Road Test: CBR900RR vs YZF750 v TL1000s V BMW 635i

£2,500 gets you a lot of motorbike if you use your noggin these days. We did just that and landed a trio of minto sportsbikes. Then we got a Beemer for the same miserly sum just for comparison's sake

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By Warren Pole on Sun, 20 Apr 2008 - 09:04

Visordown Motorcycle News


"Like the mag lads," said the bloke to us in the office's local pub, "but why don't you test secondhand bikes? Not all of us can afford the new stuff you're always on about." And he had a point. So in the interests of research I asked him how much he'd spend on a bike if he were buying tomorrow. "Five or six grand, cash that is," he said, without blinking. Blimey. That was more than perhaps any of us here have at our disposal for a luxury expense like a bike.

But it did get us thinking. What would be the smallest amount of cash you'd need to part with to turn up a really good sportsbike you could to live with, cherish, and relish?

After numerous calls to assorted iffy trade contacts we had a figure - £2,500 guv'nor. Yup, for two and a half thousand smackeroonies you can get some properly awesome hardware. You can also stiff yourself by buying some of the nastiest, ropiest heaps known to man if you're not careful, but if you use all of your cunning and guile, resist the temptation to buy the first thing you see and can drive a harder bargain than the Krays, you can emerge from the secondhand dungheap smelling of roses.

So with a ceiling of £2,500 set we tracked down the finest tools we could, ending up with a beautifully mint and very loved '93 FireBlade, a low mileage YZF750R that looked like it had spent its life in one of Michael Jackson's oxygen tents, and a shockingly clean TL1000S.

Then Alex threw us a curve ball from the editor's chair. "What sort of car can you get for the same money?" adding, "I bet it'd be a real shed - why don't you get one and let the bikes show it up?" And so it came to pass that a 17-year-old, 154,000 mile, 3.5 litre straight six BMW 635CSi found its way into the TWO car park. Next to the bikes it looked old, shabby, and tired, but it also had a drug-dealing, porn-peddling air of badass cool about it.

The assorted hardware was divvied-up around the office and one person assigned to live with each for a week. Bertie was the obvious choice for the FireBlade what with having a 2001 model as a longtermer and being the author of a book on the beasts (available from all bookshop bargain buckets near you this Christmas...). While Niall Mac had to have the YZF750 having won three British Superbike crowns on 'em not so long ago. The BMW went to me on account of my being the only person in the office never to have owned a car, all of which left the TL1000S with TWO freelance writer, Stu Barker.

To top the whole experience off and make sure we all got a feel for our vehicles, the week's adoption period would end with a two-day road trip to Barry Island in South Wales. Why we ended up going to Barry is anyone's guess, but it seemed like a good idea at the time and was at least far enough away to provide a common element of adventure. If at this point we'd known how disastrously things would go tits up on this little jolly, none of us would have got out of bed that morning. But, not being clairvoyant we had no means of knowing this and so set off into the murk of another dingy Tolworth morning full of enthusiasm and good intentions for the coming journey.

Little did we know...

1993 HONDA CBR900RR

My story is one of selfless devotion to friends in the face of adversity. Confused? All will become clear when you hear my tale of woe...

The whole idea of testing secondhand transport is a worthy one. Cheap bikes equal performance for low cash. And in the car, you get comfort for free as well. Our destination was Barry Island in Wales, known as 'South Wales' answer to Disneyland'. Hmm. 'South Wales' answer to Devil's Island' would be more apt. Still, I was looking forward to it, if only because I might bump into a former 'acquaintance' called Hilary who I fingered when I was 16. Anyway. My choice of machine was simple - the Honda CBR900RR FireBlade. Why? Because I've got a 2001 Blade and I've even written a book on the beasts. You may have heard of it, it's called... (shut it Simmonds! Wozza) A mate of Wozza's lent us his '93 Blade for the test. 26,000 miles on the clock but it looked immaculate. Polished this, polished that, very tidy paintjob and an almost abnormal level of cleanliness made me think I'd picked the longest straw on this test. Save for the car...

