Everybody Should Experience the Joy of a Universal Japanese Motorcycle
I can still hear the hum of this little engine when I look at this picture.
The Universal Japanese Motorcycle (UJM) is a pretty simple concept – they’re just practical, affordable, and useful bikes that you ride with an upright posture. They got popular in the ’70s and ’80s, and this old Suzuki is a great example of one. UJMs might not be the fastest or most capable two-wheelers but they’re forgiving, versatile, and relaxing to ride.
Car (Motorcycle): 1981 Suzuki GS450
Location: Hamlet of Wiccopee, New York
Photog: Andrew Collins
Camera: iPhone SE
When I turned 18, my pops and I got our motorcycle licenses. Shortly after that, he picked up this ’81 450cc two-cylinder two-seater to get more miles riding on. We basically shared it for a few years. Well, we didn’t ride it at the same time… except for once, after I’d gotten my own bike and that broke down while we were riding together.
I ended up buying this bike from my father around 2013, rode it all the time when I lived in upstate New York, and traded it for a really nice bicycle a couple of years later when I moved out to Los Angeles. It was the right move at the time, but this is one of the only vehicles I’ve sold that I genuinely miss. That GS450 was just so friendly! It wasn’t fast (at all) and it didn’t have any historic significance but it was so reliable and easy to use that it was simply joyous to operate. Every time I put it back in the little shed it lived in I wanted to ride it again.
If you’re thinking about getting into motorcycles, a UJM is a great platform to start on after you get your license. Or you’ve been riding sport bikes or off-road for years and you want something a little more gentle, same story, find yourself a UJM.