Old-school sportsbikes: put off by 200bhp superbikes? Try some affordable sporty nostalgia instead

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Yamaha’s beautiful and brilliant YZF750, Kawasaki’s gorgeous ZX-7R and their old-school superbike stablemates still deliver a more than-sufficient 120bhp+ yet do so with analogue technology, lack of rider aids, and a race track pedigree that can truly satisfy, while ticking a nostalgia box at the same time.

And, best of all, with prices starting at around £2000 for a reasonable example, they can be absolute bargains, too – if you know what to look for, that is… as ever, you can rely on MCN for expert advice on what to look out for. Check out our used sportsbike buying guides below:

The under-appreciated beauty that’s now coming good

Yamaha YZF750R

Spec: 125bhp / 749cc / 795mm seat height / 223kg kerb weight

The FireBlade had trumped it before it arrived, Ducati’s 916 stole its track limelight and Yamaha’s R1 cut its life short. In isolation, though, the Yamaha YZF750R was beautiful (despite some dubious colour schemes), free-revving, fast, outhandled its closest contemporaries and racked up BSB titles in saucy SP form in the hands of Niall Mackenzie. In the Noughties, you could snap one up for as little as two grand. Today, though, it’s an appreciating classic.

Yamaha YZF750R used buying advice

● Engines are robust but can drink oil, so listen for rattles from a bike that’s been used with too little. Clutches die every 20,000 miles.
● Chassis was top-notch (late bikes have the best rear shock), but some finish isn’t great – there are cheap fasteners and the thin paint on the wheels will be ready to fall off.
● Brakes seize if it’s been ridden anywhere near salt; check for some bite, and make sure a good lever grab finds the extra power it should.
● Road filth can lead to electrical woes, as the rear tyre flicks crud at the connectors and components under the seat.

’96-’03 Kawasaki ZX-7R – £2,700 – £4,500

The classic ‘green meanie’ still has a strong following

Kawasaki ZX-7R

Spec: 110bhp / 748cc / 790mm seat height / 203kg kerb weight

The final, renamed (to align with the then ZX-6R and ZX-9R) incarnation of Kawasaki’s brilliant ZXR750 retains much of that bike’s powertrain and chassis. As such it was dated even when new, no match for Suzuki’s all-new, beam framed GSX-R750 SRAD, and was never updated significantly. That longevity, however, hints at how much it was – and still is – loved.

Kawasaki ZX-7R used buying advice

● Quality and finish aren’t high points in Kawasaki’s history.
● Famously-stiff suspension gets tired with miles and enthusiastic use, paint flakes off chassis parts, the six-pot front brake calipers need attention to keep them working efficiently, and the downpipes rot. That’s assuming you find a bike with the original system – ZX-7Rs were targets for purveyors of loud pipes.
● Green and purple is the desirable scheme, but always, always buy on condition rather than miles or age.

’96-’00 Suzuki GSX-R750 – £1,750 – £3,500

The first of a new generation of thoroughly modern GSX-Rs

Suzuki GSX-R750

Spec: 128bhp / 749cc / 830mm seat height / 179kg kerb weight

After over a decade of persisting with a signature cradle frame and (mostly) oil cooling, Suzuki finally launched its first GP-inspired, beam-framed GSX-R complete with a screaming, ram-air four-cylinder motor, in 1996 as the GSX-R750T (better known as the SRAD) Unfortunately for Suzuki, despite being compact, light, powerful and fast, it took a while to develop into a racing success story and by the time it did, Yamaha’s 1998 R1 had arrived and well-and-truly stolen its thunder. Classic buffs favour the original T but the 1997 V, more powerful, fuel-injected 1998 W and 1999 X are all classic Suzuki 750s.

Suzuki GSX-R750 used buying advice

● Most of the issues associated to these bikes are age related. Check for things like seized suspension linkages or worn bearings.
● The six-piston brake calipers are prone to seizing.

’92-’99 Honda CBR900RR – £3,000 – £6,500

The original FireBlade was a game-changer and now a classic

Honda CBR900RR

Spec: 116bhp / 893cc / 810mm seat height / 185kg kerb weight

The bike that changed how sports motorcycles were built. The Honda CBR900RR FireBlade wiped the floor with its competitors in 1992 not by being more powerful (it wasn’t) but by being lighter and more compact. Later versions, particularly after 1998, lack the same purity (but are cheaper) but the original Blade is still a wild ride and surprisingly practical, too.

Honda CBR900RR used buying advice

● If paying original prices, make sure it’s an all-original bike.
● 16in front wheel means tyre choice is limited. Some swap for a 17in item (from a VFR) to widen choice, but it’s best to stick with the original.
● Like all Hondas of this era, the reg/rec is prone to failing and this can take the generator down.
● Headstock bearings wear fairly fast, and the suspension linkages seize if not serviced. Check for cracked fork lowers, too.

’97-’06 Triumph Daytona – £2,200 – £4,500

British triple-pot sportsbike that was so very nearly brilliant

Triumph Daytona

Spec: 125bhp / 955cc / 815mm seat height / 188kg kerb weight

On paper the Daytona T595 had a lot going for it: an all-new 125bhp triple; a fine-handling, good-looking, single-sided swingarm chassis and lots of quality touches. More ‘road sports’ than racer it wasn’t as light or fast as an SRAD but made up for it with character, versatility and class. Originals are now prized most even though later, facelifted examples are better.

Triumph Daytona used buying advice

● A slow starter probably has issues with the sprag clutch, especially if there’s squealing too.
● Fourth and sixth gears can fail, so test you can get all cogs both ways.
● The engine’s paint flakes off too, though it’s nothing to worry about.
● Has the suspension linkage been greased to the 12,000-mile service schedule? It can seize if not.
● So can the eccentric adjuster for the rear wheel on the single sided swingarm – unfortunately, replacement is the only option.