Welcome to the era of the £10k 600

But in fact they're as cheap as ever...

IT'S a moment bike firms have been desperate to avoid. But it looks likely that 2013 will see the prices of some 600cc supersports machines bursting through the notional £10,000 'barrier', thanks to a combination of technological advances, legislative demands and monetary fluctuations.

At the moment, several 600s already knock on the door of a five-figure price tag, particularly with the advent of ABS-equipped versions as bike firms bow to demand and prepare for the forthcoming law that will make anti-lock brakes mandatory on such machines. Some, like Triumph's latest Daytona 675R, have already taken the leap and crossed into £10k territory, although the non-R version is cheaper.

While it might be hard to accept it, £10,000 isn't a magic number. In fact, we get more for our money now than ever before. While it seems only a short while ago that any 600cc supersport could be yours for around £7k, the reality is that due to inflation the latest prices are really no higher than in the past. All the extra performance, handling and technology is, therefore, effectively free of charge...

Take Honda's CBR600, for instance. Back in 1996, a steel-framed, carb-fed CBR600F with a whole 100bhp would have set you back £6995. Not a lot? Actually, take inflation into account and that's over £11,000 in today's money – around as much as you might pay for a new Ducati 848.

Admittedly, that 1996 price was in the era of grey imports and rip-off Britain, and in the late 1990s all manufacturers re-shuffled their prices to bring them down. Even so, adjusted for inflation, the price of the CBR600 has rarely dropped below the equivalent of £9,000, and the same applies to all its rivals.

(As an aside, even back in 1996 it was possible to pay five-figure sums for a 600 – the Yamaha FZR600-powered Bimota YB9 cost £10,000, the equivalent of around £16,000 now.)

Click 'next page' to see why a 600 is actually cheaper than you might think!

Back in the '90s, when the CBR600F was effectively an £11k bike, it was the UK's best-seller, with up to 3,000 finding buyers every year. None of today's 600cc supersports machines manage to even crack the 1,000 sales-per-year barrier in this country. Which makes it even more impressive that prices haven't risen, given the logical economies of scale that go with larger production numbers.

In truth, bike firms – particularly in Japan – currently face more pressures than ever before in keeping prices down. The Yen has remained strong while the financial crisis has weakened Western currencies, so the manufacturers get less money for each Pound they charge.

Back in 2003, there were over 190 Yen to the Pound, compared with around 140 now, so the amount that Japanese firms actually receive for each bike they sell is effectively more than 25% lower than it used to be. And since all Japanese supersports 600s are still made in flagship Japanese factories as opposed to using cheaper labour in other countries, the class is particularly hard-hit.

Inflation isn't the only thing to consider, either. Average earnings in the UK have risen faster than inflation for most years since the heyday of the supersports 600. Back in 1998, a CBR600 would have set you back £7,099, while the median salary in the UK was around £14,000 per year. That means the bike would have accounted for a fraction over 50% of that average person's pre-tax earnings.

Fast forward to 2012 and median earnings are more like £24,000 per year. So even at £10,000, a 600 is only just over 40% of that. At £9,000, it's just 37.5%.

So, believe it or not, the £10k 600 is actually something of a bargain.

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