Top 10s

Top 10 1000cc+ bikes for under £1000

Roll up roll up. Get your one cc per pound here.

THANK exchange rates, the economy or spiralling R&D costs but new bikes are getting ever more expensive. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some jaw-dropping deals on the secondhand market.

These days, £1000 the sort of figure some people will pay for an iPhone that they’ll ditch in a couple of years. But for the same money you could get a bike that, within relatively recent memory, was somewhere near the top of the range. And unlike an outdated smartphone, they’ll still do much the same job as their brand-new equivalents.

We’ve checked out verifiable, recent sold prices for useable bikes to compile this list, focussing only on machines with long MOTs and no serious problems. At the sub £1000 level, you can expect them to be scruffy – with scrapes and maybe some cracked plastics – but you should be able to get a reliable, road-legal example of any of these bikes if you’re prepared to hunt them down.

Until the 2009 advent of the S1000RR, BMW’s K-series machines were its only four-cylinder offerings. And while they’re an acquired taste there’s no shortage of followers. For our sub-£1000 budget you should be able to find either the ‘sporty’ (relatively – it’s no superbike) K100RS or the K100LT tourer. We even found a couple of mid-90s K1100 LTs within reach. Common to all of them were astronomical mileages, but that could be seen as reassurance as to just how solid these things are. Not a good option if you’re into lightweight, flickable bikes, though… Unlike most bikes on this list, you’ll often find these with ABS. While rudimentary, it’s still a worthwhile safety feature.

An early-90s Trophy 1200 will just scrape into our budget, and makes another fairly convincing touring option. Hamstrung in its era by the lack of a shaft drive transmission – something the newer-generation Trophy 1200 remedied – there are still plenty of good things going for the brawny, 125bhp, four-cylinder Triumph. They seem to generally cover a bit less mileage than the previously-mentioned BMWs, perhaps due to being a few years younger.

Back when the CBR600F was the king of all-rounders in the late 1980s and early 90s, its similar-looking CBR1000F sibling somehow failed to capture the imagination despite taking the same approach. The existence of much sportier 1000cc bikes like the FZR1000 meant is skulked in the shadows. It mightn’t have sold as well as its rivals in its day, but the number remaining on the road now shows that longevity is on the Honda’s side.  And they’re so cheap it’s almost theft – half our imaginary budget might even be enough to get a road-legal example!

Yamaha’s FJ1200 is one of those bikes that gained a loyal following thanks to its dependability and durability. Those qualities mean the cheap, used ones on sale now tend to have interstellar mileage under their belts, but that’s not necessarily something to be worried about. While a sports tourer in its day, don’t bank on too much sportiness from its cornering behaviour in modern terms. But sit back and revel in its reliable simplicity.

Another big tourer to make this list, the ST1100 Pan European is an all-time favourite for many long-distance riders. Even its ST1300 successor never managed to quite live up to its forebear’s reputation. The combination of a V4 engine, shaft drive and all-day comfort are persuasive in themselves, and the added bonus of bargain-basement pricing and ABS makes for a compelling argument.

If you’re in your 40s then there’s a good chance that the mere mention of an FZR1000 Genesis or EXUP sparks a hint of long-repressed desire. Back in the pre-Fireblade days, as the 80s turned to the 90s, it was the undoubted king of the superbikes. At 145bhp, it was the most powerful machine you could buy, regardless of capacity. While heavy compared to today’s bikes, it’s one of the few machines here that could still cope with the occasional trackday.

We’ve already covered BMW’s four-cylinder models in this list, but the firm’s boxer twins have something of an aura about them that tends to keep prices higher and make them more desirable despite falling shorter on the power front. Our budget would still just about get you onto an R1100RS or RT, though, if you’re prepared to put in the effort to find the right bike at the right price. Hunt even harder and you might even get an R1100GS for a grand, but the popularity of adventure bikes means it will probably be scruffier and leggier than its RS or RT equivalent.

Remember when Japan decided it needed V-twins to battle the rising star of Ducati, both on the track and the road? That brief spell resulted in the scary Suzuki TL1000S (out of our budget), the fat TL1000R (nearly cheap enough, and actually a better bet than the S version), the VTR1000 SP1 and SP2 (way out of budget, but still a bargain nonetheless) and the VTR1000 Firestorm. Which makes this list because it was another supreme all-rounder in the mould of the old CBR600F and the VFR750. Fast, practical and neat-handling, it was overshadowed by balls-out superbikes in its day but makes a cracking used buy, particularly if you hunt out a decent one for a three-figure price.

Back in 1990 the fastest car in the world was the Ferrari F40. It cost £163,000 and managed 201mph. Today, a used one will set you back about £1 million. In 1990 the world’s fastest bike was the Kawasaki ZZ-R1100. It could do 177mph and cost about £7k. Now you’ll get one for a few hundred quid. That seems unfair, given the reputation that the Kawasaki has in its day. They’re still fast even now, although the slightly soggy handling isn’t likely to have improved with age and mileage, particularly at the cheap end of the market.

Honda’s direct response to the ZZ-R1100, the Blackbird was even faster even if pre-launch rumours of a 200mph top speed turned out to be a long way off. It’s also a better-handling, more comfortable and arguably better-styled bike. Not as cheap as the ZZ-R – the oldest ones, from 1996, are still six years newer than the first of the Kawasakis – but they can be found at sub-£1000 prices, particularly if you get lucky with a bid on certain auction websites. You’ll probably only get the earliest, carburetted version, but that’s no bad thing. A proper sports-tourer, the Blackbird is a do-anything bike that looks like insane value for money.

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