Britain's best loved motorbikes
There are over 917,000 motorcycles (above 249cc) currently licensed to legally roam the highways and byways of the UK’s road network.
But while the new bike stats tell a story that could easily convince you all of Britain’s bikers are straddling new retros, nakeds and adventure bikes, the true tale of the near-million machines on the road is somewhat different.
A whopping 850,649 of the total are more than a year old – with over 50% of those aged six years and older. So, we turned to an insurance comparison giant* to reveal the models that comprise the top 20 most popular insured bikes to reveal which models us Brits love best. And there were a few surprises,too.
The top 20 best loved motorbikes:
- 20: Triumph Street Triple R
- 19: Yamaha Fazer 600
- 18: Yamaha R1
- 17: Honda CBR500R
- 16: Suzuki GSX-R750
- 15: BMW R1200GS
- 14: Triumph Sprint ST 1050
- 13: Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade
- 12: Yamaha MT-07
- 11: Honda CBR600F
- 10: Kawasaki ZX-9R
- 9: Honda Blackbird
- 8: Suzuki GSX-R1000
- 7: Suzuki SV650S
- 6: Honda CBR600R
- 5: Yamaha YZF-R6
- 4: Suzuki GSF600 Bandit
- 3: Honda CBR900RR FireBlade
- 2: Kawasaki ZX-6R
- 1: Suzuki GSX-R600
20: 2009-2015 Triumph Street Triple R
Ten years ago, Triumph lit the touchpaper to an inferno of success. Hot in the wheel tracks of the their Daytona 675 came a middleweight naked that stole the heart of all who rode it.
In terms of raw spec, the Triumph Street Triple R is just a stripped-down, flat barred, re-tuned version of the Daytona 675, yet there’s somehow something more to it than that; a sprinkling of indeterminable magic that’ll put a grin on the face of everyone from wide eyed novice, to battle-hardened racer.
Triumph sold over 11,000 Street Triples worldwide in the model’s first year and it went on to become their best-selling bike two years later.
Buying a Street Triple R
Popularity means there are plenty available used so as a buyer you’re definitely in the driving seat. You can pick up a decent 2009 R for around £4000.
Take a test ride and feel for a smooth throttle response; any jerkiness will indicate a need to have the throttle bodies balanced.
19: 1998-2009 Yamaha Fazer 600
The pre-2004 Fazer is a brilliant bike. It uses the engine from the YZF600 Thundercat, retuned to make 100bhp but with much more torque lower down and was given a solid steel chassis and excellent R1 brakes.
Later models are a little peakier in their power delivery and lack some of the original Fazer’s smoothness but it still represents the very definition of a real no-compromises all-rounder.
Make a few suspension upgrades and you can have sportsbikelike performance in the twisties as well as genuine two-up touring capability in perfect comfort. Owners love its mix of practicality (storage and bungee hooks) and brilliant engine performance. Big-bore it to 660cc for serious fun.
Buying a Fazer 600
A budget of between £800 and £3500 will get you into Fazer ownership. They’re generally robust, but look out for worn-out clutches and tired-out rear shocks. The headlights on all variants are also reknown for being notoriously rubbish, and the engine paint flakey.
18: 1998-current Yamaha R1
Ever since its 1998 launch, the R1 has been rewriting the superbike rulebook. From redefining the class in the late ’90s, to the introduction of ride-by-wire in 2007, the arrival of the big-bang engine in 2009, the R1 has been the bike that has appealed most to riders who want the best of the best.
The 2007 model is considered the wildest, with an unbridled 170bhp while the later crossplane crank versions pack a bit more torque and character, giving great low-range grunt as well as two-stroke-like top-end.
Understandably, owners love them for their outright speed and performance, as well as that crossplane howl.
Buying an R1
1998 originals are now considered modern classics, so don’t expect to pick one up for less than £5000. The 2007 model probably represents the best value as it’s possible to pick up a low mileage one for around £5000. Early 2001 models appear to be the cheapest way to R1 ownership, starting at around £2000.
17: 2013-current Honda CBR500R
The 471cc Honda boasts claimed economy figures of 77mpg (giving a tank range of over 260 miles) and has ABS as standard, which is reassuring for new riders.
It’s a very solid commuter with decent handling, and owners rate it for its ride quality, comfort and bullet-proof reliability. And now it looks like a baby Blade, it’s even sharper.
Buying a CBR500R
Corrosion due to poor quality fasteners is a common gripe but very few owners report any mechanical issues with the CBR aside from general wear and tear. Check the bearings well as they did skimp on grease in the factory and be vigilant for crash damage. Prices start from around £2700.
