The demand for quality, used two-stroke motorcycles has been rising gradually over the past few years, making the chances of finding a good one at a reasonable (or bargain) price now virtually non-existent.
To help steer you in the right direction, we have enlisted the help of used bike expert, Ciaran Perrin – who knows exactly what to look out for when buying two-strokes.
Perrin runs Extreme Trading UK Ltd. and specialises in the sale of exotic motorcycles. He imports machines from all over the world, with around 570 in stock at any one time (including 200 two-strokes) and right now it’s the smaller sportsbikes getting all the attention in the marketplace.
“When you look at the sporty two- stroke 250s, the quality is fantastic and much better than the current Japanese low-capacity bikes,” says Perrin. “The market has changed and I think the 250s were the pinnacle of the development of two-strokes. They are quite simple to work on and, by the end of the 1990s; they’d got them pretty much perfect.”
Perrin says the exterior condition is the thing to look for with Japanese machines. “The big problem with all these bikes and their restoration is the bodywork. It suffers really badly over time – I think it’s the ultraviolet light.
“Suzuki RG500s are a prime example of this. The bodywork wasn’t very good 30 years ago and it hasn’t got any better since! People want them to be absolutely perfect but the reality is bikes in that condition are few and far between.”
Besides bodywork, Perrin also offers a few words of caution on mechanical maladies, saying: “If people are going to restore them, we advise they put a new throttle cable and fuel pump on them.
“They’re simple bikes, so in an ideal world you’d take the engine out, take it all apart and replace everything like a race bike, but some people don’t have the budget to do that. “Anything after the 1980s is still pretty much sorted and you can still use it every day. By the 1990s, they were usually pretty good – with the added bonus being that you don’t need a laptop to fix a TZR!”
Noisy, smelly and they often blow up - but we still want a two-stroke
Our Used Bike Expert, Neil Murray, gives his opinion...
"Everyone (me especially) wants a two-stroke and the fact that the things have been all but banned only makes them more desirable. They can be fussy at times and there’s nothing romantic about pre-mix, but a well set-up stroker, wailing as it comes on the pipe, is irresistible to anyone with a heart.
"There are two classic problems with used strokers. Firstly, they have a tendency to blow up. Secondly, they’re expensive.
"Prices for the true classics are now very, very high and they’ll never come down. If you want a good Suzuki GT750 Kettle, you’re starting at £7000. If you want a Kawasaki 500 H1, that’s about the same and add a grand for the H2 750.
"Yamaha’s original RD350LC is also about the same and the last- gasp air-cooled RD400 isn’t much less. Suzuki’s GT500 is probably the best value (around £3000) and is pretty much unbreakable.
"For reasonable prices, you have to go further down the capacity ladder.
"The Suzuki GT185 and Yamaha RD200 were both about as quick as four-stroke 250s of the era.
"You’ll need £1500 for a nice example of either, but spares may be tricky. Have a look at the 100-125cc class as well.
"Yamaha’s RXS100 is startlingly quick - 70mph, easily, and will only set you back a grand for a peachy example. The Suzuki GP125 will do 80mph and has a decent disc brake.
"You’re looking at £1100 for a really good one of those.
"Don't forget Italian oddities either - the Benelli/Moto-Guzzi 250 twin is rare, and the Aermacchi/Harley- Davidson/Cagiva 250 singles (same bike, different badges) are charmingly basic and look great. All these are presently cheap(ish), but prices are only going one way – up."
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