Smart Money

Bound­ary-break­ing bikes that won’t break the bank

Motorcyclist - - Contents - —Abhi Eswarappa

play­ing with the new­est mo­tor­cy­cle tech­nol­ogy is ex­pen­sive, but yes­ter­day’s break­throughs—suc­cess­ful or not—are rea­son­ably priced and are still bril­liant to ride.

In 1977, BMW re­de­fined the sport­tour­ing mar­ket with the Hans Muthde­signed fair­ing on the R100RS. It en­abled com­fort­able tour­ing for hours on end at triple-digit speeds and un­prece­dented weather pro­tec­tion. The 980cc twin was re­li­able and easy to main­tain. BMW made the usual evo­lu­tion­ary up­dates un­til pro­duc­tion ended in 1993, but there are a few spe­cial ver­sions to look out for.

First-year bikes are worth a lit­tle ex­tra due to year-spe­cific fea­tures like sil­ver-blue paint, spoked wheels, blue an­odized ATE calipers, and blue pin­strip­ing. The most in­ter­est­ing year of pro­duc­tion might be 1984; that’s when BMW an­nounced it was de­part­ing from the boxer twin mo­tor that had de­fined the com­pany for decades. The Ger­man firm pro­duced 250 Last Edi­tion ex­am­ples of the RS, but con­sumers pushed back and BMW de­cided to keep the flat twin en­gine in pro­duc­tion, much to the cha­grin of Last Edi­tion own­ers.

In 1988, the RS came back to Amer­ica with some up­dates, in­clud­ing a sin­gle-sided swingarm, up­graded Brembo brakes, and an en­gine tuned for torque at the ex­pense of peak horsepower. Ex­pect to snag a qual­ity rider for $4,000 to $5,000. RS77S and some lim­ited-edi­tion mod­els can com­mand a 50 per­cent pre­mium.

While the BMW ap­pealed to rid­ers who wanted smooth, re­li­able power, Ja­panese man­u­fac­tur­ers were busy chasing the fu­ture with a raft of turbo bikes. Kawasaki was the first to en­ter the game with the Z1R-TC, but it worked and felt like an early ef­fort, and the com­pany built just 500 ex­am­ples. Re­gard­less, the ap­peal of forced in­duc­tion was ir­re­sistible. In 1982, Honda re­leased the CX500

Turbo with the prom­ise of heavy­weight power in a mid­dleweight pack­age.

Like the Kawasaki, the Honda had teething is­sues, and it was re­placed by the en­tirely new CX650 Turbo af­ter just a year. Still, it was an im­pres­sive tech­no­log­i­cal pack­age that fea­tured liq­uid-cool­ing, a TRAC anti-dive front end, Pro-link rear sus­pen­sion, and Honda’s first use of fuel in­jec­tion. It also boasted an Ihi-built turbo that pro­vided peak boost of 19 psi and nearly dou­bled the 497cc V-twin’s horsepower. Honda built just 2,833 ex­am­ples, and their spar­sity means prices are all over the place. With some pa­tience, you should be able to find a lowmileage ex­am­ple for around $4,000.

Other man­u­fac­tur­ers fo­cused their ef­forts on con­trol­ling the power they al­ready had. Tele­scopic forks have long been the stan­dard, but man­u­fac­tur­ers have ex­per­i­mented with “funny front ends” (FFES) for decades. The de­fin­i­tive mod­ern ef­fort is the Bi­mota Tesi, but you can get a much cheaper taste of the FFE life with the 1993 Yamaha GTS1000 sport-tourer. It boasted ABS, fuel in­jec­tion, and an en­gine plucked from the FJR1000. The James Parker-de­signed RADD front sus­pen­sion, though, is the star of the show. The de­sign iso­lated brak­ing from damp­ing, which was meant to in­crease the per­for­mance of both.

Un­for­tu­nately, the de­sign was ex­pen­sive, and con­sumers weren’t ready for it. The bike was a com­mer­cial flop and only lasted through 1994 state­side, though it sold for a few more years out­side of the United States. Cur­rent own­ers are very pas­sion­ate and have devel­oped com­mu­ni­ties to keep these ma­chines alive. Parts are still avail­able for the front end, and the rest of the bike is straight­for­ward enough. They don’t come up for sale of­ten, and when they do, you’ll need be­tween $5,000 and $6,000.

Some­times a mo­tor­cy­cle isn’t about one defin­ing fea­ture. The Honda NT650, or Hawk GT, was a sweet­heart of a ma­chine that de­buted a decade ahead of its time. It was gifted the in­ter­nal des­ig­na­tion of Rc-31—which ref­er­ences HRC, or Honda Rac­ing Corp.—and it earned that des­ig­na­tion with trick fea­tures like a sin­gle-sided swingarm de­signed by Elf Rac­ing, a Pro-link monoshock, and a twin-beam alu­minum frame.

Yamaha’s Omega chas­sis was named for its re­sem­blance to the Greek let­ter.

The CX500’S ex­haust tells you every­thing you need to know.

The in­ter­nal des­ig­na­tion of the Hawk was RC-31, a very sig­nif­i­cant pre­fix within Honda.

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