Universal Japanese Motorcycle

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The Honda CB750, a classic UJM Honda CB750four blue.jpg
The Honda CB750, a classic UJM

Universal Japanese Motorcycle (UJM) is a US motorcycling media term for a general-purpose style of Japanese standard motorcycle that revolutionized the industry and made motorcycling in America more accessible during the 1970s and 1980s. [1] By around 1990 its popularity began to wane as the market fragmented into more specialized designs.



A defining example of the type, [2] the Honda CB750, was introduced in 1969 with an engine based on technology Honda had developed in Grand Prix racing. [3] Compared to the British and American models that then dominated the market, it had better performance and reliability, was better equipped, and yet was much cheaper. It revolutionized the industry both in America and abroad, [4] and sales in America immediately overtook those of big bikes from established brands like BSA and Triumph. [5]

The CB750's first Japanese competitor was the Kawasaki Z1 in 1972. [3] It was followed in 1976 by the Suzuki GS750 and by the Yamaha XS Eleven in 1978. These manufacturers all produced smaller versions of the same UJM formula, including, for example, the Honda CB500 of 1971. [3] By 1979 Harley-Davidson's big bike sales were down 90%. [6]

The first Japanese vehicle manufacturing plant in America opened in 1975 to produce the UJM Kawasaki KZ400. [7] Until then the bikes had been imported from Japan.

The term UJM appeared as early as 1976 in a Cycle magazine review of the Kawasaki Z650. [8] The term "universal" arose from the fact that during the 1970s, the Japanese "big four" (Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha) [9] all produced very similar designs. [10]

The UJM was a general-purpose road bike, and the style went into decline in late 1980s and early 1990s [3] with the segmentation of the market and the development of niche products, [11] such as sport, dual-sport, touring, sport touring, café racers, and cruisers. Honda sold about 400,000 CB750s, and the model run ended in 2003 with the Nighthawk.

A market revival led by increased demand for simplified standard general purpose, [12] or naked [13] bikes has led Japanese manufacturers to introduce modern interpretations of the UJM, including the Honda CB1100, [14] Suzuki TU250X, [1] Suzuki GD110, [15] and the Yamaha SR400. [16]


The UJM had an advanced design and an excellent specification compared to contemporary European and American competition. [9] The press described it as cheap, reliable, easy to ride, [7] manufactured with precision, [17] and with a reputation for excellence. [18]

Technical specifications typically included a standard riding position, front disc brake, conventional tubular frame and telescopic front forks and twin-shock rear suspension. The engine was typically an inline four cylinder air cooled four-stroke transverse engine, with a carburetor for each cylinder, and single, or double, overhead camshafts. The unit construction engine was mated to a five or six speed manual transmission, [17] and had an electric starter.

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Honda NT650

The Honda Hawk GT NT650 motorcycle was designated as model RC31 and was designed by Toshiaki Kishi, and was the second Honda with "Pro-Arm" suspension bike after the RC30 VFR750R. The RC model designation is for bikes up to 750 cc, though the Honda Pacific Coast (PC800) has an engine of more than 750 cc and a model designation of RC34.

Honda CB750

The Honda CB750 is an air-cooled, transverse, in-line four-cylinder engine motorcycle made by Honda over several generations for year models 1969–2003 as well as 2007 with an upright or standard riding posture. It is often called the original Universal Japanese Motorcycle (UJM).

Suzuki GSX-R series

The Suzuki GSX-R is a series of sport bikes made by Japanese manufacturer Suzuki. Current models are the GSX-R125 and GSX-R150 since 2017; GSX-R600 which was manufactured from 1992 to 1993, and then since 1997; the GSX-R750 since 1985; and the GSX-R1000 since 2001.

Sport bike Performance-oriented motorcycle class, generally light-weight with good handling

A sportbike, or sports bike, is a motorcycle optimized for speed, acceleration, braking, and cornering on paved roads, typically at the expense of comfort and fuel economy by comparison with other motorcycles. Soichiro Honda wrote in the owner's manual of the 1959 Honda CB92 Benly Super Sport that, "Primarily, essentials of the motorcycle consists in the speed and the thrill," while Cycle World's Kevin Cameron says that, "A sportbike is a motorcycle whose enjoyment consists mainly from its ability to perform on all types of paved highway – its cornering ability, its handling, its thrilling acceleration and braking power, even its speed."

Honda CBX sports motorcycle manufactured from 1978 to 1982

The Honda CBX sports motorcycle was manufactured by Honda from 1978 to 1982. With a 1047cc inline six-cylinder engine producing 105 bhp (78 kW), it was the flagship of the Honda range. The CBX was well-received by the press, but was outsold by its sibling introduced in late 1979, the Honda CB900F.

Motorcycle engine Engine that powers a motorcycle

A motorcycle engine is an engine that powers a motorcycle. Motorcycle engines are typically two-stroke or four-stroke internal combustion engines, but other engine types, such as Wankels and electric motors, have been used.

