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: here’s the final part 4…
The last few weeks have seen us mention the cost of modern, brand-new bikes and how ruddy pricey they are.
Last time out we looked at naked bikes and – even if we consider that such machines are unimpaired by such pricey things as fairings – realise this: did you know that an Aprilia Tuono Fighter cost just £7539 back in 2003 and today’s V4 model would cost you around £15,999… Sheesh…
So, if we had £15,000 in our pockets would we buy a new bike? Nope! Instead we’d go find appreciating assets in the world of used motorcycles. This time we look at Exotica: can we really find some cheap and cheerful bikes that could deliver miles, smiles, class and a return on our outlay? Of course we can! And – as we’ve said before – why not mix and match for the perfect ‘dream garage’ of sports bike, tourer, naked and the like?
And please – feel free to suggest different bikes: after all, it’s all personal taste, right?
Benelli Tornado Tre 903
Yes, we are edging around on the unknown here – to a degree – at least when it comes to reliability, but check out this bike. It’s been around for years, but it still looks fresh today. Styled by Adrian Morton, the Tornado looked futuristic when it arrived and time has not dimmed its visual appeal. So what is it? Well, it’s a triple, clearly and it first turned up in 1999 as the brainchild of Benelli’s new owner, Andrea Merloni, who also headed up the huge Indesit white goods company.
The bike was finally launched in 2001 and was originally powered by a Dr Riccardo Rosa-designed 898cc liquid-cooled inline triple of 114bhp and that narrow motor gave the Tre a narrow, head-on aspect. The chassis was also special, being a mix of bolted and glued cast parts and tubular frame rails/members, a curved ‘banana’ swinging arm and upside-down forks with Brembo brake calipers, but it was the bodywork that got your attention. This was an alluring mix of straight lines, angles and curves but the attention-grabbers were the two large yellow fans, buried in the seat unit which were to aid the cooling of the motor.
Let’s not look at the bike’s racing record (the triple took advantage of the-then current World Superbike rules where triples of 900-or-so CC could compete against 750cc fours and 1000cc twins, but couldn’t) and instead take in the looks. A move to an 1130cc version (with a claimed 160bhp) in 2006 did show the way they should have originally gone, but by then it was too little too late.
Special versions included an LE (Limited Edition) and an RS version (OZ wheels, Marzocchi forks, radial Brembos, more power) but any model feels and looks exotic even almost two decades on. Price-wise we can see that even low-milers (sub 10K) can go for £3500-£4500 – which is superb value. We’d suggest riding it and then stash it away. LE models were in the teens when sold new and will be more second-hand!
So we said up-top about reliability: initial poor dealer support and back-up meant that owners were often left in the lurch. Problems included clutch issues, leaky dashboards, a corroding middle spark plug (the airbox drain hole was above) starting issues and expensive servicing with associated camchain changes every 14k and checks at 6k.
Can you imagine having the stress of having to design the ultimate successor to Massimo Tamburini’s Ducati 916 on your shoulders? Nope… us neither, but this was the poison chalice handed to South African designer Pierre Terblanche in the early noughties.
Now, Terblanche had designed the sexy Ducati Supermono of the mid-1990s, as well as the Mike Hailwood tribute MH900e, so he had some decent previous but the 916/996/998 successor would have to be top-drawer… The name 999 indicated the cubic capacity but the looks were very different from what went before. The single-sided swinging arm was dumped for a swooped, almost curved design. Two round-beam piggy-back lights took the place of the 916’s headlights and the oval under-seat end-cans were replaced with what looked like something from a car…
Yes, the 999 was something only a mother could love (compared to the 916) but it was a better bike all round when you rode it. Both motor and chassis were much improved: and larger people could fit on it as the ergonomics could be adjusted a little… While it may not have won hearts, it did win awards and world and national championships. It may have only ‘lasted’ until 2007 (when the 916-a-like 1098 came out) but it’s an important historical model for the Bologna firm.
Today, the 999 is still in the 916’s shadow but can be picked up for as little as £4K.
Honda VTR1000 SP1 or SP2
We also don’t understand what has happened, but…the SP1 and SP2 is gaining value fast: that said it’s still the cheapest of the RC-spec World Superbike racers.
Back at launch in November 1999, the RC51/SP1 would cost you a shade under 10 grand (£9864) and the improved SP2 (longer/lighter swinging arm, wheels, ECY, larger throttle bodies, steering stem, longer wheelbase) was £10, 289 at the start of 2001. But – even after Colin Edwards won that year’s WSB title (he also did it in 2000 on the SP1) we just fell out of love with Honda’s SP range of V-twin homologation specials and perhaps with V-twins in general. A price cut of a grand helped a little, but soon Honda got out of WSB racing, citing a lack of sales for the SP2 while the opposite was happening for the four-cylinder FireBlade…
The bike itself when you ride it is a little uncompromising: not as bad as a Ducati 916/996/998 of similar vintage, but still harsh on suspension and (weirdly) slow to steer when you’re out on track. The motor is a gem, though, providing lots of lovely grunt. It’s not comfy to ride for distance, but the overall feel is one of high quality.
And this is where the retrospective/rose-tinted visors come into play: as much as the family favourite FireBlade/Fireblade (post 2004) was similarly priced, the scarcity of SP twins sold means that there seems to be a resurgence on price for them. We’re not talking RC30/45 prices, but a decent SP twin can now cost from £4000 to £10,000. Are they worth 10K? Nah… so seek out those that are half that price, ride and enjoy!
Triumph T595 Daytona
Curve ball coming – but we may have a few quid left and we want to wave the Union Jack, here.
Triumph was re-born in 1990/1991 when John Bloor revealed what he’d been doing with the famous name he bought in 1983. Initially models were heavily based on Jap tech (some said they were just Kawasaki clones) such as the first Daytona and Trident models, but by the mid-1990s things were changing. The original T300 models were being replaced by the more adventurous T500 models and the T595 was going to sock it to the best-selling Honda CBR900RR FireBlade if it could…
In all honesty, despite the hype from the likes of the weekly newspaper, it wasn’t as good as the Jap bike. The 955cc triple motor was a tad agricultural, the frame had issues early on (frames could/did snap but owners were well looked after by the factory) but the chassis/suspension parts did the job well enough.
Changes in name (it became the Daytona 955i in 1999) happened when the TT600 Supersport middleweight was launched, but by now the bike was being left even further behind by Japanese litre sportsbikes and that was fine. By the time it was deleted in 2006, it had been through numerous revisions and become what it always really was: a ruddy good road, sports machine and not as hard-edged as a Blade, R1 or GSX-R1000…
The best thing today is price: we’d still plump for an early-as-dammit 1997 bike, in yellow and pay as little as £1500 for it. Surely this ground-breaker must come good at some point, price-wise? If not, then go for as late a model as you can, for just a few grand you’ve something very special and different: and your Brexit mates should applaud you for it!
Grand total: £15,000 (ish!)