New bikes are pricey and even old bikes are creeping up in value – but you can get SO much and so many bikes for the price of a new one, CB-NET investigates.
Think about it: today’s Yamaha YZF-R1 is £16,500 or thereabouts. A decade ago it was £10,999 at a time when Honda’s C-ABS equipped Fireblade turned up at £10,721 with today’s base model Blade sitting at £15,769. The world’s gone mad!
Rewind back 20 or so years ago and in 1998 and an R1 cost you £9399, a Blade cost £9265 and a CBR600F £7195. Then in came the parallels imports. These were bikes sourced from outside the UK costing much less – a new R1 cost just £6655 in Denmark. So why were prices so high in the UK? There never was a logical answer. It was clear that bikes from Denmark weren’t going to immediately fall apart when used on British roads, although the British importers were quoting ‘safety’ as a reason for why people should stick to UK machines.
Eventually parallels found their way into Britain which meant official UK bikes had to drop as a result. In early 1999 an R1 cost £8599, while the FireBlade cost just £7645 and a CBR600 was down to around £6K – we’d never had it so good, or would do again in today’s Brexit-shaped world. Yes, new bikes are now officially expensive leisure items…
All of this has had a knock-on effect to decent used bikes, too. They’re getting more expensive, but they’re still a damn sight better value than a new bike. And – think of it – what bike (or should we say bikes) could you get for the cost of a new one? We’re talking dream garage, here…
So, what if we all had a £15,000 dream garage? What would it look like? And what would CB-NET choose in the major biking categories? Well, check out part one of our selection, starting with sports bikes. Other categories will follow over the next week or so and – hell – why not mix and match for the perfect ‘dream garage’ of sports bike, tourer, naked and the like?
And please – feel free to suggest differences… it’s all personal taste, right?
Here, we’d plump for the Suzuki GSX-R1000 K5: this was a sportsbike yardstick in the mould of the 1992 FireBlade and first R1. We also reckon it’s one of (if not the) best model of the GSX-R1000 family. It was head and shoulders above the Blade and R1 of the time – as well as the manic ZX-10R. Today you can get a half-decent one with sub 20,000 miles on the clock for £3500-£4500…We would say this: “Try for standard!” Being (now) 14 years old, this is still one seriously fast bike, but without the awful extreme feel of a modern, built-for-World Superbike R1, Blade SP2 or Ducati V4…
Want something similar but not a Suzook? We would push you towards the 954cc Blade: it’s starting to hold strong money, it’s not as uncompromising, feels slower, but it is a better all-rounder even if it’s a bit older. The first 1000cc CBR Blade is a good nod, too, while the first (2004) Kawasaki ZX-10R was a monster which could also be a future classic…
If you have to chuck a bike down the road, let the road be a track and let the bike be a track bike. We’ll budget for £3500 for something half-decent. So what does that buy?
Well, for that wonga you’ve got a lot of choice. You could even just about get a sorted two-stroke track prepped machine: think of it, this is where the peaky strokers really should be, on track, not road. Consider the Suzuki RGV250, Kawasaki KR-1S (buy lots of pistons) or a previously raced Yamaha TZR250 from the Yamaha Past Masters series. But, do beware with ex-race bikes as you really need to check that they’re straight and why is the owner selling? Has it had a major prang? On the plus side, they’ll often come with a van load of spares. Don’t forget: racers take things much more seriously and go faster and (therefore) crash harder than mere track day riders. You have been warned
Moving to four-strokes you’ll find plenty of CBR600s and Suzuki GSX-Rs of all capacities. We would say here that you should keep things simple. Getting any four-stroke track day bike with all the gubbins on may seem like a good idea, but it’s also a recipe for many things to go wrong and it doesn’t often allow for the rider to improve incrementally.
Stage one tuned bikes (say, pipe, jetting/injection changes, air-filter) married to improved suspension and sticky tyres are the best way to go fast sooner. Jumping straight onto a bike with electronics, quick-shifters, traction control and such malarkey is a case of too much too soon.
