Canstar Blue’s 2020 review of motorcycles compares six popular brands on comfort, handling, technology features, style, reliability, point of sale service, value for money and overall satisfaction.
While many of us stick to four wheels, there are plenty of two-wheel enthusiasts around, both on the streets and on Australia’s dirt tracks. Motorcycles can give you a thrill like no other, with the sense of freedom often unmatched, not to mention coming in handy when there’s gridlock on the roads. Motorcycles are also often cheaper to purchase and run than cars, making them a viable option for motorists on a budget. But finding a brand and type of motorcycle that meets your personal preferences and budget is no easy challenge.
To help narrow down your options, Canstar Blue produces an annual review of motorcycle brands, rated in 2020 by more than 400 Australians who have bought and ridden a brand new bike over the last three years. The idea is to give you as much information as possible about the compared brands so you can make an informed decision about your next set of wheels, based on the experiences of other Aussie consumers. The brands in this report are those which received the minimum required survey sample size of 30 responses.
In a cat and mouse race with three-year consecutive winner Triumph, Yamaha has returned to the number one spot (since 2016) after achieving a five-star rating for overall satisfaction. It also earned full marks for reliability, technology features, handling and value for money.
Here are the best motorcycle brands in Australia, as rated by consumers in Canstar Blue’s latest review:
Yamaha achieved a five-star review for overall satisfaction, while Harley-Davidson, Kawasaki and Suzuki rode in on four stars overall. Honda and BMW rounded up the scores on three stars.
Notably, Harley-Davidson was in top gear when it came to style and comfort, rating best for these two categories and also recording full marks for its point of sale service, alongside BMW. BMW similarly received five stars for its technology features, while Kawasaki received top marks for reliability and handling.
If you haven’t spent much time around motorcycles, chances are you’re not sure where to start when it comes to choosing one to ride out the door with. While plenty of brands offer sleek looking models and eye-catching colour schemes, each motorcycle type provides a different riding experience, and are made for different situations. Below is a quick guide to different motorcycle types, to give you an idea of which to take a closer look at.
Most motorcycle dealerships will allow you to test ride your prospective new wheels, so be sure to make the most of the opportunity and test out all types of bikes to ensure you find the best fit for your riding style and intentions.
Despite being generally cheaper than buying a car, a motorbike can still dent your budget, with previous survey respondents having spent more than $11,000 on average on their latest motorcycle purchase.
Similar to how cars require regular servicing and maintenance checks, it’s important to remember that there are still extra costs associated with owning a bike. Although, nearly half of those we surveyed believe that riding a motorcycle is still cheaper than driving a car (49%).
Operating independently from the Yamaha Corporation, the Yamaha motorcycle branch has a long history stretching back almost 70 years, with the Japanese brand offering on and off-road options. Competitively priced within the market, Yamaha is worth checking out, regardless of whether you’re looking to tear up the bitumen or the dirt track.
Yamaha’s road range includes Supersport, Sport Heritage, Maximum Torque, Sport touring and cruiser models, each with a subsequent range of models with different aesthetics and features to suit all types of riders. For those more inclined to go off the beaten track, or after something to help around the farm, Yamaha’s off-road range includes Motocross, Enduro, adventure and agriculture models, each with a variety of additional features and functions to help you enjoy the ride.
American manufacturer Harley-Davidson is an icon of the motorcycle world and remains an especially popular choice for riders chasing a cruiser model. But in comparison to most competitors, it’s one of the more expensive brands available.
While most of its range is colloquially referred to as a ‘hog’, Harley-Davidson has branched out from the traditional Softail models to include smaller types. This includes more agile Sportsters and Street bikes available for those steering more towards riding in the city. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Harley-Davidson offers multiple touring and trike models for those looking to head up the highway. Harley-Davidson has also recently unveiled the LiveWire, the brand’s first electric motorbike.
Making motorcycles since the 1950s, Japanese brand Kawasaki is following in the footsteps of other Japanese automotive companies in producing bikes for city riding, off-road adventuring and competitive track racing.
If you’re looking for a ride for the city or long road trips, Kawasaki offers sport, touring and cruiser models. The Ninja is arguably Kawasaki’s most popular road bike, with the model available with plenty of grunt and variety. But, if off-road biking is more your speed, Kawasaki has plenty of dirt bikes and motocross options available, helping you get even more revved up for your next weekend getaway. Kawasaki also offers a Learner section, allowing those new to two wheels an easy way to find their ideal set of wheels.
Spread over various industries, Suzuki is well-known in the automotive sector, with the Japanese brand expanding into motorcycles in 1952. Today, its bikes are often seen on city streets, dirt tracks, as well as the racetrack.
With a road range that includes Supersport, touring, adventure and cruiser models, Suzuki offers models for both the motorcycle veteran and the beginner, with a number of Learner Approved bikes available. In its off-road range, Suzuki offers Motocross, trail and dirt bikes. There is additionally the Two-Wheel Farm range for those out on the property, with a few all-terrain vehicles also on offer if you tend to bike on different types of surfaces.
