7 slow burners

These bikes missed the mark when new, but have gained staunch followings

1 of 7


Honda Transalp (1987-2012)

A bit of a conundrum at first: a not-very-powerful 600cc V-twin in a sort of soft-roader chassis. There were better trail bikes and more powerful faster tourers, and it took a while for people to realise that, actually, it was a very cunning piece of design. It really would go anywhere, in comfort, with luggage, as long as you didn’t want to go fast. It grew to 650cc and then 700cc, and finally died after a quarter of a century. The Continentals loved it, and while it wasn’t a big seller in Britain, its owners are fanatically loyal. Young people don’t buy these things at all, so the image is a bit pipe-and-slippers.
What you’ll pay now £600-£3500
But should you? If you like lawn bowls, cricket and the shipping forecast, yes.


Kawasaki ZX-9R (1994-2002)

Widely expected to be a firm Kawasaki riposte to the FireBlade, it came over as having been rushed into production. Fast all right, but it was much heavier and bulkier than the Blade and the rear suspension simply wasn’t sorted. Kawasaki persevered, and word got around that the 9R had all the speed and comfort of the ZZ-R1100 but with a more sporty demeanour and it’s now regarded as a brilliant sports-tourer. Late E and F models are the pick of the bunch but build quality and finish aren’t up to Honda standards.
What you’ll pay now £1100-£4000
But should you? As long as you realise it’s a (very fast) sports-tourer, yes.

Yamaha FZ750 (1985-1991)

As fast as a Kawasaki GPZ900R, with an even better developed chassis on the later models with Yamaha’s Deltabox frames (the original FZ750 chassis showed that all the development cash had gone into the engine). The engine has a generous spread of power and torque that’s impressive even now, and is incredibly tough. Yamaha campaigned it very successfully in endurance racing. The inclined block and downdraught carbs have been copied by everyone since. Seventeen-inch wheels allow for fitment of modern tyres, and the brakes – on the Deltabox models – are still good if properly cared for. A wonderful piece of engineering.
What you’ll pay now £600-£1200.
But should you? For that money? Of course you bloody should.

Ducati ST4S (1996-2003)

It bristles with neat touches including pipes that could be angled lower to accommodate panniers (Triumph copied that on the Sprint). However, in 1996, the world wasn’t ready for Ducati sports-tourers. It soldiered on for seven years, and the last models were sold, brand new, for £6500 on the road.
What you’ll pay now £2500-£3500
But should you? It’s a 916 you can tour on, so of course you should.

BMW R80ST (1982-84)

The original R80GS made a good road bike, so BMW decided to make a pure road version but BMWs then weren’t about sit-up-and-beg wide-barred roadsters, so it was dropped after selling only 6000 units. Now, though, everyone seems to want airhead BMWs and they’re in fashion.
What you’ll pay now £2000-£3500
But should you? Yes, but get a good one to start with, rather than trying to restore a shonker.


Moto Guzzi 1000S (1990-93)

In the late 1980s, Guzzi were on the rocks, their reputation destroyed by disastrous experiments with 16in front wheels and acres of plastic bodywork. So in 1990 the Italians went back to basics with a stripped-down naked painted up to look like the gorgeous S3.
What you’ll pay now £3000-£6000
But should you? Until Guzzi have the sense to make a modern version, and not the 750 they presently build, yes.

Triumph T-bird (1993-2003)

Triumph’s first attempt at producing a retro – basically the original 885cc engine, returned for more torque, in Bonneville-lookalike clothes. Apart from the lower seat (achieved by removing most of the padding on the early bikes), nobody really saw the point. It looked nice, though.
What you’ll pay now £2250-£4500
But should you? It’s actually more convincing and a better bike than the early Hinckley Bonneville.


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Neil Murray

By Neil Murray

MCN Used Bike Expert