Commuting's cost effective, good fun and means extra time at home
THINKING ABOUT commuting to work? Take a look at five machines we think are the most underrated commuters on the secondhand market today. They may not be the sharpest knives in the drawer but who cares when you're only interested in getting to work and back on something reliable? And because our chosen five are not mainstream stuff, they usually don't command high prices, which makes them all great value for money.
We've chosen a wide variety of bikes to suit all tastes - so whether your commute's a 5-minute dash through town-centre traffic or a 100-mile round trip, there's something suitable for everyone.
Honda CG125 1985 - present
They're not good on motorways, have a top speed of 70mph and have less acceleration than most modern cars. So why the hell would you want one?
A CG125 will do over 100mpg, costs peanuts to insure and servicing the four-stroke single is as simple as it gets. CG's are nippy around town, easy to park, yet still capable of holding a steady 60mph if needed. So if your daily commute isn't too far, and you don't need to negotiate any lengthy sections of motorway then a CG125 is a smarter choice than you might think, especially if you're journey involves a lot of stop-start town centre stuff. What's more, a 125cc bike only costs £15 a year in road tax.
A brand new CG can be scooped up for less than £1900 and a decent secondhand model, with around 20,000 miles on the clock, can be found for around £500.
We'd suggest going for a 2004 onwards model, as they benefit from an electric start, larger fuel tank, front disc brake and revised instruments. Expect to pay around £1000 for a decent example with 6000 miles on the clock.
Chinese-made 125s, which were pretty awful a few years ago, are now becoming a serious force to be reckoned with. Wuyang (they make Honda's CG125 engine under licence) now produce a 125 that's almost as good as the Honda. What's more it only costs £1299 new. Definitely worth a look.
Any decent quality four-stroke 125 will usually make a great short distance commuter - cheap to buy and maintain - 100mpg - reliable - what more could you want?
• The CG's engine is good for 50,000+ miles
• Pre-2001 models have an abysmally small battery
• Avoid high mileage or ex-training school bikes
• 2004 onwards has front disc brake and 13.5 litre fuel tank
• Chinese CG copies were once a joke but are now proving a serious threat to the Japanese. They're 40% cheaper too.
Engine - Air-cooled 4-stroke OHV single, 124cc
Fuel capacity - 13.5 litres
Seat height -781mm
Dry weight - 114kg
Top speed - 68mph
Average fuel economy - 100mpg
Insurance group - 4
Others to consider: Yamaha YBR125, Suzuki GN125, Suzuki VanVan, Wuyang WY125
Honda FJS600 Silver Wing 2001 - 2005
When superscooters first appeared in the UK they were greeted with a rather lukewarm reception. The idea of a comfy, fast two-wheeler with a low seat and loads of luggage space sounded great - however, the reality wasn't anywhere near as enticing, as most superscooters had all the sex appeal of an overweight bank clerk. They weren't cheap either - costing almost £5500 new and ABS-equipped models an extra £500.
Six years on, secondhand prices have now dropped to an affordable level, which means a good, used Silver Wing can now be picked up for as little as £2000. So what's one like?
They're immensely comfortable, offer better weather protection than any normal bike I've ridden, have as much storage space as a small sports car and will cruise two-up at 80mph. The Wing will also return almost 50mpg.
And it's no slouch. The Honda's four-stroke, fuel-injected 50bhp parallel twin engine will blast you away from the lights quicker than you can say 'fuck me, this thing's fast'. And Honda's V-matic transmission delivers smooth linear power from walking pace to flat out. There's no clutch and no gears. Just wind it open and hang on. What could be easier?
If you're looking for a commuter, but wouldn't normally give a scooter a look-in, then give the Wing a test ride at your local dealers. A fiver says you'll like it.
• The Wing will do 110mph
• It has linked brakes
• Can develop a weave on worn tyres
• Huge underseat storage
• Easy to clean
• 400cc version available
Engine - 582cc, fuel-injected 8-valve, four-stroke twin
Fuel capacity - 16 litres
Seat height - 740mm
Dry weight - 218kg (229kg ABS)
Top speed - 110mph
Average fuel economy - 43mpg.
Insurance group 9
Others to consider: Yamaha Tmax, Piaggio X9 500, Suzuki AN400 Burgman
Kawasaki ZR-7S - 1999 - 2004
Anyone remember Kawasaki's ill-fated ZR-7, which got panned from day one and never really recovered? Well say hello to its half-faired brother, the ZR-7S, which appeared a year later in 2001 and still came in for some stick.
Unfortunately for Kawasaki, timing wasn't on their side. When it was released the ZR-7 was up against the likes of Yamaha's Fazer and Honda's Hornet, which were faster, sportier and better all rounders. Many press reports said the Kawasaki didn't handle, the engine wasn't inspiring or the brakes lacked bite. Some said all three. The poor old Kawasaki received a universal slating which it struggled to shake off.
