The peak of 1000cc lunacy for under £5k

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In a recent article in Bike magazine, tuning expert Mark Brewin argues that sportsbike development peaked in 2005. So why spend close to £10,000 on a new litre bike when you can buy one of their faster ancestors for half that?

Due to increased legislation governing engine emissions and noice levels, a lot of current supersports models lose out to older bikes in terms of acceleration and usable low down power.   

As Mark Brewin states, “Four years ago we had a nasty ZX-10R engine that everyone went mad for. Now we have an engine that passes emissions tests but has no bottom end”.     

“The earliest R1, with its carburettors, rips a 2008 R1 to pieces on acceleration and has more bottom end than any of the new ones”.    

Here’s 5 no-compromise sportsbikes for under £5,000, designed before emissions and noise laws started to suppress engine development:


Kawasaki ZX-10R

Kawasaki ZX-10R (2004-2005)
The earliest and most hardcore version of the ZX-10R boasts a brutal 181bhp, but the engine is more flexible than the latest model at lower revs. It handles great on track but it’s a lot of bike for the road- not for the inexperienced.


Honda VTR1000 SP-1

Honda VTR1000 SP-1 (2000-2002)
Committed riding position and firm showa suspension make the focused SP-1 another bike that’s best suited to the track. The V-twin engine is strong everywhere and the details (like the clocks) are exquisite. An MCN road tester claims it “makes 90% of riders look faster than they really are”.


Yamaha R1

Yamaha YZF-R1 (1998-2003)
The 98 R1 is a cult bike and famous for being the liveliest in the R1 series. Despite 10 years of development the 2008 model doesn’t match it on acceleration. Comfort isn’t too bad and the later models got easier to handle.


Aprilia RSV1000 Mille

Aprilia RSV1000 Mille (1998-2003)
The Aprilia’s compact 60 degree 1000cc V-twin powerplant has tons of meaty midrange power. Hard suspension and stable handling mean the Mille is in it’s element on fast smooth roads. Brakes are great too. Italian style at a reasonable price.


Suzuki TL1000S

Suzuki TL1000S (1997-2001)
The TL has a fearsome reputation. Suzuki used a flawed rotary damper instead of a conventional rear shock and it overheats easily, so seriously consider changing it. The front end is also prone to flapping about. Overall the bike is a bit of a handful, but for some that’s part of the fun.


Given the nature of these bikes insurance costs could be quite high, so check out MCN Compare to get the best deal possible. 

James Keen

By James Keen