Top 6 Made In America Motorcycles You Can Buy Today

Hell For Leather, HFL -

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american-motorcycles

Is there anything more patently American than a motorcycle? Even as Asia and Europe have become more indelibly associated with their design and manufacture, motorcycles made in this country remain true world beaters. Here’s the RideApart staff’s pick of the best motorcycles made in America today.

Brammo Empulse R
Think electric motorcycles are the work of the devil? Ride one of these and it’ll change your mind forever. Handling and feel are better than Internal Combustion Equivalents, merits made possible by the inherent benefits of electric drive. The first electric motorcycles that’s good to ride, that can top 100mph and 100 miles in range wasn’t designed or produced in Japan, Europe or China, it was designed and is made in Ashland, Oregon.

Photo: Kevin Waggoner

Zero FX
Since 2009, Zero’s been delivering electric motorcycles to showrooms. Good for them, but those motorcycles have failed to live up to their claimed ranges and were delivered fitted with components (including important stuff like suspension, brakes, tires and headlights) of unbelievably low quality and function. Finally, that seems to be changing. Contributor Susanna Schick, who just bought one, writes, “The bike that made me forget that absolute power (R1) corrupts absolutely? Quick, nimble, ready for anything. This bad boy tears up the mean streets of LA like a supermodel on steroids. Light enough to laugh at whatever mistakes you make, fast enough to help you make them. Completely at home (with S wheels & street tires) lane splitting rush hour traffic or diving through the corkscrew a la Rossi vs Stoner. But yes, it tops out at an indicated (and optimistic) 85mph. Great for preserving one’s license, but harder to get used to than the lack of a gearbox. Easily fixed with a bigger front sprocket, depending on how much of that 70 ft lbs of wheelie-inducing torque you’re willing to sacrifice.”

Erik Buell Racing 1190RS
The most capable track motorcycle available to the general public isn’t a Honda or Ducati, it’s made in a little warehouse space in an industrial area in East Troy, Wisconsin. Racing among other production superbikes, it turns in times so fast that it looks like a MotoGP bike at a public trackday. Fresh off a further investment by India’s Hero Motor Corp, EBR is poised deliver more bikes and finally get down to seriously campaigning the 1190 RS in American racing.

Harley Davidson FXDC Dyna Super Glide
We could argue all day about the origin of Harley-Davidson motorcycle parts. What matters is the bikes are designed in America, built in America by Americans and after 110 years the company is still going strong. Amongst the current line-up, we think there are several good bikes in the Dyna range and one unsung hero in particular. It’s Harley-Davidson’s FXDC Dyna Super Glide Custom. Just your basic big v-twin. Nothing fancy. It’s got some nice classic styling cues, so is not completely over the top. For a Harley it’s light too at 683lbs, which means it’s reasonably nimble, rides well and for a big v-twin handles far better than you would ever expect. There are a ton of upgrades you can do to the Super Glide to make it yours. Starting at $13,199 it’s not cheap but we think this Dyna is good value for a big twin Hog and worthy of a second look.

Victory 8-Ball
Victory Motorcycles is starting to gain some real traction here in the U.S. But it’s got a long way to go to catch Harley-Davidson which sells to more than three quarters of this market sector. Buried away in the Victory line-up is the Vegas 8-Ball. At $12,499 it’s the entry-level model but it’s also something of a bargain as you get a decent bike and quite a lot for your money. You can opt for any color as long as it’s black, which is not a bad thing as it’s a handsome cruiser and the all-black look suits it. There’s a 106 ci v-twin engine, which has 97 hp and 113 lb ft of torque, a solo seat and a 21-inch Stingray front wheel. Judging by some of the 8-Ball owner reviews on Victory’s own web site they’re more than happy with the decision to go the Victory route with the Vegas 8-Ball and we can understand why.

Mission R
Ok, you can’t buy one, but you can put down a deposit for 2014 delivery. The Mission R has proved itself capable of lapping Laguna Seca on par with 600cc Super Sport race bikes and will exceed 150mph and up to 140 miles in range when it goes on sale next year.

Lightning SuperBike
Capable of climbing Pike’s Peak faster than a Ducati Multistrada, the Lightning SuperBike is seriously fast, even reaching 218mph on the Bonneville Salt Flats. Not bad for only $39,000.

