7 bikes to personalise

Published: 22 November 2016

Bikes for sale

These bikes are all blank canvases, for you to improve

Ducati Monster 1993-present

The 900SS stripped of its bodywork and given sexy naked styling proved a game-changer, and has been built in sizes from 600cc to 1200cc. Aftermarket parts? Thousands. Carbon this, stainless that, anodised the other, and more red bits than a Costa del Sol beach. Termignoni pipes are almost compulsory and are the quickest way to liberate horsepower. Latest ones are the best performers; early 900s are a bit tired now. The air-cooled models still look the best and are way cheaper to run. The 600/620 is cheapest, and the best way into Ducatis with little financial risk.
What you’ll pay now £1000-£9000. We’d go for an injected 796.
But should you? No naked bike is as cool.

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Harley-Davidson 1200 Sportster 2004-present

We’ve chosen 2004 as the cut-off date because, although the Sportster has been around in one guise or another since 1957, the old rigid-mounted engines were boneshakers and the 883 is just a bit too, well, weedy. This was the year they rubber-mounted the engine. Not a sportsbike in any sense of the word, but a standout machine and you can practically build one from spare parts, from the wheels up. Nobody leaves a Sportster stock (the first thing people change is the tiny fuel tank, and the second is the exhaust). You don’t so much buy a Sportster as start collecting one, like those endless D’Agostini partworks that sucker you into building a model of HMS Victory. For four years.
What you’ll pay now £4000-£8000, depending on spec. We’d choose an FI model from 2006 on.
But should you? Well, it’s a lifestyle choice.  And a way of avoiding depreciation.

Suzuki 1200 Bandit 1996-2007

Classic Suzuki model development: make a parts bin special in a cheap frame and price it as cheap as a bicycle. Well, almost. Oil-cooled GSX-R-based engine is in a very low state of tune – merely adding a decent end can liberates a dozen horsepower. Just about any part can be easily and cheaply improved: engine, brakes, forks, rear suspension, you name it. That’s why the big Bandit was so affordable to begin with. Streetfightered ones have usually been crashed, which is why they were modded. It’s the stunt bike of choice, so beware ones with iffy second gears and shot head races. That apart, they’re just about indestructible and you won’t find two alike.
What you’ll pay now £1000-£2500
But should you? On a pound per horsepower basis, nothing comes close.

Kawasaki ZRX1100/1200 1997-2008

Lots of tuning parts – ZZ-R1100 cams (they don’t fit the 1200, though), flat-slide carbs (no namby-pamby fuel injection here) and a naughty exhaust will give 150bhp. Even an Akrapovic, different air filter and a Dynojet kit will give a 20% increase over stock.
What you’ll pay now £1200-£4500
But should you? Like raw steak for breakfast? This is your motorcycle, sir.

 

Triumph Bonneville 2000-present

A bit like Harley, this was a crafty way of making the Hinckley accessories department a nice little earner and that’s no bad thing because the kit is good quality and always fits. Original 790cc is a bit weedy. The Thruxton, from 2004, has more power but is still no fireball. 
What you’ll pay now £2750-£6000
But should you? For coolness, a Thruxton with Arrow pipes and Ace Café stickers.

 

BMW R1100-1200GS 1994-present

There’s a massive choice of touring equipment from BMW and an army of firms. Hardly anything performance-oriented: it’s all survival kit for dirt roads and deserts, and BMW have bought into it themselves with the Adventure version.
What you’ll pay now £1500-£12,000
But should you? Sure but 2005-08 models best avoided because BMW’s quality control took a dive.

Yamaha XTZ660 Ténéré 2008-present

Fast becoming the choice for overlanders who don’t want (or can’t afford) a BMW GS: huge tin panniers, satnav, Timbuktu stickers and a jerrycan are the usual basic mods. An extra sprocket-side rear wheel bearing is a wise move, as the stock single unit is almost a service item.
What you’ll pay now £2750-£5000
But should you? Not if you’re a short-arse: seat height is stratospheric.

 

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