Each year motorcycle manufacturers dedicate millions to research and development. Sometimes the result is advancements in performance and technology. Sometimes it means we get a totally new bike to drool over that revolutionizes the industry. And then sometimes the result is a bike that utterly disappoints. It could be that the design isn’t appealing, the performance fails to thrill, or it is uncomfortable. Then finally, sometimes there is nothing wrong with the bike. Instead, it is the manufacturer that fails the motorcycle. Perhaps the marketing wasn’t what it should have been. Maybe the release timing wasn’t right for the market conditions. These ten production motorcycles from brands like Ducati, KTM, and even Honda are the biggest flops in recent history.
10/10 2005-2010 Ducati SportClassic Sport 1000 S
When you look at Ducati’s lineup, it is hard to imagine the company ever producing a motorcycle flop. Interestingly, the bike flopped when released but has gained a strong following. In recent years, the result is a booming used market. With this in mind, one could argue that the bike was ahead of its time. The V-twin air-cooled 992cc engine performed great, and the bike handled well on the road. While the double seat was comfortable, the single seat was not. Many argue that the motorcycle’s styling and performance outdo all the modern scramblers on the market. This makes it a shame that Ducati abandoned the bike so quickly.
9/10 2008-2010 KTM RC8
Stock image of an orange 2008 KTM 1190 RC8 on a background.
This bike was doomed from the start, with multiple production delays and dismal sales performance. Then during the development and production process, the regulations changed, and this bike became unsuitable for its intended racing purpose. The RC8 is like the first pancake. It was KTM’s first attempt at a superbike, and it didn’t quite live up to standards. KTM nixed it quickly but moved on to produce some top-performing superbikes that won the MotoGP. Fans of KTM maintain that a revival is long overdue. A newer version of the bike with KTM’s knowledge would produce a high-quality bike that would definitely be a winner.
8/10 1979 Honda NR500
Stock image of a 1979 Honda NR500 sitting on a stand in front of a white background.
This disappointing bike could be Honda’s biggest mistake. As one of the big Japanese manufacturers, the company has had a lot of wins. Unfortunately, this pioneer four-stroke engine wasn’t a hot sell for riders. The bike didn’t stand a chance from the research and development stage. Honda tried to make a four-stroke engine more powerful than the dominating two-strokes at the time. However, hindering Honda’s efforts were a plethora of regulations. Many of the initial ideas and integrations got thrown out. The result was a mechanically unreliable bike that was hard to work on. Finally, the bike came out of Honda’s racing development team. Track bikes get by push-start. This functionality doesn’t work on the city streets and quickly became unpopular.
7/10 2001 Moto Guzzi V11
Stock image of a 2004 Moto Guzzi V11 in gray facing right on a white background.
The Moto Guzzi V11 might be an unexpected addition to the list. Today, it is one of Moto Guzzi’s best-selling bikes. However, it didn’t start out that way. When it first hit the market, it was woefully underpowered. It also had a retro cafe racer style that the world just wasn’t ready for yet. The vintage and retro trend hadn’t arrived yet, so this bike didn’t garner the following that the company hoped for. It took several years for the bike’s specs to improve and for the market to want its unique styling. Today, the motorcycle does much better in a market that’s ready for it.
6/10 2011-2012 MV Agusta Brutale 920
Stock image of a black 2011 MV Agusta Brutale 920 facing right on a black background.
It is a tough road for MV Agusta. Manufacturers like Aprilia and Ducati rule the market as Italian motorcycle experts. MV Agusta tries so hard yet always seems to miss the mark. The Brutale 920 is an example of this. Interestingly, the bike came out during Harley’s tenure as the brand owner. Interestingly, the Brutale has impressive stats and a smooth-running yet powerful engine. Unfortunately, the bike was introduced into the market as an entry-level bike. However, its performance capabilities and price point were anything but entry-level. Harley also sabotaged the release by backing out and switching gears right before its US launch.
5/10 2001-2003 Aprilia Futura RST1000
Stock image of silver 2002 Aprilia Futura RST1000 facing right on a white background.
The problem with the Futura RST1000 is Aprilia’s aggressive growth rate. The company thought it had a winner with the bike and its big V-twin motor. It was a chance to compete with Ducati and Honda, which it is viewed as primary competitors. However, the bike never gained traction in the world market. Aprilia then doubled down on the gamble by continuing to produce more expensive and flawed models year after year. The bikes had good ergonomics and design, but riders preferred the Honda VFR800 with its own V4 engine. It had everything the Futura had and was more affordable.
4/10 Harley-Davidson XR1200
Stock image of an orange 2008 Harley-Davidson XR1200 facing right on a white background.
Harley dominates the American motorcycle market. However, it has always struggled to replicate that success in Europe. The XR1200 was Harley’s attempt at appealing to the European rider market while also staying true to Harley’s roots. The bike itself looked nice and performed well. However, American riders weren’t interested, and European riders didn’t want it either. It could have done better, but Harley didn’t give it enough marketing support in the US As for the European market, the bike was still too heavy to compete with tastes that preferred the lighter bikes that dominated the market. Thankfully, Harley learned its lesson and produced more globally appealing motorcycles moving forward.
3/10 Yamaha MT-01
Stock image of a black 2001 Yamaha MT-01 facing left on a white background.
Starting with the obvious, the Yamaha MT-01 is like the Mr. Potato Head of motorcycles. Yamaha took parts from all of its other bikes to piecemeal this one together. The result is a bike that isn’t very comfortable to sit on. The tank is too wide, and the pegs are in the wrong place. However, the most disappointing feature of the bike is the engine performance. It is a massive 1,670cc V-twin engine, yet the tuning is all torque and no speed. The sound is also a huge letdown. It is more like a purring kitten than a roaring lion.
2/10 Husqvarna Nuda 900
Stock image of a stripped 2011 Husqvarna Huda 900 naked motorcycle facing left on a white background.
Sometimes bike flops just don’t make sense, and the Husqvarna Nuda 900 is one of them. The Husqvarna brand has seen a turbulent journey of ownership changes and struggles. For a while, BMW owned the company, and during that time, it produced the Nuda 900. Unfortunately, the bike experienced dismal sales and just flopped in the market. However, the bike itself wasn’t terrible. It had a well-equipped engine, Brembo brakes, and plenty of impressive features that you expect from a BMW-produced motorcycle. Eventually, Husqvarna was sold, and today the Super Duke is just a modern iteration of this great bike.
1/10 Buell 1125 CR
Stock image of 2009 Buell 1125 CR red motorcycle facing right on a white background.
Harley got involved with Buell during a time of extreme struggle and made the situation worse. This is when the 1125CR was born and ultimately become one of the worst bikes sporting the Buell name. Riding the bike is incredibly uncomfortable, with super low handlebars forcing you to sit way too far forward. Then there is the awkward design of the fairings. Finally, the bikes never had a chance because they got shoved in between a set of chromed-out cruisers at Harley dealerships. The Buell company keeps coming back around, so hopefully, a decent-looking and performing bike comes out of it.