These small won­ders punched way be­yond their weight. By Neil Mur­ray

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Garage -

Yamaha TZR125 (1987-97)

Ab­so­lutely the teen dream sports 125 of choice. Deltabox frame (al­beit steel rather than al­loy), bean can ex­haust, looks to die for and com­pet­i­tive price. Best of all, it had Yamaha’s pow­er­valve. This was pegged in the closed po­si­tion for learn­ers, but once you’d passed your test, Yamaha would sell you the servo mo­tor and plumb­ing. Just about every learner pegged it open and lived with the knife-edge power­band. The imag­i­na­tive at­tached the ca­ble to a han­dle­bar lever so you could at least get some bot­tom end. It would show 100mph on the clock, and a bit of tun­ing would get even more.

What you’ll pay now £800-£2000 But should you? Ig­nore ‘barn finds’ and go for the best you can find, with the YPVS fit­ted.

Kawasaki Ninja 300 (2013-present)

Kawasaki’s liq­uid-cooled twin en­gine has been around for years, originally as the GPX250, but don’t worry about that. In 300cc form, it gets some use­ful (and much-needed) torque, and up-to-the minute styling and equip­ment, in­clud­ing a slip­per clutch. The rub­ber-mounted en­gine is smooth, the bike will ex­ceed 110mph and it han­dles well enough to be great fun, even on track. Easy on fuel, too, and has a mas­sive tank range. The 2016 model has sharper styling, chan­nelling the ZZR1400 and ZX-10R, and also has ABS as stan­dard. It’s hard to think of a bet­ter post-125 A2 li­cence bike. Not many used ones about, though. What you’ll pay now £1750£3750 But should you? It’s this or the Yamaha MT-03. Do you pre­fer naked or faired bikes?

Suzuki DR-Z400 (2001- 08)

What­ever hap­pened to small-to-medium sized trail bikes? The rest of the world gets 400s and 450s, and we don’t. Hap­pily, there’s this Suzuki, which walks all over big­ger trail bikes (600 and 650 sin­gles, never mind the giant ad­ven­ture bikes) once off tar­mac. That’s the great thing about smaller dirt bikes – they’re way more man­age­able off-road, and yet good ones have enough horse­power to be OK on the road (though mo­tor­ways are best avoided). Sim­ple and easy to main­tain and as tough as boiled shoe leather. Just keep it se­cure – it’s a thief mag­net. SM model is the su­per­moto ver­sion, if that floats your boat.

What you’ll pay now £1150-£2500 But should you? If you’re a se­ri­ous dirt rider, yes. If you want some­thing more road-bi­ased, then prob­a­bly not.

Honda CB400 Four (1975-78)

The only truly sport­ing Honda SOHC four. A happy ac­ci­dent – a bored out CB350 en­gine with slab-sided tank and pan­els, rearset pegs, flat bars and one of the most beau­ti­ful ex­haust sys­tems ever fit­ted to a mo­tor­cy­cle. It did 100+mph: only 10mph down on the later de­tuned CB750S, and was the best-han­dling Honda of the era.

What you’ll pay now £1500-£3500 But should you? It’s still magic to ride, so yes but be­ware bodged ‘restora­tions’.

Suzuki RG250 Gamma (1983-87)

Suzuki’s an­swer to the RD350 boasted a real race-bred alu­minium chas­sis and sen­sa­tional brakes, but the en­gine was only a 250. The an­swer was ob­vi­ous: peo­ple put the Yamaha en­gine in the Suzuki frame to make a Ya­m­agamma: the Tri­ton of the 1980s. What you’ll pay

now £1000-£3000 But should you? An RD350 is still more pop­u­lar, and an Aprilia RS250 or Suzuki RGV250 is a bet­ter bike.

Kawasaki ZXR400 (1995-98)

Lit­tle brother of the 750 race-rep, even down to the Hoover tubes over the tank and the near-rigid rear sus­pen­sion which, with the ‘un­com­pro­mis­ing’ rid­ing po­si­tion and hard seat, meant it was se­verely un­com­fort­able. On the other hand, it did 140mph, han­dled im­pec­ca­bly, sounded naughty and looked a mil­lion dol­lars.

What you’ll pay now £800-£2000 But should you? Yes, but be­ware exrac­ers and go for a gen­uine UK bike.

BMW R65 (1978-93)

Shares re­mark­ably lit­tle with BMW’S other ‘air­heads’. It has a smaller frame with im­proved geom­e­try and shorter wheel­base, plus a shorter-stroke (61.5mm) en­gine, which makes it lighter, smoother, sweeter and revvier, and a much bet­ter han­dler than the other box­ers. What you’ll pay now £1800£3000 But should you? Not the fastest but prob­a­bly the best old-school boxer en­gine, with a more mod­ern feel.

Peg open that pow­er­valve and live life on the edge Mini ZX-10R styling with a hint of ZZR… it’s a 300 with at­ti­tude Buy one and show the GS boys a thing or two off-road

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