What are the trendiest motorcycle brands that come to your mind?
Chances are you are thinking of Harley Davidson or BMW.
Actually, if you look at the global sales figures for the past year, you’ll be surprised with some of the brands that occupy the top spots.
That’s why we’re here today to dig out and look into most prominent two-wheeled crowd-pleasers in greater detail.
Note that my list below is based on the combined sales figures for motorcycles, scooters, and mopeds. Some of these brands do not have a significant global footprint. But they are giant performers in their geographical zones.
After a sales drop due to the pandemic, the revenues of the global motorcycle market are expected to reach $128.90 billion in 2023. (Eat that, motorbike deniers!)
On that positive note, let’s allow the numbers to speak for themselves.
8 Most Popular Motorcycle Brands in the World
We’ll kick off our list with a brand that doesn’t mean much to an average US or European biker.
It will means even less when they hear that it’s a Chinese manufacturer. But the thing is, Chinese bikes are getting better and better at breakneck speed. And do you remember how everybody used to scoff at Japanese bikes some decades ago?
Without further ado, meet Haojue. The brand is known for its small-capacity models that meet market demands. The total sales figures for the brand are projected to shoot to around 2000k within the next 5 years, with a projected revenue of $3.61 billion.
Okay, even if that’s a wee too optimistic, it’s still a big deal.
Moreover, it’s not that Haojue motorcycles are only made for the home market. Quite the contrary: they are already being imported to more than 80 countries across the globe. The company also has a strong partnership with Suzuki within a joint venture company. So if the country of its origin doesn’t vouch for the quality, Suzuki should!
Most Popular Model – TR 150
Despite the ever expanding ambitions and engineering skills, your average Chinese motorcycle is still a small, one-cylinder bike that will take a Joe Sixpack from A to B without costing a fortune. And TR 150 is no different!
This attractive bike is a cruiser with a single-cylinder, 149cc engine. As one would expect from a generally well liked bike, it comes with the right range of features at an affordable price.
Mind you, it’s not designed for high-speed rides on rural roads. But the engine will chug along nicely at moderate speeds and the handling is painless. Overall, you’re looking at a budget cruiser with a pretty decent build quality and dependability.
Need I even introduce the trusted and revered name? Probably not, so let’s note something else instead. Suzuki chalked up sales of about 1.5 million in 2022, in what can almost be considered a quantum leap from the pandemic-era figures of 2021.
This figure has an even greater weight when you take another thing into account. Over the whole of last decade, the Japanese firm had fallen back in the market race due to a business strategy that many an expert dubbed “old fashioned”.
They even pulled back from MotoGP, and not once but twice! Which, of course, triggered a wave of guesswork about the company’s future in the motorcycle niche.
However, Suzuki made a good recovery in 2022, thanks to its large footprint in China, India, and other Asian countries. It also showed remarkable upsurge in Latin America. On the other hand, their sales in Western Europe and other chunks of the globe are still waddling through recovery.
What remains to be seen, though, is whether the once again increasing revenue will quash the overall impression of a stagnant lineup.
Most Popular Model – Access 125
Honestly, I could write an ode to the Hayabusa till I overshoot the word count. But in reality, it’s not the highest selling product from Suzuki. Which is why, to my regret, it just can’t get a spot on this list.
The Access 125 can, though. It’s the flagship scooter with a 4-stroke engine that delivers excellent performance for urban riders. On top of that, it has an excellent power-to-weight ratio. By definition, scooters aren’t gas guzzlers, and this one’s no exception. But unlike most of its competitors, it does have some mana!
Suzuki has also added features like Bluetooth cluster, and LED lights to make it an excellent choice for buyers in the South-Asian markets looking for value.
6. Bajaj Auto
With more than 2.19 million two-wheelers sold in 2022, the Indian brand ranks pretty high on the world stage! In case you haven’t heard of it (which I’m pretty sure is the case), it’s one of the branches within the huge Bajaj group and is well-known for managing to keep down the cost of manufacturing.
Does that tell you anything about the quality, though?
As usual, the answer is: up to a point, but not as much as you may think. Over the past couple of years, Bajaj’s reputation has been upped thanks to alleged partnership plans with Triumph, but also a potential revival of the late legend Vincent!
The brand is a global leader in the three-wheeler industry with high sales figures in Latin American and African countries. However, when it comes to two-wheelers, their market is limited to India and African countries.
In other words, if you’re eyeing a Bajaj from the US, you should also keep in mind how many hoops you’ll need to jump through to get your hands on a spare part when the need arises.
Most Popular Model – Pulsar RS 200
The Pulsar series are Bajaj’s top-selling motorbikes, with RS200 leading the pack. It has nice features for the price, like a 200cc liquid-cooled engine and a dual-channel anti-lock braking system.
