Revisited: 2000-2001 Honda VTR1000 SP-1
Why Honda’s answer to the Ducati 916 is a modern classic
The Honda VTR1000 SP-1 was built with competition in mind. Sick of Ducati ruling the limelight in World Superbikes' golden era, the Japanese firm's V-twin thumper proved to be a capable machine with plenty of punch and none of the raucous lumpiness delivered by its European and Japanese rivals.
Offering a degree of sophistication within the superbike class, the bike is now making a resurgence in the used marketplace, with good examples holding their money incredibly well. Find out more about the machine with our detailed used guide below.
The original test
"It doesn’t boom into life in the style of an Italian V-twin. Instead, the 999cc Honda motor comes alive with a muted, muffled tone. But, blip the throttle, let the revs rise and you're in business. The upswept exhausts deliver a deep rumbling symphony – it sounds like a twin, but there is no lumpiness or vibration like there is with a Ducati." MCN January 19 2000.
What’s The SP-1 like today?
The SP-1 still looks desirable today. With its combination of WSB success and HRC hand-built quality, it has gone on to achieve iconic status in the sportsbike world.
However, this accolade didn’t come immediately. In fact, there was a time when the V-twin fell completely out of fashion and could be purchased very cheaply indeed. Go back 10 years and you could bag one for little over £3000.
Today they are enjoying a renaissance - both in desirability and price. This 2002-plate bike is £5000 and others command larger sums. It’s little wonder, really. The SP-1 is one of the last sportsbikes with a direct influence from HRC (the company's revered racing division), with features such as the magnesium clutch cover and the HRC logo embossed on the crankcases indicating the model’s racing intentions.
Suspension spec is impressive, even by today's standards. With beefy fully-adjustable 43mm forks at the front and a Showa rear shock with rising rate linkage, there’s plenty to play with to find your ideal settings.
A sporty riding position
The riding position is pure sports. The single-seat unit and long reach to the handlebars make the bike feel racy and committed. Meanwhile, the digital LCD display (which oddly enough still looks good today) responds instantly to every blip of the super-revvy 999cc 90-degree V-twin lump.
In fact, the big-capacity twin still carries a good spec by today’s standards. Its water-cooled, DOHC, fuel injected motor gives immediate punch from low down in the rev range, with a peaky power delivery that still offers more than enough for today’s sports road rider.
At its launch, Honda claimed 134bhp for the SP-1, however when it was tested on a dyno, it actually measured between 115bhp to just under 120bhp.
A stiff chassis
The chassis feels firm and sporty and when you start to up the pace on B-roads, this translates into quite a choppy ride, which isn’t helped by the minimal seat padding.
On smoother roads the VTR feels settled – with predictable cornering characteristics, regardless of speed. This could be further improved by fitting a pair of the latest sports-touring/sports road tyres, which have the power to transform every aspect of an aging bike’s cornering.
Don’t be tempted to shove on a set of old racing scrubs, though. They may win you hero status to look at, but simply won’t get up to temperature on the road on all but the hottest of days.
This 2002-registered, 38,000-mile example was loaned to us from Fasttrack Motorcycles in Leicester and comes with some practical extras, such as the centrally-mounted Scots steering damper. The Nissin brakes also retain excellent stopping power with the help of stainless steel brake lines, which also create good feel at the lever.
The twin Scorpion titanium exhausts really add to the bike’s character – producing a booming soundtrack that Colin Edwards would be proud of. However, when it comes to retaining value, you would be better off with the standard silencers.
For anyone looking for a bike that has a place in motorcycling history, then the SP-1 is going to be a sound purchase. It makes a lot of practical sense, too and the engine is fairly reliable and self-contained, with gear driven cams (unlike the Ducatis of this era, which need regular cambelts changes).
Prices are only going to go up and you can currently expect to pay between £4500 and £11,000 depending on age, mileage and condition. The upper price range only really applies to bikes with extremely low mileage in outstanding, original, unrestored condition.
The mechanic: Scott Bullett - Doble Motorcycles
"The SP-1 is a real favourite of mine. It's a bike that has plenty of character and will give you miles of smiles. In general, they are reliable with no real issues other than minor things that could go wrong on any bike.
"Often these are things that are due to the bike being ridden in adverse conditions, and allowing corrosion to set in. For example, check the front rocker cover as it can corrode excessively and start to weep oil.
"Corrosion can also affect the oil cooler pipes, so check these for any leaks. Another item that could suffer with corrosion is the rear shock, as sometimes the adjuster will seize.
Look out for modification
"Although a new rear shock is very expensive to buy, there are always a few on eBay for less than £100. This is largely because a lot of owners upgraded to something else, as plenty of people enjoy modifying their VTR1000s – sometimes quite drastically!
"The rear exhaust gasket can also blow. This is quite common and can be taken care of easily as it’s a straightforward job. With any SP-1 that you’re looking at, try to get a test ride and pay attention to gear changes. You should make sure it changes cleanly between second and third gears as some bikes will jump out.
Jumping out of gear
"The clutch can also be a bit grabby, but this can be alleviated (to some extent) by making sure the clutch fluid is changed and the pivots on the lever are greased.
"The SP-1 needs valves checking at 16,000-mile intervals, this should be done by a Honda trained technician. Try not to skimp on this, as a Honda dealer service history will only help maintain the bike’s value in the long run. It costs £331.54, takes five hours to complete and includes the oil, oil filter, sundries and labour.
"People that ride these bikes enjoy all aspects of ownership. If you’re after one, go for a stock machine with service history that has been properly looked after by previous owners. Be prepared to pay a premium for the best examples."