"I have been saving up to buy a new superbike but after being made redundant recently I have been forced to scale back my plans. I don’t want to give up on my dream of owning a litre sportsbike but I need to think a bit more economically. I reckon I can stretch to around £4,000. Any ideas?"
James Dewhurst, Bristol
The One To Buy
£4,000 - £6,000
The Honda SP-1 was a homologation special for the masses that failed to attract the attention, or sales, it deserve to. Built in response to Ducati’s domination of the WSB series, Honda basically designed a Japanese 916 to prove that they could win if they were racing on an equal footing. With Texan Colin Edwards at the controls the SP-1 won the title in its first year in WSB and then repeated this accomplishment two years later when the updated SP-2 was launched. But why did it fail to set showrooms alight?
In 2000 the SP-1 (or RC51 as it was also known) cost £9,999, which was seen as too expensive for a Japanese mass produced bike. It also came with a fairly primitive and jerky fuel injection system and a peanut for a petrol tank. While over a decade later the fuel injection and tank size are still crap, the value is far more in line with the rest of the market. In fact the SP-1 is a bargain!
For £4,000 you get an HRC designed V-twin superbike with bullet proof reliability, excellent build quality and a real exclusivity about it. The handling is sublime, sound with race cans breath taking and when you fit Power Commander to sort the fuelling the V-twin engine is a real gem. Although the tank range is still terrible!
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The Italian option
Aprilia RSV£2,000 - £4,000
The RSV may be seen as ‘the poor man’s Ducati’ but that doesn’t stop it being a fabulous machine. The first generation (single exhaust pipe) are starting to look excellent value for money and you can get the Öhlins bling on the ‘R’ if you are prepared to pay nearer the £3-3,500 mark. Look around and you may even be able to locate a cheap second generation (twin exhaust) model for £4,000, which is a cracking second hand buy.
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The American Option
£2,500 - £4,500
The 1125R was the final bike that American maverick Erik Buell built before Harley-Davidson pulled the plug on Buell Motorcycles. The company’s only water-cooled machine, the R (as well as the café racer CR) uses an Austrian-built Rotax V-twin motor in a Buell chassis. Owning a Buell comes with its own set of issues such as reliability and lack of spare parts, but it is different and the engine is strong. Possibly a bike for the brave but it is a talking point…
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The classy Japanese inline four option
This will be nudging the top end of the £4,000 budget but the first generation of ‘underseat pipe’ R1s are starting to drop in price. A superb looking bike the 2004 onwards model has a motor that is a bit rev-happy, however with a claimed 172bhp on tap you are guaranteed thrills. The Yamaha is very well built, reliable and there are quite a few around second hand so you can search out a bargain. Not the most exclusive machine on the market, but a fine performer. Check the EXUP valve isn’t seized solid!
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The hooligan Japanese inline four option
Suzuki GSX-R1000 K4
The K4 is the second generation of the GSX-R1000 and comes with radial brakes, titanium nitrided black forks sliders and a cool looking single headlight. Slightly more refined than the original K1 model, the K4 still has a fearsome motor that is thrilling to ride with a raw feel and nature about it. Finish isn’t great on the Suzuki but it has bags of character and there are quite a few to choose from. Surprisingly the K4 is also very practical as it is comfortable and has a fairly relaxed riding position.
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