Also, the suspension is well-tuned and offers good stability while negotiating corners. Granted, I’ve heard complaints about the overall build quality of Bajaj bikes over the past couple of years. But I’ve also heard some nice stories.
Bottom line, this model’s sporty orientation and affordable price tag make it a compelling package if you’re looking for an entry-level motorbike to move within the city.
5. TVS Motor
Say hello to another Indian motorbike & scooter manufacturer!
With a strong performance during the Q4 of 2022, TVS Motor overtook their chief rival Bajaj to become the 5th highest-selling motorcycle brand globally. Their two-wheeler sales figures stood at 2.37 million, indicating a growth rate of 16.6%.
The sales figures of the brand were also high in Latin America and ASEAN (that is, South East Asian) countries.
One reason behind the brand’s popularity is that their products will offer a decent bang for your buck. To an average buyer, a feature-loaded ride ain’t good enough if it isn’t affordable for what it offers!
But if TVS still doesn’t ring a bell to you, you should know that it also has a partnership with BMW and stands behind the BMW G310R production in India.
Most Popular Model – TVS Raider
This guy boasts youthful design and a peppy 125 cc engine. And even though it primarily aims at daily commuters, the agility and stability of the motorcycle are impressive.
When it comes to fit and finish, TVS has done a great job. With its low weight, the Raider is easily manageable, even at low speeds. Overall, it is a reliable performer and the excellent fuel efficiency makes it a favorite for buyers on a budget.
No list of best-selling bikes would be complete without at least two Japanese brands!
Indeed, Yamaha has always remained among the top 5 best-selling two-wheeler brands and it was no different in 2022. The total number of motorbike sales for the Japanese brand reached over 4.0 million, even though the numbers are below expectations.
But how come they got less than expected, while still making to top 5?
Since a disastrous 2020, the sale of Yamaha motorcycles has dropped in Japan, Taiwan, and Europe. However, in 2023, the sales figure of the brand is expected to touch $14.73 billion.
As usual, the US are a different story from the rest of the world. Yamaha’s annual growth rate there should remain around 3.41% between 2023-27.
Most Popular Model – MT-09
Even at first glance, this one seems to have it all: a handsome design, refined engine, solid handling, and state-of-the-art electronics. In fact, everything in this beautiful bike is balanced to make it a super affordable choice for urban commuting or hitting the motorway for a cruise.
The motorcycle has a compact and powerful 890cc triple‑cylinder engine that offers tons of power along with sufficient low-end torque. While it’s relatively lightweight, the brakes are equipped with ABS and provide a reasonable stopping power.
Once again, I totally hear you if this is your first encounter with the brand. And not just because some 90% of its sales happen in China.
The thing is, this manufacturer maintains its dominance as the leading seller of e-scooters! And even though they’re primarily oriented toward the domestic market, the sales abroad are yielding more and more fruit. Their total export volume showed a steep rise of 104% in the first two quarters of 2022, amounting to some 4.5 million.
But worry not, you hardy biker: I’m NOT here to talk about e-scooters.
What I’m actually talking about here is electric motorcycles AND electric (not e-!) scooters. And Yadea is gaining traction there as well, and at a speed of light rather than tortoise speed that scooters are usually associated with. Their bikes even debuted in the US recently, unveiling some high-speed models.
Of course, high speed in electric vehicles usually means high acceleration rate and not top speed, which is modest to say the least. But that doesn’t prevent electric motorcycles from climbing the charts of motorbike sales in general.
Based in Sanghai, Yadea Group Holdings Ltd. has seven production centers in China and one in Vietnam. Since the e-scooter market is projected to reach $644.5 billion by 2028, it wouldn’t be too bold to presume that Yadea has already secured its spot as a top two-wheeler seller in the coming years too.
Most Popular Model – Guanneng 2.0 E8S
It may look like a toy, but I presume you haven’t come to the scooters department looking for a two-wheeled Minotaur.
The Guanneng 2.0 range of e-scooters was the top-selling Yadea product line in 2022. Among these, the E8S is one of the most popular options with a top speed of 60km/h.
A prime feature of these models is the TTFRA2.0 range extension system and a graphene battery. (I’m no expert on batteries, but what I know for sure is that graphene is way more efficient at charging than lithium.) The claimed battery life is 200 kilometers, which is great for long-distance trips.
Other features include front and rear disc brakes, a spacious design, and a colorful dashboard.
2. Hero Motor
Yep, another Indian manufacturer! It climbed to the second spot by overtaking Yadea with a net sales figure of 4.9 million in 2022. The largest two-wheeler manufacturer in the world is still recovering from a sharp drop in sales in 2021. Which is more or less a common sight across the industry, as we’ve seen.
