Some folks feel a lot more alive when driving a motorcycle than on a car. The open nature of the ride allows for a sensation that many can equate to a feeling of absolute freedom. Some love the thrill of burning the asphalt like the famous bike of the Ghost Rider. Others feel a sense of belonging to the Hells Angels, Outlaws, and other famous motorcycle clubs. Whatever reason you may have, a motorcycle can give you an experience no luxury car, SUV, or truck can ever provide. This is the world’s best ride for the ultimate in riding freedom. And in case you’re wondering what constitutes the planet’s best brands of two-wheeled wonders, we’re giving you ten.
The two-wheeled equivalent of American muscle cars like Mustangs and Chevys, Harley-Davidson is one of the best and most iconic motorcycle brands in the world. You may not see them in MotoGP circuits or any racing organization’s other events but when it comes to conjuring images of a freewheeling roll down the American countryside, the Harley-Davidson is it.
This brand is well-known for its characteristic chopper style that began to emerge in the 1950s. With radical steering angles and unusually-lengthened forks, the HD chopper redefined what custom motorcycles should be. This is a tourer, not a racer. It is what you would take when you only want to feel the rush of wind slapping against your face as your skin gets sun-drenched along the highways and byways.
There is another feature that is very distinct of a Harley Davidson. It possesses an engine roar that no other motorcycle brand dares emulate for fear of being called a copycat. It is also what likens them to the characteristic rumble of a V8 engine on the Pontiac GTO or the Plymouth Barracuda. For fans of the brand, the roar of its engine is symphony to the ears.
Harley-Davidson has its modest beginnings in 1903 when William S. Harley and Arthur Davidson created their very first motor-bicycle. It integrated the design of Harley’s ordinary pedal-bike frame. The first HD motor-bicycle did not fare well in an uphill climb. But this did not stop the founders from improving their engine.
Through the years, Harley-Davidson was able to build a reputation that is now synonymous with American ingenuity, high quality, and absolute freedom on the American asphalt. Keep in mind that this is a lifestyle, not an ordinary motorcycle brand.
It may not have the signature engine roar of the American-made Harley-Davidson, but Ducati motorcycles have a personality of their own. Simply put, Ducati is to motorcycles as Ferrari is to cars. One thing you have to understand is that this is a big bike brand that is never a pushover whether it’s on MotoGP tracks or on highways. After all, it comes from the very same company that produces Ferrari’s most vaunted competitor, Lamborghini. There’s a touch of elegance, too, since it is also under the umbrella organization of Audi.
A winner of 14 Riders and 17 Manufacturer’s Superbike World Championship, Ducati’s racing prowess is faultless. Perhaps the only thing that is quite amiss is that the brand only has one MotoGP World Championship trophy so far when Casey Stoner bagged the trophy in 2007. The brand also fared well in the FIM Superstock 1000 Cup, the Formula TT, and the British Superbike Championship.
Like Harley-Davidson, Ducati relies on enthusiast groups to establish its brand all over the world. To-date, the brand boasts of more than 20,000 loyal followers in at least 400 Ducati clubs. Many are avid followers, focusing on the vintage rides that Ducati has produced since 1926.
When Antonio Cavalieri Ducati established the company in 1926 together with his 3 sons, he never envisioned that it would become a well-respected motorcycle brand. As it turns out, the company aimed to produce only condensers, vacuum tubes, and other components for radios.
By the middle of the 20th century, the Ducati company offered its own motorcycle based on the Cucciolo engine design. Today, Ducati produces a variety of motorcycles that include the Monster, Multistrada, Diavel, Superbike, Supersport, Hypermotard, and Scrambler.
Predating the creation of the Ducati by about 3 years, BMW Motorrad had a clear head start when it comes to motorcycle brand supremacy in Europe. We’ve all seen BMW Z-series cars make the chase in many Bond films. What many of us don’t realize is that there is a James Bond film that also uses a BMW motorcycle, the BMW R1200C. This German creation had some of the design elements of the classic Harley-Davidson chopper – lengthened fork and a more carefree seating. As such, when James Bond and Wai Lin had to go through the busy streets of Saigon, they’d have to do it with the R1200C.
Hollywood films aside, there’s no mistaking the identity of a BMW motorcycle. It has one of the most unique styling among two-wheeled machines on the planet. From the flashy C-series maxi scooters to the parallel twin-engined F-series to the sport bike S-series and everything else in between, BMW has everything that you can ever ask for from a global motorcycle brand.
