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All About the Universal Japanese Motorcycle (UJM)


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UJM stands for Universal Japanese Motorcycle.

The term was coined in the 70s and 80s when the big four Japanese motorcycle manufacturers dominated the US market with revolutionary, but fairly similar motorcycles.

What is a Universal Japanese Motorcycle (UJM)?

Universal Japanese Motorcycle - CB750
“Honda CB 750” by WorldWideMotorcycles is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

A universal Japanese motorcycle, or UJM, is essentially a standard street motorcycle or naked bikes.

It was a type of motorcycle that borrowed advanced engineering from the manufacturers’ racing bikes, but geared toward general riding for a broader population of riders.

Compared to the European and American motorcycles at the time, UJMs were better engineered, easier to rider, more reliable, more affordable, and easy to work on.

The term “Universal Japanese Motorcycle” (UJM) to describe these bikes was coined around 1976 in the American magazine “Cycle.”

The big 4 Japanese motorcycle manufacturers (Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha) were all finding success with motorcycles that shared a similar design and appearance.

History of the Universal Japanese Motorcycle

The UJM’s phenomenon began with Honda’s CB750 in 1969.

The CB750 was the first production bike to feature disk brakes. It was also the first major production 4-cylinder production motorcycle. The ground-braking bike was both powerful, advanced, and easy to ride.

The design was based on engine technology that Honda had developed for its Grand Prix racing bikes.

The end result was a production motorcycle with better performance and reliability that was more affordable than its British and American competition.

Kawasaki follow suit in 1972 with its Z1, and Suzuki and Yamaha followed a few years after.

The classic examples of the UJM include:

Each manufacturer’s bike at a similar appearance and design, hence the term “Universal Japanese Motorcycle”.

Common specifications of the UJM included:

  • Standard riding positions.
  • Disc brakes.
  • Telescopic forks.
  • Twin shock rear suspension.
  • Inline engines with single or double overhead cams.
  • Carburetors with an airbox.
  • Five to six speed transmissions.
  • Electric starters.

By the 1990s the UJM domination began to lose steam as different classes and segments of motorcycles grew in popularity.

Today, UJMs have seen a bit of a revival with the neo-retro motorcycle that combines with the classic style of the UJM and other classic motorcycles with modern engineering and technology.

Some modern “UJM” motorcycles include:

  • Honda CB1000R
  • Kawasaki Z900R
  • Yamaha XSR900
  • Yamaha SR400

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