Which used superbike for under £5000?

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With the advent of electronics and near-200bhp power outputs, it’s easy to forget just how good the sports bikes of 2005 were. They had huge power – up to around 160bhp – yet were tractable in the midrange, were designed to accomodate regular-sized human beings and didn’t electronically slap your wrist if you pulled a cheeky wheelie.

The best bit is that now they can be yours for under £5000 – less than half the price of today’s computer-controlled rocket ships. But how well have they aged? And do they still offer the thrills they did back in 2005? That was what we wanted to discover in this test.

It was with some trepidation that I settled into the seat of the FireBlade. I rode one at its launch in Arizona in early 2005 and came away believing bikes couldn’t get any better. Without any electronic aids, apart from the steering damper, it was tractable, quick, yet easy to ride with a very secure feeling.

Six years on, I was worried this re-acquaintance would be like getting back with an old girlfriend and realising she’s not as good-looking or trim as she used to be. Thankfully, I wasn’t disappointed. The Honda throws out a genuine and impressive 146bhp at the back wheel, with a true top speed of 174.45mph. Do you really need any more on the road?

The ZX-10R is at the opposite end of the sophistication scale – it’s a scary, gnarly beast. Early 10Rs are legendary, frightening even the hardest of riders. But our test bike wasn’t as scary as I remember. Admittedly, the front wheel is seldom on the ground as the rear squats and and aggressive 147bhp does its best to shoot it skyward – but that’s fun.

Read the full test of the sub-£5k, 2005 vintage R1, GSX-R1000, ZX-10R and FireBlade in this week’s issue of MCN (August 24), on sale now.

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