In the land of Harley Davidson, Indian, Victory, Big Dog, Lightning, and Zero, it’s easy to never look away from home to find a tremendous motorcycle. The truth is, there’s also some great imports around that can give each and every one of our domestic bikes a run for their money. From racers to street bikes, with even a few off-roaders thrown into the mix, import motorcycles are proving their worth and blowing some home-grown brands out of the water.
While we support buying locally to support your hometown, there’s no reason we can’t at least look at what else is out there. After all, we’re all citizens of Earth, which means supporting human beings both near and far. To that end, here’s the 17 most amazing import motorcycles you should get between your legs as soon as possible.
Also, let us know if there’s anything we missed. We’re always excited to do more “research.”
Using a window-rattling L-twin that measures in at more than 1,200cc’s, pushing 150+ ponies, the XDiavel is a thunderstorm when you’re just tooling around the neighborhood, but that big, throaty beast settles down when you open it up to about 10K rpms. Let the big dog hunt!
A sport riding machine that has been hacked down for mid-sized street brawls, the semi-upright build makes it comfortable for commutes. The inline 4 kicks up to 12,000 rpms, giving the 500-ish pound body loads of running ability for weekend jaunts.
140 parts were altered in the newest iteration of the SV650, taking it back to the glory of the original 1999 model. The weight’s been dropped and it clocks in at right around 75 hp, making it the little rider that can.
Kawasaki Ninja H2R
Though it isn’t street legal thanks to the lack of a headlight, turn signals, or tread, it’s still worth of taking for a spin around the track. 300 horsepower thanks to a screaming 4-cylinder engine, it’s also loaded with electronic controls just so you can put a leash on this puppy.
Ducati Scrambler Sixty2
Built like a street fighter with the body of an old dirt bike, with a seat that’s only 31 inches off the ground. Most models come with an impressive 800cc piece of power hardware, but there’s one with a 400cc for anyone who wants a little less power for a seriously chopped price.
A classic, vintage kick-start bike, the SR-400 carries a soft-tuned suspension for riding along quietly rather than getting the checkered flag. New riders, mellow idlers, and daily drivers will find it more to their liking than the dead heat gas-head.
KTM Duke 390
A stellar bargain from the Austrian-based KTM, lightweight, speed, power, and switchback maneuverability combine to give the 390 all it needs for tearing up straightaways and taking on city turns like you’re running from the law. 373cc one-banger that’s loaded with fun.
Triumph Tiger Explorer
Triumph has really stepped up the Explorer series, crafting a wide saddle that cushions your money-maker for long rides and rough terrain. XC models will let you take to the hills with their added torque, or you can grab an XR and take to the pavement.
With the underpinings exposed for all the world to see, this little dame isn’t shy about showing off the goods. It has a retro bike appearance that makes it stand out, though there’s nothing old school about the rev-happy 847cc 3-cylinder. Exceptional for wheelies off the line.
Technically a 286cc single cylinder, at a paltry 357lbs, it’s hard to find fault with this upgrade from Honda’s old CBR250R. Taking it to the track will give you a nice adrenaline jolt, but open it up on a canyon and see how spry this little chipper actually is.
BMW S 1000 RR
Beamer has fallen a bit out of favor with the import motorcycle market, since there’s equally good items to be had at a fraction of the cost. To buck this disappointing trend, the S 1000, known as a supersport, is BMW’s deadly answer to other street racers that would dare to challenge their throne. It’s a deadly machine that isn’t good for longer commutes or weaving through traffic. Put it on a straightaway, however, and get ready for the 199 hp engine and scant 450lbs weight to sweep you away.
Hero Motocorp Karizma ZMR
Japan and Europe mostly have the import segment of motorbikes locked up. That is, until Hero Motocorp started showing that the tiger has teeth. Based out of India, a land where agility is prized thanks to the huge, crowded population, the Karizma ZMR has a 4-stroke air-cooled, overhead cam engine bearing a displacement of 223cc’s. It’s sporty, flashy, and gives you a runner look and feel for a marginal price; if you can find it.
Bajaj Motorcycles Pulsar
There’s a pair of models from which to choose here, the AS 200 and the AS 150. Both are touted as ‘affordable adventure bikes,’ though they’re really outstanding touring bikes with both on and off-road capabilities. The 150 is a smooth, savvy cross-country mover that is also handy for getting around town with its split seats and easy feel. Conversely, the 200 is a much bigger, louder animal that lacks refinement. It comes off the blocks with a vengeance, daring others to glance askew at it.
Aprilia Tuono V4 1100
Aprilia isn’t a big name in the United States, and that’s our loss. These Italian superbikes just look fast, and are backed by the 54 World Titles to prove they can get the job done. The 1,100cc engine is bottled chaos come to play, and the 65-degree engine puts out 175 horses ready to do your bidding. Loads of torque work with city streets, though you’ll need to take this giant where it can run with its own monstrous kind.
MV-Agusta Brutale 800
Marketed as a ‘mid-level’ bike, do not let newbies anywhere near the Brutale. It grunts like an ogre in any gear and revs up to symphonic dissonance with a flick of the wrist. An inline three with dual overhead cams, this was supposed to be the initial 3 to come off the MV assembly line, and thank the import gods it wasn’t. Rather, they had to overhaul it to create the best in their line, pedals down.
Not even 30-inches off the ground, the former maker of many of Suzuki’s bikes has only recently begun their push into the United States. A strange cobbled-together appearance with definite Rebel roots, it has a wide saddle to increase the trip from hip to ground. It’s 388lbs soaking wet, and clearly made for showing rookies the ropes. Not the best in show, but worthy of note as a budget buy for beginners.