Rokon Trail Breaker
This little workhorse can go almost anywhere, thanks to its two-wheel drive and hollow wheels that allow it to float in water. The New Hampshire company has been quietly producing the Trail Breaker since 1963. Trail Breakers have even ridden through the Darien Gap, where no other vehicle is capable of travelling and invaded foreign countries in the hands of US special forces soldiers? What’s more American than that?

  • William Connor

    Can we stop including electrics as viable motorcycles, until they actually are. The Zero is expensive, you get nothing and the quality is poor. It feels like a Ninja 250 from the 1980′s for cheapness. The power is awesome, the range is not, the day to day usefulness of any type of riding is useless. If it doesn’t have a full charge then I don’t get to ride. Can’t push it and hope for the best because a gas station is nearby. There aren’t any. Electrics are coming, won’t argue that. They just aren’t here yet.

    For HD and Victory just list the company. Every bike they make is as American as the other ones. Coolest bikes on this list is the EBR and Rokon.

    • Stef

      I agree with you, but the problem with electric bikes is not the range, its the charge time.

      You can live with a bike that has a small fuel tank. But with a electric bike its like having a motorbike who has a small fuel tank AND it takes 4 to 5 hours to fill up.

      • susannaschick

        actually, they have a nifty quick charger which you could, if you had to, carry on the bike. It does a full charge in 2 hours. What that means for me is I can now do track days without worrying about range.

        • Damo Von Vinland

          You have to be missing out on serious session on the track if you are waiting two hours in between charges. Are you running your R1 while you wait?

          • mehve

            Swappable batteries. :)

            • Richard Gozinya

              People say that like it would be no big deal. But those battery packs probably weigh more than your engine.

              • Jed Wheeler

                actually they don’t. they’re pretty lightweight, fit in a backpack, and can be swapped out in 5 minutes or less.

    • Bruce Steever

      Almost all correct, except that for commuters and city folks, this is the perfect bike for their “type” of riding. Very viable, even.

      As to your other comments… yeah, the quality is shite, the range troublesome, the cost is eye watering and charging takes too long. But the Zero is a real motorcycle, within its element.

      • Richard Gozinya

        From everything I’ve heard, the quality this year for Zero is finally respectable. Every review of the new bikes are positive.

    • susannaschick

      Warning: Smug Alert: High….

      Yeah, in 2009 the Zero was a cheap pos. but this is 2013, buddy. 4 years in EV years is more like 20 in gas bike years. Go take one for a test ride, you’ll see why the speed freak who ditched her Ducati monster for an R1 in 2002, has left her 09 R1 in the garage since the FX came home. I could’ve bought a Brammo Empulse, but I already have a great sport bike. I wanted a super moto that can do it all. The only time range has been an issue was on an 80 mile day in the canyons. Meanwhile, I get all over LA with more than enough juice. And while you’re pushing your 800 lb sofa, I mean Harley, to the nearest gas station, I’ve found the nearest 110v outlet (usually right where I need it, which was only on that 80 mile day on the 2013) and am enjoying an espresso or something more civilized than the downfall of humanity thanks to more wars for oil. You’re welcome.

      • William Connor

        Sheesh you weren’t kidding about the smug alert. Yes truly 80 miles is a rough day and an espresso will certainly stop all wars because you plugged into an outlet generated by coal. Really? That’s all you have at this point. Well that and apparently some disjointed idea of what kind of bike I ride or how I ride. I do 80 miles before the sun is up most days. Oh and I can do it twice before filling up, which takes oh 3-5 minutes and then I can do it again. Speed has nothing to do it. I rode a 2013, still a cheaply made bike on the outside wrapper. Sorry you ride so little and don’t get to enjoy riding like I do. Maybe it would make you less aggressive.

        • susannaschick

          Wow, if my daily commute were 80 miles each way, on my R1 at 20mpg I’d be spending so much money on gas I wouldn’t have any left for important things, like shoes. ;-) And here in California, our power is getting cleaner and cleaner. We’re building solar fields, wind farms and rooftop panels at a rapid pace, so that coal argument is invalid where I live.