16: 1985-2017 Suzuki GSX-R750
Credited as being the first proper race replica, the Suzuki GSX-R750 launched the UK’s love affair with sportsbikes – specifically blue and white ones!
From the 'Slabbies' and 'Slingshots' of the 1980s to the fully watercooled versions of the 1990s, the 749cc GSX-R was designed to rule the racetracks but ultimately became the perfect sportsbike for the road thanks to its ideal blend of power, handling and size.
The final major update in 2013 saw the breed perfected, with a smooth and sophisticated 148bhp engine, a lighter more compact chassis with Showa BPF and Brembo brakes and an overall weight reduction of 8kg over the previous model.
Owners love it for its usable engine and handling agility without compromising on riding comfort.
Buying a GSX-R750
With so many models to choose from, you’ll be able to pick up a GSX-R750 whatever your budget. £2000 will get you an average mileage 2002 model, whereas you can expect to pay nearer £6000 for the final evolution from 2013.
15: 2004-2018 BMW R1200GS
The bike that kickstarted Britain’s love-affair with adventure bikes so it’s no surprise the R1200GS features on this list.
Although what is remarkable is that it’s the only adventure machine to feature here, indicating that although the new bike market has swung towards dual-sport models, the used market hasn’t quite followed suit just yet.
Owners of the mighty GS love the usability of its 110bhp engine, the stability from the Duolever suspension, the incredible comfort as well as the big BMW’s creature comforts.
The air-cooled Boxer twin engine was upgraded to a partially liquid-cooled motor in 2013 boosting power to 125bhp.
Buying an R1200GS
The entry point to R1200GS ownership is around £4k for an early model, rising to £7500 for a LC version. Reliability is generally OK, but on bikes over 30,000 you need to budget to get the Sachs shock rebuilt at a cost of around £250.
14: 2005-2015 Triumph Sprint ST 1050
Characterful and fast, the Sprint ST gives sports-touring riders an even more soulful alternative to Honda’s VFR800 for a cheaper price.
With 123bhp and 75ftlb, its inline triple can propel a rider, pillion and luggage around mountain roads with grace and ease.
Discounting on pre-reg bikes toward the end of its life mean it’s brilliant value as a used bike. Snap one up for around £3000.
13: 2004-2016 Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade
From 2007 to 2012, Honda’s seminal sportsbike topped the sales charts consistently and as a used buy it still occupies the hearts and garages of riders today.
The 998cc 2004 ’Blade wowed with its seamless power while the snub-nosed 2008 model expanded on the Blade’s philosophy of giving the rider total control, courtesy of a slipper clutch and monobloc calipers.
12: 2014-current Yamaha MT-07
The motorcycle success story of the modern era and the bike that proved you didn’t need big power and a big budget to have loads of fun. The MT-07 is brilliant not only because its frisky, 698cc parallel twin is crammed with character and puts cheeky wheelies within easy reach.
Nor just because its lightweight chassis makes darting in and out of corners an uncomplicated hoot, moreover, it’s because you can now pick one up for as little as £3500.
11: 1987-2006 Honda CBR600F
Quite simply the best all-round 600cc motorcycle of the 1990s. Others may have been sportier (GSX-R600), faster (ZX-6R), cheaper (FZR600) or poor imitations (TT600) but nothing matched the Honda for all-round ability.
You could commute on it, tour on it, do trackdays on it, have fun running around on the adequate torque it produced lower down or explore the upper reaches of the rev band: it took it all in its stride.
It was also astoundingly well built, reliable and it even came with a centrestand. Owners rate it for its modern looks, brilliant comfort and powerful 108bhp engine.
Buying a CB600F
Pick up a 1997 model for as little as £1000. The only weak points are reg/rec failures and the subframe can be prone to rust.
Many are in the hands of racers due to the popular Golden Era Supersport Championship so be aware that many will have been taken to the track at some point.
10: 1994-2002 Kawasaki ZX-9R
But as a stupidly-fast sports-tourer, it’s something of gem – and its presence on this list proves that discerning motorcyclists know all about what the mighty 9R has to offer.
The 899cc 16v inline four is a belter, generating a meaty top end that’ll propel it to 180mph. Not bad for a big old girl.
Owners rate it for its age-defying performance, exceptional riding comfort, and superb reliability.
Buying a ZX-9R
Just £2000 is all you need to pick yourself up a decent ZX-9R as they’re seriously under valued at the moment but prices look set to climb. As with most bikes of this age, look at the condition of the suspension and budget for a rebuild to bring the handling back up to par.
