Smart Money

Pow­er­ful, plush, panache

Motorcyclist - - Contents - —Mitch Boehm

THE SPORTY DO-IT-ALL mo­tor­cy­cle is per­haps this mag­a­zine’s fa­vorite con­veyance, some­thing for which we’ve rooted since the Univer­sal Ja­panese Mo­tor­cy­cles (UJMS) of the 1970s be­gan mor­ph­ing into spe­cial­ized hy­brids. There are hand­fuls of great ones out there, from sport­bikes to nakeds to sport-tour­ers, and even some ADVS. Call them what you will, here are four that pop to mind when we think “Gen­tle­man’s Ex­press.”

Honda’s VFR is per­haps the quin­tes­sen­tial ma­chine in this cat­e­gory, and the fourth-gen­er­a­tion VFR800F (1998– 2001) is one of our fa­vorites. Pow­ered by a liq­uid-cooled V-4 with gear-driven cams, 16 valves, and nearly 100 rear­wheel horse­power, the VFR of­fers loads of throbby midrange and a rea­son­ably ag­ile chas­sis, with plush sus­pen­sion, great er­gonomics, su­perb linked brakes, and neu­tral steer­ing.

Prob­lems are few, with reg­u­la­tor/ rec­ti­fier is­sues lead­ing the way. Used prices are all over the board for this gen­er­a­tion, rang­ing from $2,000 to $5,000, de­pend­ing on mileage and con­di­tion. (Pre­vi­ous-gen­er­a­tion VFRS—1990–’93 and 1994–’97 VFR750S, in par­tic­u­lar—are also great buys, as is the VTR1000 twin.) Even to­ward that price ceil­ing, a lower-mileage, first-gen VFR800 is a steal. See if you don’t agree.

Although no longer in BMW’S lineup, the 2009–’16 K1300S was a Bavar­ian sta­ple, the Ger­man equiv­a­lent of Ja­pan Inc.’s best hy­per­bikes—think Kawasaki ZX-14, Suzuki Hayabusa, etc.—but with a whiff of prac­ti­cal­ity. Sta­ble, smooth, and mach schnell fast, this max­i­mum K-bike com­bined 170-plus four-cylin­der horse­power with comfy er­gos, keen aes­thet­ics, well-sorted shaft drive, Duolever front end, avail­able lug­gage, plus su­perb wind and weather pro­tec­tion. New, how­ever, they were big bucks.

Price of ad­mis­sion for a pre-owned K1300S typ­i­cally ranges from $7,000 to $9,000, which makes it a con­tender here. Early units had en­gine-stalling and switchgear prob­lems, though most of those fail­ings were fixed un­der war­ranty. What you’re left with, then, is a world-class, high-end GT for about the price of a brand-new F700GS. Many would call that a deal.

Slightly down the price lad­der but still Euro­pean, there’s the iconic Du­cati 900SS. To many, the 900 Su­per­sports from 1991–’97 are among the best­look­ing Du­catis—el­e­men­tal, emo­tional, and aes­thet­i­cally stun­ning. Light­weight with a mod­er­ate rid­ing po­si­tion, solid han­dling, and rel­a­tively cheap buy-in, they are nev­er­the­less brit­tle, finicky, and ex­pen­sive to main­tain and re­pair, es­pe­cially if you buy one with lots of miles

and a ques­tion­able main­te­nance his­tory. Failed cylin­der-head studs, plus the usual valve-ad­just­ment and cam-bel­tre­place­ment rit­u­als at 6,000 and 12,000 miles, re­spec­tively, have all con­trib­uted to the lore.

Still, a well-main­tained 900SS can make a damn fine budget ex­otic, even if it does take more ef­fort to keep run­ning. The ST2/3 that came later is more pol­ished and has fewer nits but lacks the 900SS’S vis­ceral look and feel. Ex­pect to pay any­where from $4,000 to $8,000, de­pend­ing on spec (Su­perlights and SPS, for ex­am­ple, go for quite a bit more than the strip­per CR). Hint: A pre-pur­chase once-over by a Du­cati tech is a smart move here.

If you love twins but want to min­i­mize main­te­nance, Suzuki’s 2003–’07 SV1000S (which has links to the late 1990s TL1000R/S) is a great op­tion and a sleeper in both per­for­mance and rep­u­ta­tion. On pa­per and in ac­tion, the SV is a beast, pump­ing out nearly 110 rear­wheel horse­power, run­ning high 10s at the strip, weigh­ing just 460 pounds wet, han­dling like a champ, and prov­ing won­der­fully durable.

Amaz­ingly, the SV1000S never caught on like its lov­able smaller sib­ling, the SV650. The good news is that you can pick up this open-class V-twin for next to noth­ing, as SV1000S sell for half (or even less) than their orig­i­nal $8,500 MSRP. Back in those days, the SV was con­sid­ered by some to be a poor man’s Du­cati. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

The high-tech K1300S boasted elec­tri­cally ad­justable sus­pen­sion and other op­tions.

Pow­ered by an air-cooled, SOHC V-twin, the 900SS of­fered per­for­mance and style.

Suzuki’s SV1000S was a “sleeper,” of­ten over­looked by press and con­sumers alike.

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