The bikes that bowed out in 2001

Published: 01 January 2002

FANFARES and banners accompany the introduction of every new model, but the manufacturers tend to be a bit less noisy about those bikes taking the ‘long walk’.

But MCN can reveal just which machines won’t be making it to the 2002 price lists. There will be a few of each lurking in the corners of dealers over the coming months, but these are the bikes that have had their day.

Honda ST1100 1989-2001

What is it? : Essential riding for anybody who feels a fluorescent jacket is a fundamental part of their riding experience, and for those of us that thought a trip to the shops involved a quick tour of the Swiss Alps.

Why has it gone? : After 13 years, the ST1100 is still the bike of choice for tens of thousands of riders all over the world. But this hasn’t stopped Honda from dropping the old Pan in favour of the new STX1300.

Will it be missed? : Every bike copper in the country will feel a tear well-up, as will hundreds of riding instructors and 50,000 mile a year touring junkies. The rest of us just can’t wait for the new STX1300.

Honda SLR650 Vigor 1996-2001

What is it?: The last of the Dominator dynasty. Equipped with an air-cooled RFVC – Radial Four Valve Cylinder – single that can be traced back to the 1978 XL350, the SLR was a last ditch attempt to inject some ‘90s style into the rapidly ageing Dommie.

Why has it gone?: Because nobody was fooled. Not even for a minute. More modern takes on the theme – like BMW’s F650 and Aprilia’s Pegaso – showed the SLR for exactly what it was.

Will it be missed?: Err... no.

Honda X11 1999-2001

What is it?: A Super Blackbird with no clothes on. Slightly de-tuned, but not by much, the X11 provided spine-compressing acceleration and a complete lack of fairing.

Why has it gone?: It cost almost a thousand pounds more than the Suzuki Bandit, and although the difference was obvious when you rode it, you could buy a real Blackbird for not much more.

Will it be missed?: Those who gave it a chance will sorely miss its awesome combination of grunt and comfort, but the most won’t even notice it’s gone. Its rarity could make this a future classic once riders forget how expensive it was when new.

Honda CB750 1969-2001

What is it?: The great-grandpa of all modern sportsbikes, the CB750 brought in-line four-cylinder engines and unheard-of performance to the masses. Over the years, the CB750 softened into the F2 version – a retro-styled Bandit rival. How the mighty are fallen.

Why has it gone?: Despite the term ‘superbike’ being invented for this very machine, this race-winning thoroughbred is just too old to compete in today’s market. Machine’s like Kawasaki’s ZR-7 and Suzuki’s GSX750 do a better job in the budget market, while newer retros like the Yamaha XJR1300 pull harder at the heart strings. The resulting slow sales killed the bike in the UK – although it is still on sale in Japan.

Will it be missed?: Riders who remember the original CB750 will undoubtedly shed a tear or two. Most of us won’t notice.

Suzuki TL1000S 1997-2001

What is it?: Pure, unadulterated V-twin evil on two wheels. This seminal Japanese Ducati competitor quickly gained a reputation as powerful as its storming engine, when riders all over the country found that huge power plus low weight equals massive tank slappers.

Why has it gone?: Sales fell off a cliff as riders gasped to horror-stories both in the press and down the pub. Despite the superb motor and competitive deals, the TLS never recovered from its ‘Widow-maker’ image – even though it quickly gained a steering damper to tame the slappers

Will it be missed?: The loss of the TL1000S is a true tragedy, and one that will be felt by every sportsbike fan on the planet. Mark our words, in the vein of the maligned Kawasaki H2, the TL1000S is a future classic. If you’ve got one, treasure it.

Yamaha XVZ1300 Venture Star 1999-2001

What is it?: Full-dress V-four carnival float on just two wheels. Styled after machines like Harley Davidson’s Electra Glide Ultra Classic, this mammoth tourer roamed British roads for only two years before dying out.

Why has it gone?: The only riders in the UK prepared to pay £13,000 for a chrome-coated cruiser want a Harley badge on the tank, not Yamaha’s crossed tuning forks. Poor sales and good business sense persuaded Yamaha UK to pull the plug. You can still get one in the States, though.

Will it be missed?: Even the cruiser-riders the machine was aimed at failed to embrace it. And those who actually discovered the competent motorcycle lurking under the gaudy exterior were relatively few in numbers. It’s virtually forgotten already.

Yamaha Thunderace 1000 1996-2001

What is it?: Slightly lardy cruise missile, using the old 1002cc, five-speed EXUP lump made famous by the FZR1000. Briefly ran with the superbike pack, before being overtaken by lighter machines.

Why has it gone?: It was no match for either the ZX-9R or ‘Blade, and when Yamaha beat them both with the R1, the ‘Ace was relegated to sports-tourer duties. In that market, it couldn’t compete with the likes of the Honda Blackbird, and sales dropped to nothing.

Will it be missed?: The Thunderace was the last living incarnation of the FZR1000, which defined superbikes in the 1980s and early 1990s. As such, respect is due.

Kawasaki ZZR1100 1990-2001

What is it?: Intercontinental ballistic tourer that set the standard for seven years and has been in production for nearly twelve. During its long reign, the Big Zed has held numerous production speed and acceleration records, not least of which was the honour of being the fastest production motorcycle for six years.

Why has it gone?: The Honda Super Blackbird beat the ZZR at its own game, and the ZX-12R superseded the bike as Kawasaki’s flagship model. Kawasaki’s new ZZ-R1200 carries many of the 1100’s genes, but the " ZZ-R " badge has lost its link to headline-grabbing performance.

Will it be missed?: Oh yes. The ZZR1100 was a milestone motorcycle, whose styling and specification hardly changed over 11 different models. It brought near-180mph performance to the masses in a time when few machines topped 150mph, and goes to show that manufacturers really can get it right first time.

Moto Guzzi Quota 1998-2001

What is it?: Repulsive across-the-frame V-twin big trailie. Uses the trademark Guzzi transverse twin to propel the bedspring chassis across continents.

Why is it going?: The closest the Quota could handle to real off road terrain would be a slightly dirty road. The already staid Guzzi motor was further de-tuned and it’s got all the looks of a three-month-old corpse. Against machines like the BMW R1150GS and Triumph Tiger, it never stood a chance. As Aprilia is using Guzzi to capitalise on the cruiser market, keeping it in production made no sense.

Will it be missed?: Very few people were even aware it even existed.. Could be a future classic based solely on its rarity value, but never on the riding experience.