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Which Motorcycles Survive The Longest? What Brand Do You Think?

How long will your motorcycle live? Thanks to this graph compiled by the guys at hagerty.com, we can see how long your bike is likely to live for…and the results might come as a surprise. Now, before we get started, this graph didn’t have any links to any sources, so we’re going to assume that the author genuinely did go through the registration data for these motorcycles – specifically, the registration of motorcycles built before 1981, and still registered as on the road by 1992. The data obviously applies to what we’d now class as “classic” bikes, but don’t let the details get in the way of a good story…

So, the author also noted that of bikes built before 1981, 43% of those bikes were still on the road and living life to the full a whole 12 years later, by 1992. The graph begins with those 43% who are still alive and kicking…and illustrates just how quickly a lot of them drop off after the 12 year marker…

A gambling man would probably consider the Japanese and German manufacturers a safe bet for motorcycle life expectancy. I would’ve done the same, considering the famous quality of their builds and the strict attention to scrupulous engineering. However, I would’ve lost money on that bet. It seems that of the brands taken into account on the graph, the humble Harley Davidson seems to have the most staying power, and Harley owners were more likely to enjoy their motorcycles until way past the 25 years of ownership marker.

But why?

While Japanese motorcycles enjoy a superior build quality, they’re also a great deal cheaper, and a great deal more powerful. What this means is that they’re often ridden harder, and are almost disposable in comparison to something like a Harley Davidson. The guy who put the graph together seems to think that Harley Davidson owners are more careful, and “are also inclined to just enjoy the act of riding rather than trying to qualify for MotoGP every time they saddle up,”  which is a massively unfair generalization, but there’s a grain of truth in there. It is hard to write off a motorcycle when it spends most of its life on its side stand being covered in chrome polish. (Sure, that was another sweeping generalization, but we’re even now 😉 )

However, that being said, only 30% of 12 year old Yamaha’s manage to live on for another 13 years…and that’s quite a sad thing. If you want a Japanese motorcycle that’s likely to survive for a long time, then your best choice is a Honda… But graphs and statistics are one thing, and common sense is another. Any motorcycle can survive the test of time, providing that it’s being taken care of properly, and being ridden within the bounds of sensibility.

Categories: Motorcycles

Joe Appleton
About Joe Appleton

I’ve done a bit of work here and there in the industry – I’ve even ridden a few bikes for actual money but what it comes down to is this: I ride bikes, build bikes and occasionally crash ‘em too. I like what I like but that certainly doesn’t make my opinion any more valid than yours…