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The 20 Best Motorcycle Brands of All-Time

When you're talking about the best or the most popular motorcycle brands of all time, you have to consider brands from all over the world. The funny thing about it is that many of the brands that one part of the world would consider the absolute best is something that other people have scarcely even heard of. Chances are, you've heard of several on this list and you might even own one or two of them. There's also no doubt that you will look at some of these names and start scratching your head, wondering where they came from. Rest assured, all of the brands of motorcycles listed here made it here for a reason, usually because the company in question is capable of producing high-quality motorcycles that are capable of performing well. In addition, most of these companies have been doing exactly that for several decades now, although that isn't always the case. Keep reading to find out more.

20. Husqvarna

If you think that Husqvarna only makes tools, think again. As a matter of fact, this company, based in Sweden, initially started manufacturing motorcycles back in the early 1900s. Over the years, there's been a lot of changes to the company, even changing bases so that the motorcycles are produced in Austria these days. Nevertheless, it's a company that still continues to turn out top-quality machines that are capable of standing up to just about anything else on the road.

19. Hero

This company is located in India and it is known as the largest company to produce motorcycles and scooters in the region, as well as the second largest in the world. While it will never quite meets up to the expectations of Harley-Davidson fans, it's a company that knows how to produce a high-quality motorcycle, to say the least. In India, 46 percent of the motorcycles found in that country are made by Hero. The other half is largely distributed throughout the United States and Canada.

18. Yinxiang

This company had some rather auspicious beginnings, to say the least. As a matter of fact, it's a China-based company that specializes in things like real estate development, later growing to incorporate the manufacture of small motors. Somewhere along the way, they decided to start producing motorcycles. This didn't happen until 1997, so it's interesting to know that they even made the list of the top 20, especially when you consider the fact that they're running up against a lot of other companies that have been doing this for the better part of a century now.

17. BMW

Everybody is familiar with BMW. Most people only think about the cars that they produce, but the fact is, they've been producing motorcycles since the early 1920s. They use the same high quality workmanship and materials on their motorcycles that they use on their automobiles, so virtually anyone that rides a BMW motorcycle is more than satisfied with the finished product.

16. DKW

The history on this one can get a little cloudy. DKW is a subsidiary of Audi, and the two companies, along with a couple of others, formed to create Auto Union. As far as the cars that are made by the company go, everything is referred to as an Audi these days. The motorcycles, on the other hand, are all referred to as DKW. Nevertheless, both products come from the same company based in Germany. The good news is that much like the BMW, these motorcycles are built to last and their performance record is excellent.

15. Ducati

If you're a fan of motorcycle racing, there's no doubt that you've heard of the Italian company Ducati. They make motorcycles for people that don't race, too, but this is what they're best known for. Today, you can walk into a dealership and buy a Ducati motorcycle that's street legal. They actually have several different models to choose from. The overwhelming majority of them look a lot like the racing bikes that they're so famous for, but they've toned down the performance on most of them so you can ride them on the street without getting in a lot of trouble.

14. Honda

Honda has been around for a long time, producing all kinds of things from power tools to motorcycles to automobiles. They have long been associated with producing motorcycles that are capable of running fast without costing a ton of money. Most of them don't have all the bells and whistles on them like you might expect to find on a Ducati or Harley-Davidson, so they frequently cost less. However, that doesn't mean that they're not capable of running with the big boys any day of the week.

13. Mahindra

This is another company that you might be surprised at. Some people aren't even aware that they make motorcycles, much less that they would make the list for the top 20 when it comes to the best motorcycles in the world. As a matter of fact, most people are familiar with farm implements that are manufactured by the company, as well as some heavy duty lawn mowers. Much like Husqvarna and Honda, they manufacture a wide range of products. Some of those products just happen to include some high-quality motorcycles.

12. Yamaha

Yamaha has been making motorcycles for so long that it seems like there was almost never a time when they weren't making them. They've been in business for so many decades that the name itself has become synonymous with motorcycle production. They're capable of producing racing bikes or street legal bikes of all types. You might find one that's used as a dirt bike or one that's a lot nicer and used for touring. Either way, Yamaha is a company that definitely knows its business when it comes to motorcycle production.

11. Kawasaki

Here's another brand that rivals Yamaha and Honda, at least to some degree. When most people think about the top motorcycle brands, they are usually able to rattle off only about five or six. It almost never fails that Kawasaki is somewhere in that group. As a matter of fact, most individuals almost immediately think about Yamaha, Honda and Kawasaki, along with a couple of others. For people that love to ride motorcycles, there is no doubt that other companies also come to mind. For those that aren’t particularly familiar with this industry, the fact that everyone is aware of the Kawasaki name anyway stands as a testament to their competency.