The riding position instantly felt racier than my 2001 bike. You're pushed over those bars and that 16-inch front wheel much more than on the current model, and it's a bit of a stretch over that big tank. Pegs too feel a little higher than on the 2001 bike, but it's still comfy enough. You really feel like you're sitting in it, rather than on it, which nicely plugs you into the riding experience. We're finally on the move, so me and Stu Barker can boot the Blade and TL1000S past Wozza and his 'My First Car'experience. Considering the '93 Blade is 893cc compared to the latest 929cc model, the bike doesn't feel too out of puff. Even for £2,500, it seems you can still get a Blade with a scabbard full of fire. The anchors were equally impressive. Brakes are smaller rotors than on the latest machine, and in comparison with my 2001 Blade they lose out a little, but don't suffer too much. Despite the iffy conditions, within 30 miles, this eight-year old bike felt as if it was my own Blade, inspiring just the same kind of confidence in me as we dived through roundabouts and the country lanes that would finally bring us to the Severn Bridge. This either says Tadao Baba is a genius for building the same Blade character into each successive model, or that I'm so duff on a bike I can't tell the difference in the best part of a decade's advances...

Stu and I decided to split with the slow-filtering car. Unfortunately, we listened to Wozza's (wrong) directions and ended up heading for Southampton rather than South Wales. We twig and turn around, nailing it to beat the BM (honour and all that), but then Stu disappears from my mirrors. The TL has a puncture and he nurses it to the layby I'm in. We're cursing our luck as now the light is fading as fast as our chances of catching Wozza in the Pimp Mobile. In a Captain Oates stylee, I leave Stu huddled near the TL and take the trusty Blade to find some tyre weld. On my return, I wake Rip McWinkle up and get him to point the Blade's headlights towards the TL so I can see what I'm doing. A whole can of weld is pumped into the tyre and it looks like it's going to hold. Time to hit the road. But the Blade's a goner - 20 minutes on full beam and the bloody battery has cried enough. It's easy enough to bump start, but it's yet another cow turd in our path. As is the next bit. A few more miles down the road and Stu and the TL are listing like a Spanish galleon in a gale with a pissed skipper at the helm. The tyre has pissed all its tyre weld all over the road and this is one bike that ain't going any further. It's taken three hours to do 20 miles, it's cold, dark and the weather's closing in.

We divvy up our cash and provisions - thank God for the Blade's capacious underseat storage. Useless Stu's left his wallet in the car and as I only took £20 of the expenses kitty from Wozza earlier on, we are dangerously skint. Adding to our woes is the fact Stu's insulin is also safely tucked away in the car with his wallet .

As the only man in this comedy of errors with breakdown cover, I take sentry duty with the TL and send Stu on his way with all the cash and the can of Red Bull I'd saved for emergencies. Despite my selfless gesture, Stu's only thought is the paltry amount of cash he's got (about eight quid in change) and how much fuel he's got left. The conversation went like this: "How many miles to a tank does the Blade do on reserve Bertie?" "How on earth should I bloody know?" I snap through the cold drizzle. "Bertie, you fat twat. You're the one who wrote a fucking book about the things..."Ah, yes, so I did.

So, I await the AA. And wait...And wait... Two and a half hours later, I'm freezing and finally loading the bike into an AA van. Thankfully, the journey's better than it could have been thanks to Gerald the R1-riding AA man, and I roll up at Barry and the hotel at about half ten. But as I meet the rest of the boys in a Barry restaurant turns out I've missed the deadline for food and the Welsh dragon serving won't let me heat the Ginsters pie Wozza saved for me. I'm so pissed off and left to eat it in the dark after we've all gone to bed, accompanied by the awful sounds of Barker bashing one out.

Day two is worse. It's pissing with rain and we're in the services trying to keep dry for a bit. I look across to the YZF and Niall Mackenzie. Poor old sod. His career has gone from Phillip Island to Barry Island in the space of 10 years and he's got wet hands. I lend him my gloves. He's still not complained. What a star. A comedy of errors this test may have been but it proved three things: 1) Cars are bloody great. 2) Bikes and decent kit mean you can hack it in all weathers. 3) Don't help your mates. Like, ever!

CBR900RR BUYING TIPS

Blade abuse is rife - check engine, frame numbers and log book with a toothcomb.

Blade crashes are rife - look out for mismatched panels or any parts of the bike that are bent, straightened or look newer/older than the rest of the bike. Footpegs, bars, fairing brackets, bar ends and engine cases are all popular culprits.

