a handful at high speeds.

Trying to push it around corners or blast off from a stop, you might find it bucking unpredictably due to a sketchy fuel injection system. This bike is definitely not for the faint-hearted or inexperienced.

1985 Yamaha V-Max

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The 1985 Yamaha V-Max was great at pushing the limits at the drag strip. However, this focus on acceleration came at a cost. With handling that could best be described as terrifying and brakes seemingly borrowed from a far less powerful bike, the V-Max was a challenging ride in any scenario that wasn’t a straight line.

No electronics to manage its 145 horsepower and 83.1 lb-ft of torque meant that riding this bike was often a gamble.

Harley-Davidson Sportsters (Early 70s)

By Yesterdays Antique Motorcycles. – http://www.motorarchive.com/images/HarleyDavidson_1973_Sportster(XLCH)_1.jpg, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7929512

The early 70s Sportsters from Harley-Davidson emerged during a turbulent era marked by the American Machine and Foundry Company takeover. These bikes had plenty of style but lacked substance. With engines that weren’t reliable or particularly powerful and handling that felt both vague and heavy, they were a tough sell.

Interestingly, their unreliability was almost a blessing, as they often broke down before they could pose a greater risk on the road.

2005 Hyosung GT650R

The 2005 Hyosung GT650R hit the market as a dark horse, offering solid performance and comfort but was quickly marred by its safety record. The main gripe with the GT650R was its temperamental transmission that not only required Herculean effort to shift gears but also had a frightening tendency to slip out of gear unexpectedly.

Even if a rider managed to wrestle the gearbox into submission, they then had to contend with unreliable brakes and a clutch that could fail without warning.

Harley-Davidson V-Rod

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The Harley-Davidson V-Rod was a looker with a need for speed, designed with some help from Porsche, making it the fastest Harley of its time. It shined on straightaways but faltered at the first sign of a curve. With only 30 degrees of cornering clearance, turning the V-Rod was risky.

Lean too hard and the bike’s belly would scrape the ground, potentially lifting the rear wheel and initiating an uncontrolled slide.

2017 BMW HP4 Race

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The 2017 BMW HP4 Race is a beast of a track bike, packing a massive 215 horsepower while barely tipping the scales at 146 kg. This isn’t a bike for rookies. It’s all about raw power and adrenaline, with a power delivery that hits like a freight train the moment you twist the throttle.

Handling it at speed is a real test of skill, especially when you’re trying to keep it smooth coming out of corners. This bike is notoriously unforgiving.

Ducati Streetfighter 1098 S

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The Ducati Streetfighter 1098 S is what happens when you strip a superbike down to its core. It handles better and looks hotter than most of its rivals, like the Triumph Speed Triple. Imagine a 1098 superbike, slightly toned down but still mean, with no fairings and broader handlebars—all the good stuff, none of the fluff.

Riding this is all about skill; there’s no tech to save you here. You need to respect this machine, or it’ll show you who’s boss real quick—and spoiler alert, it’s not you. It’s a ride for the bold, no doubt about it.

1997 Suzuki TL1000S

By Mike Schinkel – originally posted to Flickr as Barber Motorcycle Museum – Oct 22 2006 (599), CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4353130

The 1997 Suzuki TL1000S almost hit legendary status, but its quirky rear setup held it back big time. This beast came stuffed with a massive V-twin that barely fit its frame, forcing Suzuki to borrow some tech from 90s Formula 1 for the rear shock to keep things compact. Cool in theory, but in practice, once that shock oil got hot, the rear end turned into a mushy mess.

Imagine gunning it around a corner and suddenly your bike’s acting like a yacht in a storm—definitely not for the faint-hearted. With 121 horsepower and 76.3 lb-ft of torque, it’s an exciting ride, but watch out, it can get wild.

Kawasaki H2 750

By Rainmaker47 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=58639078

The Kawasaki H2 750, famously known as the “Widow Maker,” truly earned its nickname back in the 1970s. This bike was a monster, focusing on raw speed with over 75 horsepower from its 3-cylinder two-stroke engine. Its major flaws were a chassis that twisted under pressure and brakes that barely did their job.

Kawasaki later tried to tame it by tweaking the steering geometry and lengthening the swingarm, which helped make it a bit more stable, but it was still a handful. Riding this bike was like handling dynamite—spectacular but dangerous.

Brough Superior SS100

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The Brough Superior SS100 was a marvel of its time, introduced in the 1920s when most motorcycles could barely muster 15 horsepower. This machine packed 50 to 75 horsepower depending on the model, which was unheard of at the time. However, its power came with a price: the SS100 had a notoriously unstable chassis, tires that could barely keep up, and brakes that often had their own plans.

Tragically, this motorcycle claimed the life of one of its most famous enthusiasts, TE Lawrence—also known as Lawrence of Arabia—proof of its legendary status and dangerous nature.

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Author: Abbie Clark

Title: Co-Founder

Expertise: Automotive Industry, Electric Vehicles, DIY Car Repairs

Bio:

Abbie Clark is a writer, blog, and founder of RideRambler, Hey She Thrives, and The Bearded Bunch.

From clever car cleaning tricks to the freshest car features and reviews, Abbie loves sharing her knowledge on everything automotive. Outside of her time writing for her websites, you’ll find her fishing with her husband, deciphering her toddler’s babbling, or baking up something sweet.

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