If you are talking punch for your pound, it doesn’t get much better than a 1990s sportsbike. They may be over two decades old, but power doesn’t age and figures of over 120bhp at the rear wheel are more than enough for rapid road riding. Very rapid road riding!
Better still, there’s not too much to go wrong. With simple old carbs and a huge wealth of knowledge to tap into, an older sportsbike is actually a safe bet.
918cc | 183kg | 128bhp | 810mm seat height
- Dealer price up to £3000
- Private up to £2500
- This one £2495, 15,266 miles (online auction site)
With just £2500 to spend, a FireBlade is your ideal starting point as Honda lavished high build quality on their premium sportsbike. That’s the good news, the bad news is that this budget means you will have to settle for one of the ‘fat arse’ Blades.
With the engine increased in capacity from 893cc to 913cc in 1996, the T/V and updated W/X models both grew a bit lardy. There is nothing wrong with them (aside from dubious paint schemes) but they lack the thrilling nature and agile handling of the original model.
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That said, they are the most practical Blades with a roomy riding position and a flip-up pillion seat revealing lots of underseat storage.
Like all Hondas of this era, the reg/rec is prone to failing and this can take the generator down with it, which is a few hundred quid to replace. Check the charging system is making around 12-14 volts when the bike is holding constant revs.
Other than that, they wear headstock bearings and the suspension linkages seize if not serviced. Some swap the 16in front wheel for a 17in item (from a VFR) to widen tyre choice, but it is best to stick with the original design.
955cc | 214kg | 129bhp | 815mm seat height
- Dealer price up to £3200
- Private up to £2800
- This one £2495, 27,358 miles
Originally launched as the T595 in 1997, confusion over whether the name referred to its engine’s capacity saw it re-branded the Daytona 955i in 1998. The T595 and first 955i are identical in all bar name, however the 1999 955i gained lightened engine internals and a new shock.
The major headache with the Daytona is its suspension linkages, which should be stripped every 12,000 miles but never are and as a result seize solid. The eccentric chain adjuster on the single-sided swingarm models also seizes, so look for evidence of brute force being used on the adjuster ring.
Early T595 and 955i models are known to lose fourth gear (the gearbox is pretty terrible) and oil leaks aren’t unheard of. Check the oil cooler as its pipes can rub, causing damage, and listen for a slipping sound on start-up as sprag clutches are a weak point. Finally, ensure the speedo works as the clocks are prone to failing.
1002cc | 198kg | 143bhp | 795mm seat height
- Dealer price up to £3000
- Private up to £2500
- This one £2195, 16,676 miles
A throwback to a time when sportsbikes were dominated by their motors and instead of being short and agile, they were long and stable to allow their straight-line speed to shine. If you do a lot of two-up riding, this is the bike for you.
The engine is very solid with few problems. Like all older Yamaha models, they do tend to burn a bit of oil so check the engine is cold and watch out for excessive smoke on start-up. The Ace has a Throttle Position Sensor (TPS) on its carb bank, which has a spring inside
that breaks over time and costs about £90 to replace (£200 for an OE part) plus labour. Be aware the Ace has an oil level gauge, not a pressure warning, which can become blocked, giving a false reading so check the oil level through the sight glass.
1999 Suzuki RF900 - Speed on the cheap
937cc | 203kg | 125bhp | 805mm seat height
- Dealer price up to £2500
- Private up to £2100
- This one £1499, 27,000 miles (online auction site)
Who could forget the RF900 with its huge, starship backside? As it turns out, most riders because this bike is unbelievably cheap. For well under £2000 you get a really comfortable bike with a strong engine, loads of torque and a decent chassis. Even in its day the RF was far more a sports tourer than a sportsbike, treat it as such and you won’t be disappointed.
The RF’s Nissin brakes were terrible when new and even worse now nearly two and a half decades have passed. There are a few cures with owners often bolting on Hayabusa calipers, but a full strip and a set of braided lines is a better option. The RF’s engine is totally bulletproof, and don’t go searching for a sixth gear as there are only five.
899cc | 183kg | 141bhp | 810mm seat height
- Dealer price up to £2700
- Private up to £2200
- This one £1795, 30,246 miles
There have been several generations of ZX-9R ranging from the original B to the all-new C to the modified E and finally the tweaked F, but with a £2500 budget you are looking at the C generation, which is one of the best.
Armed with a new chassis that aimed to add more agility to its handling and featuring a motor with enhanced performance, the C is a fantastic road bike with a storming motor.
The ZX-9R is a sturdy workhorse with a solid motor let down by a weak gearbox that often sees third gear go missing. Check it doesn’t hop out under hard acceleration. The six-piston calipers look good, but seize pistons at the first sign of winter salt.
Treat it to a carb balance and swap all its filters to let it breath properly and you will be delighted with the transformation.
Find your next two-wheeled companion at MCN Bikes for Sale.