Well I’ve been asked to make this video a few times now and started working on it a while ago. However, as with my lists, it got out of hand quite quickly. Trying to thin it down I came up with 2 major criteria. First the general reliability of the motorcycles, but secondly, the ease of maintenance. You see, there is one bike I think demonstrates this point very succinctly. That is the Honda VFR750. Now the VFR is a fantastic and incredibly reliable bike, but, it has a flaw as most bikes do. That flaw in this case is that it is a pig to work on.
To get to anything to work on it means disassembling a lot of bodywork and removing the tank and it is generally a pain in the back-side. That doesn’t make it unreliable, but it does make owning one a pain if you do your own maintenance, and maintenance is always the key to real longevity.
So, with a list like this there are always going to be the all time greats and this brings me to one of the comments I had. Why do your lists start at number 1 and not count down? Well, I guess the reason is because to me the best should come first, at the top of the list. It is that simple. Often the first is also the most obvious so that gets the bikes that aren’t so much of a surprise out of the way too. For now, I am going to carry on like that unless any specific videos are better done another way. Let me know in the comments if you would prefer it done the opposite way. There are timestamps in the description below if you want to skip around the video too.
Something else quickly. I am not sure if the YouTube algorithm will try and kill this video because it has the B word in the thumbnail, so do me a favour if you would and share it to any friends you think might be interested, so YouTube can’t bury it comletely.
Anyway, back to the list, and dont forget to subscribe if you enjoy it.
In this category, one motorcycle stands above all others, well, 3 models of the same bike really. This bike has crossed continents and done more miles than any other motorcycle ever made and is still loved the world over. It is a motorcycle that defined the philosophy of the company that built it, and helped give them the reputation they have today. That motorcycle is, was, and always will be the legendary Honda C50, C70 and C90
Honda C50, C70 and C90 Cub
The Honda cub is the best selling motorcycle of all time. The C90 was the big brother of the family but even the humble C50 is an Iconic bike. It carried workers to factories, families to farms and everything else you could imagine all over the world. I have seen C90’s loaded up TOO HIGH with straw bales towing a trailer behind that is equally loaded and they still just chug along without a care in the world. Simple to ride and simple to work on they will do endless miles on a thimble full of fuel and will still run even if they only have a cupful of sticky, messy sludge for oil.
It will be hard for any bike to ever compete with the reliability and durability of the humble Honda Cub. You can see here the fun people still have on them today.
The next motorcycle on the list is without a doubt the most copied motorcycle ever made. That is for a really good reason.
Honda CG 125
The Honda CG125 is the epitome of Honda’s legendary reliability. The simple single cylinder 125cc engine comes in a low state of tune and will go on forever. The early models had enclosed chain-cases to reduce maintenance and that was just one of the obvious design tweaks. The single cylinder overhead valve engine was bullet-proof and will literally run on anything that is even slightly combustible, which is one of the reasons it is loved so much in countries with poor quality fuel.
Maintenance is easy and even more complicated jobs become easier because this bike was designed to be maintained in your back yard, with a spanner, a hammer and a screwdriver, in a way that many modern bikes just aren’t.
Next I will move away from Honda, but I am sure it will be no surprise to my subscribers that I have put the ubiquitous Suzuki DL 650 and its sibling the SV650 next on the list
Suzuki DL 650 and SV650
I have a whole separate video about why I think the Suzuki Vstrom is possibly the most reliable motorcycle ever made. Even though the SV 650 is in a slightly higher state of tune it is still over engineered and equally as reliable. As the first bigger bike on this list it is not surprising that both bikes have lasted so long in the Suzuki range.
The motor on these bikes is a dependable old donkey of an engine. You can abuse them totally and they will still keep going until the apocalypse is over. They dont have many flaws really, but I guess you could say that maintenance could be a little easier if you had to mention something. They are a fairly simple bike to maintain overall and those maintenance stops are few and far between.
With all my friends in the Vstrom community, after years of riding, it is still rare that you ever hear of anyone actually having to adjust the tappets after checking them. Any bike that has been in production this long has proven its worth. Parts are cheap too which always helps.
Following close in the tyre marks of the Vstrom are 2 motorcycles from different manufacturers that are hard to split I think. The Honda XL600V and 650 and the Yamaha TDM 850 and 900
Honda XL600V and 650 Transalp
The Honda XL600V and the later 650 are just workhorses. A bike that will happily travel across continents and take you there in comfort. The engine has Honda’s legendary reliability and it is a relatively simple bike to work on too. I know in America it is a different story, but in Europe these bikes sold so well there are still plenty on the market and the mileage is a bit irrelevant. I have seen examples of this bike that have done almost 200k miles and are still chugging along happily.
I do think this, the DL650 and the TDM are all very comparable to each other as far as reliability and ease of maintenance is concerned. They all really are fantastic motorcycles.
