7 Bikes with long lives

Published: 23 July 2016

These bikes all had engines with astonishing lifespans says Neil Murray 

Suzuki GSX-R750 1985-92

We’re talking the oil-cooled bikes here. It’s hard now to imagine the impact this bike had – even Kawasaki admitted to being ‘horrified’ when the GSX-R appeared.  Even after it went water-cooled in 1992, the original was used in a variety of other Suzukis. The GSX600F Teapot had a sleeved down engine in a cheap fully-faired chassis, the GSX750F was a fast (140mph) sports-tourer, the 600 Bandit used the GSX-R600 engine in a naked chassis and spawned a new class of sporty nakeds, and the Inazuma was a pure retro not unlike a Kawasaki Zephyr.
What you’ll pay now £2000 for a decent J model, £1700 for an Inazuma, from a grand for a decent Bandit and telephone numbers for a superb dry-clutch 1986 RR homologation model.
But should you? Oh yes. The L model GSX-R is probably the best oil-cooled 750, while the originals Fs are now highly desirable, and going up in value.

 

Triumph Speed Twin 1937-88

Original Triumph parallel twin set an engineering precedent, and was the basis of a model range that lasted for decades, well beyond its sell-by date. Starting out as a 500, it grew to 650cc and then in the mid-1970s to 750cc (which was really too far). Choice of models too numerous to list here, but basically the 650s were the ideal capacity, the single carb models easier to live with, and the Bonneville was one of the all-time great sportsbikes. 650 Bonnies are twice the price of their 750cc successors. 
What you’ll pay now £3000 – £15,000+
But should you? For the sheer cool factor, yes. The single carb 650 is the most sensible choice.

Honda CB125 1973-86 (later in some markets)

The evergreen SOHC Honda 125 single engine found its way into a surprising number of variants and has lived on and on. There was the original CB125S roadster, the CB125J ‘sportsbike' (with more power and a cable disc), the even sportier CB125RS (with hydraulic front disc, box section swingarm and air forks), the SL125 pseudo-enduro, the XL125 trail bike and the TL125, a serious competition trials bike. All are utterly charming, and not one is undesirable. Parts supply is still good, too.
What you’ll pay now £1000 – £2500
But should you? Yes. The two-tone 125S and the SL125 are hugely sought after machines. TL125 even more, but it’s not really a road bike.

 

Ducati Pantah 1980-86

Fabio Taglioni’s masterpiece was designed be developed far beyond its original spec. The Pantah was available first as a 500, then a 600, and finally a 650, but the engine was enlarged for the 750F1, 750SS and 900SS, put into Cagiva bikes, and even went on to become the water-cooled 851, 888 and even the 916.  
What you’ll pay now £3000 – £4000
But should you? The 600 Pantah is gorgeous and will outrun a later 600SS.

Yamaha XT660 Ténéré (5v) 1991-99

New generation Ténéré used a water-cooled engine and Yamaha’s unique five-valve head. Fabulous engine in, sadly, a chassis with some very cheap components. The engine was good enough to be sound in the quirky SZR660 road bike, and MZ pinched it for the Skorpion. 
What you’ll pay now £800 – £1200
But should you? Not really. The present 660 Ténéré is so much better.

 

Kawasaki Z750 air-cooled 1979-2004 (all variants)

Derived from the Z650 and first available as a basic 750, then the sporty GPz (the definitive air-cooled 750 sportsbike of the era), the GT shaft-driven tourer, the LTD pseudo-custom, the Turbo (easily the best of the factory turbo bikes) and soldiered on as the ZR7 budget naked.
What you’ll pay now £800 – £5000 (for a really good Turbo).
But should you? If you can’t afford a Turbo, get the Uni-Trak GPz version.

BMW airhead R60/75/80/90/1000 1974-96

Ignoring the older flat twins, the /6 and /7 ‘airhead’ series were available as naked road bikes, bikini-faired sportsbikes, fully-faired sports tourers, barn door-faired pure tourers, giant trailies and even Paris-Dakar replicas. Proved so popular BMW had to re-introduce them after discontinuing them for the Ks.
What you’ll pay now £2000 – £8500 (depends on model).
But should you? God, yes.