It’s a good thing we MOrons get to ride all these swell new motorcycles for a living, because you can rest assured most of us are not bringing in the kind of cake it takes to purchase the latest electronically enhanced crop of wonderbikes. We feel your pain.
One consolation of living beneath where the rich and powerful do bite and snarl and snap them up, though, is snarfing up delicious morsels as lightly masticated ex-bikes settle gently toward the ocean floor. It also helps if your taste runs toward bikes that were “underappreciated” when new. Here’s my personal, highly subjective list of bikes I’d seriously consider fostering if I weren’t busy jettisoning old stuff and waiting here like a panting dog for the 2016s to start making their way through my garage. Knock on wood.
10. Honda VFR1200F, 2010-current
Like all professionals, we motojournalists have our categories into which things must fit: Sportbike, cruiser, sport-tourer, etc. When a motorcycle doesn’t really slot into one of them, we get confused, frightened, and lash out. Honda has a history of building things that don’t fit the mold. Sometimes they really do lose their way and build things like the DN-01 and NM-4 (which came close to making sense until they filled all its large storage compartments with small storage compartments). The Pacific Coast still gets laughed at; I’d still like to have one.
Anyway, the VFR1200F was too sporty to be a sport-tourer and too toury to be the new VFR1000RR everybody’d been (and still are) pining for – and $15K seemed like a lot of money at the time. Heck, Honda still wants to sell you a new VFR1200F for $15,999 ($17,499 for the DCT version). But you don’t have to look hard to find a lightly broken-in one for around $7K. That’s a price point which makes much more sense for a bike with a creamy-smooth 1237cc, 142-hp-at-the-road, ride-by-wire V-Four with shaft drive, and that could be custom-tailored into a helluva great commuter/sport-tourer/whatever-you-need-it-to-be motorcycle with just a couple of well-chosen upgrades, which the guy you’re taking advantage of may have already done. Beat him up more if he hasn’t had the driveshaft issue fixed yet! Eat the rich!
Bonus footage: Orthodontists are practically giving their older VFR800s away these days for <$3k to make room for a new Africa Twin. An all-time great bike.
9. Star Stryker, 2011-current
Who knows, we all might be bigger chopper fans if more of them were as stimulating to ride as this one. Its oversquare 8-valve 1304cc V-Twin actually seems to enjoy revving, sounding authentically sporty in the process of producing around 68 rear-wheel horsepower. The bike looks about 8 feet long and is really stable when you whack on the throttle all the way, but it doesn’t mind going around corners either in spite of a fat 210 rear tire. And if you’re a fan of low, it’s one of the lowest bikes around, with a claimed seat height of just 26.4 inches. It’s a nice-enough cruiser, sadly, that prices haven’t yet collapsed; I can’t find a nice Stryker for less than $6K. Somewhat surprising. But then, they’ve only been making them since 2011. It’s a chopper that seems wise beyond its years.
8. Kawasaki ZX-6R, 2013-current
It’s been such a long time since the other Japanese OEMs upgraded their 600s, MO hasn’t even done a big 600 comparison in years. But I do remember the last 600 I rode and loved: Kawasaki’s new-for-2013 636 version of the ZX-6R. (Troy’s launch report is here.) While they were giving it a tad more displacement, Kawasaki also bolted on a Showa Big Piston Fork, KTRC, ride modes, great brakes, a slipper clutch … Mostly though, I remember remembering how much fun it is to scream a four-cylinder up to 15,000 rpm – something you just don’t do much at all on a BMW S1000RR or any literbike – and I remember thinking I’d rather have a 600 than a 1000 about 98% of the time. All the ZX-6Rs from 2009 are great bikes, but if you seek out a clean 2013 or later for around $7K, you’ll be riding an absolute state-of-the-art sportbike with unparalleled handling, less engine vibration and a smoother, more supple (except maybe for an S1000RR with ESA set to Soft… —Ed.), more comfortable ride than any of the current literbikes – and better ergos – for less than half the price.
The last time we rode a 636 at MO, we didn’t bother to compare it to the other 600s it surely would trounce, but threw it in a comparo against the Suzuki GSX-R750 and Triumph Daytona 675R. Guess what? It won. A fantastic, under-appreciated sportbike that will have you remembering why 600s were the biggest-selling sportbike class in the world for many years.
7. Suzuki Burgman 650, 2003-current
My co-workers will lynch me if I start in with the Honda NC700X again (which maybe hasn’t been around long enough to get cheap yet), so I’ll pick the almost-as-convenient, if not quite as cool, Burgman 650. It narrowly lost out to the new BMW C650GT in our Uber Scooter Shootout two years ago, but I doubt you’re going to find a used C650GT for $3K anytime soon, and you can’t touch the ground on one anyway.
