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
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 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.
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.
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?