7 bikes you could buy instead of a 916

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They lost to Ducati’s iconic twin on the track, but make brilliant road bike buys today.

Suzuki GSX-R750 SRAD (1996-1999)

First beam-framed GSX-R was inspired by Suzuki’s 500cc GP racer, and revitalised the model’s fortunes. Unfortunately, despite 128bhp, light weight and sharp steering, it never quite delivered on track and buyers were soon distracted by Yamaha’s first R1 and the then popularity of V-twins such as Honda’s Firestorm and Suzuki’s own TL. Today the SRAD still feels comparatively modern and brisk, is sure to become a future classic and remains great value.
What you’ll pay today Rough examples go for as little as £1300, clean originals around £2000.
But should you? Oh yes, but with prices so low buy the best you can afford.

Yamaha YZF750R (1993-96)

The ‘forgotten 750’. Late rival to Suzuki’s GSX-R750 and Kawasaki’s ZXR, the Yamaha’s thunder was quickly stolen by 1994’s 916 both on road and track (although the YZF did win BSB in 1993 and 1996-98 it never repeated it at world level). Which is a shame as the YZF pretty much had it all: 125 free-revving bhp, great handling, six-pot brakes and even the option of an homologation special ‘SP’ with solo seat, multi-adjustable suspension, flatslide carbs and close-ratio gearbox.
What you’ll pay today Although starting to rise, YZFs remain absolute bargains: £2500-plus for an R, £6k-plus for the rare SP.
But should you? Find one at the right price and it’s a win-win.

Honda RC45 (1994-99)

Extravagant, glorious, HRC-developed, V4 successor to legendary RC30 may never have delivered the same track success (just one WSB title for John Kocinski in 1997 with even Foggy famously failing) and its £20k price scared road buyers away, but it’s still one of the most desirable machines of the era. Why? Because it had it all: 120 V4 bhp, top-notch chassis including single-sided swinger, luxury lightweight materials and more. Sportsbikes just didn’t get any more exotic.
What you’ll pay today £25,000+ for a good one. Occasional 0-milers advertised for £50k.
But should you? Prices remain so high it’s only really for the well-heeled but still a bucket-list bike.

Bimota SB8R (1999-2000)

For one brief, glorious moment in 2000 Bimota stunned the world with an SB8R winning a wet WSB race at Phillip Island. In truth, the result was more down to rider Anthony Gobert and the rain than the bike. But, if you fancy a WSB-winning V-twin it’s far more exclusive than a certain Ducati.
What you’ll pay today At around £9k they’re still cheaper than many Bims.
But should you? Exotic, potent, rare and affordable. But only for the brave.

Yamaha R7 OW02 (’99-2000)

Homologation special succeeded the YZF750SP and, on paper at least, had it all: screaming, short-stroke, 20-valve four; exquisite Öhlins chassis, fabulous styling and the exclusivity guaranteed by a production run of just 500 bikes. Unfortunately, it also cost £21,000 on the road (ie without the 160bhp race kit).
What you’ll pay today £20,000+ today – if you can find one. Some are fitted with R1 engines to be so-called R71s
But should you? One for collectors only.

Aprilia RSV1000 (1998-2003)

The bike that set Aprilia on its way to the big time. Before the RSV, the young, ambitious Italian marque had been known mostly for 125s and 250s. The RSV changed all that. The big sportster was fabulously engineered and built, lavishly equipped and in many respects
a better buy than the 916.
What you’ll pay today Just £2500 for a clean, original.
But should you? Deffo. RSVs are solid, usable and classy.

Kawasaki ZX-7R (1996-2003)

Successor to the ZXR750J boasted updated bodywork (although the look was hardly changed), a slight increase in power, improved brakes and more but was very much a similar experience. Unfortunately, on track that was no longer enough to be competitive and certainly not against the latest Ducatis.
What you’ll pay today Decent runners from £1500 up, minters £3500.
But should you? Sportsbikes from the ’90s don’t get cheaper or more durable.

Words: Phil West



The voice of motorcycling since 1955