          • http://www.bikeexif.com/ Chris Hunter

            We need to look at total life cycle of the vehicle, and battery production is energy-intensive. Building an electric car creates way more emissions than building a gasoline-powered car.

            Only after a typical electric car has done a high mileage (about 70,000 km, I think) does the environmental argument start to even out, because it’s emitting fewer nasties while it’s being driven.

            The same principle applies to bikes. So I’d wager that most electric bikes, because they don’t do high mileage, actually do MORE damage to the environment than conventional bikes. Simply because of the energy required to make the batteries in the first place.

            • grindz145

              If you can’t get 70k kms out of a motorcycle, you’re not riding enough. Stop taking pretty pictures and go out for a ride ;)

            • mehve

              If you want to look at the whole picture, think about what the gas engine requires. Has Li-Ion had any ecological impacts as big as the oil spills in recent years? Li-Ion is recyclable. Is gasoline? Also, gasoline does not magically appear at the gas station. The cycle that includes transporting and refining oil (and then transporting the gasoline) would have to be taken into consideration. Then add production of the lead-acid battery, the valves, spark plugs, air filters, and additional liquids needed to maintain the system that uses gasoline — these are just not present in the EV. And that Li-Ion battery is connected to a motor that requires less materials than a gas engine. Li-Ion, coal, natural gas…whatever powers the EV…we buy that power from local sources, or it comes from air, wind, and water. EV’s still come out on top even if we are looking at JUST the battery.

            • Jeff Moore

              Here’s the thing. Not all folks buy electric bikes because of some burning desire to not do damage to the environment. I bought a Brammo because it is AWESOME. It sounds like a TIE fighter, handles incredibly, looks insane, and has blinking green lights.

              The amount I care about the net percentage of ‘environmental damage’ I am causing by buying this vehicle rather than a Duke 690 or whatever other inevitably stupid hooligan bike I might’ve purchased instead is coincidentally about the same as the number of tailpipes the Empulse possesses.

              I love the fact that I am giving a bunch of money to some great Oregonian motorcycle nerds instead of OPEC, but Brammo could be forging the battery packs out of pure crude oil somehow and I still would not care. Because it is an awesome bike.

      • http://www.bikeexif.com/ Chris Hunter

        80 miles? That’s hardly any kind of range to speak of, buddy. And as for the downfall of humanity, wanna guess where the electricity you’re using comes from? In the USA, about 70% comes from petrol, coal or natural gas.

      • Damo Von Vinland

        Talk about lack of perspective.

        I honestly can’t remember the last time I left my house on the bike and did LESS than 80 miles in a day.

        “enjoying an espresso or something more civilized than the downfall of humanity thanks to more wars for oil” and your electricity most likely still came from burning dino bones.

        That high horse you are on obviously has more range that the Zero.

        • susannaschick

          Like I said- if I had to ride 80 miles each way to work, I’d be broke. Some of us ride daily, other are weekend warriors. I happen to have a separate bike for each, which means I only need to buy gas on long rides.

          • Damo Von Vinland

            I wasn’t commenting on the fact that you bought a zero (glad you like it), or the quality of the product (I am one of the most pro-electric bike people you are likely to meet.)

            I was merely commenting on the hypocrisy and pretentiousness of your post.

            (Over 43% of power generated in California is still from fossil fuels btw.)

            http://energyalmanac.ca.gov/electricity/total_system_power.html

            • Jed Wheeler

              driving an electric vehicle with electricity from fossil fuels is still far cleaner then driving a vehicle with an internal combustion engine powered on fossil fuels because power plants and electric engines are both far more efficient then car engines. Stopped at a stoplight in an ev? zero energy use. For urban traffic especially ev’s are orders of magnitude cleaner.

              • http://www.bikeexif.com/ Chris Hunter

                That’s not true, because it requires a lot more energy to make an EV than a regular vehicle. Battery packs are more energy-intensive to produce than gasoline engines.

                Someone has done the calculation, I can’t remember who, but they worked out that an EV has to do at least 70,000 km on the original battery pack before its life-cycle energy consumption drops to that of a gasoline-powered vehicle.

