Used bikes that’ll go forever
These old-timers just keep chugging along. Kawasaki ZRX1200 (2001-2008)
BMW K100RS (1983-1992)
The original Brick: the four that was supposed to replace flat twins forever, but didn’t. Its incredibly tough engine will run for 200,000 miles. Fuel injected and built like a brick outhouse. The RS was the so-called sporty one with the very aerodynamic fairing and slightly taller gearing than the naked K100. It went to 16v and Motronic (rather than LE Jetronic) fuel injection in 1989 and later models also got ABS. It will do 140, and is very, very stable at speed though a bit buzzy because the engine has no balancer and is rigid mounted. Gear indicator switch failure means removing the swingarm, which is a pain, and corrosion can affect the instruments, but that’s about it.
What you’ll pay now £800-£2000. But should you? Oh yes – go for a snappier and chippable 16v with ABS.
Honda CBR600 (1987-present)
They just don’t break. Honda’s watercooled 600cc four was a direct riposte to the Kawasaki GPZ600R, which started the whole 600 supersports thing. Honda put in the same quality construction that they put into the original VFR750. The build was sensational; the finish superb. You could buy one, commute on it, thrash it, ride it to a racetrack, prep it for a production race, and then ride it back again with no trouble at all. The bikes were carefully upgraded every few years (more power, even better quality, better comfort, and eventually alloy frames) but there was never a duff model in the range. Finally, after nearly three decades, the model is being killed off. Other than reg/recs, which can fail, hardly anything goes wrong with them.
What you’ll pay now £700-£5000. But should you? There’s a bike for every pocket. So yes.
Honda CG125 (1976-2008)
When the world is incandescent radioactive slag, someone will be riding a CG125 through the devastation. They withstand incredible neglect and if you run one out of oil, just let it cool down, refill, and carry on. Sure, it’ll rattle, but it’ll work. Honda found their SOHC CB125 was blowing up in some places where maintenance was skimpy and purchasers basically uncaring. Places like Basildon. Running the oil low trashed the camshaft and cylinder head. So they made a pushrod version and ditched the battery/ coil ignition for a flywheel magneto so the bike could run with a dead battery. The earliest Japanese-built ones are the purest and most basic. Production moved to Brazil in 1985, and they gained 12v electrics and even an electric start. But they remained indestructible.
What you’ll pay now £500-£2000. But should you? Oh, come on. Of course.
MZ TS250/1 (1977-1981)
A long-lived two-stroke? Believe it. The engine was rubber-mounted, the chain was fully enclosed, the rear shocks had adjuster levers built in ( just like a BMW), and because the long exhaust strangled the engine before it got stressed, they would cruise flat-out (80mph+) all day. And they did 70mpg. What you’ll
pay now £600-£1000. But should you? Depends whether you fall for idiosyncratic charms.
Ducati 750SS (1994-1998)
This is the most reliable bike I have ever owned. I kept mine for 17 years, and it was only ever brought to a halt twice. “They’re bulletproof,” says Surrey dealer Pro-twins. Why, when the 900SS had a reputation for fragility? Because the engines were less stressed, and the five-speed gearbox more robust. What
you’ll pay now £1000-£3000. But should you? Not if you regularly carry a passenger – there’s only 65bhp there. The engine is essentially a detuned ZZR1100 lump, which was itself derived from the original Kawasaki GPZ900R – one of the greatest bike engines ever made. At 113bhp it’s massively understressed for a 1200 and can easily be tweaked to 130bhp or more. What you’ll
pay now £2500-£4500. But should you? If you like a big bike that needs to be muscled around, then yes.
Suzuki GS500 (1989-2008)
Bog-basic air-cooled two-valve parallel twin that harks back to the original GS400 twin of 1977. Always simple, always very cheap, always reliable. The engine is as solid as a rock and there’s precious little else to go wrong. Not fast – 110mph is about your lot, and the handling is good but compromised by really cheap suspension. What you’ll
pay now £400-£1700. But should you? Snaffle a naked for £750-£900.
Tougher than a cockroach and faster too, Honda’s humble CG125