One thing that we haven’t seen the German brand do is join the MotoGP. It does enter the Dakar Rally and the Superbike World Championships. Would you be surprised to learn that BMW Motorrad has brought home the Dakar Rally trophy 6 times? We’re talking about racing in unforgiving terrain and weather. That’s how solid the engineering of these motorcycles is.
For loyal BMW Motorrad fans, this is not at all surprising. After all, the very first motorcycle that the brand released in 1923 came with a flat-twin boxer engine. This is a powertrain that many automobiles, stationary power plants, and light aircrafts use. Hence, with such power, you’d expect BMW to be a force to reckon with in the motorcycle market. Of course, the brand also utilizes other engine designs nowadays.
Dethroning Ducati as Italy’s premier motorcycle brand may not be in Aprilia’s immediate goals, but it sure looks like it. This Italian brand is best known for starting out small, before expanding out to reach more robust market segments. From small-capacity motorcycles and scooters, Aprilia is now a recognized brand in professional motorcycle racing circuits. It is proof of the brand’s emphasis on responsive engineering and superior styling.
Aprilia started out in 1945 as a producer of bicycles in Noale, Italy. Cavaliere Alberto Beggio established the company in an effort to spur the restoration efforts in Venice after World War II. By 1968, Beggio’s son, Ivano, designed and constructed the very first motorcycle of the company. This was a 50-cc motorcycle with pedals, giving rise to the moped. As such, Aprilia is best known for its classic mopeds – the Colibri, Packi, and Daniela.
The brand first entered the professional racing circuit in the 1976 Motocross World Championship, challenging other brands in the 125-cc category. Aprilia joined the MotoGP in 1985 and had varying degrees of success since then. This motorcycle brand also has experience in the Superbike World Championships and the SuperMoto.
So, Aprilia may not have a very productive history in the racing circuit. However, it sure does have its own base of loyal followers. Whether it’s a moped or a scooter or a top-performing sport bike, this is a brand you can always rely to deliver a thrilling ride.
Honda is best known for its automobiles, becoming the world’s 8th largest automobile manufacturer by 2015. However, many do not realize that this is a brand that has been making motorcycles long before it began producing automobiles. The very first motorcycle that Honda produced was the D-Type in 1949.
With 24 MotoGP World Constructors Championship trophies to boast, Honda is a motorcycle brand that has grown leaps and bounds through the decades. It started motorcycle production in 1955 but this is a brand that has made a name for itself. About 9 years after making their very first mass-produced motorcycle, Honda already claimed the title of the world’s largest motorcycle manufacturer.
In the 1980s, the company was able to produce almost 3 million motorcycles every year. That’s how in-demand their motorcycles were. By 2006, the company’s production whittled down to about half a million units, however. Its production is still higher than the other Japanese motorcycle brands, nonetheless.
The brand offers a wide selection of two-wheeled wonders. Many of these combine the long-distance, touring appeal of the Harley-Davidson with the sporty looks of Japanese rival, Yamaha. There are off-road variants, street motorcycles, scooters, and ATVs to satisfy one’s lust for these types of vehicles.
Like their cars, the motorcycles of Honda come with sporty and responsive handling while ensuring a comfortable ride. They are also pricier than Kawasaki, Yamaha, and Suzuki. But when you factor in the quality of their motorcycles, this is value beyond what’s printed on the price tag.
Yamaha is one of Japan’s Big Four motorcycle brands. It is also one of the world’s best motorcycle brands, having won 14 MotoGP Constructors World Championships plus another 14 in the Moto2 series. It may not have the championship accolades of Honda, but it sure beats the other two Japanese motorcycle brands.
Its parent company, Yamaha Corporation, has been around since 1887. This makes Yamaha one of the oldest brands in the world. However, its motorcycle division became an independent entity as the Yamaha Motor Company in 1955.
With Genichi Kawakami at the helm, Yamaha began a more focused design and manufacture of world-class motorcycles beginning with the 125 cc YA-1. The YA-1 proved to be an awesome machine, propelling it to the top of the All Japan Autobike Endurance Road Race. This also paved the way for Yamaha’s entry into international racing competitions.
Yamaha motorcycles are better known for their sportier handling characteristics. These motorcycles are more fun to drive and are excellent for challenging unmarked trails. They are not known for long-distance touring, however. As such, they are the exact opposites of Harley-Davidsons.