An interesting thing, though, is that Hero MotoCorp started in 1983 as a joint venture company with Japan’s Honda. But this venture came to an end in 2011. Today, Hero has five production hubs in India, with enough capacity to pump out 9 million vehicles every year.
Most Popular Model – Hero Splendor Plus
This one’s a low-maintenance, fuel-efficient bike that’s been keeping a high spot on the sales charts for some years. It has a 100cc workhorse of an engine that’s mated to a four-speed gearbox.
The lightweight design and the low seat height make the motorcycle easy to drive on busy urban roads. The front and rear suspensions are good enough to make the rides comfortable. While it’s overall an affordable option, the Splendor Plus lacks a disc brake and other advanced features.
News flash: No shockers for the numero uno spot.
The Japanese giant holds the top spot by selling 17 million motorcycles across the globe in 2022. Compared to the numbers in 2021, this indicates a 12.5% rise. In other words, we’re looking at an excellent recovery after a dismal 2021.
Apart from Asian countries like India, Vietnam, and Pakistan, Honda also has a large market in the US. While there was a drop in sales in Europe, the brand shows solid growth across Latin America.
It also made it to the top of my roundup of safest motorcycle brands and models.
Most Popular Model – Honda Super Cub C125
You may find this hard to believe, but the Cub has remained the top-selling vehicle from Honda ever since its introduction in the god-forsaken year of 1958. Historically, it’s also the best-selling two-wheeler in the world! No wonder it is often termed as the “common man’s ride” that offers excellent economy.
The latest, 2023 iteration comes with the usual charming design that blends simplicity and reliability. Honda has paired a semi-automatic transmission with the 124cc single-cylinder engine. Additionally, it also includes a front-wheel ABS.
5 Most Popular Motorcycle Brands in the USA
Not surprisingly, the most popular motorcycle brands in the US will differ quite a bit from the global picture. For better or worse, there are no Indian or Chinese entries!
Compared to the other Japanese brands, Suzuki has a lower market share which is just 4.9%. The brand’s growth rate is expected to be around 3.98% in the coming five years.
Be that as it may, Suzuki’s models have a loyal following and hold a special place among other superbikes and sports bikes.
The GSX-R1000 is one of the most reliable motorcycles from Suzuki’s stable. The maker’s been tweaking the design of this ride over the years. Indeed, the 2023 version doesn’t disappoint! It brings a solid mix of versatility and performance to the table in the superbike scene.
Yamaha’s holding strong with an 11.3% market share, which is a lot steadier than Suzuki’s. The pandemic hit them like everyone else, with big drops in 2020, but they’re back on the up and up since 2021. Better yet, they’ve got a wide range of bikes, so you’re bound to find one that fits the bill.
The Yamaha YZF-R3 has been a favorite model for many riders since it was introduced in 2015. With its supersport styling and comfortable ride quality, it is a perfect all-rounder and a great choice for beginners.
The second Japanese brand has fallen behind Honda with a market share of 12.8% and the expected growth rate is 3.77%. Kawasaki bikes are popular among enthusiasts for their design and agility. Its iconic Ninja range was a heart stealer that still remains a popular choice.
One of the top-selling models from Kawasaki is the Z900 ABS – an ultralight supernaked motorcycle that packs a lot of fun. While it is slightly flashy, the motorcycle is a great choice for city roads as well as twisties.
Being the topper of the “Big Four” Japanese brands, Honda holds the number two spot with a market share of around 17.5%. North America being one of its largest markets, the Japanese powerhouse is trying hard to recapture its record sales numbers prior to Covid-19.
One of its top-selling motorcycles in the US is the CB300R. A new rider looking to get used to motorcycle riding will find this a perfect motorbike to train with. With refined performance and an affordable price tag, it is a gem of a motorcycle.
Write a novel about Harley and everything it stands for, and it could hit a jackpot. But a business case study shows a bleaker picture.
Harley has been down a bumpy road over the past years, even decades. If you don’t believe me, take a look at the list of the world’s most popular brands above and you won’t find it there!
In fact, the venerable name has never been the world’s leader in terms of popularity, even though there’s hardly ever lived a person who doesn’t take it as a synonym for motorcycling itself.
Still, it’s no surprise that the quintessential American brand still holds the top spot in its country of origin with a market share of 21.1%. While the numbers are lesser than the peak that the brand reached in 2020 (30.6% market share), it is still comfortably ahead of its closest competitors.
Some of the best-selling models from Harley are the Pan America and Sportster S bikes. The Pan America range falls under the adventure touring category, which is the fastest-growing range of motorcycles in North America.