7 Bikes named after racetracks
Want to portray a sporty image for your new bike? Best rob a name from a racing circuit.
Moto Guzzi Le Mans (1976-1993)
Guzzi’s immortal vee-engined sportster first appeared as an 850 in 1976, with a little flyscreen and long low-slung looks to die for. It hit 130mph, returned 50mpg, was shaft-driven and had superb handling for the era. It went through a number of model updates. Mark Two got a very neat three-piece fairing and comprehensive instrumentation, including a quartz clock. Mark Three was less appealing with more squared-off styling and big tacho, and it went downhill from there. Mark Four went to 1000cc, and the Dell’Orto carbs grew from 36mm to 40mm. It also got a silly 16in front wheel that cocked up the steering. Mark Five, the final version, reverted to an 18in front wheel but spoiled the looks with a lairy red/white/black paintscheme. Mark Ones are super-expensive now, so a Mark Two is the best compromise.
What you’ll pay today £2500-£10,000
But should you? Oh yes: charismatic, economical, reliable, wonderful parts availability.
Triumph Daytona 955 (1997-2006)
The name was used by Meriden Triumph back in the 1960s for its 500cc twin, and Hinckley has put the name on more than one bike, so let’s choose the 955 Daytona that ran from 1997. Fast, sweet-handling, lovely sound, well built – just not competitive with the GSX-Rs and Fireblades of the era. So a sports-tourer, then, and that’s reflected in the lower insurance grouping. It had a major revision in 2001 and was restyled again in 2004. Check that the conversion to metal fuel pipe snap connectors was done – the plastic ones broke and sprayed fuel everywhere.
What you’ll pay today £1000-£2500
But should you? Yes. All the depreciation is now behind them.
Laverda Jarama 1000 (1977-1981)
A less intense version of the mythical 140mph Jota. Laverda’s 3CL was a tuned 1000cc triple, and after the Jota came along, the 3CL then became the Jarama. Named after the former home of the Spanish GP, it’s a brutal, heavy, litre triple, with the extraordinary one-cylinder-up-and-two-down crankshaft that gave it some vibes and an amazing exhaust note. Not many were sold. If you wanted performance, you bought a Jota, and if you wanted more torque and something easy to ride you bought a 1200 Mirage. A lot of Jaramas were converted to Jota spec, or close to.
What you’ll pay today £2500-£4000
But should you? Hard to say. If tuned, yes, but don’t pay Jota money.
Velocette Thruxton (1964-1971)
Epitome of the sporting British single. Launched in 1964, it ran until the company folded in 1971. Essentially, it was a tuned-up Venom and knocked out 41bhp, which was enough for 110mph. Only about 1100 were made, and there are a lot of fakes about: consulting the owners’ register is essential.
What you’ll pay today £6500-£30,000
But should you? Absolutely. It’s a pure classic and much more affordable than a Vincent.
Suzuki Sebring (1972-1977)
You what? A GT380 triple, that’s what, sold in the United States as the Sebring. More tourer than sportster, with a rubber-mounted engine that (unusually for a two-stroke) was both torquey and very, very smooth. Tall top gear (sixth) made it practical as well, with fuel consumption that was better than a Kawasaki 400.
What you’ll pay today £1600-£3000
But should you? Yes. Prices are rising fast, and it’s a nice bike to ride, even now.
Ducati Monza 160 (1965-1971)
Ducati’s first OHC single, designed by the genius Fabio Taglioni. An exquisite little sporting single, still used in classic racing today. Jaw-droppingly beautiful in sports trim; the slab-styled models much less so. They won’t be reliable unless completely rewired and lovingly serviced, but will always be great.
What you’ll pay today £1800-£3000
But should you? Only if you’re fully prepared for love and heartbreak in equal measures.
Moto Guzzi Imola (1981-1983)
Smaller version of the V50 Monza built mainly for the Italian market and its sub-350cc tax bracket. Never officially imported to the UK, but quite a few came over. OK, so it’s a 350 in a 500 chassis, but it’s still light, low, and charismatic. Cheap to run, easy to service, and there’s nothing to stop you uprating it to a 500.
What you’ll pay today £1100-£1600
But should you? If you want a stunning-looking Italian classic for a third of the price of a Morini 350, yes.
Words: Neil Murray