Oh, America. Our predilection for fat cruisers and absurd sportbikes ensures that we miss out on some seriously wonderful motorcycles. Sometimes because they’re smaller than our overcompensation would bear, sometimes because we can justify spending over $20,000 on a boat anchor made in Milwaukee, but not half that on an 1980s style superbike fitted with modern components. This is what we’re missing out on; the most desirable motorcycles not sold in America.
2014 Honda VFR800
So Shamu turned out to be a white elephant; too much money, too much weight and too little substance. Meanwhile, Europe and Japan are getting a refreshed VFR800. A reasonably priced, super-capable sport tourer, this is the one bike that’s equally at home crossing continents, commuting to work or tearing up a twisty back road. The smaller capacity and lighter weight mean it’s both easier and faster to ride and that it won’t chew through expensive tires halfway through your big summer trip. Honda managed to make this bike genuinely comfortable too.
2014 Honda CB1300
Who would want to ride a big, torquey, inline-four muscle bike made with peerless build quality, high quality components and an engine so smooth it makes 100 mph feel like you’re sitting still. Not us, it turns out, but Honda execs in Japan ensured that their dream bike was green lit, regardless of cost. It even comes in a faired version, turning it into a practical, all-day comfortable muscle tourer. Seriously, the CB1300 is an epic ride.
2014 Honda CB400 Super Four
Many of those same traits are present in the CB400 Super Four — classic styling, double cradle frame, inline-four, quality suspension and brakes — just in a smaller, more accessible package. Japan’s license and insurance tiers make premium small bikes like this one possible; it’s very difficult to access larger machines, so a market exists for nice, smaller bikes. Here, large men on Harleys would just scoff at it and waddle back to their be-tassled exercises in chrome excess. That’s a shame, this thing’s spot on the money for the youth and female markets here.
2014 Honda FTR
If Americans actually used bikes for transportation, then the light, accessible, stylish FTR would sell like Big Gulps. It houses a simple, bulletproof 223cc single-cylinder in a flat track-style package that’s ideal for getting around a city in speedy ease.
2014 Suzuki GS1200SS
Just look at this thing. Basically a modernized version of the original GSX-R1100 from the 1980s, the GS1200SS was made because that original bike was actually illegal to sell in Japan, where max capacity used to be capped at 750cc. This bike allowed riders there to re-live the company’s glory days, just with brakes capable of genuine stopping power and suspension enabling the 462 lbs bus to make it around corners. Here punched out to 1,156cc, the air/oil-cooled inline-four makes just 100 bhp and 70 lb.-ft. of torque, but all the original GSX-R tuning parts will fit, so it’s easy to get it making silly amounts of power. Of all the bikes on the list, this is the one that keeps me up at night.
2014 Suzuki e-Let’s
Practical transportation for one person around a city. That’s what motorcycles do better than their four-wheeled counterparts and it’s what the e-Let’s does better than most motorcycles. What you see is what you get: a little electric scooter with a dorky basket out front. But just think how great this thing would be for shopping trips and errands; it’d cost basically zero dollars to run and you’d have no problem fitting groceries, packages or puppies up front. But why would we want to use one of these to go shopping when we could instead take a 5,000 lbs Escalade replete with chrome rims?
2014 Yamaha SR400
If you follow the custom café racer scene, then you’ll notice that approximately 99.9999% of all foreign builds are based on this bike. Why? Shorn of its…humble bodywork, that air-cooled single is a real looker and the steel tube frame enables easy customization. You can bob it, you can chop it, you can café it or even street track it; basically any modification that involves pipe wrap, gum grips and flat black paint. As a bonus, it already comes with the round headlight, stock. But why would Americans want an affordable, good-looking, classic-style bike? I mean, it only has a single ‘R’ in it’s entire name!
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