10. Suzuki

Every once in awhile, you'll run into a Suzuki automobile but it's a lot more frequent that you see a motorcycle made by the company. While it's true that they do produce some decent cars these days, they really got their start with motorcycle production. They definitely haven't forgotten where they came from, as they still strive to produce high-quality motorcycles that are available for a wide range of skill levels.

9. KTM

Here's one that you might not expect. KTM is a company based in Austria that's only been in business since the early 1990s, at least as far as motorcycle production is concerned. They also manufacture high quality, high velocity sports cars. While they haven't been in business in this particular configuration for all that long, the roots of the company date back much further, even as early as the 1930s.

8. United

Despite the name that makes it sound like this might be a motorcycle company based in the United States, this one is actually based in India. It's already been mentioned that almost half of the motorcycles in India are made by Hero. It's fairly safe to say that the majority of the other half are manufactured by United. While this isn't a company that's quite as well known in other parts of the country just yet, they're definitely making a name for themselves by producing high-quality motorcycles at an affordable cost. It probably won't be long before they're very well known all over the globe.

7. KMZ

If you like the idea of riding a motorcycle that looks more vintage than it probably actually is, you might want to go for a KMZ. Produced in the Ukraine, this company has been around for several years now. They still do everything the old-fashioned way, preferring to build motorcycles by hand instead of creating something on an assembly line. They have a number of devoted fans all over the globe and most people that are fans of the company don't really have a desire to ride anything else.

6. Triumph

If you think people in the United Kingdom aren't interested in riding motorcycles, think again. This is the home base for Triumph Motorcycles, the largest company of its type in the UK. This is also a very old and proud company, with the original Triumph being in operation since 1902. That company actually got into some serious financial trouble in the early 1980s but was purchased by an individual that chose to preserve the motorcycle division, changing the name to Triumph Motorcycles. They have been in business producing motorcycles out of the same building since 1983, just as their predecessor did in the early 1900s.

5. Curtis

This is an American based company that’s been operating since the early 1990s. The thing that makes it stand out from virtually every other company on this list is that everything produced by the company is custom made. There's virtually nothing manufactured by them that you would consider standard or for a production model. More often than not, they take special orders from clients and then design a very special bike around that particular order so that the customer gets a one-of-a-kind motorcycle. Once that bike has been built, the plans are scrapped and they move on to the next customer, so on and so forth. As a result, there are relatively few people that own these motorcycles because it takes a long time to build them in this fashion. The few that do are proud to own them and can't imagine riding anything else.

4. MTT

This is another company that got its start building something that didn't have a thing in the world to do with motorcycles. The US based company started out building turbines for jet engines and it still does that today. However, somebody got the idea somewhere along the way that they needed to build the fastest street-legal motorcycle in the world so they set out to do exactly that. Over time, the company gained some serious fame for constructing this motorcycle and so today, a company that is mostly known for building jet engine parts also builds motorcycles.

3. Confederate

Confederate Motorcycles is another company that typically builds special-order designs. Over the years, they have built a number of special orders and custom bikes for various customers, usually high-end consumers that are capable of ordering and paying for just about anything they want.

2. Indian

Right next to Harley-Davidson, Indian Motorcycles are probably the most beloved brand of bikes produced in the United States. They've been through a lot of changes over the years. The company actually got its start in 1901 in Springfield, Massachusetts. They produced motorcycles there until 1953. For a number of years, people clamoured to get their hands on virtually any motorcycle they could find with the Indian name stamped on it because it had become a staple of American culture and had been out of production for so many years. Eventually, Honda decided to resurrect the Indian name and began producing motorcycles under that name once again. To this day, many people that are loyal to Indian Motorcycles still prefer to have one of the originals as opposed to what they consider to be a rebranded Honda. Nevertheless, other people are just glad that bikes are once again being produced with the Indian name attached to them.

1. Harley-Davidson

Few people would dispute the fact that Harley-Davidson is probably the most well-known brand of motorcycles all over the world, not to mention the favorite of most riders. They've been producing motorcycles for decades and they definitely have the market cornered when it comes to producing that classic motorcycle with all of the vintage appeal that anyone could ever ask for. Of course, they also have plenty of ability when it comes to producing modern-day bikes that have all of the bells and whistles. Whatever you're looking for, there's no doubt that you can find it in a Harley-Davidson. You also have all of the company's history to go along with it.

Benjamin Smith

Written by Benjamin Smith

Benjamin Smith is one of the managing editors of Moneyinc. Ben's been focusing on the auto and motorcycle sector since 2005. He's written over 1000 articles in the space and continues to learn about it each day. His favorite car is "any Bugatti" and he's a die hard Harley Davidson fan.

Read more posts by Benjamin Smith

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