7 forgotten retro roadsters

The bikes that set off the retro roadster trend still look good (on the whole) and can be picked up for a bargain price

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Triumph Thunderbird 900 Sport (1998-2004)

Introduced in 1998 as a ‘hotted-up’ version of Hinckley’s well-received T-bird triple retro, the Sport was far better dynamically than its already pleasing sibling, thanks to an extra 13bhp, front disc, sixth gear, 17in sport wheels (in place of the T-bird’s 18/16 combo) and uprated, adjustable suspension – enough to make it a genuine sports roadster. Unfortunately, its ‘blacked-out’ looks weren’t to everyone’s taste, haven’t worn as well, and, as a result, today it isn’t as admired as the original. Still a great ride, though.
What you’ll pay today £3500-£5000.
But should you? Still a great bike – if you can live with the looks.


Kawasaki ZR1100 Zephyr 1100 (1994-99 )

The original 1992 Zephyr 750 and 550 fours, as inspired and powered by classic 1970s Zeds, but with modern brakes, suspension and more, were arguably years before their time pioneering the whole retro roadster fad. Sadly, though, they were let down by poor build quality and lacklustre performance. Best of the breed, though, was the later 1100 version with extra oomph, quality and kudos, enough to have it as something of an appreciating classic today.
What you’ll pay today £1700-3000.
But should you? Find a good one and it’s a decent, timeless roadster.

Honda CB Seven-Fifty F2 (1992-2001)

Beaten into dealers and overshadowed by Kawasaki’s first Zephyrs, Honda’s air-cooled DOHC four-cylinder roadster likewise reminded us of superbikes of the late ’70s in terms of spec and style, if not exactly performance. At the time, its 73bhp delivery was considered oversoft, its ride uninspiring, its overall style a little bland, plus it was ridiculed for being badged ‘Seven-Fifty’. Which is a shame. Today, it seems more handsome and relevant than ever and, compared to the Kawasaki, something of a bargain.
What you’ll pay today £1500-3000 and climbing, but bargains can still be had
But should you? Lacks authenticity of original SOHC or F CBs, but mechanically solid and a great basis for a modern retro.

Ducati GT1000 (2005-09)

Ducati’s short-lived ‘Sport Classics’, although initially unsuccessful, are now widely regarded to be bikes before their time. Best of the bunch is arguably the mostly overlooked GT1000 launched in 2006. A proper twin seat and more practical ergonomics means it’s not as much of a looker, but it’s a great bike and far better value.
What you’ll pay today £6-8000.
But should you? Yes, a usable classic.


Honda CB1000 ‘Big One’ (1992-96)

Known as the ‘Super Four’ in the UK, Honda’s big, HRC co-developed, CBR1000F-powered early ‘90s retro roadster is the biggest, most potent, most classily-built retro roadster of the ’90s – if you can find a good one.
What you’ll pay today Dogs from £1000, but we’ve seen good ones for up to £6K
But should you? A brave choice, but classy, different and exclusive.

Yamaha XJR1200 (1994-98)

We’ve become so used to Yamaha’s burly four-cylinder retro roadster in 1300 guise (since 1998) most have forgotten it debuted as a 1200 in 1994. In truth there’s not THAT much difference, with the hugely grunty, FJ11-derived motor to the fore in a decent, pleasing and versatile twin-shock chassis.
What you’ll pay today £2000-£2750
But should you? Durable, unburstable and usually £500 cheaper than the 1300.

Suzuki GSX750 Inazuma (1997-2000)

And you thought the Inazuma applied only to Suzuki’s recent 250 twin. It was first applied to this Zephyr clone. Powered by a detuned, 85bhp, oil-cooled GSX-R750 motor, it offered neither the performance of a Bandit nor the authenticity of rivals from Kawasaki and Honda.
What you’ll pay today £1750-2200.
But should you? Vaguely interesting and better value than a Zephyr or CB750.


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Phil West

By Phil West

MCN Contributor and bike tester.