All we would say is this: avoid pukka race bikes like RS125s, TZs and the like. They eat money like they eat pistons and rings. And – sometimes the most fun and riding improvement comes from less cubic capacity. So don’t rule out the very cheap Honda CB500s, or Suzuki SV650 Mini-Twins or middleweight machines.
The big worry is this: you may get bitten by the track day bug leading to more expense. This means you’ll suddenly need spares, wets-on-wheels, tyre warmers, a generator, paddock stands, tools, a van or trailer and an easy-going other half and then – before you know it – you’re going racing with all the expense that entails. Mind you, we did say ‘dream’ garage, didn’t we?
Total: £3500-£4500 (with spares!)
Come on… many of us would love a Ducati, but (perhaps) not as a main bike. So what would slip into our dream garage nicely, then?
Well, we here at CB-NET reckon you have two main courses to follow… something naked and street, but still sport (say, Monster) and something faired and fast.
Faired and fast could cover anything from a 900SS to a 748, to a 916 and beyond. We’re ditching the likes of the old Paso, the first, air-cooled Multistradas and the ST2/ST4/S series – even if the latter offers bang for buck. It’s got to be sports or sports naked.Now, with the Monster having been around so long (1993-on) there are lots to choose from. And while five years back £1500 would get a good original one, today we’d need to spend at least another grand or two on something equally as nice. As to which model – well, fill yer boots. We’ve ridden and loved the tiddler 600s, 750s, 900s, S2Rs and liquid-cooled S4s and S4Rs. We reckon you could find a lovely original Monster M900 or a later liquid-cooled model for £3500…
Sporty Dukes – we could nab a 748 – which is perhaps a sweeter ride than the 916. We may even luck into finding a 916 but they’ve moved up in price in recent years. Strangely the better (but uglier) 999 can just creep into a £4000 budget, but we want to go old school.
Yup, for us it’s the 900SS. Yes, we will ignore the Pierre Terblanche 900 and 750SS (post 1997) as it doesn’t have the 888-a-like looks of the late 1980s-mid-1990s model. And again, we are spoiled for choice – even if prices have become more solid over the last five years. Half a decade ago, you could buy a 900SS for around £1500, but – like the Monster – it’s crept up so that a decent one can cost as much as double that figure.
So, we’d plump for as clean a 900SS as we could for £3000-£4000. Check service records and finish (engine paint flakes, know your frame colours year-for-year) and if you can, see what the silver, single-seat FE (Final Edition) models from 1997-8 and the SL ‘SuperLight’ models are going for. They should be out of budget, but you never know. But DO know this: like 916 Bipostos pretending to be SPs and the like, you do need to check provenance – are they what they seem to be?
MODERN CLASSIC JAP SPORTS BIKE
Lots we can look at here… We feel GSX-R750s from 1985 are too pricey now and aren’t comfy and later GSX-Rs from the 1980s are just not very fashionable so we’re going to suggest a few from the 1990s.
Early 1992-1993 Honda CBR900RR N-P FireBlades in good condition are getting hard to find, but they are out there. Avoid the bloated 1998 W-X (unless you want a bargain) because even if they are better bikes, they ain’t as cool! RR R-S models include the much-loved Urban Tiger painted machine and it’s this we’d plump for. Some dealers call it a ‘limited edition’ but they are lying: budget £3500-£4000 for a good one. The RR-T/V are good and rising in price, but still not in early Blade territory and are almost in limbo when it comes to how cool they are.
So, let’s talk R1: the first 4XVs are rising in value so much that £2500 is base camp for something that needs work to make original at least. They are (still) amazingly effective motorcycles and ones that are only going one way in value – same as the later 5JJ 2000-on versions. We’ve seen first model versions up at around £5000 max, like some Blades, but don’t be disheartened.
Choose your weapons, then – but we would say this: don’t count out the 1996-1999 Suzuki GSX-R750 SRAD…
It’s harder to find an unmolested example, but they are still amazing bikes and prices will stiffen. You can still find them for as little as £2500 – even if some dreamers stick Dream Machine painted Corona Alstare reps up (with 54k on the clocks) for £4200… There are plenty out there so enjoy!
Grand total: £15,000