Popular types of Motorcycles around the World


Major manufacturing companies post quarterly figures for their shareholders. These break down gross sales, net sales, overheads and the number of units sold, usually with a comparison to previous quarters.

It’s all pretty boring unless of course it means you’re in line for a nice fat dividend. But what if that manufacturing company is Honda? A breakdown of stats may put them at the top of the tree for bikes sold, but is that the same as being the most popular?

In 2016 the UK’s top selling motorcycle newspaper, Motorcycle News, voted the Honda RC213V-S as its machine of the year, a 188,000 euro MotoGP racer with street legal lights. Go figure! In the US, top magazine Cycle World, went for the Aprilia V4 1100RR for their open class winner. That clearly didn’t take in to account units sold either. So, it’s safe to say that most popular doesn’t always mean the most sold.

Popular Motorcycle Types: Sales

But whilst we’re on the subject of motorcycle sales, the stats make for interesting reading. In Great Britain, 2016 was a great year in terms of motorcycle sales. Overall, sales for the first six months were up almost 7.5%, and the picture in Europe is even better.

Based on motorcycle registrations across the EU, bike sales have seen an upward swing of 8.5% compared to 2015 figures. But who actually sold the most bikes?

They’re the biggest motorcycle manufacturer in the world, and it shows. In the top ten of most motorcycles sold, Honda appeared a staggering four times taking the number one slot, plus three other placings. Top seller was the PCX125 Scooter, two further placings went to bikes under 250cc.

Incidentally, the PCX is from the same stable of models that started off with the Honda Cub. Honda’s iconic step-thru commuter that’s been used and abused throughout the world, has been in continuous production since 1958. During that time, 87 million Cubs have rolled out of the Honda factory making it the bestselling motorcycle in the world.

Popular Types of Motorcycles: Cub

Ever heard of Honda’s infamous sales slogan from the 1960’s? ‘You meet the nicest people on a Honda,’ well it was created for the Cub. And here’s another bit of essential and superbly researched ‘popular motorcycles’ information for you. In Australia, the Cub (known as the NBC110) has been in service to the Australian Post Office for years and is, you guessed it, Australia’s number one bestselling motorcycle. It beat the next best seller, the Yamaha WR450F, by almost 50% and the number three slot Kawasaki’s Baby Ninja 300 by almost two to one.

Bearing that in mind, and the fact that the Honda PCX125 was the previous year’s top seller too, it should have come as no surprise that it retained its number one status. What was a surprise seller however, was the new CRF1000 Africa Twin. It started off with 115 registrations in January alone and just kept going.

It’s one of the fastest growing segments of the motorcycle market and adventure bike riders the world over had been waiting for the arrival of the CRF1000L Africa Twin onto the scene. The original 750cc AT, launched in 1989, was one of the first monster trail bikes from Japan. It’s genuine on/off-road ability makes it popular even today, so the new Africa Twin had big, dirt-filled shoes to fill.

At 1000cc, it’s slightly smaller than the opposition. BMW, KTM, Triumph and even the Yamaha Tenere all sport engines of 1200cc and over and weigh in around the ponderous 600lb mark. But like its predecessor, the Honda has managed to keep the bulk down to around 485Ib in order to make off-roading a possibility rather than a gimmick.

Popular Types of Motorcycles: Adventure Bike

The Honda has obviously found a lot of new admirers, but the adventure bike to beat is still the BMW GS1200. The German motorcycle manufacturer virtually invented the whole adventure bike sector in 1980 with their game changing R850GS and until groundbreaking bikes like the KTM 1290 and Triumph Tiger 1200 Explorer, the GS1200 ruled the roost.

And why wouldn’t it with a pedigree like that? It may require a stepladder to get in the saddle, but the BM’s dual-road bruiser is still an amazing piece of kit.  Especially, since last year’s updated version got an incredible range of onboard electronic rider aids that include four riding modes, all of which come with lean angle sensitive dynamic traction control (DTC).

Interestingly enough, the GS appears twice in the top ten list in standard form and adventure mode. Engine and frame are identical in both models, but the main difference between the two bikes comes down to an inch more on the length and width, some slight increase in suspension travel, a larger fuel tank, 48lb of weight and an extra $2000 price tag. So realistically, not much difference. And adding sales of both models together would have put the GS at the top of the charts in the UK, still second to the Honda Africa Twin but ahead of the Suzuki DR650 in the land of Oz.

Popular Types of Motorcycles: Yamaha

Back to the most popular list, Yamaha shows well with two listings for the MT-07 ABS and MT-09 Tracer ABS. The MT-07 is Yamaha’s bargain basement wonder bike. With its user-friendly 700cc parallel twin engine, reviews of the bike all over the world agree on one re-occurring theme: it’s not only fun, it’s frugal. Stacks of low down torque, almost 60 miles to the gallon, no mind-boggling electronics plus a crazy low price and it’s no wonder sales are prodigious. And if it’s good value new, imagine what a bargain low mileage used versions will be.

Yamaha hasn’t produced a big bore triple since the late 1980’s (XS850), so when the big brother to the MT-07 hit the scene, it was with some anticipation. The 2014 ME-09 was launched to great success and over the following two years sold over 20,000 units, so once again its inclusion on the list was a foregone conclusion really.

The model was re-vamped in 2016 with smoothed out fuel mapping and a new three-stage traction control unit, making an already great bike awesome. But with the introduction of the MT-09 Tracer, the Yamaha had a bike with two-up touring capability, good enough to take on Honda’s VFR800X Crossrunner, Kawasaki Versys 1000 and the Suzuki V-Strom 1000. At almost 2000 euros cheaper, it’s a total no-brainer.

Popular Types of Motorcycles:Retro

Retro bikes had a representative presence too with the Triumph Bonneville Street Twin. Despite its old-world looks, the all-new 900cc liquid-cooled engine comes with ride by wire, traction control and ABS. And don’t be fooled into thinking that the black and white Smith’s style speedo is just that, it’s multi-function display is fully digitized and there’s even a USB socket under the seat.

In the cruiser market, it’s interesting to see the difference between Europe, the USA and Australia. In America, Harley Davidson not only sell the most popular cruiser in the marketplace, but also turnover the most motorcycles full stop with a whopping 35% of the market share. The Road Glide is the Motor Company’s top seller, whereas in the UK it’s the 883 Sportster.

Harley’s all new water cooled ‘Street’ range is available in 500cc and 750cc variants and although the UK and rest of Europe will have to make do with the larger model, sales of its smaller brother have taken off in Australia.

Not only did it place top of the heap in the country’s lucrative cruiser market, knocking the steady selling FXSB Softail Breakout into second place, but placed an incredible fourth in overall sales. Not bad for a bike that looks more like the Honda Shadow than the Honda Shadow does.

So now we’ve had a good look at what’s popular in the world of Motorcycles, I’ll finish with some interesting stats on the motorcycle market in general. According to research carried out by Rideadvice.com, the countries that buy the most motorcycles in comparison to cars are Italy, Spain and France. Whilst Italy takes the crown for most motorcycles bought per head of population, with one in ten people owning a bike.

As for the rest of the world, the largest markets for motorcycles are China, India, Indonesia and Vietnam. It is believed that motorcycle ownership in China has now risen to over 54 million, whilst they manufacture in excess of 22 million bikes and scooters per year.