Winter warmers: planning to ride through the colder months? Grab the keys to one of these

This week we look at buying a winter motorbike for soaking up those cold, hard miles and ensuring you arrive at your destination ready for the day ahead.

They may not be the most alluring bikes out there, but who wants to ride a Panigale V4 when the temperature is in single figures and the road covered in wet leaves?

When it comes to the winter months, it’s time to wrap up warm with your best winter jacket and pick a bike that prioritises practicality over kerb appeal. Here’s our pick of the best two-wheeled winter warmers.

And don’t forget, once you’ve got the bike, you’ll also need to know how to ride it.

Overlooked VFR sibling will make light work of winter


Spec: 104bhp / 782cc / 815mm seat height / 242kg kerb weight

Effectively a Honda VFR800F on stilts (it sits 25mm taller on its suspension), the Honda Crossrunner is a semi adventure bike that was generally overlooked due to its quirky styling. While the first generation (2011-2014) admittedly wasn’t great, the updated bike is actually very good and well worth checking out. Comfortable, practical (it has heated grips as standard) and with unquestionable reliability and a high level of build quality, the Crossrunner is also great fun on B-roads and surprisingly agile when ridden briskly.

Honda Crossrunner used buying advice

  • Check that the 16,000-mile valve clearance check has been done. It costs £800-£1000 if the valves need altering. Bikes made from 2017-onwards had their valve clearance service interval extended to 25,000-miles.
  • Look for any signs of misting within the dash as some have been known to leak.
  • Check the eccentric hub isn’t seized up by loosening the pinch bolts and moving the chain adjuster ring. It’s a nightmare to strip.

Triumph Tiger 955i (’02-06) – £1,000 – £3,500

Old-school adventurer is built to go the distance

Triumph Tiger

Spec: 104bhp / 955cc / 840mm seat height / 239kg kerb weight

The Triumph Tiger 955i is a sturdy adventure bike that makes for a great winter commuter. It’s comfortable and pretty reliable, with an old-school feel. ABS was never an option, which is a shame as its 19in front wheel is a bit skinny and that means a lack of grip in the damp, but for churning out the miles, the Tiger is an excellent option with bags of mid-range drive. Cheap too!

Triumph Tiger 955i used buying advice

  • In 2005 Triumph swapped from spoke to cast wheels on the Tiger. If you are buying a spoke-wheeled bike, check for corrosion, damaged spokes and dents in the rim.
  • The older 955i engine’s gearbox has a hefty clunk between ratios, but is actually quite sturdy. Just check it doesn’t hop out of gear.
  • Reg/recs and generators fail quite often on older Tiger models, so check that the lights don’t dim and ideally, test the voltage across the battery using a voltmeter.

Yamaha TDM900 (’02-10) – £2,500 – £5,000

Yamaha’s forward-thinking oddball that invented tall-roaders

Yamaha TDM900

Spec: 85bhp / 897cc / 825mm seat height / 220kg kerb weight

Thanks to its tall bars and upright seating position the Yamaha TDM900 is very comfortable and its parallel twin motor is both spirited and reliable. The TDM has a reputation for being a bit bland but owners report this is far from the case and happily sing its praises. Yes it’s a bit quirky looking, but the TDM makes for a solid workhorse that is also up for a bit of touring or B-road fun.

Yamaha TDM900 used buying advice

  • Keep a close eye on the oil level as higher-mileage bikes seem to drink a fair bit between services.
  • If a TDM is reluctant to start, check the coils as they can be a weak point and fail with age. They are cheap and easy to replace.
  • ABS was an option from 2005, so check the spec of the bike before you buy. Despite being pretty basic in its operation, it’s handy to have if you plan to use the machine as a winter commuter.

Suzuki GSX1250FA (’10-16) – £2,000 – £6,000

Faired Bandit delivers relaxed miles on a budget

Suzuki GSX1250FA

Spec: 97bhp / 1255cc / 805mm seat height / 257kg kerb weight

The Suzuki GSX1250FA is based around the water-cooled Bandit 1250 but adds a full-fairing and a dash of flair thanks to a headlight taken from the GSX-R1000. It’s a great bike for relaxed mile-munching, with a comfortable seat, centrestand, ABS, 19-litre tank and torque-laden inline four. It is a bit heavy and has pretty budget-feeling suspension, but it makes for a great workhorse.

Suzuki GSX1250FA used buying advice

  • Built to a budget, the Suzuki can suffer corrosion and once it sets in, you are fighting a losing battle.
  • Water has an irritating habit of finding its way into the light cluster, leading to electrical issues. Look carefully for any misting or water droplets within the light.
  • Reg/rec and generator issues are quite common and while neither is that hard to fix, be cautious of bikes with lots of electrical extras such as heated grips etc as they put extra strain on the system.

Kawasaki Versys 1000 – £3,500 – £5,500

2012-2015 bike is versatile in both name and performance

Kawasaki Versys 1000

Spec: 118bhp / 1043cc / 845mm seat height / 239kg kerb weight

The Kawasaki Versys (Versatile System) 1000 arrived in 2012 and, with matching 17in wheels, had a definite road-focus. This gives the Versys excellent road manners and results in a bike that just seems to lap up the miles. Armed with ABC, TC and two power modes as standard the Versys has a solid level of tech and when you add panniers, heated grips etc becomes a worthwhile option for just about any riding task you ask it to perform.

Kawasaki Versys 1000 used buying advice

● Give the back end a good inspection as suspension linkages seize and the shock generally only lasts about 25,000-30,000 miles.
● The radiator seems quite prone to both damage and corrosion, so inspect it well for signs of either.
● Check the thickness of the front brake discs as they may be approaching their minimum wear limit by this age.