Used Review: Honda VTR1000 SP-1 & SP-2

Designed to take on and beat the Ducatis in WSB, the SP-1 and SP-2 did just that. But how does it fare in the more cut-throat world of used sales? Bertie Simmonds finds out.

Posted: 5 August 2008
by Bertie Simmonds

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. So said Honda at the end of 1999 when it unveiled the VTR1000 SP-1.
Back in the day, World Superbikes was a race series between 750cc fours (made by the Japs) and the 1000cc V-twins favoured by the Italians.

With only four titles from 1988 to 1999, it was clear the inline and V-fours were struggling.Thus, Honda made this: the SP-1, a 999cc, liquid-cooled four-valve per head 'Japcati' that looked great, oozed class, was finished superbly and about as practical as a 996. It was cheaper though, being under £10K. It won WSB first time out with Colin Edwards, but on the road this thing had more snatch than a porn library and was almost as hairy if you gave it a handful.

Thankfully new injector bodies on the SP-2 gave the roadbike a major leg-up on the ease of use scale, and helped Colin to a second title. Still officially on sale, the SP-2 is now an over-priced, under-powered V-twin alternative to the raft of 1000cc fours (oh, the irony) but as a used bike, it's a much better bet.

1. Engine: After the initial snatchi-ness (SP-1 only) the motor picks up nicely from 4000rpm, dips for
emissions and then takes off on a almost 45-degree line towards an 120bhp top end as standard. The SP series love to rev, which is nice. Big change from SP-1 to SP-2 (see 'Second-Hand Values') was the
bigger throttle bodies and smoother low-down delivery. Servicing should take place generally every 4000 miles. The big one is the 16,000-miler which demands a good look at the valve clearances.

2. Oil consumption: Many owners advise keeping a close eye on it.

3. Top-end noise: Some owners report a top-end tapping noise when opening the throttle on the SP-1/2. It's perfectly normal, and no, it's not the cam-chain tensioners as the SP series has gear-driven cams!

4. Rough running: Owners have reported SPs stalling or failing to run correctly. If this happens with a machine you're interested in buying ask how long the fuel has been in the tank and when the bike was last serviced. Why? Old fuel and old plugs are the biggest cause of poor running, according to owners.

5. Alarms and engine cut-out: Warning! A few owners have reported that some alarms fry the wiring or cause the ignition to cut out. Immobilisors have also been known to do the same. If fitted, make sure it's a professional installation.

6. Clutch: Can be grabby according to some, so test ride before you buy.

7. Gearbox: One owner reported his bike jumping out of third gear with less than 5000 miles on the clock. Another said his 17,000-miler SP-1 was hitting false neutrals under load after gearchanges. His dealer told him to buy a whole new gearbox. This is not the norm: these bikes are typically solid. A good test ride will establish whether the one in question is sound.

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