Aside from motorcycles, Yamaha also produced scooters, ATVs, recreational off-roaders, motorized bicycles, and snowmobiles, among others. If you’re not sure what kind of motorcycle you would want to try, we’re sure Yamaha has something that you will love.
Kawasaki motorcycles may not be as popular as Honda or Yamaha in its native land, but this is one machine that is turning heads elsewhere around the globe. It’s part of the Kawasaki Heavy Industries, a multinational corporation that is as diverse as the number of islands in Japan. Established in 1896, Kawasaki Heavy Industries separated its motorcycle division in 1949 to form the KHI Motorcycle & Engine Division.
The brand doesn’t have a colorful history in MotoGP. However, this doesn’t mean that it is lagging behind in terms of motorcycle racing technology. It did bring home 4 crowns in the 350cc category of the MotoGP, plus another 4 in Moto2. Moreover, they also found successes in the Superbike and Endurance World Championships. You can say that there’s still a lot to improve on when it comes to racing performance.
Streetwise, however, Kawasaki motorcycles are a different story. Kawasaki produces sporty performance bikes. The Ninja ZX-series, for example, is well-known for its ultra-narrow chassis, radial brakes, and low weight. It’s no wonder that the ZX-10R bested other brands for the Best Superbike plum in 2004 and 2005.
What you need to understand about Kawasaki motorcycles is that their performance on the racetrack gets trickled down onto the world’s streets and highways. These machines are born to race. Hence, they’re best for the person who would like to unleash the racer’s spirit.
If you’ve seen the SV650X, you’ll know that its maker is one of the world’s best. The SV comes with a café racer look that has captured the fascination of both the motorcycle-riding public and car enthusiasts. It is one of the market’s best starter bikes, complete with race-spec features. Don’t be fooled by its powerful appearance. This is a machine that is very fun to ride regardless of one’s skill level. This is one solid proof of Suzuki’s clear understanding of modern motorcycle design and technology.
From its humble beginnings as a manufacturer of weaving looms in Japan, Suzuki has grown to become one of the world’s most respected motorcycle brands. From 1909, the brand only focused on weaving looms. By 1937, however, they already began experimenting with cars.
It would take the Second World War and 15 years more before the company unveiled its very first motorized bicycle in 1952. In the early 1970s, Suzuki began producing a triple-cylinder, 2-stroke 2-wheeled marvel, the GT750 Le Mans. By the middle of the 1970s, however, the company began its four-stroke machines with the GS-series. From this line, it created the world’s first superbike – the GSXR750.
Today, Suzuki provides the world with some of the most remarkable motorcycles. There are scooters, powerbikes, and tourers to suit the needs of the motorcycle-riding community. And while it doesn’t have the number of MotoGP championships of Honda and Yamaha, it does pride itself of 7 World Constructors Championship in the premier class.
This Austrian motorcycle brand had a humble beginning as an upstart auto repair shop in 1934. Three years later, Johann Trunkenpotz began selling motorcycles from DKW. By 1951, Trunkenpotz started designing and making his own motorcycle, the R100. From 1953 all the way to 1991, the company designed and manufactured several scooter and motorcycles that people love for the carefree ride that they offer.
Beginning in the 1990s, however, KTM took on a different route. The company underwent a major rebranding in 1992 and focused on perfecting their off-road performance powerbikes. As such, the company is now famous for off-road motorcycles including those used in Motocross, Enduro, and Supermoto series.
As a matter of fact, when it comes to sport bikes, KTM has become a force to reckon with. Their road bikes can navigate through twisties with ease and without ever letting you feel unsettled. KTM produces racing bikes and off-roaders to dirt bikes that are the epitome speed.
Triumph has one of the most colorful histories among motorcycle brands in the world. Established in 1902, the company has been producing high-quality and high-performing motorcycles for the whole world to use and enjoy. Many of these early-20th century machines are now collector’s items and they are still running.
In World War I, Triumph contributed to the Allied effort by supplying them with 30,000 motorcycles. Through the Second World War and the reconstruction in the 1950s, the company continued to forge ahead. What catapulted the brand to international fame was when Marlon Brando rode Triumph’s 1950 Thunderbird 6T in the 1953 film, The Wild Ones.
Triumph may have had a change of leadership but it remains one of Great Britain’s and the world’s finest motorcycle manufacturers. They’ve got rides that are similar to Harleys in design and functionality. And if you’re the speed-demon type, they have those, too.
Picking the right motorcycle to bring home depends on a number of factors, including your rider experience and how you intend to use it. It should be easy to choose once you have a clear idea of what you want.