Why are Japanese Motorcycles so Reliable?

The japs are not only known for reliable bikes as their cars are well known to last a long time too. I’m not one for expensive bikes but my favorite would be a street bike from Honda. I’m simply fascinated by the way the motorcycle industry sprang up from the ashes of the Second World War and how it became such a huge obsession with the people around the globe.

I am fascinated by how some of these bikes command a price of thousands of dollars $44,000 for a Harley Davidson, for example. I am also impressed by how Japanese motorcycle brands have captured a big share of the global motorcycle market. 

Japanese motorcycles are considered the most reliable of all the bikes because consumer reports suggest that these bikes have the lowest failure ratings. This is because the Japanese motorcycle industry is much older and evolved with strict quality control in place. The nearest competitor in the American market, Harley Davidson does not have the same high degree of quality control features in its manufacturing process that most Japanese motorcycle brands have.

According to a 2015 Consumer Report based on interviews of 11,000 riders, Japanese motorcycles were found to be the most reliable. Popular Japanese motorcycles reported the lowest failure rating at under 16% while other top motorcycle brands had a much higher failure rating at 42%.

Average riders and owners voted for Japanese motorcycle brands such as Yamaha, Honda, Suzuki, and Kawasaki against other popular and high-end brands such as Can-Am Triumph, Ducati, and BMW. According to that consumer report, the top 5 motorcycle brands Yamaha, Suzuki, Honda, Kawasaki, and victory. Their failure rating stood 11%, 12%, 12%, 15%, and 17% respectively. 

What's In This Guide?

      Japanese motorcycles made their entry into the American market in the 1960s. At that time, the American market had just Harley and a few British and Spanish brands. There was very little competition and none of the brands were serious about ensuring quality control.

      Japanese brands were not only extremely quality-conscious but they had a well-evolved focus on quality and cost-consciousness. As a result, soon Japanese motorcycles became popular as reliable bikes that required less maintenance. Now, nobody wants to have a problem in the middle of a journey. Japanese bikes ensured that the riders indeed had the least of the problems. 

      For Harley, the quality control went for a toss when a sporting goods company AMF bought Harley and decided to do away with whatever quality control measures were in place. Today, Harley Davidson is a much-loved bike but the credit goes to some of the staff and family of the former owners who bought the company back from AMF.

      Popular Japanese Motorcycles

      Honda CBR1000R

      This is a superbike fit for professional and expert riders. This is an aggressive bike with Ohlins electronic suspension, a titanium muffler, Brembo brakes, dual-stage fuel injection, premium wheels, and an electronic steering damper. There is completely LED lighting.

      Kawasaki Versys- X

      This is a low-maintenance travel partner for adventure trips. It’s powered by a 296cc twin-cylinder Ninja-derived engine. It’s a compact motorcycle with a lightweight engine. The bike features upright seating for a convenient ride. It also has a windshield that protects you from oncoming winds that you are going to face at high speeds. It’s a sportbike that rides just fine on all terrains. 

      Honda CBR500

      This is a comprehensive street bike that would work as a travel partner for a daily commute. On the weekend, it’s ready to give your company on any kind of adventure. It has a powerful 471cc 4 stroke engine that gives you a smooth ride. It offers a sporty riding position that is not too aggressive.

      Suzuki CV650

      Suzuki CV650 is a sleek and modern bike. But before the bike appeared in the CV650 model, it was in the market as SV650. The new model comes with a lightweight chassis and offers enhanced performance, excellent fuel efficiency. You are sure to have a sporty and exciting ride.

      Yamaha SCR 950

      This bike has a vintage feel but it’s modern and powerful. The SCR950 is fitted with a 942cc V-twin engine. This has enough power to send your adrenaline pumping. It has a bench seat that looks so low-profile.

      Yamaha YZ450F

      This is a dual-sport bike that’s aggressive enough to go for cross-country racing. It’s equipped with a liquid-cooled 449cc 4 stroke engine. It has a super trendy look. 

      Suzuki V-Strom 1000

      When it comes to sporting bikes, Suzuki always has something amazing to offer. V-storm was first introduced in 2002. It won critical acclaim for its dual-sport option. Powered with a 1037cc liquid-cooled V-twin engine, V-Storm 1000 offers great ride both on and off the road. 

      Most popular Japanese motorcycle manufacturers

      Yamaha Motorcycles

      Yamaha motorcycles are leading the charge with successful models Niken, MT09, YZF R1M, YZFR3, BOLT, XSR 900, and Tenere 700. Among the Japanese motorcycle companies, Yamaha is clearly at the top along with Honda. Yamaha was the first motorcycle company to be founded in Japan. It produced its first motorcycle in 1954 and by 1960 it began to export to the American market. Today, Yamaha is the world’s one of the most selling brands with factories and sales offices all over the world.

