Reliability is the number one consideration for motorcycle buyers, according to Consumer Reports' motorcycle reliability survey. The report, released Tuesday, evaluates models for practical features and identifies specific brands that can eventually cause owners more harm than good, despite being famous as stylish and muscular bikes.

"The bike is more than a swagger statement," says Jeff Bartlett, an auto editor at Consumer Reports. "It is some combination of transportation and recreation, and therefore needs to be dependable."

The survey concludes that Japanese-made bikes are the most reliable and have fewer problems than fan favorites from Germany and the U.S.

Bartlett says that although Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (ETR: BMW) bikes are sleek and Harley-Davidson, Inc.'s (NYSE:HOG) V-twin motors are stirring, their maintenance issues occur more often than do issues with Japanese cycles made by Honda, Kawasaki and Yamaha.

"As more people take up motorcycle riding, whether to save gas or simply pursue a new or rekindled passion," said Bartlett, "those new findings can help you avoid problems when you shop for one."

The motorcycle owners surveyed all purchased their bikes new and reported the repair issues that they required within the initial four years of ownership. Most of the problems reported require relatively low-cost fixes. "We found that potentially expensive engine, transmission and suspension problems were few," said Bartlett.