9: 1997-2005 Honda CBR1100XX Blackbird
The Blackbird is a simply astonishing bike, one which Honda themselves found impossible to replace. It shot to stardom when a US bike magazine clocked it at a top speed of 178.5mph, making it the world’s fastest production machine (until the Suzuki Hayabusa turned up two years later).
But more than top speed, it’s the unflustered way that it delivers 164bhp from its beautifully-engineered, 1137cc inline four cylinder engine, as well as the superb comfort and gorgeous build quality which warms the cockles of owners’ hearts.
Buying a Blackbird
Prices range from £1500 to £5000. There’s very little to worry about: it’s incredibly well made and tough, which is why you still see so many today.
Reg/rec failure is not unknown, camchain tensioners are weak and overhauling the linked brakes is time-consuming and costly.
It has short (4000-mile) service intervals and many have touring goodies so check they’ve been done properly. But keep it maintained and you’ll get thousands of miles of high-speed service.
8: 2001-current Suzuki GSX-R1000
King of superbikes in the early-to-mid 2000s, the GSX-R1000 was the first inline, four cylinder 1000cc bike to win both the BSB and WSB titles and its legacy has left a lasting impression on British biking.
It proved that riders wanted sportsbikes with huge power and light weight rather than refinement and it took the rest of the Japanese manufacturers four years to even match the original K1’s performance.
Famed for its big-ballsy engine with loads of low-rpm torque, the GSX-R1000 reached a design zenith in 2005 when it struck the beautiful balance of having oodles of usable power (176bhp), supreme ergonomics and incredibly low weight – to this day it’s still one of the lightest litre bikes ever produced at just 166kg dry.
Buying a GSX-R1000
Expect to pay £4000-£5000 for a 2005 K5, but it’s an in demand model so prices are increasing. Reliability is spot-on, however the K5’s clutch can become grabby through lack of oil.
There are modifications to sort this out, ranging from drilling extra holes in the basket to fitting a GSX-R750 judder ring.
7: 1999-2012 Suzuki SV650S
The SV650 has become a cult bike, with both new and experienced riders loving its easygoing nature and bullet-proof reliability.
The 645cc V-twin provides plenty of smoothly delivered, grin-inducing shove and it’s housed in a brilliant chassis that’s agile, accurate and easy to hustle.
In half-faired S guise, the SV can be easily pressed into touring duty, used as a daily ride or even a track bike. Such is their popularity and versatility, there are countless specialists who can enhance it further still.
Owners say they love the V-twin punch, sleek looks and low running costs. Popular mods include mid-priced shock upgrades. For those looking for a bit more go, 700cc big-bore conversion kits will take power up from 73bhp to around 83bhp.
Buying an SV650S
You can pick up a low-mileage, fuel injected 2003 example for just £1800 while first generation, carburetted SV650s, which first came out in 1999, can now be had for as little as £900.
The fuel-injected bikes are very reliable, but you need to watch out for incorrectly set-up fuelling modules if the bike’s been fitted with an aftermarket exhaust as they can cause rough running.
6: 2003-2016 Honda CBR600RR
Easily one of the most solid and reliable 600s around – the CBR600RR came to typify the sports 600 class. Not only did it dominate in World Supersport racing, winning the title eight times, but thanks its MotoGP-inspired chassis it was also simply brilliant on the road.
An update in 2005 saw the arrival of adjustable upside-down forks and radial brakes. Owners love the connection they get between the throttle and the rear wheel courtesy of the Pro-Link suspension, high-revving engine and its ability to inspire real confidence in the corners.
Buying a CBR600RR
A big seller in Britain, so there’s plenty of choice on the used market. You can pick up a 2005-onwards bike for around £3000, however prices of later machines are holding strong after Honda stopped producing the bike in 2016.
They’re brilliantly reliable but look out for gearbox issues on high-mileage examples. The Pirelli Supercorsa SP is the tyre of choice.
5: 1999-current Yamaha R6
Yamaha captured the imagination of the sportsbike-buying public in 1998 with its space-age R1, but it was the R6 from 1999 that came to define the early noughties.
Its racy looks were backed up by an impressive spec that included a high-revving inline four and a chassis that was agile and super-stable.
It got its first big revamp in 2003 which brought in fuel injection along with a host of other internal changes which made it much more flexible.
But it was the 2006 evolution that came to define the model, with super sharp looks and handling as well as fly-by-wire throttle and a slipper clutch. Owners love its high-revving character, exceptional build quality, sharp styling, and addictive soundtrack.