Beware of carbon - frame protectors are particularly good at hiding large dents, big scrapes, and gaping holes full of newspaper and jam.

Beware racers - scruffy bike, mint bodywork, that'll be a racer then.

Early Blades had differing power outputs - anything between 108 and 120bhp at the back wheel - so you may want to see a dyno before buying your bike. After all, who wants a Blade with little more power than a CBR600?

Suspension on '92-'95 Blades will probably be pretty shot by now. Shocks last pretty well, but fork oil and damping may be less than ideal by now. It should be fine on the road but if you're planning track excursions, budget on a fork rebuild at least.

1993 YAMAHA YZF750

Waves of nostalgia come flooding back. After all this was the bike - albeit a severely race-prepped one - I spent three quality seasons in BSB on, so just climbing aboard one again brought a bit of a lump to my throat. Strange thing about the YZF was the whole time I was racing one, you couldn't buy them as they'd been deleted. Perhaps being pink and blue didn't help matters much... It's clear to see now that no matter how good the YZF was, it was too little too late, coming onto the scene six months after the all-conquering FireBlade - the bike that made the 750 class next to redundant overnight.

Ultimately it's not the greatest in terms of top speed, it needs revving hard to get decent performance out of it because the real power's above 7,000rpm. Get into those last couple of thousand rpm though and the motor comes alive, sounding very reminiscent of my old Cadbury's Boost race bike. And this one was even in good nick too. The only thing that let it down (apart from that paint job of course) were a few rusty cheapo steel bolts that stood out a mile. Oh, and the wheels - Yamaha seemed to use something like Tippex for wheel paint back in the YZF's day so they've all got really shabby wheels now.

So after a few days with the bike, it was time to head for Barry... Now before this trip I wondered what I'd let myself in for because people kept asking if I was still going. That should should have set alarm bells ringing, but I thought nothing of it. Then, as I spoke to Wozza, Bertie and Stu making plans before the trip, they suggested I might want to get some proper winter riding gear. At this point the penny dropped. My winters in the past have always been spent on a track, abroad, and in the sunshine, not South Wales in December. One quick call to my sponsors at Eurohelmets and I was all set with a proper winter wardrobe.

Done up like an Eskimo, I left for Wales and despite the warnings, I had a right laugh on the trip down and was glad I'd ditched the motorways in favour of some more fun backroads. It was a fast ride down and the YZF was rather good, letting me go as fast as I wanted, wherever I wanted. Front brakes were a bit average, so a bit of planning ahead was needed. So not bad, but you can tell things have come on a bit since then. It was a good trip, but there were a few little tricks I had to learn the hard way - like not leaving my jacket cuffs inside my gloves so rain can run straight into them (ta for the dry ones Bertie!) And getting in and out of umpteen layers when I stopped for fuel also took some getting used too.

Glitches like these aside, the ride to South Wales through the valleys was stunning. By the time I got there, I reckoned winter riding was pretty damned good and I couldn't see what all the fuss was about. Unsurprisingly, the rest of the boys weren't at the services we arranged to meet at on time and so I holed up with some coffee and waited. Then I got a call from Wozza. Turns out they were miles away and running late. Obviously at this point they had no idea quite how late they could be (eh Bertie?), so I headed on to Barry to check the place out while there was still some light left.

An hour later and I was wishing I'd stayed in the services...I'm sure in summer Barry could be quite happening, especially after a few pints, but in December it is dead as a doornail. The amusement arcades were open but even the owners seemed to have disappeared and the only movement I saw were the crisp packets blowing down the streets. Barry isn't a large place either so whichever way I walked, within 100 metres it was all over and I was back at the hotel. In the end I gave in and headed for the sanctuary of my room and Postman Pat on the telly.

Still, the others made it in the end and as we reflected on the day's calamities, in the bar we comforted ourselves by thinking at least it couldn't get any worse. How wrong we were...

Leaving Barry in an absolute pea-souper the next morning we headed off to try and get a few more pics, and it turned into the toughest photo shoot I've had to do yet. If you want to try wheelying over a cow-shit-coated, soggy blind crest in 20 metre visibility may I suggest you get your head examined - it's not too good for your health. Nothing in my race career could ever have prepared me for that one.

