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5 great ways to own a classic sportsbike

Published: 03 March 2019

bikes for sale

Owning a classic sportsbike is something many of us dream of. Most of us have at least one bike in mind that we would buy immediately if we won the lottery, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be an expensive hobby.

If you pick the right bike, you could actually make some money on it. How many people wish they still had their Yamaha FS1E (not a sportsbike, obviously), now selling for around £5000 for a good one?

If you’ve never ridden an older bike before, you need to be prepared for a heavy clutch, reluctant brakes, no rider aids and an analogue dash. But you also get a raw, connected riding experience that few modern machines deliver.

There are so many different options to choose from, but here are just five bikes in a range of price brackets that could give you the rush of classic sportsbike ownership:

Yamaha OW-01

Yamaha OW-01 for sale

Quick stats

First introduced: 1989
Engine: 750cc in-line four
This one:
  • £14,799 
  • 19,862 miles 
  • 1989

The Yamaha OW-01 has become the stuff of legend. Conceived to fight on track with Honda’s almighty RC30 and with an eye-watering launch price of £12,700, the OW-01 was a niche bike right from the beginning.

Features like a stressed member engine, Öhlins shock and magnesium Nissin brake calipers wouldn’t look out of place on a modern sportsbike, and the rarity of the OW-01 will mean prices should only go one way.

Honda SP-1

Honda SP-1 for sale

Quick stats

First introduced: 2000 
Engine:  999cc V-twin
This one:
  • £6995 
  • 15,634 miles 
  • 2000

Honda built the SP-1 as a homologation special of the VTR1000 to go racing in WSB and challenge Ducati’s dominance with Carl Fogarty on the 916 in 1998 and 996 in 1999. It worked, and Colin Edwards took the title in the bike’s debut season.

Despite all this racing pedigree, the SP-1 is a doddle to ride on the road with low-down, usable power, market-leading for the time Showa suspension and a comfortable seating position.

Ducati 916

Ducati 916 for sale

Quick stats

First introduced: 1994 
Engine: 916cc V-twin
This one:
  • £10,495 
  • 2900 miles 
  • 1998

Ducati dominated 90s World Superbike racing, winning the championship eight out of ten years that decade. Four of those titles were won on the 916, ridden by Carl Fogarty three times and Troy Corser once.

As a road bike, the 916 managed to become a sort of vehicular celebrity with petrolheads of all backgrounds and even people with no interest in bikes at all able to pick one out.

Exotic, Italian vehicles of this age are likely to be a little temperamental, so unless you plan to keep it as an ornament in your living room be prepared for high running costs.

Suzuki TL1000S

Suzuki TL1000S for sale

Quick stats

First introduced: 1997 
Engine: 996cc V-twin 
This one:
  • £2995 
  • 16,700 miles 
  • 1999

The TL has a reputation for being a bit of a handful, and was almost immediately labelled a widow-maker thanks to numerous horror stories of tank-slappers and instability. The cause was largely attributed to the temperamental rotary rear damper, a packaging solution Suzuki nicked from F1, but which didn't translate to motorcycles as seamlessly as they'd hoped. The second model year gained a steering damper and had its power slashed as a result – but the reputation stuck.

This hasn’t stopped it becoming a popular machine, and a well maintained example in good fettle gives little reason to be afraid. What’s more, they are still very cheap to get hold of at the moment.

Triumph Daytona T595

Triumph T595 for sale

Quick stats

First introduced: 1997 
Engine: 955cc triple
This one:
  • £2999 
  • 1500 miles 
  • 1997

The Triumph Daytona T595 (and the later face-lifted 955i) was everything you would expect from a superbike. It was light, powerful, handled well and looked the part. Sadly, it was blown out of the water by similar vintage FireBlades, then the following year's R1, followed by Suzuki GSX-R1000 in 2001.

Now the dust has settled on that era and modern, tech-laden machinery has taken the fight for superbike supremacy to dizzying new heights, the Triumph seems like a great option. It looks great, the three-cylinder engine is characterful and distinctive and its performance shortcomings make it a more viable option on the road.

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