10 cheap track day bikes

Track weaponry that won’t break the bank

Cheap track bikes

IF YOU'RE considering getting a bike just to use on track but don’t have the over £10,000 tucked under the mattress to spend on something like a new Yamaha R6, Honda Fireblade, Suzuki GSX-R1000 or a Aprilia Tuono V4 1100 Factory, then don’t despair – the used market is awash with cheap bikes that are begging for a thrashing on track. After countless half-cut evenings spent scouring eBay for budget track day tools, we reckon that with a £3,000 maximum budget, you can easily bag yourself a bike that’ll be the perfect track steed. Here’s what we’d go for.

10. Yamaha YZF-R6

THE R6 WAS astonishing when it first came out in 1998. It was light, high revving and aggressive – the bike that spawned the hardcore 600s class because it was more purposeful than any other middleweight bike at the time and needed to be ridden on a circuit to be fully exploited. £3k will get you a clean, standard low mileage carb-fed second generation bike from 2002. The glut of 1998 – 2002 bikes on eBay between £2-£3k should all be mechanically sound and there are quite a few that have exhaust and suspension modifications too. It’s hard to believe early bikes are soon to be 20 years old – they still look good and although they’re down on power against more modern 600s, the reward of keeping one in its high-revving sweet spot round a track hasn’t diminished with time.

9. Triumph Street Triple

NIMBLE, useable and a lot of fun thanks to the 675cc engine from the Daytona, the Street Triple is capable of delivering sweet-handling thrills when let loose on a circuit. Take one on track and spend the day bothering riders on supersport bikes and you’ll have a blast. A second-generation bike from 2009 will be your most likely option for £3k - £2,200 to £2,600 should do the job here. Don’t accept anything less than a clean, looked after example that got some history and doesn’t need work. eBay also turns up a few newer category C/D write offs from 2010 and 2012, which could be just the base for a Street Triple project bike.

Read our Street Triple buyers' guide here.

8. Honda CBR600

THERE ARE a load of CBR600s lurking on eBay for less than £3k. Many of them are going to be CBR600F Sports – the softer predecessor to the MotoGP-inspired CBR600RR. While the CBR600F definitely isn’t as sexy as the R6, it’s well built, solid and reliable. As an all-rounder, it’s one of the best – a bike that’s equally happy going to work or going banzai on a track day. Spend above £2,500 and you should be guaranteed a clean example and maybe even some extras like braided brake lines, upgraded pads and an exhaust. If you’re on a more of a budget, £1,300 could allow you to pick up an OK cat C write-off track bike with decent fairings, exhaust and tyres. Spend the whole £3k and you can probably bag yourself a 2005/05 CBR600RR with some haggling – either a clean high-mileage road legal bike or ready-to-roll track bike.

7. Kawasaki ZX-6R

The ZX-6R has been around since the mid-90s so if you’re after one, there’s plenty of choice when it comes to buying Kawasaki’s middleweight sportsbike. Up to £3k will net you bikes from the mid-90s to the mid noughties – so everything from the versatile all-rounder F models to more comfortable J-series bikes to the bonkers B1 and then refined C1H models are within your grasp. Older bikes look dated now though and with only about 100hp at the rear wheel, lose out to more modern bikes in terms of performance. We’d go for a 2005–2006 C1H – screaming 636cc engine, radial Tokico brakes, slipper clutch, underseat exhaust and about 110hp at the wheel. High-mileage C1Hs can be had for near £2,500, but somewhere closer to £3k can secure a fresher example with the chance of goodies like braided brakes lines, a Power Commander, aftermarket exhaust and steering damper – all of which are decent additions if you’re going to put this to work on a circuit. If you fancy spending less than £k, there are plenty of options too – J-series bikes might be a little soft but you should be able to get a decent one for around £1,500.

Click here for our ZX-6R buyers' guide

6. Aprilia RSV Mille

PERHAPS YOU don’t dream of cheap Japanese inline four-cylinder sports bikes. If you’re looking for some Italian V-twin action on a budget, the RSV Mille is the bike to turn to – 998cc 60degree V-Twin, 110hp at the rear wheel and a glorious booming soundtrack. A quick look on eBay reveals a good crop of examples including a mint 29k-mile Mille R Factory (with forged gold OZ wheels, Ohlins suspension, Brembo brakes and Arrow exhaust) for £2,750 and a tidy, standard 2002 bike with 22k miles and a year’s MOT.

5. Ducati SuperSport

THE ORIGINAL SuperSport Ducati is a great bike and will happily take to the track and offers plenty if mid-corner stability. Grunty V-twin engine means 80bhp it will stay ahead of SV650s and the like even if fast 600s pull away on the straights. Head studs used to break but most are sorted, electrical gremlins common but many can be avoided by keeping connections tip-top and servicing can’t be ignored. Carbs can ice-up, but only in winter. Keep mint bodywork safe if you’re riding on track.

4. Honda Fireblade

OF COURSE, the Honda Fireblade – the bike that defined what a modern superbike is. Again, there are plenty of ’Blades about and around £2k should get you a decent bike CBR900RR from the mid to late 90s. Spend a bit more, and you should be able to get hold of a CBR900RR from 2001 - £3k should do the job here and although the 2000 bike wasn’t quite as hardcore as its competitor at the time, it’s solidly built, reliable, has 170hp and should be good for a day on track with just a set of stick tyres.

Here's our Honda Fireblade buyers' guide.

3. Honda VFR400 NC30

IF YOU'RE after a V4-powered pocket rocket, there’s only one bike to turn to and that’s Honda’s VFR400 NC30. Tidy NC30s can command really high prices, so if you’re after one of these late VFR400s, you might have to look around for a good one that’s been looked after but hasn’t been gone to town on. If you’re in luck, you’ll get a grey import on aftermarket fairings for a bit above £2k. Many VFR400s were imports from Japan, so have had their clocks converted from kilometres to miles, so mileage isn’t always accurate. Parts can be expensive too but buy one and you’ve got a sweet handling, V4-powered, beauty with a single sided swingarm and engine that makes a lovely whine courtesy of the gear-driven cams.

2. Yamaha R1

WE'LL ALWAYS be tempted by an R1. Any R1. The original bikes still look the nuts today, but tidy examples that have managed to escape the hands of cretins/infinite wheelies command a healthy premium, so we’ll skip those and got straight to the carb-fed 5jj MK2 model from 2000. That means somewhere around 126hp at the rear wheel from an engine that’s more refined than the previous bike’s, plus it’s got more compliant suspension, which contributes to improved handling. Between £2,000 and £3,000 there’s plenty about, so you can afford to stay clear of poorly-executed Rossi reps and bikes that look hanging, and easily get a clean, mechanically sound bike with 30k miles or less.  

1. Suzuki GSX-R750

WHEN IT comes to sportsbike folklore, we all know that GSX-R750 is one of the most legendary performance bikes ever to come from Japan. The Gixxer 750’s three-quarter litre engine and sweet handling mean it’s like a 600, but faster – with stronger midrange but the flexibility of a 1000. The ultimate sports bike, according to some. For that reason, it could also be your ultimate track bike too. Mint K1/K2 bikes can be easily had for about £2,500 but a few hundred quid more should see you getting the more refined and modern K4, with 127hp at the rear wheel, less weight than previous 750s, plus Tokico brakes and a new ECU. K4s still look good now and in the right hands are more than capable of shaming a less skilled rider on a faster bike.