                • mehve

                  If you want to look at the whole picture, think about what the gas engine requires. Has Li-Ion had any ecological impacts as big as the oil spills in recent years? Li-Ion is recyclable. Is gasoline? Also, gasoline does not magically appear at the gas station. The cycle that includes transporting and refining oil (and then transporting the gasoline) would have to be taken into consideration. Then add production of the lead-acid battery, the valves, spark plugs, air filters, and additional liquids needed to maintain the system that uses gasoline — these are just not present in the EV. And that Li-Ion battery is connected to a motor that requires less materials than a gas engine. Li-Ion, coal, natural gas…whatever powers the EV…we buy that power from local sources, or it comes from air, wind, and water. EV’s still come out on top even if we are looking at JUST the battery.

        • grindz145

          There are so many reasons to ride an electric bike, fairly far down the list is environmental considerations IMO. Electric motorcycles are true to the essence of motorcycling, simple and pure. No need for an endlessly complicated series of mechanical diversions. Motor, battery, drive belt. It’s a riding experience. An added bonus is that it’s far more efficient that a gas motorcycle by a factor of 10.

          • Damo Von Vinland

            I get where you are coming from, but your response didn’t address any issue I or anyone else mentioned.

            I will be the first one in line to buy an electric bike when the range/charge time/cost get better.

            Right now I don’t care if they are more efficient by a factor of ten if they cost too much, have diminished performance relative to cost AND can’t get me from point A to Point B without a bit of nuisance. Which they can’t currently.

            • grindz145

              It takes a bit more of a renegade to ride an electric motorcycle right now, because of infrastructure alone. It’s a shame that motorcycling has gone the way of comfort and convenience mocha-lattes. Performance is there, range is there, charge time is there, initial cost is at a premium, and remain that way because of the operating cost deficit. If you want a cheap bike, buy a CBR250r, ride it forever and be happy, there’s nothing wrong with that either. For anything short of cross-country touring, electric drive train is there man, and it only gets better from here.

              • Damo Von Vinland

                I have a 2012 CBR250R, an 2005 RC51 SP2 and a 2013 Hypermotard Dark. For better or worse I live on the fine line of the sticks and the urban sprawl. In the not so distance future I hope to add an EV bike to my stable.

    • Richard Gozinya

      You used an awful lot of words to say “Stop liking things I don’t like!”

    • mehve

      I love my 2013 Zero S just fine in all its aircraft aluminum and plastic glory. I, for one, am glad there is a perfect bike out there for the diverse examples of humanity on display here. Whatever gets you on two wheels, throw that leg over and keep the rubber side down. There’s enough road in this great country for everybody. (Even the Ninjas and cruisers need love.)

      Something to think about in regards to electrics… Can anyone name a gas bike that I can ride home after my mundane commute and errands, take five seconds to plug in, and when I am ready to go again, the tank is full as I’m zipping out of my driveway…?

      Around 53 states may be getting 65% or more of their electricity from coal (only a very small handful use petrol), but that coal is sourced locally, and using that energy on EV’s still generate less CO2 per mile than gasoline.

      Thanks for the list, RA. There are a couple I’ve not seen before. I leave knowing more than when I arrived. That’s always a good day.

  • Zachary Laughrey

    I’m a little surprised Motus isn’t on the list. They are expensive but at least you can buy one

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      Can you? I’ve heard nothing from them since the prototype.

      • Zachary Laughrey

        I assume so. Dealerships listed on their website. Perhaps I am wrong but I don’t see how that precludes them from this list. The Mission bike is on here.

        • Richard Gozinya

          Hard to say where they’re at, the latest relevant update on their Facebook page was back on January 27th, and that said sometime this summer the bikes will begin arriving at dealers. The more I learn about that bike and that company, the less desirable the product gets. About the only thing worthwhile is the engine itself, and that, like every other part of the bike, is sourced out to another company. I’m surprised they bothered with the facility in Alabama for final assembly, they could’ve just outsourced that too.

  • J. Brandon

    Have a look at CSC Motorcycles of Southern California:
    http://www.californiascooterco.com/

    • alex

      In trying to be different you have offered up what looks to be a mutant pit bike for serious consideration. Even the trail breaker has a purpose.