YZF BUYING TIPS

Watch the oil -- YZFs use a lot of it for some reason.

No need to check for bikes that have had a hard life because the lightweight finish (thin paint on wheels and cheap rust-prone fasteners), and brakes that seize at the first sign of road salt mean unloved YZFs will all look very tatty by now.

If there's a race can fitted, beware - the YZF's EXUP valve means they need very careful setting up or they'll bugger-up power delivery.

Over 20,000 miles chances are the clutch'll be dead - budget on a replacement.

Electrics can suffer too thanks to being located under the seat and right in the line of fire from spray off the back wheel.

Umm that's about it. If a YZF looks clean and standard, chances are it is. Go for it.

1997 SUZUKI TL 1000S

Riding into darkest Wales in the midst of winter is not the act of a rational man. But if I was rational I'd drive a car. They're dry, warm, provide music at the touch of a button and allow you to chain smoke for an entire journey. Shame they're slow, boring and have an irritating propensity for getting caught up in traffic jams. Nah, I'll take the TL.

This bike got loads of bad press when it was released because of its alleged tendency to tankslap. As a result, sales were poor, values plummeted and Suzuki deleted the misunderstood TL this year. Thank heavens too, because now it's a complete bargain. Few sold for the asking price of £6,999 and some went as low as £5,000 as the scare stories spread so an early one like this costs £2,500 to £3,000.

But it wasn't slappers (ahem) I was worried about as we set off for the land of Richard Burton, Dylan Thomas and Shakin' Stevens. No boyo, it was the weather. I've been caught out so many times in winter I decided to make myself invincible this time. Four layers on top, a neck tube, two pairs of gloves, quilted trousers, two pairs of socks and a spare pair of everything, just in case. And it bloody worked.

Conditions were dry as we set off and I was pleasantly reminded of just how good the TL is. Most V-twins have instant power low down but some, like Honda's injected SP-1 can be just too snatchy low down. The TL's got it just about right though. Plenty of easy torque without the throttle being over sensitive. There's heaps of power to catapult you past cars in front and you don't have to waste time thinking about changing gears. I could see Bertie on the Blade changing away like a demon as I just cruised along at the same speed.

I'm no hero on a motorcycle and few people are going to hang off a bike in winter like Jamie Whitham on a hot lap but that needn't mean no fun. Keep it smooth, shift your weight gently, feed on the power with the loving caress of a Swedish masseuse and you'll soon find yourself loving it, for shure. Just don't expect to get tucked in behind that half fairing unless you're of elfin proportions, and be prepared to spend an age cleaning winter grime off the engine - the downside of any semi-clad bike.

That shouldn't distract you from the fun on offer. Biggest kick on the TL was exiting roundabouts in second and gunning the 996cc motor through the 'box as smoothly as possible, feeling the grip-seeking V twin power pulses driving that rear boot into the tarmac. I'm never usually one for revving twins wildly, preferring to hear the lazy drones of a short-shift, but the Suzuki's motor does beg you to spin it up just a few grand more before snicking the next gear. It pulls and pulls all the way until - in the dry at least - you see around 160mph in top thanks to the bike's 123bhp.

It was at a slower 120mph when I hit problems, though they were no fault of the bike. Or were they? The only other time in my life I've had a puncture was on a TL1000S. A red one actually, just like this. Might be the same bloody bike for all I know. Anyway. Being in the outside lane of a dual carriageway at the time, I felt the front go light and start to weave, revealing the tell tale signs of a flat. A dodgy manoeuvre to the left brought me (cursing) onto the hard shoulder. Never mind, Bertie could get some tyre weld and we'd be sorted. Wouldn't we? Well, you know Bert's sad story by now. We fix the leak only to get another and we were stopped again with a tyre that was flatter than Jordan before her 18th boob job and I was going nowhere. Bertie (luckily for me, unluckily for him) had an AA card, meaning he pulled roadside waiting duty while I could aim for Wales on the Blade. Simple and ingenious. Except all my money was in the car with Wozza and that was already in Wales. Scraping together our change, we came up with eight quid.