Thing is, the ZR-7 and the ZR-7S aren't bad bikes, which makes them a fantastic buy for little financial outlay. They're plenty fast enough for a zipping to work and back, they're nimble and they're relatively cheap to maintain. Who's bothered about pin-sharp handling on the way to work anyway? I know I'm not.
At the heart of the machine is Kawasaki's simplistic air-cooled, 8-valve, four cylinder engine, which produces 76bhp and over 46ft-lbs of torque. Not astonishing figures, granted, but enough to ensure you're first away from the lights and have plenty of punch for smooth overtakes.
The faired version will happily cruise at 80mph - maybe 90 at a push - so it's ideal for longer distance commutes, where some motorway stretches are involved. What's more ZR-7 and ZR-7S' are dirt-cheap right now. How does £1500 for a decent, low mileage example grab you?
Pound for pound, we reckon the ZR-7S is one of the most underrated commuters available on the secondhand market today.
• The fuel gauge can lie
• The performance improves with a Dynojet kit
• A Scottoiler's a popular modification
• A 4000-mile service is around £150
• Owners have had problems with rectifiers
Engine - Air-cooled, 8-valve in-line four, 738cc
Fuel capacity - 22 litres
Seat height -800mm
Dry weight - 210kg
Top speed - 124mph
Average fuel economy - 42mpg
Insurance group - 11
Others to consider: Yamaha 600/900 Diversion, Suzuki GSX750F, Honda CB500S
Suzuki DL650 V-Strom 2004 - present
Fact. If I were going to spend £2500 on an all-rounder right now then I'd buy a 650 V-Strom. Suzuki's fuel-injected 650cc V-twin is probably the most competent middleweight all rounder on the market right now.
It's roomy without feeling huge, has a stress-free upright riding position, great weather protection and a genuine 230-mile+ tank range - that's over 50mpg. Couple this with a supremely comfortable seat and you've got yourself a bike that's a pleasure all the way to the next fuel stop. It's even got a luggage rack for your kit bag.
But even though the V-Strom's big enough to accommodate the six foot plus brigade and all their clobber, it's also light and manoeuvrable when you're nipping around town or hoiking it in and out of the garage - and that's something you can't say about big trailies.
But above all this the 650 V-Strom is great fun to ride. Its peppy, punchy V-twin engine is the perfect powerplant for the job - smooth and tractable low down, yet beautifully crisp all the way through the rev range. It's fun to throw about down back lanes for those taking the scenic route to work, but will hold its own on a long motorway haul.
Suzuki also make a 1000cc version of the V-Strom for those wanting extra capacity but we reckon the little 650's the better bike by far.
• The V-Strom does 0-60 in less than 6 seconds
• It stops from 100mph in just over 8 seconds
• They handle better with rear preload wound up
• Steady use gets 250 miles from a tank full
• The Suzuki has a great headlight
• No span adjuster on the clutch
• Adjustable screen takes ages to change
Engine - Liquid-cooled, 8-valve fuel-injected V-twin, 645cc
Fuel capacity - 22 litres
Seat height - 820mm
Dry weight - 190kg
Top speed - 110mph
Average fuel economy - 51mpg
Insurance group - 10
Others to consider: Honda Transalp, BMW F650, Yamaha XT660
Italjet Dragster D180LC 1999 - 2004
The Italjet Dragster 180 has to be THE short distance commuter for any sportsbike nut. Its Ducati-inspired trellis frame, hub centre steering and sting-in-the-tail 180cc two-stroke engine are the reasons why the Italjet looks and performs like no other scooter on the market.
It's capable of hitting 60mpg in around 6 seconds and notching up a top speed of almost 90mph thanks to its 20bhp liquid cooled motor and 109kg dry weight. And, as you'd expect from a bike weighing so little, the Dragster's handling is light and flickable - ideal for sprinting around any city centre.
Stonking disc brakes front and rear, coupled with Porsche-beating acceleration, mean the Dragster 180 will embarrass pretty much anything else on the road around town.
OK, it's a two-stroke, so it's not practical and it certainly won't be frugal but if you want a shot of hi-octane action to kick-start your day then we think the Dragster 180's got to be the answer.
• Owners rate it as the best scooter ever made
• If thrashed expect as little as 25mpg
• The Dragster will wheelie off the throttle
• Production ceased in 2004
• Expect to pay around £1200 for a late model example and £600 for a
• Use only premium grade oil, such as Silkolene Pro Scoot
Engine - Liquid-cooled, single-cylinder two stroke, 180cc
Fuel capacity - 12 litres
Seat height - 790mm
Dry weight - 109kg
Top speed - 90mph
Average fuel economy - 30mpg
Insurance group - 6
Others to consider: Gilera 180 Runner, Piaggio Hexagon 180, Piaggio Vespa PX200, Peugeot Elyseo 150