Top 10 most common bikes

On UK roads as of summer 2015

WHILE sales figures always give an indication as to what’s popular with new bike buyers at any particular time, it’s not necessarily the best way to get an indication of what people are actually riding. 

Fortunately, the mechanism exists to find out exactly that, thanks to government figures that show exactly what’s taxed – and therefore MOT’d and insured – at one particular time.

Since the figures for the second quarter of 2015 have just been released, we thought we’d have a look at what the most popular bikes on the road, in terms of sheer numbers, really are.

These figures are based on ‘generic models’ rather than a precise breakdown (that’s something that’s also available, but only annually, not quarterly), but in many ways that’s better than a more detailed version, which would, for instance, separate a Bonneville T100 from a Bonneville, or an R1200GS Adventure from an R1200GS.

One proviso is that many of the largest figures on the official documents are listed as “model missing”. Those figures just lump together all the bikes that don’t have their model names or designations correctly filled out on their registration documents, and so cover a huge number of disparate models. We’ve eliminated all the ‘model missing’ figures from our list, since they’re unlikely to make an impact on the overall ranking of the correctly-named bikes in this top 10.

As well as proving popularity, the list could also give a bit of insight into which models are bearing up to use better than others – if they’re on the road rather than scrapped or SORN, that presumably means they’re still working.

10. Suzuki SV650 (10,179)

Given that the SV650 has been the obvious choice for anyone looking for a bargain middleweight for more than a decade-and-a-half, perhaps it should be no surprise to see it here. Sure, lots have been crashed, scrapped or otherwise abused, but the faithful SV can take a lot of punishment and earns its place on this list as a result.

9. Suzuki GSX-R600 (10,356)

This is an interesting one. The GSX-R600 has rarely been the best-selling 600-class supersports machine, but it’s been around a long time in various guises (the first UK-available bikes date back to 1997) and clearly manages to keep on going since it’s the only machine in its class to make this list. The one you might have expected to see here – the CBR600F – misses out on the top 10 by a whisker with 9462 remaining on the road (although there are also 5244 CBR600RRs, so the combined CBR600 figure would make it the top 600.)

8. Suzuki GSF600 (10,524)

The good old Bandit 600 might not make many headlines these days, but more than 10,000 of them are still plugging along the country’s highways and byways. It’s interesting that while Suzuki these days struggles to make a dent on the top-sellers lists with any of its models, the firm has grabbed more places in this top 10 than any other.

7. Honda CBF125M (11,403)

It doesn’t take a lot of explanation to understand why the CBF125 is here – it’s one of those bikes that has been a mainstay for motorcycle training and learners for years, and they’re clearly hard to kill.

6. Yamaha YZF-R1 (12,295)

Once upon a time, in the dim, distant past, superbikes roamed the earth and dominated the UK roads. Today, not so much. But the R1 – in production in various guises since 1998 without a name change – is the most common single model of superbike current on the road. Again, you might have expected to see a Honda here, but of course the CBR1000RR (8470 on the road) only dates back to 2004, before that there was the CBR900RR (5861 remaining) – together they outnumber the R1, but if we start playing that game we’d have to add Thunderace and FZR1000 figures to the Yamaha.

5. Yamaha YBR125 (14,201)

Like the Honda CBF125, the YBR is here due to its faithful service to generations of learners, and the fact that they sell in big numbers to training schools.

4. Triumph Bonneville (14,324)

Would you have expected to see the Bonnie ranking this high? Of course the number includes all versions – from 1960s originals to the latest Hinckley models (although these are bikes that are taxed and MOT’d, remember, so there aren’t likely to be zillions of the originals counted here). A more detailed breakdown, dating back to the end of 2014, puts the Hinckley-made, 865cc T100 as the most popular version with 3293 on the road. Thruxtons, Scramblers, Americas and Speedmasters are also included under the generic ‘Bonneville’ number.

3. Triumph Tiger (15,627)

This one is another surprise, but proves that of all the bikes out to have a go at BMW’s R1200GS, Triumph’s various efforts – the Tiger Explorer, Tiger Sport, Tiger 1050, Tiger 800 etc – come closest. All those machines are included under this heading, despite being quite separate models (these are government figures and it’s their choice to combine them, so don’t blame us), which arguably explains why the Tiger ranks so highly on the list.

2. BMW R1200 (24,389)

Speaking of combined numbers, the BMW R1200’s position in 2nd also comes from adding together all the various versions of that bike. But it’s still impressive, since it doesn’t include earlier R1150 and R1100 models. Of course, the more detailed breakdown from the end of 2014 shows that lion’s share are GSes and Adventures, followed by the RT and then the R, although even if we were to only count the GS models, they’d still be placed just as high (with well over 15,000 currently on the road).

1. Piaggio Vespa (24,961)

Did we mention that this list includes scooters as well as ‘proper’ bikes? No? Well it does – and it’s something of a surprise that they don’t feature more heavily. But the Vespa – benefitting from the fact that it’s a named that covers a multitude of models and has been around since the dawn of time – just scrapes ahead of the BMW R1200 to reach the number one spot.

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