After filling the Blade, I was left with 70p for emergency phone calls (my mobile having given up the ghost) and an hour later as I approached the Severn Bridge, my sphincter tightened as I realised it was a toll bridge. Doh! There was nothing for it, I'd have to bunk the fare and charge the barriers like Steve McQueen in The Great Escape. As I crawled furtively towards the barriers, ready to dump the clutch like Rossi on the grid, I was waved through. Eh? Turns out bikes are free. Yee-ha! What an investment. If I went over the bridge 750 times and paid the same as a car (£4.10), the bike would have paid for itself.

By the time I'd reached Barry bloody Island I was finally wet and the TL was still hours behind on an AA low loader. We'd have to wait until the next morning to get it fixed. A quick back street garage job later and it was back out in the pissing wet and mist for the 150 mile journey home. Fun, fun, fun.

Winter is not the time for testing the limits of any chassis, even funky aluminium lattice jobs like the TL's but it's still noticeable on roundabouts how quick the bike's sharp steering geometry allows it to fall into corners. Unfortunately my main concern was not falling off as we crossed streams of localised flooding. Gently does it old chap, and on more than one occasion I was glad that the four pot Nissins worked progressively rather than instantly and that the fully-adjustable upside down Kayaba forks didn't dive under braking.

For three grand or less, Suzuki's TL1000S offers you a bike that will keep up with most sportsters on summer track days but can still give a reasonable ride in winter too.

It may look aggressive and it's certainly got the power and chassis dimensions to do so, but it can also be docile if you treat it right. After all, even your cute little pet doggy will take your hand off if you give it enough shit. Remember that next time you stroke it.

TL 1000S BUYING TIPS

The TL was released during the parallel import boom and there are still many parallels kicking around. These should be slightly cheaper than UK bikes, but make sure the headlight points the right way and that the bike is full power - some imports were restricted to 98bhp.

The bikes were recalled in June 1997 for steering dampers to be fitted. Some owners may not have done this so check for a damper mounted by the top yokes. If you're buying a TL from a dealer and it doesn't have a damper, see if he'll throw one in for free.

Rear shock mountings have been known to crack on TLs and could in extreme cases break away from the frame so make sure you give them a good looking over.

More than 10,000 miles on the clock and the rear shock's damping will probably be gone. Give the rear end a good shove down at a standstill and let it spring back. If it comes back violently, there's naff all damping left and the shock needs replacing.

Gearbox bearings have also been known to fail. Tell tale signs are oil leaks and noise or vibration from the gearbox. Insist on a test ride before buying.

1984 BMW 635i

A car the size a houseboat may not be the most practical transport solution in 'Gridlock Britain' but what the hell? Having relied solely on bikes since I was 17, I was ready to enter the moribund world of the everyday car driver for the first time to discover just how much four-wheeled metal £2,500 snares.

Stick the car next to the bikes and if quantity were the sole criteria here, the car would wipe the floor with them. So much mass for so little moolah? Sure, it's pretty lived-in but, bar a few little glitches (driver's door needs a real shove, heater works red hot or not at all, dashboard lights have a mind of their own, car crabbed gently across the road), it rocked! A quick peek inside reminds you this is a genuine child of the '80s as the vast dashboard (compulsory) packs more buttons and gizmos than the Starship Enterprise. By today's standards these look as modern as a top-loading video player but back in the '80s they were the zenith of motoring sophistication. The first few days with the BMW were a revelation. I could go to the supermarket and buy more than three items in one hit, I could pop round to the girlfriend's without turning up looking like Nanook of the North and, best of all, I could finally face winter on an equal footing, laughing at it from the warm safety of my centrally-heated rolling gin palace. Cars could catch on.

And so to Barry where the Beemer aroused increasing bitterness and jealousy in my bedraggled colleagues. To start with this was good-humoured as they buzzed the car like playful dolphins around a tourist boat, but as life became colder outside, their demeanours darkened. Where they were united by their dribbly noses, red eyes and soggy gloves, I was fast becoming an outsider. And when an innocent map-reading error left us split up and led to Bertie's stranding on the A34 and Stu's life-or-death Welsh border dash, the menace in the messages they were leaving on my mobile became worrying.