      Honda Motorcycles

      Beginning in 1949, Honda has produced 400 million motorcycles to date. It has 35 production units in 21 countries. The company is leading the international motorcycle market with products like Gold Wing, CB1100, CRF1100L Africa Twin, CRF1100L Africa Twin, CBR1000RR-R SP, CB1000R, and GROM. Honda motorcycles combine the long-distance capability of Harley and racer bike features of Yamaha motorcycles.

      Suzuki Motorcycles

      Suzuki also began producing around the same time as Honda and Yamaha. But Suzuki took to racing and sports bikes to promote its brands. Today, it is one of the most recognizable motorcycle brands worldwide. It has different motorcycles under different categories. The categories include SuperSport, Ultimate Sport, KATANA, STREET, Sport Adventure, Cruiser, Scooter, Dual Purpose, Off-Road, and Motorcross.

      Why are Japanese motorcycles cheaper? Or are they?

      Japanese bikes are indeed cheaper than bikes from other top brands such as BMW, Ducati, and Triumph. Why is it so? The answer lies somewhere in the way Japan emerged as the second biggest economy in about a decade since the debacle in the Second World War.

      As per the popular theory that explains this phenomenon, Japanese engineers were barred from making anything that looked even remotely like a military vehicle. Consequently, they were barred from making cars and airplanes.

      The only thing they could manufacture was a cycle and motorcycle that was just an advanced version of the cycle at that time. The motorcycle industry, therefore, attracted the best engineers in the country, including those from the military.

      This resulted in better and economical products and parts. Japanese always had quality control and budget in mind. This way, they were able to produce and sell high-quality motorcycles for less.

      riding down the highway

      Other Reliable Motorcycle Manufacturers


      Ducati motorcycles are one of the most expensive ones in the market. This is an Italian brand that’s now manufactured at different locations around the globe. It’s a premium brand and people love to pay extra to own Ducati bikes which are said to be produced in limited editions.


      BMW is a German automotive brand and it has a wide selection of bikes under the BMW brand. These bikes are high-priced premium quality products. Some consumer reports suggest that BMW bikes have serious reliability problems. The same is said about Ducati bikes as well.


      Of the three premium quality non-Japanese bike brands, Triumph seems to be enjoying better reliability ratings. This is a British brand having multi-location production facilities. The company began as a cycle manufacturer but later changed tacks and began producing motorcycles.  


      Harley Davidson is an American premium bike brand. This is perhaps the most recognisable bike from the United States. Price from $7000 to $44000, Harley is one of the most expensive bike brands in the world. It has production facilities at many locations across the globe.  

      Final thoughts 

      In this article, we have covered a lot of ground. From discussing why Japanese motorcycles have won the confidence of riders and owners all over the world, we moved on to discuss some of the best motorcycle models from different companies. These Japanese motorcycles are priced from $5000 to $10000 apiece.

      These are awesome machines powered by efficient and powerful engines with a range of equally high-quality parts and accessories. But these motorcycles are still moderately priced if we compare them with the likes of Ducati, BMW, and Triumph bikes.

      What makes Japanese bikes so efficient, reliable, and cost-effective? Although there is no clear answer to this question, many people think that the answer lies in the resurgence of Japan amid strict sanctions in the aftermath of the Second World War.

      What is interesting is to watch how some of the Japanese motorcycle companies have grown to be behemoths having production units virtually everywhere in the world. Honda, for example, has produced 400 million motorcycles to date.

      We have also briefly mentioned some of the big Japanese motorcycle manufacturers. Of them, Suzuki deserves special mention for the high-powered aggressive sports and racing bikes that they manufacture. Its product portfolio is the largest among all Japanese bike makers.

      Leon Angus

      Leon Angus

      I love bikes. All types, but mainly motorbikes (or motorcycles for those in the U.S.). I'm a qualified Motorsport Engineer that currently lives in the UK and drives trains for a living (weird combo, don't ask), I love to cook, into fitness and ride bikes for funsies! This website is my path back into the motor industry where I can share helpful advice for bikers along the way. Learn More about my mission here

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      Leon Angus

      Leon Angus

      I love bikes. All types, but mainly motorbikes (or motorcycles for those in the U.S.). I'm a qualified Motorsport Engineer that currently lives in the UK and drives trains for a living (weird combo, don't ask), I love to cook, into fitness and ride bikes for funsies! This website is my path back into the motor industry where I can share helpful advice for bikers along the way. Learn More about my mission here

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