What bikes can you pick up for a song today that might, just might, turn into a bona fide classic? We sought out five twentysomethings that you can still get hold of for £2000, if you’re quick…
Suzuki GSX-R750 SRAD
The 1990s was a fast moving time for sports bikes. It marked the transition from bulky old iron like the Kawasaki GPz900R and early oil-cooled Suzuki GSX-Rs to the cutting edge race replicas that are such a common sight today.
The bike that arguably started it all was the Suzuki GSX-R750WT ‘SRAD’ of 1996.
Sure, the revolution was already underway. Honda’s CBR900RR FireBlade was the benchmark for sports bike performance, but Honda had very much marketed that as a fast road bike and not a race replica. Suzuki went into marketing overdrive with the new GSX-R. The GSX-R was already an icon, but the 1996 model dumped the dated up-and-over frame that had been a trademark of the model for over a decade. In its place, a beam frame that was, according to Suzuki, directly descended from Kevin Schwantz’ RGV500 Grand Prix bike. The geometry was also derived from Revvin’ Kevin’s GP steed and the package was as compact and light as it got 21 years ago.
Ok, so it gave up 150cc to the FireBlade but that meant the GSX-R750 was eligible to race in world superbikes. It had an acronym too, SRAD, which stood for Suzuki Ram Air Direct. That was worth a few horsepower when air was forced into the engine at speed, but the benefit was much, much more in the bar room bragging Grand Prix. The shellsuit graphics were chavvy, even by 1996 standards, and that bulbous rear seat unit was as ugly as sin. It was aerodynamic though, right? Blue and white ones are best, if only because they are Suzuki’s traditional corporate colours and haven’t dated quite as badly.
In so many ways this incarnation of the GSX-R hasn’t stood the test of time. They sold in huge numbers though, but most were trashed, thrashed, modified and generally abused. It was a relative failure on the race track too, and that in many ways is typical of this GSX-R750. It was the right bike at the wrong time. Its racing career coincided with Ducati’s utter domination of superbike racing, while Honda stole a march on the superbike-for-the-road market with the original FireBlade. Suzuki gave the Gixxer boys what they really wanted soon after. The GSX-R600 provided the boy racers a class leading supersport bike from 1997, while 2001 saw the arrival of the first GSX-R1000 – a bike that truly did put Suzuki on top of the world.
The good news is that today these 750s are cheap, very cheap. Mint ones are rare. The vast numbers have meant that many ended up as cheap track bikes, but even if you can find a good one the price will rarely be over £2000. The GSX-R750WT represents the beginning of the modern sports bike as we know it and one day, maybe, original examples will be held in the same reverence as the early slabside and Slingshot GSX-Rs.
Until then, enjoy a cheap slice of history that provides plenty of thrills per pound.
With the possible exception of environmentalists, everyone loves a two stroke.
Light and agile, stinky and powerful, the late 1980s and early 1990s saw the pinnacle of the ring-a-ding sports bikes, with glorious miniature Grand Prix reps like the Honda NSR250 and headbangers along the lines of the Kawasaki KR1-S. Good examples of Aprilia’s seminal RS250 and the Suzuki RGV250, from which it sourced its motor, will set you back upwards of £6000. But what about a 125, like the Cagiva Mito?
When it came to building sporty learner bikes, the Italians had the market sewn up. Brands like Aprilia, Cagiva and Gilera offered genuine 100mph performance when derestricted (which they almost always were) and looked like pukka Grand Prix bikes.
Evolved from the extremely rare (at least in the UK) Freccia, the Mito (translated as ‘myth’) was introduced in 1989 and couldn’t be any more Italian if it tried. This is a bike that waves its hands and shouts ‘Mamma Mia!’ at the top of its voice the second you thumb the starter motor.
It’s fast, it’s fragile and it’s beautiful – very beautiful. Derestricted, you’ve got 33 screaming brake horsepower that can be unlocked by living life on the red line and dancing with the seven speed gearbox. Seven speeds? Oh yes, when you’re 17-years-old that extra cog brought with it a lot of kudos. Many of them even had a sticker on the seat unit confirming the fact. Just in case anyone thought you were spinning them a yarn about the performance of your pride and joy.
And while it was fragile, it was no more unreliable than any other highly strung two stroke of the era. You could say that it also taught some valuable life lessons. After all, who hasn’t benefited from top end rebuilds, understanding the importance of good quality oils and being told off by your mum for not putting old newspapers down on the kitchen table as you tore down the crankcases?
And it’s beautiful, did we mention that? Styling echoes the 1980s Cagiva 500cc Grand Prix bike, while Mark Two versions even had upside down forks and an SP (sport production) version with upgraded suspension was also sold in Italy. It’s this model that holds the distinction of being the bike upon which a certain Valentino Rossi started his racing career on. That itself launches the Cagiva Mito into a mythical status that the name suggests.
In 1993, Cagiva marketed the Eddie Lawson Replica as a celebration of the American master’s win at the 1992 Hungarian Grand Prix (Cagiva’s first victory in the class). Resplendent in its sponsors logos and carrying Lawson’s number seven, it’s a rare model that’s a sure fire classic.
The following year saw the Mito restyled with a design that echoed the iconic Ducati 916 (Ducati was owned by Cagiva at the time). Known as the ‘Evo’ these represented the pinnacle of Mito development. The bike stayed in production in one form or another until 2008, but later versions lost the seventh gear and had their wings clipped due to increasingly strict emissions regulations.