If you’re looking for a more personalised touch, Suzuki offers a number of accessories for both off-road and on-road bikes, including saddlebags, windscreen and décor kits. Merchandise is similarly available if you want to show off a fresh outfit with your new ride.
Honda is a global leader across multiple industries and has been manufacturing motorcycles since the 1950s. In addition to the traditional sports, touring and cruiser models, the Japanese brand also offers plenty of off-road options for motorists who like to get out of the city on the weekends. If this sounds like you, there are Trail, Enduro and Competition bikes to check out.
Competitively priced within the market, Honda offers the full specifications on each bike on its website, allowing you to compare engine sizes, transmission, as well as wheel bases to help ensure you find the bike that best fits your needs. Honda also has a Learners section available to help those just starting out with picking their first bike. And you can book test rides on the Honda website, with merchandise additionally available online, helping you to make it a one-stop-shop for all your motorcycle needs.
While more well-known for its luxury vehicle range, BMW has been manufacturing motorcycles since the 1920s, offering sports, touring, roadster and adventure as well as heritage models.
With plenty of models across all ranges, you’ll be spoilt for choice if you’re after a BMW bike. Available at most Aussie motorcycle retailers, which can be found online, BMW’s motorcycles are generally more expensive than other competitors, but may be worth it if price isn’t an issue. While BMW may not be the brand for you if you’re looking for a pure off-road or dirt bike option, it might still be worth checking out if you’re planning on buying a bike better suited for daily commutes or long-distance driving.
BMW additionally offers a configuration option on select models, allowing riders to choose accessories and colour schemes to personalise their new wheels. Most alteration options are purely aesthetic and would come in handy for those looking to create something unique.
While six motorcycle brands managed to park themselves in this year’s ratings, that doesn’t mean there aren’t other manufacturers worth taking for a test drive. Here are a couple more major brands you might want to check out:
With a heritage that stretches back to 1885, the Triumph brand offers a solid range of models, including touring, cruisers, roadsters and sports bikes to suit a variety of riders.
The majority of Triumph’s motorcycles are adventure and classic models. The Tiger range is worth checking out if you’re planning on going off-roading, while the Classic Bonneville can help you live out your Steve McQueen fantasies. If you have a need for speed, as well as a need to stay on budget, the new Street Triple range includes a few roadsters under the $15,000 mark.
You can head to Triumph’s website to make alterations, such as by changing the colour scheme and adding accessories to your ride. You’ll need to get in touch with a dealership if you need any engine alterations.
Italian manufacturer Ducati is now a mainstay in the sports bike market, since being founded nearly 100 years ago, with the brand frequently seen on both city streets and MotoGP racetracks. While motorists who have their hearts set on a touring or cruiser model, may have to look elsewhere; Ducati may be the option for those shopping for a sporty motorcycle or something for racing. The range includes the Diavel, XDiavel, Hypermotard, Monster, Multistrada, Streetfighter, Supersport and Panigale. Specifications and alteration options are available on the Ducati website.
Ducati also offers a dealer locator via its website, making it easier for consumers to pick one up locally, along with accessories and riding gear.
Motorcycles are often at the top of the ‘someday maybe’ list for many of us, while others are all about their two-wheel life. But whether you’re a veteran on the saddle or you’re fresh on the scene, finding a new ride can be a challenge, particularly with so many options – and sales pitches – to navigate.
Ultimately, which brand and what type of motorcycle you ride off into the sunset with will come down to a variety of factors, including budget, where you do most of your riding, as well as how much power you want at your fingertips. Like any big purchase, looking into all of your options before breaking out the wallet will save you a lot of hassle down the line, as well as likely a bit of money too, meaning that your time spent on the road is more enjoyable.
This report was written by Canstar Blue’s home & lifestyle journalist, Tahnee-Jae Lopez-Vito. She’s an expert on household appliances, grooming products and all things grocery and shopping. In addition to translating our expert research into consumer-friendly ratings reports, Tahnee spends her time helping consumers make better-informed purchase decisions on all manner of consumer goods and services, while highlighting the best deals and anything you need to be aware of.
Photo Credits: Pixfly/Shutterstock.com, Artem Beliaikin/Shutterstock.com, Nestor Rizhniak/Shutterstock.com.
Canstar Blue surveyed 800 Australian motorcycle riders across a range of categories to measure and track customer satisfaction, via ISO 26362 accredited research panels managed by Qualtrics. The outcomes reported are the results from customers within the survey group who currently own and have ridden a motorcycle in the last three years – in this case, 450 people.
Brands must have received at least 30 responses to be included. Results are comparative and it should be noted that brands receiving three stars have still achieved a satisfaction measure of at least six out of 10. Not all brands available in the market have been compared in this survey. The ratings table is first sorted by star ratings and then by mean overall satisfaction. A rated brand may receive a ‘N/A’ (Not Applicable) rating if it does not receive the minimum number of responses for that criteria.
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