Top 10 bikes overdue for replacement

Old timers that really need to be given a shot in the arm

NOW that the razzamatazz around the new bike unveilings at the end of last year is becoming a faded memory and we’re starting to see the first new-for-2016 machines appearing in dealers, our minds have turned to the machines that didn’t get changed.

There’s a whole strata of bikes out there that are reaching the point where they’d benefit from a revamp, but clearly haven’t yet reached the point where their makers see it as a priority.

We’re steering clear of cruisers and retro bikes here; it would be all too easy to take pot-shots at machines that are intentionally old-fashioned. Instead the ones that spring to mind are bikes that seem to have fallen behind their rivals, whether in terms of performance, materials or technology, and yet remain resolutely on sale.

You’re sure to have your own ideas on which bikes are in need of a spruce-up. Please add them in the comments below – you never know if a manufacturer might be paying attention to what you say…


10. Honda VFR1200F

You might argue that the VFR1200F is still a pretty new, modern bike. After all, it pioneered Honda’s dual-clutch transmission and was something of a technology showcase when it first appeared at the end of 2009. But that’s arguably all the more reason to revise it – if your USP is ‘hi-tech’ then you really can’t afford to fall behind.

The fact that the VFR1200F now lags in terms of technology is a great illustration of the leaps that have been taken in the last half-a-decade. Yes, it gained traction control in 2012, but where’s the full-on, gyro-assisted stability control system? Where’s the cornering ABS? Where are the look-round-corners headlights? These are all things that can be found on bikes from other manufacturers. Shouldn’t Honda’s technical tour-de-force have them as well?

9. Suzuki Bandit 1250S

It’s hard not to like the old Bandit 1250 (and the faired GSX1250FA, for that matter) for their ability to provide a big-bike experience for minimal cash. The technology is firmly footed in the 20th century, and the price tag (£7299 for the Bandit) also looks like it’s from the 1990s. But even old stagers need to reinvent themselves once in a while and it would be fascinating to see what Suzuki could come up with if it set itself the task of making a new bike to adopt the Bandit role. ‘Bandit’ is such a strong sub-brand for Suzuki that it’s a shame to see it withering, unloved, in a corner.

8. Suzuki GSX-R750

There are still plenty of riders who will tell you that the GSX-R750 is a near-perfect combination of performance, weight and size. It’s hard to argue with that, but for a bike that carries arguably the most legendary name tag of any in the Suzuki range it’s a shame that it’s lacking so much of the technology that rival sports bikes can offer. An update must be in the offing soon, since there’s no ABS (mandatory from next year, remember) and it’s unlikely that the old GSX-R will pass Euro4 emissions limits. With 1000cc superbikes now seen as ‘too fast’ by some potential customers – perhaps those who don’t trust themselves with near-200bhp – surely there’s a market for a fractionally slower machine that still comes with all the latest rider aids? Ducati’s Panigale 899 (and the new 959 Panigale) says there is. And while they’re at it, a new GSX-R600 would be good, too.

7. Honda Goldwing

The Goldwing lives in a strange netherworld, shunned by plenty of motorcyclists who don’t really ‘get’ the whole big-tourer thing, and loved by a small-but-passionate crowd of owners who wouldn’t consider anything else. One thing that it has been good at, though, is providing new technology that other bikes don’t offer, and that’s why it’s surely in need of replacement to bring back that selling point. The current Wing, minor changes aside, dates back 15 years now, and surely needs to be offered with equipment like Honda’s semi-auto DCT transmission, not to mention every new electronic gadget and luxury imaginable. A replacement Wing has been rumoured for years and the latest rumour is that it will be replaced in 2017.

6. Suzuki SV650S

Speaking of overdue, the SV650S might be at the other end of the spectrum to the Goldwing, inhabiting a cosy niche as an entry-level sports bike for those with aspirations to step up to bigger superbikes in future, but it’s also looking a bit long in the tooth now. The launch this year of the new naked SV650 (itself a reworked Gladius) makes the old-model faired SV650S stand out even more as a bike that’s living beyond its years. 

5. Honda CB1000R

Believe it or not, the CB1000R is eight years old now. It first appeared in late 2007 and while its old-model-2012 Fireblade engine was plenty powerful enough back then, it’s been completely left behind by the latest rash of superbike-derived naked bikes. With 123bhp it’s just not in the same league as the strong-selling naked superbikes like BMW’s S1000R, and it also lags behind bikes like the Speed Triple and Suzuki’s GSX-S1000. But to make a competitive superbike-based naked, Honda needs a superbike to derive it from.

4. Suzuki Hayabusa

The Concept GSX model shown at in Tokyo late last year hopefully hints that the Hayabusa is on the verge of being replaced, and it’s arguably about time for that. The first generation bike lasted eight years (1999-2007) and the current version has been around for the same amount of time (2008-16). The difference is that during the original bike’s life, while superbikes got faster, technology in terms of electronics didn’t change much. The second gen was launched before stability control or cornering ABS were in anyone’s mind; now they’re fast becoming the norm – and surely a bike that’s aiming to be the fastest thing on two wheels needs them? There’s also that whole speed thing. In 2008, 194bhp was lots. In 2016, it’s still lots, but plenty of other bikes can match or beat it. No, it’s not really that important in the real world, but if a bike’s USP is its power and speed,  it needs to be able to make the numbers.

3. Honda ST1300

The ST1300 was the standard bearer that every other touring bike looked up to when it was first launched. But that was in 2002, and it’s barely been tweaked since then. Like the VFR1200F and the Goldwing, the ST1300 really needs to take a look at the sort of tech that rival tourers have on offer – a nose through BMW’s brochures would be a start.

2. Yamaha R6

Yes, the 600cc supersport market is a shadow of its former self, but surely if Yamaha (or Honda, Suzuki or Kawasaki) was to launch a truly modern 600cc sports bike, with all the latest gizmos and the sort of power hike, in percentage terms, that 1000cc superbikes have seen in the last decade, it might find that there were a surprising number of buyers ready to come forward. It’s not just in terms of tech, either – the R6 today still looks much the same as the 2006 model. That bike was a revolution. Years ahead of its time… But maybe not 10 years ahead.

1. Honda Fireblade

Few bikes have a heritage like the Honda Fireblade. It’s a name that many of us – now nearing (or even into) middle age – grew up with. It’s intrinsically linked to that first-generation, 1992 bike that completely rethought the way a sports bike should be made. It’s no exaggeration to say that every superbike today owes a debt to the 1992 Fireblade, and that makes it all the sadder to see the machine that currently carries the badge failing to make the same sort of impact. Perhaps the ultimate answer would be for Honda go back to first principles and reimagine the Blade. At the moment, it’s just another 1000cc superbike, and one that falls short of its rivals in outright performance and electronic wizardry. Honda could, no doubt, create a traction-controlled, gizmo-laden Fireblade with 200bhp, right on a par with the class leaders.

But that’s not the Fireblade way, or at least it wasn’t. The original’s success was founded on intentionally steering away from established classes and engineering thinking. Let’s hope there’s a next-generation Tadao Baba beavering away in Honda R&D right now creating something just as mould-breaking.

Now, with talk of a new V4-powered RVF1000 to take on racing duties in the future, it could be the time for another 1992 Fireblade moment, revolutionising superbikes for the street.

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