The long and low Burgman’s a cross between a two-wheeled RV, a GSX-R and a large animal suppository, built to cure commuter constipation comfortably, run forever and thrive on abuse. Oh, here’s a pretty blue 2003 with 36,000 miles, just serviced and nearly perfect, for $2400. Y’know, I hate to admit I’ve never ridden the 400 version. Here’s Gabe’s report from 2007!
6. Ducati 999, 2003-2006
What can I say, I’m one of the infidels who really liked the way the 999 looked from the first time I saw it at its inception in 2003. They won’t let me in the Ducati club. I still like it, it reminds me of a Raymond Loewy locomotive – which is one of the things Pierre Terblanche credited for his design. In my opinion, the too-careful 1098 that came after it looks positively dull in comparison. Performance wise, with its new Testastretta L-Twin, the 999 pretty much owned World Superbike during its run (except for 2005, when Troy Corser gave Suzuki its lone WSBK Championship). Pick up a perfect one with less than 10,000 miles, in red or yellow, for $5 to 6k (preferably one that was recently serviced).
5. Harley-Davidson XR1200 Sportster, 2008-2013
Introduced in 2008 in Europe, the Motor Company brought the flat-track homage XR1200 stateside for 2009, and kept producing them through 2013. Nobody but us magazine guys, apparently, were interested in a Sportster with standard ergonomics and sporty suspension that was fun to ride around curves and even had its own AMA roadracing class.
Harleys don’t really go on sale, so $7k for a nice one of these (less than what you’d pay for a new Street 750) will no doubt prove to be quite the bargain as the American Public snaps to its senses and these semi-rare bikes become collectible. In the meantime, it’s a great, comfy, easy bike to just tool around upon. The best one is the 2011 XR1200X (pictured), with Showa Big Piston Fork, adjustable remote-res shocks and big Nissin dual discs up front.
4. Ducati Streetfighter 848, 2011-2015
Sorry, two Ducatis in 10! Nobody liked the big Streetfighter much, frankly, so the small-block Streetfighter sort of got dismissed quickly also. Which is a shame, because it used a different everything, and was a way more engaging motorcycle for everyday riding, with a great seat, perfect ergos for the street and a willing, revvy 849cc 11-degree Testastretta in a shorter-geared drivetrain that encourages you to sample the full acoustic range of that desmo Twin far more often than does the 1099cc version.
Everything about the 848 added up to less being more, including its price tag. The bike had a good run, from 2011 up until being dropped from the lineup last year. Keep your eyes peeled, and you can find these for around $7k, a serious keeper and the rare practical Ducati.
3. BMW 1200 R/ RS/ RT/ GS, 2004-2015
The BMW boys are as hierarchical a bunch as any, and none of them will be content until they have a new Wasserboxer. That fills the Craigslist and Cycle Trader with a plethora of last-generation highly refined oilheads. Some BMW expert told me the only thing wrong with these is they’ll all need a new clutch at 80,000 miles, which is no small task, but other than that they just keep rolling along in a slightly more relaxed fashion than the new, higher-revving liquid-cooled 1200 Boxer.
Pick your poison: Naked bike R, sportybike RS, sports-tourer RT, adventure-bike GS. The GS got here first, in 2004, followed by the others. They’re all previously owned by airline pilots and other sorts who paid attention in class, and usually meticulously maintained their bikes. Prices are all over the map, but $5K and a little shopping around could get you a very nice R complete with saddlebags.
2. Triumph Speed Triple, 2005-2010
Triumph blew it when they replaced the original hooligan-bike’s chrome bug-eye lights for 2011, but that’s okay because the earlier versions are just as furious and fun, complete with delicious and powerful 1050cc Triple.
For some reason, there seem to be lots of low-mileage pampered examples for which delusional people (dealers) want $6 to 7k. Not on my watch. A quick jump to Craigslist uncovers my favorite green version, a 2006 model with 30,000 miles and two months left on extended warranty, always-garaged, perfect California bike – asking $2900. Sounds about right. Complete with chrome high-mount twice pipes, single-sided swingarm, etc… destined to become a highly rideable classic if it isn’t one already.
1. EBR 1190 SX, 2014-2015
Young Troy and I rode this one against our reigning Motorcycle of the Year, the KTM Super Duke R 15 months ago. The KTM won, but only by dint of being a bit more refined. Looking back upon it, though, the slight raw, hard-edginess of the EBR was part of its appeal, that and the whine of its chain tensioner deal on decel. List price was $16,995, about the same as the KTM, for a bike that actually makes a bit more power and weighs 20 pounds less.
Now, brand new EBR SXs are all over the interwebs asking about $10k. Ohhh there’s no dealers, ohhhh where will I get paaaaarts? Stop your whining, will you, Nellie? Did you see Jay Leno’s Garage when Jay visited Francis Ford Coppola’s winery and toured around in his Tucker? What’s a Tucker go for these days? Two mil or so? Verily, if I had ten thou sloshing around and another bike to ride most of the time, I would have one of these tomorrow.