Two of the most common characteristics unique to vintage motorcycles are sidecar-compatible design and non-telescoping forks. Prior to the 1970s, many motorcycles were built with either leading link forks, springer forks or girders.
Sidecar-compatible motorcycles were very popular from the 1930s to the early 1970s. For this reason, many vintage motorcycles feature sidecar lugs in the frame or chassis design. Because modern motorcycles must be customized to function with sidecar attachments, collectors and vintage motorcycle enthusiasts often restore or recreate old motorcycles that are already sidecar-compatible.
One of the easiest ways to immediately identify a vintage bike is through the lack of a telescoping fork. In the 1960s and 1970s, many motorcycles were designed with leading link forks, also called Earle's forks. These forks were designed to offer riders the ability to climb over obstacles through a suspended shock-absorbing front link. The popularity of leading links faltered over time due to the fact that the forks would stiffen and rise under hard braking, causing the front of the motorcycle to rear upwards.
Another type of fork common to vintage motorcycles is the springer fork, which enthusiasts easily identify through the presence of an external spring near the motorcycle's handlebars. The exposed spring bypasses the need to design fork tubes with interior suspension.