Across the Pond Life | 10 Motorcycles brawn for the USA

Just because we live in the UK doesn't mean we can always have everything we want... here are 10 USA market motorcycles that won't cross the pond

Suzuki Boulevard M109 B.O.S.S

We always want what we can’t have and the same is absolutely true when it comes to motorcycles.

From Australia to Japan to India, there are numerous motorcycles we just can’t get our grubby mits on here in the UK… though this isn’t necessarily always a bad thing.

Over in the United States, meanwhile, there are also a few discernible alternatives that we know won’t make it across the pond anytime soon because they’re either too large, too thirsty or too punishing to the environment to meet emissions regulations.

Granted, while we wouldn’t necessarily choose one of these models over a European counterpart, let’s just say we’d still like the option…

Kawasaki ZX-14R

A veritable behemoth of Kawasaki’s UK range until 2019 when the last of its stock ran dry, the Kawasaki ZX-14R lives on in the United States.

A ‘gentle giant’ to the rather more manic Kawasaki H2 SX SE that has essentially assumed its role as the grandest of sports tourers, the ZX-14R has been kept fresh enough with a series of nip and tucks, meaning it still cuts a dash as a more unassuming alternative to the more brazen Suzuki Hayabusa.

The 1441cc inline-four thrusts with a meaty 208bhp but remains comfortable enough to click off the miles with aplomb. The H2 SX SE may be laden with impressive modern tech, but there is something pleasingly honest about the ZX-14R that just can’t be matched.

Yamaha Star Venture

While the name sounds a touch like a pyramid scheme, the Yamaha Star Venture is the Japanese firm’s answer to the similarly whimsically titled Harley-Davidson Road Glide.

A model targeted directly at the US market through-and-through, the Star Venture is big, brash and bulky but arguably has a more dynamic look than that of its dresser-fronted counterparts from Harley and Indian.

No expense has been spared here to make the Star Venture the Daddy of Yamaha’s US range with its 1854cc engine, butt-hugging ‘lazy boy’ style seating and heap of tech to keep things comfy and refined. 

Honda CBR600RR

While Honda may have moved with the times by whittling its middleweight sportsbike range down to the less intimidating and better value CBR650R and CBR500R, we still pine for the CBR600RR knowing it is available elsewhere in the world.

A combination of emissions restrictions and dwindling sector sales ultimately killed off the CBR600RR in Europe, while it encroached a little too much into the CBR1000RR-R Fireblade’s marketplace too.

Nevertheless, with 150bhp, trick electronics and slick, handsome styling, the CBR600RR just reaches that spot the decidedly more tepid CBR650R and CBR500R could never quite achieve.

Kawasaki KLR 650

Unlike its Japanese counterparts, Kawasaki has only on a few occasions felt it necessary to head off-road over the decades.

In Europe, it prefers to market the Versys as a light adventure motorcycle, but it certainly won’t be chasing after a Honda Africa Twin or Yamaha Tenere 700 into the rough stuff for long.

Nevertheless, Kawasaki does offer one mid-size adventure motorcycle in a number of markets outside of Europe in the form of the KLR650. 

A dual-sport motorcycle that upcycles a motocross machine to be a more compliant on-road companion, while the KLR650 lacks some desirability and refinement, it’s surprising it doesn’t consider its no-nonsense utilitarian approach to find favour over here

Suzuki Boulevard

You don’t need to be a motorcycle enthusiast to recognise the traditional cruiser remains a popular choice for our friends in the United States.

While Harley-Davidson largely dominates this sector in terms of sales and kudos, it’s still a missed opportunity for rival marques not to offer at least one alternative. For Suzuki this is the Boulevard, which is available in three guises - the more classic C50 and C50T, plus the flagship M109 B.O.S.S

Wearing its big boy attitude right on its sleeves, the M109 B.O.S.S makes a statement with its slinky silhouette and moody colourways, giving off vibes of a Hayabusa… albeit once it has retired to the coast.

With a 1783cc engine pulling the horses under the skin, the Boulevard M109 B.O.S.S definitely owns 51% of this company…

Kawasaki Z125 Pro

They say everything is bigger in the United States, but when it comes to the Kawasaki Z125 Pro, the opposite is very much true.

Kawasaki’s answer to the Honda MSX125 Grom, the Z125 Pro is similarly cute in that comical ‘honey, I shrunk the motorcycle’ way.

While not quite as charming as its Honda equivalent, it bears all the usual Kawasaki hallmarks while its peppy 125cc engine, nimble handling and huge fun factor make any journey a joy.

Suzuki GSX-R600

Like its Honda counterpart, the Suzuki GSX-R600 may have reached the end of the road in Europe but it continues to thrive over in the United States.

Distilling all of Suzuki’s famed ‘Gixxer’ heritage into a compact, nimble sportsbike package, the GSX-R600 may not be in the first flush of youth, but it powers along with gusto and handles as well as any of its rivals.

With the future of the GSX-R line seemingly under threat following Suzuki’s withdrawal from World Championship motorcycle racing, anyone out there in the US might need to get in there quick before it goes.

Honda Ruckus

For a company perhaps better known for being all things to all bikers, the Honda Ruckus is a genuine curio that we’d struggle to pigeonhole.

But why would you want to do that? Named Ruckus in the US (though we prefer its Japanese title ‘Zoomer’), it’s a stripped back scooter that looks one part urban transportation and one part Meccano set.

It’s not pretty but that’s kind of the point, nor is it quick with its 49cc engine. But it is dinky, easy to ride and looks better than a kick scooter!

Kawasaki Vulcan 1700 Voyager

Now we’re talking… the Kawasaki Vulcan may be known to UK buyers in S trim with its 900cc engine, but over in the US it is a name attached to a much beefier and more ostentatious offering.

Two Vulcan models boasting mammoth 1700cc engines are available; either the modern contemporary looking Vulcan Vaqueoro bagger, or the bells and whistles Vulcan Voyager cruiser [above].

There is nothing subtle about them and at first glance we reckon you’d struggle to squeeze them through most UK streets. But you’d certainly get noticed!

Indian Chief

It perhaps won’t have escaped your notice that while we may be discussing which motorcycles are available in the United States and not here, the previous nine entries here are in fact Japanese.

Well, this is largely because the biggest US brands - Harley-Davidson and Indian - very generously offer the majority of their wares on both sides of the pond.

Indian Motorcycles do, however, have some variations - but perhaps not where you’d think. Indeed, while the biggest and brutish offerings in their range may not be obvious choices in the UK, most are available.

The big differences are at the lower end of the range with the Chief - available in the UK in higher specs - is available as a blank canvas for customising in the US, priced at $14,999 (around £13,000).