      • J. Brandon

        Thank you for your response. Feel free to do some research on the history of the Mustang motorcycle produced in California about 60 years ago. Pay special attention to Walt Fulton, Jr (AMA Hall of Fame member) racing Mustangs and beating the snot out of full-size bikes in the late 1940s. Then consider that the CSC Motorcycle is designed to be what the Mustang would be if it were still being made today.

        • alex

          Just to refresh the title of the story is “the best motorcycle made in america you can buy “today”"

          Not “the best motorcycles from 60 years ago”

          And Ride Apart included what the Mustang would be if made today, when they included the 1190RS.

          Which is to say serious enough to be competitive.

          • J. Brandon

            CSC Motorcycles are built in Southern California. You can buy a brand new one today.

            • alex

              You seem to be dodging the obvious fact that CSC cycles are not “the best motorcycle made in america you can buy today” – no matter there history or anything else.

  • sospeedy

    Oh wow! Those Missions are brilliant! If I could only afford one…

  • Larry

    As much as I hate cruisers, I must say, nice to see the Super Glide on this list. Unique among Harleys with it’s mid mounted controls, reasonable rake and ergos that have actually made some concession to the human body it’s always been a guilty crush of mine…like having a thing for a chubby girl. But look at it, there’s something about the lines that just says “motorcycle”. Every year at the bike show I find myself orbiting one before throwing a leg over. I rode one at a Harley demo, which more or less ended the infatuation, but if I had the resources to own…6? Maybe 10 bikes…I might actually consider getting one, just to stare at it. Or maybe when I’m a arthritic geezer. I’m sure they’ll still be making them.

    • motoguru.

      Ditto.

    • Mykola

      The SuperGlide is an under-appreciated bike, and looks the part of an honest motorcycle more than the caricaturesque proportions of bikes like the Fat Boy that Harley Davidson names and manufactures with an entirely straight face.
      I will happily have in my garage a SuperGlide, a Brammo, and maybe-sorta-kinda-money-no-object-possibly the Motus, and they all happen to be American bikes.

  • Charlie

    Maybe the electrics will again make US bikes the pinnacle of American manufacturing, Rokon is best in show

  • Errol Smith

    It’s great to see that America is leading the pack in terms of electric motorcycles. I’m not a fan of them, but I’m sure Brammo and Zero will as ubiquitous to the electrics as Honda was to the DOHC inline-four.

    • GTMAN77

      zero and brammo will probably improve on the electric motorcycle and BAM Honda, Yamaha or any of the big companies will just buy them out and mass produce the EV motorcycle.

  • Thomas

    Erik Buell Racing 1190RS
    The most capable track motorcycle available to the general public,….

    -> http://productionracer.com/
    !

  • Bill Manewal

    I agree that electrics are a niche product right now, but if you’re in that large niche (urban/commuter), they perform very well indeed. I’ve ridden an Empulse everyday, commuting 12 miles and riding all around San Francisco on the job and back home at night, 6000 miles in 6 months and I totally love the bike. Ultimate streetfighter, handles like it’s on rails. Along with a penny a mile for green electricity (no coal), I’ve got no oil, fuel, or air filters, no plugs, no valves, no tuneups. And gobs of torque that just the other day beat a 1 liter sport bike off the line for more than a half block, three times in a row. And, of course, no, it’s not a touring machine. As for price? Easy: I have no car, so I’m still way ahead.

  • pete bloggs

    Apart from Harley Davidson I don’t think the US competes against Europe and Japan when it comes to Motorcycles. One area that the situation could change is Electric bikes. The American Electric bike won the Isle of Man TT electric class this year beating a Japanese bike that had a lot of money thrown at it.
    It’s a new market and a market that the US could do well in, they don’t need to try and catch up like they would need to in the other Motorcycle markets either.
    Harley Davidson have a history and are well established world wide, they will continue to do well the Cruiser type bike class

  • UrbanMoto

    Don’t like cruisers, usually ride more than 100 miles – unless I’m making a burrito/burger run down to 110 street – and while I’d love to take the Rokon up some gnarly ball-busting trails, that kind of terrain isn’t part of my current reality. I love the idea of buying an American-made bike and I’m glad RideApart made this list, but the absence of what I’d consider a regular, normal motorcycle is what’s sadly conspicuous. The dog didn’t bark….

