It really wasn’t until after World War II that the popularity of motorcycles began to skyrocket across the post-war world. Interestingly enough, however, popularity was skewed by two different motivational factors. Naturally, in the US, motorcycles soon became recognized as a non-essential form of transportation, reserved for the rebel, free-spirit, or adrenaline junkie. On the opposite side of the pond, motorcycles were viewed as environmentally-friendly means of efficient transportation by the masses. It’s why the likes of Harley-Davidson were readily available in the US while the Vespa took off in popularity across Europe after its introduction in 1946.
These two regions (North America and Europe) dominated the motorcycle manufacturing industry from the get-go up until the late 1960s when the likes of Honda, Suzuki, Kawasaki, and Yamaha rapidly grew in popularity throughout the West. And so it was, and so it would last throughout subsequent decades; the rise and respect for Japanese motorcycles among riders. And we’d be terribly mistaken if we weren’t willing to admit that some of the finest motorcycles ever built came straight from the Land of the Rising Sun. So, with that in mind, let’s fast forward to today where the “Big Four” still reign supreme and outline several of our favorites that were either made available this past year or are coming soon to market in this list of the best Japanese motorcycles.
Kawasaki Versys- X
Functioning as a low maintenance and easy-going travel partner, the Versys-X is simply built for adventure. It’s all thanks to a compact yet responsive Ninja-derived 296cc twin cylinder engine functioning alongside a lightweight chassis and long-travel suspension for a nimble yet sporty handling experience. Also, upright seating offers a comfortable ride while the bike’s high-glass windshield protects you from whipping winds. It’s a dual-sport bike suited for any and all terrain and road conditions. A one-size-fits-all type ride if you will.
Engine: 4-stroke, 2 cylinder DOHC water-cooled
Fuel Tank: 4.5 gallons
For those looking for a comprehensive street bike that functions perfectly as a daily rider and a weekend warrior or as a viable introductory motorcycle that you won’t outgrow within a year’s time, there’s the CBR500. The engine, a 471cc 4-stroke parallel twin, offers a powerful and smooth performance that can keep the pace with plenty of the more meaty sport bikes out there. Plus, there’s comfort to be considered here too – especially since the CBR500 offers a sporty but not too aggressive riding position.
Engine: 4-stroke parallel twin, DOHC liquid cooled
Fuel Tank: 4.4 gallons
For Suzuki, the CV650 is one of their most iconic silhouettes out there. So it only made sense for the manufacturer to rehash their old style into something more sleek and modern. And that’s exactly what they did with the 2017 SV650. It’s complete with a newly polished powerplant that offers significantly enhanced performance over previous iterations, excellent fuel economy, and features a lightweight chassis for an exciting and sporty ride. Additionally, a new Low RPM Assist feature on the bike works to prevent the rider from stalling the ride by automatically lowering the engine speed during takeoffs and low speeds.
Engine: 4-stroke V-twin, DOHC liquid-cooled
Fuel Tank: 3.8 gallons
Yamaha SCR 950
Complete with a vintage scrambler style complemented with Yamaha’s modern engineering, the all new SCR950 is a potent 942cc V-twin with enough juice to get your adrenaline pumping while boasting the style any fan of old school bikes could appreciate. Thanks to a low profile bench seat, retro racing side plates and fork boots, an ode to the classic scrambler silhouette is present. On the flip side, a 2-in-1 exhaust system helps that air-cooled V-twin breathe effortlessly. Finally, the bike’s double-cradle frame results in responsive handling no matter what environmental factors maybe at play.
Engine: 4-stroke V-Twin, SOHC air-cooled
Fuel Tank: 3.4 gallons
Looking for a dual sport ride that’s more on the aggressive side? Look no further than the YZ450F, designed in part for closed course X-Country racing but with some significant power under the saddle thanks to the ride’s 449cc 4-stroke liquid-cooled engine. In addition, a bilateral beam aluminum frame houses the engine, fuel tank and exhaust close to the center of the of the bike for more nimble handling. It also comes complete with a cross-country specific suspension, XC racing tires, an electric starter system, and a Keihin 44mm throttle body fuel injection system for a smooth response and easy starting.
Engine: 4-stroke DOHC liquid-cooled
Fuel Tank: 2 gallons
Suzuki V-Strom 1000
The V-Strom was first introduced back in 2002 and immediately caught the attention of riders looking for a dual-sport option. Thankfully, Suzuki came through with later iterations of the popular V-Strom, now housing the latest tech Suzuki has to offer. It’s powered by a liquid-cooled 1037cc V-Twin engine to deliver substantial performance both on the road and off the beaten path, while a sturdy chassis with integrated mounting points offers room for storage when you need it. Also, a newly refined instrument panel allows you to choose from a wide range of system modes depending on weather and road conditions.
Engine: 4-stroke V-twin, DOHC liquid-cooled
Fuel Tank: 5.3 gallons
Aggressive. That word pretty much sums up this superbike reserved for expert and professional riders. Here, we have the 25th anniversary CBR1000RR – the lightest and most powerful iteration of the bike ever produced. And this time, the good folks at Honda decided to hook this ride up with a premium Öhlins electronic suspension, Brembo brakes, a titanium muffler, an electronic steering damper, and dual-stage fuel injection. Additionally, with a full LED lighting package and premium wheels, track days simply won’t ever be the same.
Engine: four cylinder DOHC liquid-cooled
Fuel Tank: 4.2 gallons
Kawasaki Ninja ZX 10 RR
Interested parties best get on this race-ready ride sooner than later. That’s because the all new Kawasaki Ninja is slated for limited worldwide production due to its precision production requirements. We’re talking a modified cylinder head, carbon coated tappets, a stronger and highly rigid crankcase, and race-kit camshafts. Also, all-new Marchesini 7-spoke forged aluminum wheels lighten the load while a pair of Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP tires keep the friction during those hairpin turns. Finally, pepper in a stealth-like matte black paint job and this is one mean sport bike slated for serious use only.
Engine: 4-stroke, 4 cylinder DOHC liquid cooled
Fuel Tank: 4.5 gallons
The Best Electric Motorcycles Around
Not all adrenaline has to be petrol-based. In fact, there are some viable electric options out there for those looking to plug-in and recharge at the end of the day. Don’t believe us? Just check out this list of best electric motorcycles to start.
HiConsumption is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more