The Top 5 American Motorcycle Manufacturers

The Top 5 American Motorcycle Manufacturers

There are a lot of motorcycle brands, but to many loyal riders, nothing quite rivals the traditional American V-twin and V8 engines. Many American manufacturers have come and gone, but a few have continued to thrive in the American motorcycle market. In this post, we’ll discuss why we chose the following brands as the top American motorcycle manufacturers.


American made or not, no list of motorcycle brands would be complete without Harley-Davidson. Harley-Davidson has become the most iconic and recognized motorcycle brand to date. The brand has built 115 years of heritage that survived two World Wars and the Great Depression.

What makes Harley-Davidson one of the best is their combination of technology and craftsmanship, and embodiment of the American rider spirit. They specialize in heavier motorcycles that are sturdy on the road. This may bring down the bike’s speed, but the greater rake angles and longer wheel bases enhance stability against crosswinds. Because they are built to last, Harleys have a long life, especially when you give them the necessary attention in key areas that must be serviced regularly. Among the most popular Harley models listed on ChopperExchange are the CVO Street Glide, the CVO Road King and the CVO Road Glide.

Another characteristic that puts Harley on the list of top American motorcycle manufacturers is their patented engine design, which has resulted in a unique sound specific to the brand. Their eye for design has carried through to their clothing and other merchandise.

Despite their years reigning as number one, their sales are down and the company’s stock has fallen. Their core rider group is getting older and younger riders are opting for sportier, cheaper bikes. In response, their 2019 lineup features a new model built to compete with sportier competitors, but the older crowd isn’t here for it and in comparison to similar options, the price tag is still a bit high. Competitors like Indian Motorcycles see this potential decline as a chance to get ahead in the American motorcycle market.

2011 Harley-Davidson CVO Street Glide for sale on ChopperExchange.com

Indian Motorcycles

Although the brand has faced multiple closures and financial troubles, Indian Motorcycles remains an American classic. After shutting down in 1977, the brand was resurrected in 1998 by the Indian Motorcycle Company of America, a merger of nine companies. The new company began manufacturing motorcycles in 1999 at the former CMC’s facilities in Gilroy, California. But soon after in 2003, Indian Motorcycle Company of America went bankrupt and ended production. In 2011, the company was bought by Polaris Industries, the former owners of Victory Motorcycles. During the past three years, Indian has made a strong comeback with great looking bikes that rival the quality of Harley.

Popular Indian models include the Chief, Chieftain, Scout, Roadmaster and Springfield. There are a lot of Indian enthusiasts who ride their bikes with pride, but for many, the main appeal is that it isn’t a Harley-Davidson.

Performance wise, there is no doubt that Indian holds its own. Indian’s newer lineup of bikes is classic-looking with more rounded angles than Harleys. Although most Harley riders are loyal to the Harley brand, it is possible that the new generation will shift its loyalty to Indian Motorcycles. While Harley is hesitant to make changes, Indian’s parent company Polaris has made it a priority to adapt with the motorcycle market.

While the next three motorcycle manufacturers are also well known for designing fully assembled motorcycles, there bread and butter is designing unassembled motorcycle parts used by brands none other than Harley-Davidson and Indian Motorcycles.

2008 Indian Chief
2008 Indian Chief for sale on ChopperExchange.com

Boss Hoss Cycles

Boss Hoss Cycles began with a Chevy V8 Powered motorcycle created in 1990 by their founder Monte Waren. He was the first to design a V8 powered motorcycle with a traditional cruiser motorcycle style, look and feel. Their V8 engines produced by Chevrolet range in size from 350 cubic inches to 502 cubic inches, equipped with semi automatic transmissions, making them the most powerful motorcycles in the world. Another perk of the V8 engine is its vibration free acceleration.

Since its inception, the company has grown from Waren’s 5,000 square foot shop in Dyersburg, Tennessee to a 22,000 square foot manufacturing facility. The company manufacturers conventional 2-wheel motorcycles as well as trikes. In 2006, Boss Hoss became the only globally approved V8 motorcycle manufacturer.

