Vintage, Retro, Antique Motorcycles – What is the Difference?

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The appeal and allure of the motorbikes are always overpowering, especially for adrenaline junkies. While some riders prefer them for their own reasons, most have different opinions about which model or manufacturers are the best on the market.

A large percentage of motorcycle enthusiasts don’t fancy the ultra-modern bikes that come with state-of-the-art comfort and high tech features.

For them, old school motorcycles are the only option they can rely on. Perhaps, these riders love the simplicity that comes with older versions of these two-wheelers.

Speaking of older versions, you may happily use terms such as vintage, retro and even antique to classify them. For the upcoming riders, these terms mean nothing to them when choosing their preferred motorcycles.

But in your case, each terminology sets you back a few decades before the introduction of new models of motorbikes.

So, how do motorcycles fall in any of these categories? What is the difference between them?

To answer these questions, you need to understand each term and know exactly where it applies.

This is because the definition for each term varies from one region to another. Read on to find out more information about vintage, retro, and antique so you may have an idea of what you should expect.

Vintage, Retro and Antique Motorcycles

Each country has its own guidelines for categorizing motorcycles. But most of them use vintage, retro and antique terms to refer to different types of motorbikes in terms of age or year of manufacture.

Unlike in the US, the UK uses the name “veteran” to classify motorcycles made before 1915. At the same time, any older motorcycle built after January 1, 1915, is classified as “vintage”.

In the US, these terms are just used more freely and interchangeably. This creates a lot of confusion as far as the insurability standpoint is concerned.

However, the definition for these terms are usually combined under the Classic Motorcycle coverage. This means that if you are looking forward to insuring your motorbike, you should consult with the relevant agent to find out what really suits you better.

Let’s look at each term so you may know where and when to apply it.

Vintage Motorcycles

Vintage is another simpler way of describing your motorcycle. Don’t confuse it with the different categories of motorcycles. This comes in the wake of acquiring insurance.

Most likely, your insurance will use terms such as “retro” and “vintage” interchangeably to determine the condition of your motorcycle. In this case, your motorcycle will be considered “vintage” if it is overly customized.

Most of the retro and antique motorcycles can also be referred to as vintage. Unfortunately, all vintage motorbikes cannot be classified as antique or retro.

This is a very important point to note when entering your motorcycle into this type of classification. To make it clear for you, you need to only consider your two-wheeler for the vintage bike show only if it is a 1975 or 1980 model.

The official designation of vintage motorcycles is derived from the American-Historic-Racing-Motorcycle-Association or AHRMA. This association has two designations for vintage bikes.

Each of the designations depends on the nature of racing your bike is getting into. For that reason, AHRMA defines vintage motorcycles for moto crossing as those built before 1975, and those for road racing as manufactured after 1975.

Retro Motorcycles

It is never that easy to know when your motorcycle becomes retro. But that statement should not send you in a moment of disarray. There are three major guidelines that you can follow to know if your motorcycle is retro or not.

– Motorcycle Age

The first consideration in this regard is the age of your motorbike. Age plays a critical role in determining the status of any motorcycle.

That is the reason some insurance companies insist that your two-wheeler must be 30 years old to be considered retro. But some motorcycle enthusiasts argue that the right age should be 25 years.

– Motorcycle Style

The style of your motorcycle is another guideline that you should follow. This goes hand in hand with its simplicity in design or construction.

A typical motorcycle needs to be designed with two-cylinder engines, single headlights, simple lines, and double support, especially on the rear wheel.

The model should also have been in production after the Second World War not to mention maintaining its original parts.

If your motorcycle is custom made, it can as well be considered retro if it has higher insurance rates. This is attributed to the labor, time and cost associated with custom design.

– Motorcycle Quality of Design

The quality of the design or construction of your motorcycle is the third consideration when trying to determine the status of your two-wheeler. A retro motorcycle will stand out from rest due to its performance.

A real retro motorcycle must be ridden occasionally and also be garage kept. This explains why you should consider the three aforementioned guidelines when classifying your motorbike as retro.

Antique Motorcycles

Compared to retro and vintage, antique comes as the only term with a true definition. According to the Antique Motorcycle Club of America (AMCA), “antique” is defined as a motorcycle that is 35 years or even older. This should tell you that motorcycles built before 1985 are considered antique.

More often than not, this definition becomes unclear to different riders for obvious reasons. Several states allow riders to register and have their motorbikes licensed under the term “antiques” after a period of 20 years.

Those states adopt another definition of an antique by using the “historical” term during the registration and licensing. The stipulation for such guidelines is that once your motorcycle is declared antique, you can only use it for bike shows, parades or historical club functions.

Final Thought

If you are a proud owner of an older motorbike, you should be fully aware that every state has its own requirements for licensing and registration.

These requirements may vary across all the states but regardless of how old your two-wheeler is, you must get its license and insurance.

Once you fulfill these two most important conditions, you will have the freedom to hit the road.

Most importantly, take your safety seriously even if your motorcycle is classified as vintage, retro, antique or historical. Otherwise, enjoy your ride as much as you can.

Josh Berry - MotoShark Editor
Josh Berry
I'm a off-road enthusiast, extreme sport fan and the editor of MotoShark. If you have any questions or suggestions regarding this article, please leave a comment or contact me.

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