  • Philip Heung

    If that’s the production Lightning “Superbike” in the photo, I’d be very worried. It looks suspiciously like that cheap crap that is Megelli: http://megelli.com/megelli-sport-125-r/

  • HammSammich

    Maybe I’m feeling overly pessimistic this morning, but this list strikes me as mostly depressing. The Victory and the HD are the definition of motorcycle mediocrity. Sure they’re servicable motorbikes, but as with most in their genre, they offer a mundane and uncomfortable riding experience for an inexplicable premium over other bikes.
    The Rokon is an amazing off-road tool, but it is so highly specialized for extreme terrain as to be essentially irrelevant to most riders.

    The 1190RS is, by all accounts, a brilliant motorcycle and is probably the high point on the list for most HFL Readers. Unfortunately, the price (which I’m sure is well worth the engineering, materials and performance) puts it out of reach for most bikers. Maybe someday, with continued investment and race wins, we will see more affordable models produced.

    Finally, as far as the electrics go, I love the fact that the US is on the leading edge of the technology. Indeed, if I could afford to have more than one bike right now, an electric would be absolutely ideal for my commute. Unfortunately, the current tech isn’t good for much else, since my leisure rides almost always exceed an electric’s range. Moreover, while I have no doubt that electric motorcycles are going to be an important part of future two-wheeled mobility, I strongly doubt that most of the existing US electric bike manufacturers will be much more than a footnote in that future. When the big bike-makers decide to get involved in the electric game, Brammo, Mission motors, et al, may get a nod for developing the tech, and might even be bought out, but I suspect in 30 years when you’re zipping through canyons on an eBike w/ a 200 mile range and 10 min charging time, it’s far more likely to have a Honda logo than Brammo…

    • Jed Wheeler

      I understand Polaris is a big investor in brammo and have hear (though i can’t cite a source) that honda has some sort of stake or interest in zero. they’ll use the small brands to develop the tech without putting their names on the line and then once its ready buy them out.. It works the same as software or any other tech heavy field. As for me, I’m torn between the zero streetfighter and the brammo empulse r. whichever one gets ABS first is going to end up in my garage as my new commuter bike.

      • Richard Gozinya

        Wow, didn’t realize neither had ABS. You’d think for that kind of money it’d be something they’d include.

      • HammSammich

        I didn’t know about the Polaris investment in Brammo so maybe there is hope for US motorcycle manufacturing in the future…

    • jh1289

      The Victory Vision is the most comfortable bike you’ll ever ride.

      • lcicenine

        And the ugliest!

  • grindz145

    I’m so psyched the Rokon was included. Only a true motorcycle enthusiast would throw that in there, and it a truly unique and awesome American motorcycle.

    • Davidabl2

      Too bad it isn’t street legal ;-(

      • grindz145

        truth.

        • Davidabl2

          It makes the Ruckus look like a poser bike doesn’t it?

  • Modest Husqvarna

    The BRD Redshift is another incredibly exciting electric moto coming out of SF which is worth a shout out and is currently in preorder so get in line behind me!

  • Ameriwill

    Motorcycles (invented in Europe, perfected in Asia) described as “patently American”? A list of top American motorcycles but no mention of Confederate, or Motus? You guys are cray-cray!

  • lcicenine

    Victory and Indian motorcycles are just Chinese crap parts assembled in the USA.

    • jh1289

      Harleys are assembled in the USA, but the parts are foreign as well. They’re all like that.

      • lcicenine

        That’s not true, you’re either just stupid or a liar. I work for a major H-D forging supplier and Harley’s are 70-90% US content.

        However, the new 500 and 750 are assembled in Kansas City, MO from foreign parts.

    • Bryant Lister

      http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-investor/harley-davidson-hit-by-disruption-in-japan/article587444/

      Harley-Davidson hit by disruption in Japan
      Victory is 86% American made, Harley’s are less than 60%

      • lcicenine

        You’re a liar probably working for Polaris and it’s Chinese junk.

        • Bryant Lister

          You can make silly accusations all you want, but the facts just don’t support your ignorant opinions.

  • jh1289

    I love my Victory Vision. It’s the best bike I have ever owned.