Consumer Reports has released its first ever study of motorcycle reliability, and students of its ratings on cars might notice a suspicious similarity - Japanese brands require fewer repairs than the leading American or German brands.

The study analyzed the reliability of 4,680 bikes owned by CR subscribers and found that Yamaha had the best ratings, with just one in ten bikes built between 2009 and 2012 requiring a repair over a four-year period. The makers of the R1 and R6 sport bikes were closely followed by Kawasaki and Honda, while one out of every four of the rumbling bikes from Harley-Davidson experienced an issue. BMW had the worst rating of the brands represented, with one in three bikes having problems.

According to CR, neither Suzuki nor Triumph owners provided enough information for a reliable rating. Based on the responses received, though, Suzuki would have finished with the other Japanese brands and Triumph, being English, would have been one of the less reliable makes.

As for which parts of the bike caused the biggest headaches, CR cites things like lights, instrumentation and switches as causing 21 percent of repairs. Worryingly, brakes were the issue in a fifth of cases, while the electrical and fuel systems were problematic 16 and 15 percent of the time, respectively.

Overall, CR claims 20 percent of the 4,680 bikes surveyed had problems, but 75 percent of the issues cost less than $200 to repair. Touring bikes were the biggest troublemakers, followed by dual-sports, sport tourers, and cruisers. Like Suzuki and Triumph, there wasn't enough data from the performance crowd, although Consumer Reports estimates that bikes like the Honda CBR line and Kawasaki Ninja ZX6-R would be among the most reliable bikes, alongside the cruiser class.

Hop over to the Consumer Reports website for the full breakdown, as well as a useful list of things motorcyclists can do to keep their bikes running properly.


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  • 62 Comments
      theautojunkie
      • 10 Months Ago
      ....which has always been the case since the 1960's....
      Myself
      • 10 Months Ago
      What else is new…. Would like to see how Italian bikes fared, though. In other words, would there be a step beneath BMW?
        Worx2749
        • 9 Months Ago
        @Myself
        If they're anything like Italian cars, probably.
        Dean Hammond
        • 9 Months Ago
        @Myself
        I would have to say no...as the owner of an Aprilia Mille with 75000 miles on it, my ownly issue was a dead battery ( my fault for leaving it for a month ) blowing a starter relay....that said, its Italian wth a Rotax engine which is Austrian...bulletproof. Ducatis can be finicky, but if mainatined are ok, and MV Agustas engines are well known to also be bulletproof....
      Mark Twain
      • 10 Months Ago
      The Beemers were OK bikes 20 years ago, I suspect their auto division is crafting them now and of course you get the expected junk. Computer controlling every doohickey you can think of just to impress the less mechanical minded buyer is bound to cause reliability issues. Coupled with shoddy workmanship and you end up with a very high priced bike you desperately try to convince yourself to keep.
      SpikedLemon
      • 10 Months Ago
      Having owned bikes from three of the Japanese bike manufacturers and, in addition, a Ducati and Triumph... I would definitely attest to Honda and Yamaha being tops. My Ducati and Suzuki, however, would be near the bottom with the Triumph in between. Though, admittedly, my Suzuki's issues were less reliability and more build quality (corrosion).
      Philip Laurien
      • 10 Months Ago
      After 25 years of riding over 100,000 miles on 8 brands of bikes, without a doubt BMW has been the most unreliable and costly to repair, and my Kawasakis have never had major repairs.
      Philip Laurien
      • 10 Months Ago
      I've owned 8 bikes over 25 years of riding and put over 100,000 miles on them. Honda, NSU, Suzuki, BMW, Triumph and Kawasaki brands. Triumph Bonneville was the least reliable, but that is a long time ago. My 93 BMW R1100RS got perfect care, and still was the least reliable of the bunch. Highest cost per mile of any vehicle I've ever owned, let me down in trips over and over. In 2007 I bought my first Kawasaki, a Versys. Very good bike, but ultimately not my style. Bought a KWAK ZZR 600 in 2008 and now have 18k miles, zero problems. Met many KWAK riders with over 300k miles on older Concours. Kawasaki gets my vote for most reliable!
      justgoawaymad
      • 10 Months Ago
      Polaris? what about the victory? ive owned one for 8 years and have NEVER had to fix it. Granted i only use it 5k a year.
      Doug Danzeisen Sr
      • 10 Months Ago
      ?honestly not many bike buyers use their bikes for real transportation. It's not uncommon for me to pop up Craigslist and find 20-25 year old machines with under 10k miles, and honestly sometimes well under 5k miles. That said, when the dollar is no longer the world reserve currency and prices shoot up like crazy you will see folks buying and riding more small bikes and scoots, it may be the ONLY way to get around for some folks if and when gas shoots to 7 or 8 bucks a gallon. Even mighty Harley has seen the light and introduced a new line of smaller bikes, recognizing that the guy who wants a $30,000 or more "Garage queen" are a dying breed. Anybody who has worked even casually on any of these bikes CAN:T be surprised at the ratings. BMW make some great cycles, but their parts prices really are pretty high- and even parts prices are pretty dear. A new internal alternator for the new RT is over $1,000 just for the part, and given that most RTs are actually ridden a lot they will sell a lot of stators over the years. My advice? If you are just starting buy used and start small. Get what you NEED until you graduate to what you want. Nobody needs a Hyabusa to run to the store for a gallon of milk, when a small scooter will do it far cheaper and far more comfortably. Talk to guys and ladies who ride and see what works for them. Whatever you do- at the minimum ALWAYS wear a helmet. , insist your passenger does as well. On a bike YOU are the crumple zone, but some of us love it much and still do it anyway.
      Avinash Machado
      • 10 Months Ago
      No data on Enfield or Ural?
        bK
        • 9 Months Ago
        @Avinash Machado
        Ural would be at the very bottom.
      BlackandMild
      • 10 Months Ago
      Wow Seems like BMW can't manufacture anything reliable. Their cars have a horrible reliability history, their Mini Coopr has a horrible reliability record and so do their bikes. I wonder what is the reliability record of their Rolls Royce division products? The same? This is my second Yamaha-never had a peep of a problem, so I can attest to the high reliability of their products, meanwhile all my buddies with Harley's are constantly taking them in for numerous annoying repairs and/or replacement of recalled parts that Harley fails to notify the owners of until the owner brings their bike in usually on a trailer or tow truck and their reaction is always the same! "Oh yeah, there's a recall on that part". This business practice has actually left some of my fellow bikers stranded on several occasions!
      Kevin J Cross
      • 9 Months Ago
      Good bit of journalism then, we don't know the answer so we'll just rubbish the brand as it's English. Triumph, being English, would have been one of the less reliable makes. What a dick of a statement Brandon Turkus.
        Russell Clodfelter
        • 8 Months Ago
        @Kevin J Cross
        Total agree. I have a Triumph Bonneville I bought in 2010. 25,000 miles latter and it runs like champ. No reliability issues from the factory. I broke some stuff, because I ride it like I stole it, but that is another story.
      • 5 Months Ago
      I have owned many motorcycles in my lifetime. My experiences have lead that Yamaha is the most reliable motorcycles built which is also the findings of consumer reports. Suzuki & Honda are excellent as well. I would rate Kawasaki last amongst the Japanese bikes. My current ride is a Yamaha FZ1 which has been known to exceed 200K miles by many owners on the Yamaha forums with only basic maintenance.
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