The fact I spent the best part of three hours crawling the last 60 miles down the M4 to Barry in nose-to-tail gridlock counted for little. As far as Bertie and Stu were concerned I hadn't suffered nearly enough. Fortunately Stu turned up in Barry in good time for me to ply him with enough food and booze to quash any resentment he may have had. Bertie was a trickier bet though, arriving after the restaurant stopped serving food. I had a nervous half-hour hoping the beers he was sinking would take effect before he took a swing at me.

But how did the car stack up against the bikes? Where the bikes were obvious shiny objects of desire, the car was - despite its badge and glorious past - just a lumbering beast. Cool for those with a sense of irony and retro chic, a white-trash heap to anyone else. As for performance, it goes without saying the bikes left the car for dead, but the car still had some poke. Boot the accelerator from a standstill and you'd be rewarded with heavy wheelspin, this was thanks to big power and bald tyres, meanwhile rear wheel drive and the conditions meant roundabout fishtailing was compulsory. I'll miss the BM when it goes, but an hour each way to work on a journey that normally takes 25 minutes isn't my cup of tea.

CAR BUYING TIPS

All cars have four wheels, one at each corner. Any less, walk away.

Hole in the roof? Not necessarily the problem it first may seem. If it can be closed again it's a sunroof and perfectly normal. If however it turns out to be a plain old gaping rust hole, the car is best avoided.

Check the badges. If it says 'BMW' on the bonnet and 'Fiat' on the boot it's a cut and shut that'll fall apart the first time you take it over a speed bump. Leave it

No engine under the bonnet? Chances are you're looking at a VW Beetle. Check the boot. If there's still no sign of the engine, do a runner.

If you take a test drive and disconcertingly find the car leaning out of the corner rather than into it, don't panic. This is caused by gravity and is common to even the best cars.

Take someone who knows about cars with you. If you don't know any, pop into any East End boozer and grab the first bloke you come across in a sheepskin coat.

CONCLUSION

You know those days where everything goes wrong? Well this test was two of those days in succession. Short of someone piling into the side of a lorry, or Barry Island suffering a freak earthquake and being swallowed up by the sea, everything that could have gone wrong did. We broke down (three times), the way the weather closed in on us every time we tried to take photos put every horror film in history to shame, and just when we thought it was all over, the TL fell over in a jet wash.

But despite all the pain and suffering that went into this story, the bikes shone through proving that you can indeed have an absolute result on the used sportsbike market for two and a half grand. And although we had the odd breakdown these were far more bad luck (punctures and flat batteries) than mechanical mishaps, so the bikes really can't be held responsible. So what's the best £2,500 sportsbike?

Well I guess it all depends what you're after, but there must be an order to these things, so here it is.

In third place comes the YZF. It was indeed in beautiful condition, and a shining example of its breed but in this company it certainly felt dated. To be honest, the riding position felt more tourer than sports while the old-school styling and sappy brakes left it trailing slightly in the performance stakes. Still, it's an awful lot of bike for the money and the handling's still perfectly sharp and secure enough to go as mad as you dare on the road, and all in more comfort than you'll get from more modern offerings too. And if '80s-style neon/pastel paintjobs are your thing, well what are you waiting for?

Second place goes to the FireBlade. If you've got the patience and know-how you could turn up a Blade as good as the one we had for £2,500, but you'd probably have to sift through a lot of nasty heaps before you got there. And when you did, don't forget that bargain price tag doesn't come with the matching insurance - Blades are still notoriously hard to insure and the early ones are no exception, sitting as they do in the same insurance bracket as the latest model.

Still, the Blade is an utter legend and deservedly so. Even by today's standards it feels fast and responsive, and hell, even the anchors are still right up there. And of course there's the fact the '92/'93 models feel properly bad in a way every other Blade since hasn't quite managed.

Which all means the TL's the one that bags the honours this month. It was a close run thing though, especially with all the bikes being in such good nick, but the TL comes out on top thanks to being so modern where the others are at least a couple of generations behind no matter how good they are. For your money, the TL gives you all the badness of the Blade, all the comfort of the YZF and enough power to see 'em both off should push really come to shove. A steering damper keeps tankslapper worries at bay while a new rear shock brings the handling on wonders if the track's where you really want to be.

Oh, and then of course there was the car. It was the warmest, the most comfortable, and far and away the most practical. Then again it was the slowest, had the worst fuel economy and got stuck in traffic much more often. Well really, what did you expect?