Their latest innovation is the Super Sport. The company boasts that “the lower seat height, shorter wheelbase and increased suspension travel makes it feel like you’re part of the Super Sport… not just on it.”

Arlen Ness

Arlen Ness motorcycles are far from traditional. Many have received acclaim for their unique body styles and paintwork. The company is named after its founder Arlen Darryl Ness, an American entrepreneur best known for his custom motorcycle designs. His earliest designs were made at home in his garage in San Leandro, California. In the early 1970s, he moved into his first storefront on East 14th Street. Three decades into motorcycle building, the company moved to a facility in Dublin, California, which includes a museum featuring more than 40 of his custom motorcycles.

The company is recognized for its unique painting style and for developing a line of custom motorcycle parts. Many of his craziest designs have been displayed on the bike show circuit and featured in motorcycle magazines. Ness has a patent for the Big Shot, a method of altering the motorcycle’s fuel injection systems to enhance a motorcycle’s performance.

Ness has received honors and awards including Builder of the Year, induction into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame and lifetime achievement awards. Arlen Ness currently manufactures products for V-twin engines for companies such as Harley, Victory and Indian, as well as motorcycle gear.

2006 Ness Motorcycles Lowliner
2006 Ness Motorcycles Lowliner for sale on ChopperExchange.com

Big Bear Choppers

Big Bear Choppers has been a custom bike builder since 1998 and a leading designer and manufacturer of motorcycle parts since 2001. The company was founded by Kevin and Mona Alsop in Big Bear Lake, California. What started as a repair shop operated from a small shed in Big Bear Lake turned into one of the most respected factory and custom motorcycle manufacturer in the USA.

Big Bear specializes in custom styled production choppers and Pro Street motorcycles. They were the first manufacturers to use S&S Cycle’s EPA compliant X-wedge engine, a revolutionary new powerplant with three belt-driven camshafts, a completely new internal oil pump, and a one-piece crankshaft.

2003 Big Bear Choppers Venom
2003 Big Bear Choppers Venom for sale on ChopperExchange.com

Now that you know more about the top five American motorcycle manufacturers, which is your favorite? Let us know which brand stands out to you in the comments section below. If you are looking to add an American made bike to your collection, let us help you find the perfect bike.

4 comments on “The Top 5 American Motorcycle Manufacturers”

  • Indian, Hands down is the “American” made bike for me! It’s more American than Harley Davidson, what a lot of people don’t know is that for years, and I mean many years now, H.D. has used “Showa” suspensions, front and rear, guess what “Showa” is made in Japan, why do they use “Showa” because it’s the best, which I applaud H.D. For using this product, yet on the other hand, it’s not “All American” people, and it’s not just the suspensions that are attached to a H.D. Either, there are other Japanese parts used on their bikes. Harley, and their cult of Riders swear that it’s the American made motorcycle, and are constantly knocking Japanese made bikes (Metrics) I have been riding for 47+ years, I have also built bikes for 25 years, now retired, I have owned my share of many brands, to include a few Harleys, and Victory M.C. And I now ride, and have for years now ride Yamaha, I have owned four Road Stars, and two Stratoliners, and when you look at the performance, fit and finish, overall everything of bikes, my current Road Star can Run with the best Harleys out there, for half the investment. So why would I pay that much more? Yet, the question asked here is what American made bike would I buy, and own, again Indian, for all the right reasons, and it’s truly American Made!

    • Hi, Joseph. You make some valid points. We attended the American V-twin Expo in Ohio earlier this year. Indian definitely had a very impressive presence there. They and Harley were neck to neck. A lot of people mentioned that the new Indian bikes are giving Harley run for their money.

  • I wonder where Bourget Bike Works would have ended up on the list had they survived a divorce and a downturn in the economy….

  • I am a Boss Hoss owner for several years. Nothing else like it. Riding anything else at this point is definitely not the same.

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