The Yamaha TDM 850 and 900
The Yamaha TDM 850 and the later 900 both have a performance advantage over the Vstrom and Transalp. With my early series 1 850 that came at the cost of a bigger fuel bill but I have been told the later 900 models were more frugal. It is a heavier bike too. More road focussed but capable of pretty much any kind of riding.
The TDM is a strong and capable motorcycle that is quite underrated I think. It is relatively easy to work on once you get to know it, and that dry sump Genesis engine spins up fast for a twin. It has a real hooligan streak just waiting to get out as you can see in these clips. Treat them well and they will literally last you for life.
Next we go back to Honda again
The Honda XL250 is another bike that has been copied a lot. It has the advantage of more power than the CG 125 and it also had better suspension. They will take you pretty much anywhere off the beaten track you could ever want to go even now.
Maintenance is easy, parts are cheap and they will run for years without problems as long as you change the oil regularly. Keep the oil fresh and they will go on forever.
With the Suzuki DR650 you have what you could describe as a bigger version of the XL 250 in many ways. The “Dirt Pig” is very close to unbreakable, and easy to work on with a simple air cooled single cylinder engine that is let us say “Agricultural”. Now don’t take that as me criticising it. It is a tractor, and if you are going overland there are few bikes that will do what the DR650 will.
Just don’t expect to get there quickly and remember to keep tightening all the nuts and bolts or you will loose them in time. Having said that, I have seen DR650’s with half the bolts missing and the engine still stays oil tight and carries on going. It just isn’t advisable to run it that way.
I would never hear the last of it if I didn’t include the equally legendary Kawasaki KLR650 at this point. Few bikes have resurrected themselves within a range like the KLR managed to. When Kawasaki dropped it from the range because of problems passing emissions regulations the owners cried out so loud that Kawasaki were pretty much forced to re work it and bring it back from the dead.
It isn’t without its flaws, but they are cheap, easy to fix and will go on forever if you treat them well. As with the DR and most other big singles, just keep an eye on those bolts that will always try to shake loose. Loctite is a wonderful saviour.
The last bike on this list might be more of a surprise, and it isn’t one bike either.
Kawasaki GPZ 500 ER5 ER6 KLE 500 and Versys 650
The Kawasaki GPZ 500 was first introduced in 1987 and the same engine has continued with various tweaks in many guises ever since. It became the ER5. Then Kawasaki put stilts on it and called it the KLE 500
Then they reworked it completely with a 650cc top end to launch the ER6 and then the Versys 650. Since then we have seen it in the CF Moto MT and NK 650, then they bored it out again to make the CLX700, now Benelli have also used it in their latest 702 Adventure bike. That list is just off the top of my head and I know there are many other incarnations of this bike.
It must be reaching the point that it has been copied nearly as much as the CG 125 engine now and that shows no signs of stopping.
The engine is an old design now so it feels more agricultural than most modern twins but it is a great reliable power plant that can be more useful than the big singles if you are doing a lot of miles.
Maintenance is easy too. It is a simple but dependable engine that will serve you well whichever bike it is in. Just remember to swap out the exhaust manifold studs if you get one. Coat them in copper slip and don’t just leave them and hope. You know when that is the only real criticism of the engine design that you have a winner though.
A Final Addition,
The Honda CD 175
One lesser known bike that I think deserves a special mention here is the old Honda CD175. This bike was called a tractor even when it was made, and it will never win any speed competitions. But it is another very low maintenance bike with a reputation for serious bombproof reliability.
I could have included many other bikes here and the further down the list you go the more close it all becomes. These are far from the only reliable bikes out there. If you look at the bikes with the highest mileage, you will find the Honda ST1300 Pan European often comes top of the list. It is a supremely reliable bike, but it is more complicated to maintain with that big V4 engine.
The original GL1000 Gold-Wing is another bike that could well go in this list. The Yamaha WR250 and XT600 could also have been included. As could the Suzuki DRZ400. The list goes just goes on.
Of the newer bikes there are some stand outs too. The Yamaha MT range has proven more than most it is a reliable range from top to bottom. The Royal Enfield 650 Interceptor and Continental GT are proving themselves to be strong and dependable too, if a little old fashioned. Any of the Hinkley model Triumph Bonneville’s will also be reliable companions. They are tuned softly and so longevity shouldn’t ever be an issue.
Most modern engines are supremely reliable to be honest. It is more often the complicated electronics that let them down these days.
So as they say, “You Pays Your Money, You Makes Your Choice”. I much prefer riding motorcycles to fixing them, so reliability will always be close to the top of my list of “wants” on a bike. All of these bikes score top marks on that point.
Which bikes do you think deserve a place on the list?
I have personal favourites that didn’t make this list and I’m sure you do too.
Let me know what they are below
Thanks for listening, hope you enjoyed it
Don’t forget to check out the other videos on the channel
If you have enjoyed it and appreciate the effort that goes in to making them then you can show your support by hitting the like button and subscribing to the channel if you haven’t already. It helps YouTube recognise genuine content and separate it from all the AI generated content out there.
Enjoy the ride everyone.