Most Mitos were abused to within an inch of their lives but restored examples are now fetching more than £2000. Half decent ones can usually be had for around £1500 and, if you fancy a rebuild challenge, basket cases are usually always listed on eBay.
Buy an early one (before the environmentalists got involved) and pretend you are 17 again. It may or may not prove to be an investment for the future, but it’s guaranteed to be top fun.
Triumph Daytona 1000
The rebirth of Triumph under the ownership of building magnate John Bloor is the stuff of legend.
Nobody knew the success that would lie ahead when Bloor, the son of a Derbyshire miner, set about rebuilding the iconic brand in total secrecy during the latter part of the 1980s.
The new company unveiled a modest range of bikes towards the end of 1990, with three models spun out of the same basic frame and modular engine concept. The three bikes, the unfaired Trident, Trophy tourer and a sporty Daytona shared nothing with the oily old Brit bikes of the past and were thoroughly modern in their engineering, even if they were conservative in design.
Fate has been quite fickle in deciding which bikes are classics and which are merely old bangers, and nowhere has that been more obvious than in the market for old Hinckley models.
While anything built in the mythical Meriden factory commands good money, there are still plenty of early ‘modern’ Triumphs to be had for a song. There’s a strong following for the 1990s Speed Triple and Thunderbirds, the cream of the modular crop, with the first versions of the modern Bonneville and Daytona 675 nailed on as future classics.
But two grand will easily get you a decent example of Hinckley Triumph’s first flagship model: the Daytona 1000.
Look, no one is saying this is the best motorcycle to roll out of the Leicestershire plant. The graphics could have been penned by a primary school pupil and, even by 1991 standards, it was big (very big), heavy (235kg dry for the 1000) and ponderous when compared to the Japanese opposition (from which it clearly took plenty of engineering inspiration). The simpler Trident and the more-fit-for-purpose Trophy (which was actually the first model off the production line) were better received and the short stroke engines (750cc triple and 1000cc four) fitted to the Daytona were never as well liked as the lustier long stroke 900 and 1200.
Indeed later Daytonas utilised the bigger motors and switched to the more grown up single colour schemes with which Triumph have since become synonymous. As a result, the first Daytonas have been somewhat forgotten about, which is a shame. They are wonderfully engineered (although a notorious sprag clutch problem did lunch the engines if not looked after) and represent the story of one of the most remarkable revivals in motorcycling history.
Short stroke Daytonas were only built for the 1991 and 1992 model year, making them rare enough to start off with. Prices seem to be picking up but a minter can still be had for £2500, with running and MoTed examples coming in at just over half of that. That’s a lot of bike for the money and even if they’re still not super collectable in another 25 years time (which, frankly, they should be) you can still be proud to be representing one of the rarest and most significant motorcycles ever to be built by a British manufacturer.
Ducati Monster M900
Ducati has produced more than their fair share of ‘instant classics’ over the years.
Ultra exotic, limited run bikes like the Desmosedici and Superleggera models virtually rose in value the minute they left the showroom, while even standard versions of the iconic 916 find themselves tucked up in collections on account of the groundbreaking styling and racing heritage.
But what about the more mundane models? For £2000 you’ll get an early Monster M900. It won’t be a pristine example (that’ll be more like £3500) but something working and with an MOT can be picked up for entry level money. Fettle it, restore it and treat it right, for the Monster is a hugely significant model in the history of modern day Ducati.
What the Italian company did was to strip back its 900SS and create an entry level model that appealed to a wider audience than its traditional faired sports bikes. Powered by Ducati’s 900cc air-cooled L-twin, the Monster looked aggressive, was fun to ride and was a relatively affordable way into a premium motorcycle brand.
And it worked. The first models were introduced in 1993 and today, 24 years later, the Monster brand is still in rude health. A host of models have appeared over the years but these early 73bhp 900s were perhaps the purest distillation of what the Monster was all about. Being the first, there’s a good chance that they’ll be the most collectable in coming years too.
If the M900 is outside of your budget, Ducati also made 600 and 750 versions too. Good examples of these can be had for well below £2000 and give most of the look and most of the spec for a fraction of the money. Doubt that they will be as collectable though…
Yamaha XTZ750 Super Tenere
Who actually created the concept of the adventure bike?
There’s no doubt that BMW brought it to the masses with the 1990s incarnation of the GS but, before then, the big ‘dual sport’ bike market was dominated by the Japanese manufacturers.
Honda’s Africa Twin was launched in 1988, with the Yamaha Super Tenere following a year later. Brits just didn’t get the concept at the time, but in France and Germany they sold in big numbers.
These days, original Africa Twins command good money – way more than our £2000 budget – but the Yamaha remains somewhat unloved here in the UK.
And that is a shame, for the XTZ750 is a bike with plenty of presence and a pedigree that at least matches that of the GS and the Africa Twin.
The five-valve-per-cylinder two-cylinder engine was period Yamaha and the styling echoed the company’s rally raid bikes of the era. Yamaha, remember, won the first two Dakar rallies (with the single cylinder XT500) before BMW and Honda (with works versions of the GS and Africa Twin) dominated the rest of the 1980s. But in the 1990s, arguably the gnarliest time in Dakar history with super trick twin cylinder factory bikes, it was Yamaha who ruled the roost with works versions of this – the Super Tenere.
Between 1991 and 1998, French hero Stephane Peterhansel won the gruelling event six times on a Super Ten. Sure, the road bikes shared little with the factory machines but that heritage has to count for something. Audi Quattros don’t belong in the banger market and neither should these. Get one while they’re still going cheap.