They are – sometimes! We thought we’d take a quick gander at some used bikes (some classics) that are worth looking at – maybe as second bikes!
Be warned – there are some strange choices here as we dare to be different…
Smaller bikes are often the mere stepping stone to a bigger, faster, flashier machine. But – often – these tiddlers may be small on size and capacity but also big on character: so-much-so that we often love them all the more…
We figured we’d look at some machines that just seem to be big hearted even if they’re small on the outside.
10) Hyosung GT650 Comet
The GT650 Comet is essentially an SV650 motor – that’s the peachy 90-degree V-twin with a similarly designed chassis from Korea. The motor itself gives around 70bhp at around 10,000rpm and the bike handles and brakes as well as most things, but you don’t get fuel-injection and you don’t really get many frills or build quality. But look at the prices. £1500 gets you a decent one… There’s also a sportier ‘R’ version with a full-fairing.
9) Suzuki DRZ350/400
The original and best ‘starter’ green laner/off-roader which still cuts the mustard. Commute on it if you wish (tiny tank means fill ups every 70-80 miles) and you won’t be pushing much past 80mph but what do you expect with only 30bhp? If you get better on the dirty stuff you’ll soon out-grow the DR, but it will still plod on. Electric start came along post-1995 and the better DR-Z400 (39bhp) turned up in 2000.
8) Cagiva Raptor 650
Another bike to use the gem of a SV motor – these are rare so you’d feel special sat on one of these. While the motor is solid, sometimes the chassis parts may be feeling a little worn in some used examples and they suffer from neglect terribly – so check out the owner and the history file. Metal bits and even the plastic bits suffer in short order…
7) Suzuki DL650 V-Strom
Another brilliant home for a brilliant motor (SV650 again) yes it looks just like it’s ugly big brother, but this is a superb machine which is probably a better proposition than the full-fat 1000, There’s plenty of go, with the motor re-tuned for around 60bhp (down around 10 from the SV) it handles and if you find one that’s been looked after and has aftermarket goodies on (or the GT version) then you’ve got a capable commuter/tiny tourer.
6) Suzuki Bandit 600 1995-2004
When released back in 1995 the Bandit was cool and looked mean but it was soon overtaken by the competition– but it’s still got a lot to give. Using the motor from the GSX-F Teapot this was a much prettier home for the old oil-air-cooled lump. While it started a trend, it wasn’t all milk and honey. Mechanically reliable, the finish is questionable: the engine paint flakes, frame welds can rot, as can exhaust welds, downpipes, fasteners and every nut and bolt. But – 70bhp and respectable handling from a few hundred notes ain’t bad. Updated for 2000 (new frame/look) it was replaced in 2005 by the 650.
5) Triumph Street Triple
Think of this as the modern LC and buy an early one now… This really does prove our headline. Taking the 675 motor from the Daytona 675 the 2007 first model Street Triple was a big success and blew the previous middleweight offerings from Triumph into the weeds (Speed Four, anyone?) With just over 100bhp and a sublime chassis that’s tweakable this is a real capable machine. You may not even want to get on and try its bigger brother the Speed Triple…
4) Kawasaki ER-6F/N
Swift enough (120mph 70bhp) handles (and can be tweaked/tuned as people race ‘em) you’ll find the naked (N) or the faired F to be one of sweetest bikes out there for the dosh. Build quality is better than on most older Kwaks too, meaning that you’ll often not want (or need) to move up a capacity. People commute on ‘em, tour on them, race them…
3) Honda Hornet 1998-2005
Launched in 1998, the Hornet was close to becoming as cultish (careful) as the original LC and Powervalve. They’d inspired many specials builds and even had their own one-make race series. Not only did this pared-back bike take to the track but it became popular with shorter/lady riders too. The CBR600-based motor is a peaky 90bhp or so compared to the Fazer’s torquey 80-85bhp, but unless you go for the half-faired ‘S’ you’ll find that anything over 80mph will be a pain anyway. The chassis is capable, if budget although the brakes could do with a bit more and it lacked the practicality of the Fazer (small tank, thirsty, hi-rise pipe…) Later versions went to a 17-inch front wheel and from 2003 saucy upside-down forks.
2) Suzuki SV650
It says a lot for this bike that the 1999 humble SV650 N and S (half-faired model) have powered and/or inspired so many bikes in our top-10. Two models were launched with the N having bars, lower gearing and more comfy ergonomics. Power was around 70bhp and only slightly sloppy handling with the budget suspension let it down a tad. But… again they inspired a gridful of race bikes so the expertise is out there to sort the suspenders and make the most of the gutsy motor. Proof of the pudding is that Suzuki tried to replace it with the Gladius but the SV has returned as a new machine, even as a ‘café racer’ model in the 2020 line-up.
1) Yamaha Fazer 600
We are ONLY talking about the Thundercat-powered Fazer here, not the later buzzy R6-powered machine which took three steps backwards. As a Bandit beater it did the business, even if some quailed at the looks. But, it delivered in spades… the re-tuned Cat motor was perfectly carburated and pumped out around 80bhp. Brakes were awesome (early R1 Sumitomo blue-spots) and the bike had lots of features you’d find on bigger bikes (two trips, fuel gauge, clock, hazards, centre-stand, underseat storage and decent pillion.) The chassis handles – even with the strange 110 front hoop. Improvements from the 1998 original came in 2000 with more fuel, suspension adjustment and an S version. 2002-03 gave the bike a curvier style altogether. These are simply brilliant, do-it-all bikes.