"I passed my test just before the new law came in and I want to buy a 600cc sports bike. I was hoping for something around year 2000 and not spending anymore than £1600-1800 on it."
KevyL, MCN forums
The one to buy: Suzuki SV650S, £1100-£4695
The SV650 is the kind of bike you can learn to ride on but still enjoy for a long time afterwards when your confidence grows. It's also an absolute bargain used.
If you're very tall you might find it a bit cramped, but otherwise the SV650S is a comfy bike - the clipons give a satisfying sporty feel without being too low. The handling is light and well-balanced, the components may be budget but it all works.
The SV650's engine is a peach. It might only make 69bhp, but it has such a useful spread of power. It loves to rev and offers satisfying grunt without the jerkiness normally associated with v-twins. That combined with the super-smooth gearbox make it a joy to use.
There are no reliaiblity issues with the SV650S. It is prone to rust and corrosion as you would expect, so take care of it if you plan to use it all year round. Overall it's a very sensible used buy.
The ZX-6R option: Kawasaki ZX-6R, £1595-£2499
With its genuine 163mph top speed, six-piston brakes, low’ish insurance group and evil induction noise the Kawasaki ZX-6R G-series is the bike that overnight made the 750cc superbikes look superfluous. Even today it’s still considered a capable performer. This one has been lowered too, ideal for a novice. The suspension and brakes will need refreshing by now to get the best from the package. Budget on around £200-£300 to do the job properly.
The ZZR option: Kawasaki ZZR600, £1295-£3999
Suffering from a slight image problem (riders overlook them in favour of more track-orientated machinery), you can pick up used Kawasaki ZZ-R600s for some excellent prices, if you shop around. Insurance on a Kawasaki ZZ-R600 isn’t bad and the fuel consumption’s a plus: take it (relatively) easy and you’ll see over 200 miles out of a tank.
The CBR option: Honda CBR600F, £1250-£2799
The last of the carbed models was the first of the aluminium-framed CBRs. It also got a more aggressive image and it’s still a brilliant motorcycle today, with real power and excitement but with the added practicalities to make it a contender for just about anyone’s garage. The finish on Hondas of this era is right out of the top-drawer so you should be able to find a clean example, even after 12 years or more.
The GSX-R option: Suzuki GSX-R600, £1495-£2499
The Suzuki GSX-R600 chassis is based on that of Suzuki’s Grand Prix RGV500 bike so it’s built for thrashing and it works. The handling’s fantastic, if a bit frisky under really hard acceleration… and the back skips a bit occasionally but at least it makes you feel alive. The GSX-R600 is surprisingly comfy, although wrists can ache after a while.