SPECS - HONDA

TYPE - SUPERSPORTS

PRODUCTION DATE - 1993

PRICE - £2500 (USED)

ENGINE CAPACITY - 893cc

POWER - 118bhp@10,400rpm

TORQUE - 66lb.ft@7800rpm

WEIGHT - 185kg

SEAT HEIGHT - N/A

FUEL CAPACITY - N/A

TOP SPEED - N/A

0-60 - n/a

TANK RANGE - N/A

SPECS - SUZUKI

TYPE - SUPERSPORTS

PRODUCTION DATE - 1997

PRICE - £2500 (USED)

ENGINE CAPACITY - 996cc

POWER - 115bhp@8900rpm

TORQUE - 72lb.ft@7100rpm

WEIGHT - 175kg

SEAT HEIGHT - N/A

FUEL CAPACITY - N/A

TOP SPEED - N/A

0-60 - n/a

TANK RANGE - N/A

SPECS - YAMAHA

TYPE - SUPERSPORTS

PRODUCTION DATE - 1993

PRICE - £2500 (USED)

ENGINE CAPACITY - 749cc

POWER - 106bhp@12,000rpm

TORQUE - 51lb.ft@9300rpm

WEIGHT - 191kg

SEAT HEIGHT - N/A

FUEL CAPACITY - N/A

TOP SPEED - N/A

0-60 - n/a

TANK RANGE - N/A

"Like the mag lads," said the bloke to us in the office's local pub, "but why don't you test secondhand bikes? Not all of us can afford the new stuff you're always on about." And he had a point. So in the interests of research I asked him how much he'd spend on a bike if he were buying tomorrow. "Five or six grand, cash that is," he said, without blinking. Blimey. That was more than perhaps any of us here have at our disposal for a luxury expense like a bike.

But it did get us thinking. What would be the smallest amount of cash you'd need to part with to turn up a really good sportsbike you could to live with, cherish, and relish?

After numerous calls to assorted iffy trade contacts we had a figure - £2,500 guv'nor. Yup, for two and a half thousand smackeroonies you can get some properly awesome hardware. You can also stiff yourself by buying some of the nastiest, ropiest heaps known to man if you're not careful, but if you use all of your cunning and guile, resist the temptation to buy the first thing you see and can drive a harder bargain than the Krays, you can emerge from the secondhand dungheap smelling of roses.

So with a ceiling of £2,500 set we tracked down the finest tools we could, ending up with a beautifully mint and very loved '93 FireBlade, a low mileage YZF750R that looked like it had spent its life in one of Michael Jackson's oxygen tents, and a shockingly clean TL1000S.

Then Alex threw us a curve ball from the editor's chair. "What sort of car can you get for the same money?" adding, "I bet it'd be a real shed - why don't you get one and let the bikes show it up?" And so it came to pass that a 17-year-old, 154,000 mile, 3.5 litre straight six BMW 635CSi found its way into the TWO car park. Next to the bikes it looked old, shabby, and tired, but it also had a drug-dealing, porn-peddling air of badass cool about it.

The assorted hardware was divvied-up around the office and one person assigned to live with each for a week. Bertie was the obvious choice for the FireBlade what with having a 2001 model as a longtermer and being the author of a book on the beasts (available from all bookshop bargain buckets near you this Christmas...). While Niall Mac had to have the YZF750 having won three British Superbike crowns on 'em not so long ago. The BMW went to me on account of my being the only person in the office never to have owned a car, all of which left the TL1000S with freelance writer, Stu Barker.

To top the whole experience off and make sure we all got a feel for our vehicles, the week's adoption period would end with a two-day road trip to Barry Island in South Wales. Why we ended up going to Barry is anyone's guess, but it seemed like a good idea at the time and was at least far enough away to provide a common element of adventure. If at this point we'd known how disastrously things would go tits up on this little jolly, none of us would have got   out of bed that morning. But, not being clairvoyant we had no means of knowing this and so set off into the murk of another dingy   Tolworth morning full of enthusiasm and good intentions for the coming journey.

Little did we know...

Continue for the Used 1993 Honda CBR900RR FireBlade Review - 2/6

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