Honda CBR600RR sport bike

The Honda CBR600RR is a 599 cc (36.6 cu in) sport bike made by Honda since 2003, part of the CBR series. The CBR600RR was marketed as Honda's top-of-the-line middleweight sport bike, succeeding the 2002 Supersport World Champion 2001–2006 CBR600F4i, which was then repositioned as the tamer, more street-oriented sport bike behind the technically more advanced and uncompromising race-replica CBR600RR. It carried the Supersport World Championship winning streak into 2003, and on through 2008, and won in 2010 and 2014.

Kawasaki KZ400 Street motorcycle that was produced by Kawasaki between 1974 and 1984

The Kawasaki KZ400/Z400 is a street motorcycle that was produced by Kawasaki between 1974 and 1984. The 398cc displacement of the twin cylinder engine was increased to 443cc for the KZ440/Z440. The later KZ400-J used a 399cc two cylinder engine.

Kawasaki triple

The Kawasaki triples were a range of 250 to 750 cc motorcycles made by Kawasaki from 1968 to 1980. The engines were air-cooled, three-cylinder, piston-controlled inlet port two-strokes with two exhaust pipes exiting on the right side of the bike, and one on the left. It was the first production street motorcycle with capacitor discharge ignition (CDI). Right from the first triple model, the 1968 Mach III H1 500 cc, it was a sales success that gained a reputation for almost unmatched acceleration as well as an air of danger for inexperienced riders trying to cope with the bike's increased power to weight ratio over any previously available stock motorcycles.


An underbone is a type of motorcycle that uses structural tube framing with an overlay of plastic or non-structural body panels and contrasts with monocoque or unibody designs where pressed steel serves both as the vehicle's structure and bodywork. Outside Asia, the term underbone is commonly misunderstood to refer to any lightweight motorcycle that uses the construction type, known colloquially as step-throughs, mopeds or scooters.

Cruiser (motorcycle)

A cruiser is a motorcycle in the style of American machines from the 1930s to the early 1960s, including those made by Harley-Davidson, Indian, Excelsior and Henderson. The riding position usually places the feet forward and the hands up, with the spine erect or leaning back slightly. Typical cruiser engines emphasize easy rideability and shifting, with plenty of low-end torque but not necessarily large amounts of horsepower, traditionally V-twins but inline engines have become more common. Cruisers with greater performance than usual, including more horsepower, stronger brakes and better suspension, are often called power cruisers.

Kawasaki Z1 Advanced four cylinder motorcycle from 1972

The Kawasaki Z1 is a four-cylinder, air-cooled, double-overhead camshaft, carbureted, chain-drive motorcycle introduced in 1972 by Kawasaki. Following the introduction of Honda's CB750 in 1968, the Z1 helped popularize the in-line, across-the-frame four-cylinder, a format that became known as the Universal Japanese Motorcycle or UJM.

Motorcycle frame Frame of a motorcycle

A motorcycle frame is a motorcycle's core structure. It supports the engine, provides a location for the steering and rear suspension, and supports the rider and any passenger or luggage. Also attached to the frame are the fuel tank and battery. At the front of the frame is found the steering head tube that holds the pivoting front fork, while at the rear there is a pivot point for the swingarm suspension motion. Some motorcycles include the engine as a load-bearing stressed member; while some other bikes do not use a single frame, but instead have a front and a rear subframe attached to the engine.

Kawasaki GPZ750 Turbo Kawasaki motorcycle

The Kawasaki GPz750 Turbo was a sportbike manufactured from late 1983 to 1985, with two model years – the 1984 E1 and the 1985 E2. Differences were minor, a twin "push/pull" throttle cable for the E2 and different brake caliper stickers. The bike was manufactured in Japan, with parts also shipped to the US and assembled in Kawasaki's Nebraska plant for the US/Canada market to bypass the import tax levied on bikes over 700cc at the time by the US government, a protectionist move designed to save Harley-Davidson which was having financial problems at the time.

The Honda CB900F is a Honda motorcycle made in two iterations which appeared some twenty years apart. Both generations of the CB900F are straight four-cylinder four-stroke 900 cc (55 cu in) roadsters.

The Mystery Ship was a limited edition motorcycle created by Craig Vetter and released in 1980. Only 10 were built, of which seven were sold. An example is on display at the AMA Motorcycle Museum in Ohio, and another at Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum in Leeds, Al. The one on display at the Barber museum is #9 and is a Turbo charged model.

Yamaha MT-09

The Yamaha MT-09 is a Yamaha naked or standard motorcycle of the MT series with an 847–890 cc (51.7–54.3 cu in) liquid-cooled 4-stroke 12-valve DOHC inline-three engine with crossplane crankshaft, a lightweight cast alloy frame. For 2018, the bike is now designated MT-09 in all markets.

Forced induction in motorcycles is the application of forced induction to a motorcycle engine. Special automotive engineering and human factors considerations exist for the application of forced induction with motorcycles, compared to other forms of motorized transportation.


  1. 1 2 Pete Brissette (2009-10-06). "2009 Suzuki TU250X Review". Motor Cycle News . Retrieved 2016-07-14.
  2. Ford, Dexter (May 27, 2011). "You Meet the Nicest Sportbikes in the 250cc Neighborhood". The New York Times .
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