Buying an R6
You can pick up a 2003 model for around £3000 and there’s plenty of choice. Just look out for ex-race or track bikes – damaged paint on forks and wheels can be a giveaway as can aftermarket plastics.
If you fancy the 2006 model expect to part with around £4500 – plus a premium for red and white examples.
4: 1996-2005 Suzuki GSF600 Bandit
A bike that’s so much more than the sum of its parts, the Bandit not only helped a flagging Suzuki out of the mid-’90s, post-recession doldrums, it also spawned a whole new genre of cheap and cheerful yet blindingly brilliant bikes.
Often described as a 'parts bin special', the Bandit took the oil cooled 599cc inline four from the GSX600F 'teapot', suspended it in a fun and forgiving steel tube chassis and then slapped on a rival-beating price tag.
The result was a characterful, accessible, robust, do-anything roadster that appealed to all kinds of riders.
As something of a blank canvas, the Bandit also spawned a healthy customisation scene, meaning you can transform it into anything you desired.
There’s even a highly successful Bandit club racing scene. Owners love them for their versatility, unburstable engines, low running costs and value for money.
Buying a Bandit
Although mechanically very robust, finish has always been a stumbling block, more so now they’re getting long in the tooth. Look out for corroded downpipes, peeling paint and sticking calipers.
There are plenty of modifications available but among the best are an aftermarket shock, stiffer fork springs, bar-end weights and a comfort seat to reduce vibes.
3: 1992-2003 Honda CBR900RR FireBlade
The bike that redefined the superbike breed. The original ’Blade bested its rivals with light weight rather than trying to outgun them with big power.
At a time when superbikes were well over 200kg, the 1992 ’Blade weighed just 185kg. Starting at 893cc, it grew to 918cc in 1996, 929cc in 2000 then 954cc in 2002.
That final CBR900RR was the last by original ’Blade creator Tadao Baba and at 149bhp and 168kg dry, it’s still, to this day, one of the best sportsbikes ever made. Owners love them for their involving and rewarding ride, practicality, reliability and build quality.
Buying a CBR900RR FireBlade
Original 893cc Blades are now regarded as classics so prices are rising but you can bag a tidy 918 for as little as £1800. Pre-2001 bikes had a 16in front wheel as standard which limits tyre choice, although many have been converted to 17in via a VFR wheel conversion. Bag a 954 Blade from between £2700 and £4000.
2: 1995-current Kawasaki ZX-6R
Always the last word in excitement, the ZX-6R was introduced at 599cc then bounced to 636cc and back as it battled its rivals on road and track.
The 2003 B1H ushered in an era of scalpel-sharp 600s that were unashamedly track-focused – and the ZX-6R was always the sharpest and hardest of the lot.
Invariably the most powerful 600 available (even in 599cc guise), the ZX-6R is loved today by those who’ve got one as a second bike for indulging in a bit of old-school lunacy every now and then.
Buying a ZX-6R
Underseat-pipe 2005 ZX-6R is pinnacle of the breed. Big-bore 636cc motor is nigh-on perfect, with just enough bottom end as well as a howling top-end rush, while a switch to plusher Showa suspension makes it more forgiving on the road than its stiff, Kayaba-sprung B1H predecessor. Pick one up for £3200-£4000.
1: 1996-2006 Suzuki GSX-R600
Britain’s best-loved bike is the Suzuki GSX-R600 – a screaming supersport. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. Back in the early 2000s Britain was supersport mad: 600s were cutting-edge, thrilling to ride and accessible.
But rising prices and a slow-down in development gradually saw interest switch to the new wave of litre sportsters and supernakeds, which were higher tech and better value in comparison.
But we’ve not forgotten the reasons why we loved 600s in the first place: just the right amount of power, sharp looks and even sharper handling – and now that you can pick up a final generation one from as little as £4000 – there’s no reason not to.
Suzuki’s first GSX-R600 set the new benchmark for the class in 1996 – its 599cc inline-four engine was revhappy whilst its chassis was directly influenced by GP racing technology.
It went through six iterations in its 20-year lifespan, with the final version being the lightest, most agile and punchiest courtesy of its 125bhp, 51ftlb engine.
Buying a GSX-R600
There are literally hundreds available with prices from £1700 to £7800. Look out for transmission problems on older, higher mileage bikes, and check the front brake master cylinder recall has been carried out on examples from 2005-onwards.
On all non-ABS models, upgrading the standard rubber brake lines to aftermarket braided items dramatically improves braking feel.
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*Information supplied by The Bike Insurer (www.thebikeinsurer.co.uk)