Chiefs, Triumphs and a 'Rolls Royce of Motorcycles': Our Top 10 collectible bikes

On May 14, 2011, Bonhams will be auctioning a truly one-of-a-kind motorcycle offered in collaboration with the most successful motorcycle racer of his era, Valentino Rossi. Given the exciting phase of the collectible motorcycle markets, we thought it would be a great time to take a look at our 10 favourite two-wheeled classics from recent sales.

Rossi's Yamaha YZF-R1 1000cc

Sporting Rossi's personal "Five Continents" AGV helmet design, this amazing and very specialised motorcycle was the brainchild of former racing champion and AMA Hall of Famer Don Emde.

This incredible team effort R1, personally autographed by Rossi, will be presented in "track day" trim but it is fully street legal and will be offered with all the necessary accessories and California title. On top of that, Yamaha will donate a day at the Yamaha Champions Riding School for the winning bidder.

100% of the proceeds from this sale will go to Riders For Health, a charitable organisation that brings life-saving medicines to people in remote areas of Africa by way of motorcycle.

An Original Indian Chief

The flagship motorcycle of the Massachusetts based Indian Motorcycle Manufacturing Company, Chiefs were produced from 1922 until the company's demise in 1953.

By 1940, all models had the trademark skirted fenders and sprung frame that set it apart from its rival cruiser the Harley-Davidson. Much more colourful than its black-clad adversary, the Chief was a lively and vibrant machine that turned heads wherever it went.

Indian has been reincarnated several times in recent years, but the original remains the best for many, which is why the bike is so popular at classic motorcycle auctions - though they remain affordable. This 1948 beauty recently sold for $14,000.

Brough Superior Motorbike
Favoured by Lawrence of a Arabia...  the Brough Superior Motorbike


The 'Rolls-Royce of Motorcycles'

Brough Superior motorbikes were made by George Brough in Nottingham, England, from 1919 to 1940. They were dubbed the "Rolls-Royce of Motorcycles" by H. D. Teague of The Motor Cycle newspaper.

Favoured by T E Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) and George Bernhard Shaw, around 1,000 still exist and one sold for £131,300 in Stafford last month. It should make an excellent investment.

The 1955 Series D Victor prototype

Vincents are always in demand and an Easter Sunday sale at Bonhams provided plentiful opportunities for devotees of the Stevenage, UK, marque to expand their collections.

As expected, the top performer was the 1955 Series D Victor prototype, the only one of its kind ever made. It sold for £107,100 ($177,013) - more than double its top estimate of £50,000.

Hindall Triumph 500 Desert sled

In the late 1970s, if you were serious about racing in the desertyou either rode a Hindall or wished that you did.

Earlier this year at William Bunch auctions,a Hindall Triumph 500 Desert sled, based upon a frame kit produced by Harry Hindall, (Southern California aerospace engineer and well respected 1970s desert racer). The price-tag was $85,000.

Hindall triumph motorcycle
Eat my sand... a Hindall triumph motorcycle

M-72 Soviet wartime military motorcycle

As if by way of contrast, a very different beast from the '70s racing classic was also offered at William Bunch: a piece of rolling militaria in the form of a fully functional 1944 M-72 Soviet wartime military motorcycle with side car.

Meticulously preserved - fully functional and registered in Delaware, USA, with the original Russian paperwork included, the bike boasts a 746 ccm boxer engine 24 HP, 4 speed gear box with reverse, and shaft drive.

Champion Jack Surtees's teenage bike

Jack Surtee is a racing legend and winner of the 1956 500cc World Championship. His 1948 Vincent 500 Grey Flash with sidecar went under the hammer at Artcurial's Rétromobile sale this February.

As a youth, he raced Grey Flash motorcycles while working at the Vincent factory. This model is equipped with an Amal GP 36 carburettor and a competition magnesium Albion gearbox and listed by the auctioneer at €50,000 ($65,969).

1922 Megola 640cc Touring Model

Headlining the motorcycles consigned to Bonhams' first sale at the Grand Palais, Paris, on February 5 was a rare, radial-engined Megola.

Powered by a 640cc five-cylinder engine built into the front wheel, the Megola was described by motorcycling historian Erwin Tragatsch as "probably the most unorthodox motorcycle ever made on a commercial basis".

In the event, it didn't sell until after the auction so its final price is unknown, but the unique bike would be expected to achieve around its €145,000-200,000 listing.

Fast four-cylinder 1929 Henderson Streamline KJ

This January, The Auto Collections at the Imperial Palace Hotel and Casino went under the hammer in Las Vegas and one of the highlights was a 1929 Henderson Streamline KJ.

The fast four-cylinder Henderson was a favourite of speed demons - and also officers of the law who chased after them. In this case the bidder passed over $45,630 before making a quick getaway.

Harely Davidson peashooter
Flushed with success... the Harley Davidson peashooter

The 'toilet' Harley-Davidson Peashooter motorcycle

Whilst most collectors may fight for classics at auctions, one enthusiast found an unorthodox way of getting their hands on a great bike when they discovered an early (1929) Peashooter motorcycle in the bathroom of an Australian treasure mine.

The machine was a factory racer with overhead valves. The bike was essentially a 20-year-old motorcycle at the time - although very desired, it was yet to be coveted as an antique.

Things are different in 2011, and the bike with the ignominious past was sold for $125,800 earlier this year.

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