7 bikes that are costly to keep going

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These bikes will turn a small fortune into an even smaller one.

Ducati 900SS (1990-1995)
Yes, yes, a Ducati 900SS is (for many) the quintessential Ducati. Simple, light and while not wildly powerful, it allows you to use every single horsepower. So an early 1990s 900SS looks like a decent project bike? Not a chance. Ducati were at a low point when they rolled out the first 900s. The company didn’t have a lot of money, and quality control was truly dreadful. The electrics are the traditional Italian joke, the cylinder head studs were too weak and used to snap under hard use, frame breakage was not unknown, and even the chain adjusters were crap. Sorting out a duff 900S will cost thousands.
What you’ll pay? They’re currently only £750-£1500, but you’ll still regret it.

BMW K1200LT (1999-2007)
Massive barge. One of few bikes to be fitted with a reverse gear for parking. The LT got the last-gasp version of the Brick engine, fitted with a balancer shaft so it was super-smooth. Servo brakes are the chief issue. When they fail the ABS tends to go with them, and the cost is horrific. Final drives fail as well. And then there are the servicing costs. There are huge amounts of bodywork to remove, and the valves are shim-under-bucket. Bills of £1000 are not unknown.
What you’ll pay? £2750-£6000

Laverda 650 Sport (1991-2000)
On paper, a winner. A legendary Italian name, and top-notch equipment from Paioli, Termignoni, Marzocchi and Brembo, plus a fabulous engine. Er, forget that last bit. The engine was a reworked water-cooled derivative of the Laverda Montjuic from the late 1970s, and even back then it was a bit marginal. It achieved a reputation for mechanical disaster that only Honda’s early V4s exceeded. Crankshafts and main bearings failed, the electrics were marginal, it could spew coolant, piss oil, and generally everything that could go wrong did. And even when it was running, it was a bit of a rough old nail anyway. The resurgent Laverda were soon driven into oblivion by this, and the 750S that followed. If you buy one that is running sweetly, don’t expect it to do so for long. Then just flog off all the lovely components and throw the rest away.
What you’ll pay? It’s hard to recommend that you buy one in the first place, but if you do, £2000 (amazingly) seems to be the going rate.

Honda CB500 Four (1971-1973)
Sweet CB, the second four Honda built. Smaller, lighter and nimbler than the 750, and super-reliable. So why is it a money pit? Ask the starry-eyed fifty-somethings who are buying them to restore. The cost of restoring them properly is astronomical. The problem is that they didn’t sell as many 500s as 750s and there’s nothing like the aftermarket industry supporting them.
What you’ll pay? £2000-£3000

Kawasaki KR-1S (1990-1992)
Incredibly fast 250cc two-stroke twin, speed trapped at about 140mph. There are four reasons why this one will suck your wallet dry. First, it’s a two-stroke (drinks fuel and very expensive synthetic oil). Secondly, parts are not that easy to source. Thirdly, even by two-stroke standards it was a bit fragile, with piston rings breaking and general top end problems. Fourthly, it’s a two-stroke. Yes, I repeated that to ram the point home.
What you’ll pay? £1500-£3000

Honda VTR1000 Firestorm (1997-2005)
Part of Honda’s attempt to challenge Ducati’s 916. Went like stink, and the SP1/2 race-rep versions are nice, but there hasn’t subsequently been a thirstier four-stroke sportsbike (until Kawasaki’s new H2 came along). You can get this thing down to 25-30mpg, which means under 100 miles to a tankful. Cam chain tensioners can be a costly issue too. Very cheap used - now you know why.
What you’ll pay? £700-£1500

Dnepr or Ural 650/750 sidecar combo (1974-2000)
Some people love them, but you are still buying a 1940s motorcycle built in an Industrial Revolution-style factory on equally ancient tooling. They have their charms, but you will be fixing it again, and again, and again. You will be forever chucking money at one. Not huge sums, but it will always suck at your wallet. You could fork out getting it sorted in one hit, but then you might as well buy a BMW.
What you’ll pay? £1000-£2500

Words: Neil Murray

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