TTHATHAT ARE WAWANNABESNNABES We’ll tell you what they’re not (what they’re really, really not) Neil Murray makes a living buying & selling pre-loved metal – and he’s on your side
Honda CBR1100XX Blackbird (1996-2007)
Honda decided they’d had enough of the Kawasaki ZZR1100’S claim to being The Fastest Bike Out There and so built… um, a ZZR1100 with careful improvements in every aspect. So it had Honda’s build quality and finish, slightly better aerodynamics, slightly more power and as it was a Honda, slightly less character. Make no mistake, though, the ’Bird is a blindingly good bike and like the Pan-european 1100, Honda’s not been able to replace it properly. It’s unbreakable, goes like stink, and can be thrashed round a track or loaded with hard luggage for a transcontinental twoup high-speed tour. Go for the later EFI model.
£1500£3000 will find you a truly super Super Blackbird.
Bluntly, yes. It’s one of the best Hondas of the last 20 years.
Kawasaki GTR1000 (1986-1999)
BMW K100RT built by Kawasaki. Known as the Concours in the US, it was the engine from the GPZ1000RX retuned to 110bhp and with more low-down torque, mated to a shaft drive, and with a big flat seat, large fairing and factory panniers. Really heavy, and the riding position was just wrong (seat too low, footpads too far forward), but was bloody quick and everything else did its job, especially the fairing. Very, very cheap used. You could buy one just for a trip then throw it away. What you’ll pay today £500-£1500. But should you? If you’re on a budget, yes.
Yamaha Venture Royale (1983-1993)
Gold Wing 1200 equivalent from Yamaha. First in 1200cc and then 1300cc V4 sizes, the engine was developed into the V-max. It’s a bloody massive thing, with every chrome frippery and extra you could think of (air suspension that’s adjustable on the move, radio, cruise control etc, exactly like a Wing). They were very torquey, wonderfully smooth, and handled better than you’d believe.
Yamaha TRX850 (1996-2000)
A Yamaha parallel twin in a Ducati frame. Well, a Yamaha trellis frame that was exactly like a Ducati’s, and an 850cc engine with a 270° crank that made it sound and feel like a V-twin. It could have been great, but it was the same price as a 900SS. Yamaha soon slashed the price, and discount dealers slashed it
Triumph 1200 Trophy (2012-present) Kawasaki W650/800 (1999-current)
Kawasaki’s take on the Bonnie is one of the best ‘British’ parallel twins made by the Japanese. Styling is pure classic but without the extra bulk of the Hinckley Bonneville, and with more thoughtful engineering, such as a bevel drive to the cam. They’re fashion icons in Japan, and every tuning and chop shop
has had a go at them.
What you’ll pay today
Yamaha XV950 (2013-current) But should you?
If you wear a tweed jacket and have an open-face helmet and goggles, yes. even further – you could have a new one Lord knows the Japanese have copied American cruiser motorcycles in the past (remember the Kawasaki Drifter; the dead ringer for an old Indian?), but they’ve never made anything as close to a Harley 883 Sportster as this. If you took off the badges you wouldn’t know. Same shape, same bobbed rear guard, same lack of chromed bits, and (unusually for a Japanese bike these days), the engine is even air-cooled.
people returning to motorcycling after a break. Now, I don’t fit either of those categories and was nervous that it would all feel too tame. But I’m really enjoying the bike so far. Climb on and the Yamaha is small but not cramped – I’m 5ft 9in – and it’s proved frugal on the gas so far at around 68mpg. Right now it’s being pressed into back-road commuting duties and it’s delivering me to work with a smile and a very small petrol bill.
Going back to that Sunday morning spin and my chum was slightly less impressed when I thumbed the starter. “Oh, bit of a sewing machine!” Now, I don’t think that’s quite fair and the parallel-twin actually sounds fine when you’re on the move. Better still, Yamaha’s accessories list includes an Akrapovic can for a fairly reasonable £364.99. It’s road legal and promises to create ‘an exciting sound’. I’ll have a bit of that! Do you have an MT-03? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
3It’s well-suited to UK roads. After deciding to visit my late grandmother’s old house in Bridgnorth in Shropshire, I did a lovely 200 miles round-about route that kept me off the main roads. The bike dealt with faster A-roads with ease, shrugged off some patches of heavy traffic by being manoeuvrable and thanks to a decent adjustable screen, heated grips and handguards it kept me comfortable despite cold weather. The Dynamic Electronically Adjustable Suspension (D-ESA) and quickshifter make easy work of riding although the quickshifter is taking some getting used to.