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While motorcycles aren’t as popular as cars, they’re still a joy to drive and provide a suitable means of transportation. Most motorcycles are also very fast and easy to maneuver around crowded streets or highways.

As you might expect, this makes them perfect vehicles to have on a police force. They’re not just used for stopping traffic violations: police bikes also make appearances in parades and while escorting public figures. Which bikes are most popular with police officers?

Who made the first police motorcycle?

A police motorcycle parked outdoors.
Police motorcycle | Getty Images

According to Police1, Harley-Davidson gave the Detroit Police Department its first motorcycle unit back in 1908. One year later, an officer of the Portland Police Department was allowed to use his Indian motorcycle on patrol. August Vollmer of the police department in Berkeley, California is credited for inventing the first motorcycle-specific safety policies within the force.

Over the next two decades, Police1 estimates that 3,000 police departments worldwide were riding on Harley bikes. After WWII, a healthy supply of leftover military motorcycles was purchased by many more police departments. Testing regimens were soon developed at the LA County Sheriff and Michigan State Police departments to keep these vehicles up to safety standards.

Common police motorcycles you’ll see today

Harley-Davidson is still one of the most popular suppliers of police motorcycles in Canada and America, explains Cycle World. Officers can choose between the Sportster Iron 883, the FLHP Police Road King, or the FLHTP Electra Glide. 

The latter two are over 800 pounds but still have torquey engines that provide adequate speed for police work. Harley also keeps its police bikes updated with all the latest safety features, like Reflex Defensive Rider Systems.

Yamaha is relatively new to the police bike scene, with four models currently available. The FJR1300P is what you’ll likely see on American and European roads. It has a 145-hp four-cylinder engine, plus a good array of comfort and safety equipment.

One of the best Honda police bikes is the S1300PA, equipped with a dual-section fuel tank and a powerful 1,261cc engine. This engine promises 92 lb-ft of torque and a top speed of 141 mph. It also has several desirable features like integrated saddlebags and a patrol speedometer.

BMW is responsible for shipping police bikes, such as the R 1250 RT-P,  to more than 150 countries. The latest model has an adjustable suspension, 136 hp on tap, and ABS. These motorcycles can also be customized to include gun racks and other useful features.

Just like most of the automotive world, motorcycle manufacturers are also embracing electricity. The company Zero supplies motor police officers with FXP and DRSP models. 

The DRSP is the most popular option, given its reported range of 196 miles. It makes 70 hp and 116 lb-ft of torque. The FXP’s lighter frame and powertrain are more suited for low-stakes city patrols.

In the city of Dubai, police soon want to have a fleet of HoverSurf S3 Scorpion hoverbikes. These vehicles have no wheels, source their mobility from quad-propellers, and run off electricity. Officers could fly 16 feet off the ground for up to 25 minutes at a time on these units.

Police bikes of the past


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Kawasaki doesn’t make new police bikes anymore, but the KZ1000P and other models are still dependable. Bikes that are no longer in circulation are still used by many police forces worldwide. Older Honda motorcycles have been seen in Japan, Australia, Scotland, and even Gibraltar. 

Of course, you probably won’t find one of the original Harley 1911 7-A bikes on the streets today. Still, it’s interesting to compare such a humble bike to the hyper-modern ones that still help keep citizens safe around the world.