Top 10 second-hand supersports bikes

Visordown's pick of used 600cc sports bikes

Top 10 second-hand supersports bikes

THROUGHOUT the 1990s and much of the 2000s the supersports 600 market was the hardest-fought arena in motorcycling. In the UK alone customers came by their thousands every year for each of the top-sellers and there seemed no end to the demand for these increasingly-capable middleweights.

And then it stopped. Almost overnight a combination of changing economic conditions saw Japanese bike prices jump massively, taking a new 600 from around £7,000 in 2007 to £9,000 or more, while shifting fashions took riders away from race-replicas. 

As a result, manufacturers simply stopped updating their supersports machines.Yamaha finally brought us a new YZF-R6 this year to meet the latest emmision limits. Otherwise many 600s in showrooms haven't improved much in a decade and can only be sold until exisitng stocks run out, for up to a maximum of two years. 

Then they're gone, just like two-strokes, once a right of passage, now sought-after classics. 

So maybe now's the time to pick up a good second-hand one, while there are still huge numbers of well-kept examples on the road. 

Building a definitive list of the ‘best’ 600cc supersports bikes is virtually impossible such is the range of prices, specs and ages available. The best advice overall is to establish a budget and then look at (and where possible test) as many different options as you can; small differences in riding position and feel mean that what suits you might be quite different to the bike that’s best for the next chap.

Even so, here’s our reverse-order take on the 10 best used supersports machines out there.

10. Ducati 748/749

It might not be a 600 but it still resides in the supersport class. While its V-twins have always been bigger-capacity than rival four-cylinder machines, with the advent of the 848, Ducati really left the supersports market for good, confirming the decision with 899 Panigale and the new 959, which now has performance more in line with 1000cc superbikes. So we’re sticking to the last of its 750cc (or thereabouts) machines, the 748 and 749. Both are easily found in the £3,000-£5,000 range. The 748’s styling is impossible to ignore, and it’s a sure future classic, while the 749 is divisive in appearance but offers notable chassis improvements. Neither will have the performance of a more modern machine, and you’ve got to factor in higher running costs than a Japanese 600, but depreciation should be minimal now and there’s an intangible feel-good factor to riding something ‘exotic’ for half the price of a new Japanese 600.

Click NEXT for number 9 in our list and watch our Sports Bike Reviews playlist below for reviews on all the latest and greatest sports bikes.


9. MV Agusta F3 675

That ‘Italian exotic’ feeling is amplified a notch on an MV Agusta and if we allowed ourselves to include the F3 800 in this list it might rise a position or two. As it is, we’re sticking to the 675cc version and that brings some issues. Early bikes were plagued with throttle response problems, although updated maps can help sort that, and the price of entry is still high – around £7k is still the lowest an F3 goes at. There are some massive pros to the MV, though; the lovely three-cylinder engine, the fabulous styling and – perhaps most importantly – the technology. Here’s one of the few bikes in this class that’s really worthy of this decade, including traction control and multiple engine modes. More recent versions also get ABS and a quick-shifter. In some respects, buying new makes more sense; faults have been ironed out, you get ABS brakes, prices aren’t that much higher than Japanese 600s (around £10k with some haggling), and the warranty will add peace of mind. But then again, if you’re going that far, why not splash out and opt for the brawnier 800cc version?

8. Honda CBR650F

At its peak the UK 600cc market was dominated by bikes that were true all-rounders; the old steel-framed CBR600F, for instance, along with machines like the ZZR600 and Yamaha Thundercat. These were the hot hatchbacks of motorcycling, offering practicality as well as performance, all with a low price. By the mid ’00s, though, the shift towards more track-focused 600s, like the CBR600RR and the 06-on R6, meant riders wanting middleweight jacks-of-all-trades were left with a diminishing choice. The 2011-on CBR600F and 2014-on CBR650F aimed to bring back a bit of that all-rounder appeal, with cheaper parts, lower costs and reduced performance compared to a ‘proper’ 600, but significantly more practicality. New sales have been pretty strong – outselling most of the sportier bikes in the class. And it might feel like we’re pushing the definition of ‘supersports’ but Honda does market it in that category. If you pine for an old CBR600 from the steel-framed, pre-RR days, but don’t want something of pensionable age, they’re a good choice. It’s got ABS and even brand-new the price, at £7,199, means most of its rivals are second-hand. Opt for a three-year-old 600cc version and you’ll be paying nearer £4k.

Read our CBR650F road test.

7. Honda CBR600RR (2003-6)

Why are we sticking the first-gen CBR600RR in here? Well, it was arguably the first bike that really laid the template for the modern, track-focused, race-replica 600, taking its style and some of its technology from the then-dominant RC211V GP bike and creating the most hardcore 600 that we’d seen at the time. You can easily find one below £3k now, bringing them into the same part of the market that’s usually occupied by an earlier generation of bikes entirely. The 2005-6 versions gained worthwhile updates including USD forks and radial calipers, and don’t cost a lot more.

6. Honda CBR600F

Given that we’re aiming to encompass the entire gamut of used 600s, we had to have something at the very bottom of the price pool. For that we’re opting for the bike that’s still the archetype of the class in many people’s minds, the CBR600F. Whether the original steel-framed machine dating of 1987 or the last of the pre-RR models in 2002, complete with fuel injection and aluminium frames, all shared the same all-round mix of abilities. They could commute, tour or race with equal ease (the steel-chassis CBRs kept on winning supersports titles against aluminium-framed rivals). Prices start in the hundreds rather than the thousands, with injected, alloy-framed F4i versions from 2001 sitting at around the £2k mark. Yes, they’re old now so a close inspection is vital, but they date from the days when Honda build quality really earned its reputation, and a well-looked-after one will still be just as versatile as when new.

Read our Story of the CBR600F, from 1987 to 2007.

5. Suzuki GSX-R600 (2006-on)

It was over a decade ago now, but 2006 was the last time we saw really significant, completely new 600cc machines from multiple manufacturers. It was also the moment the class gave up its ‘all-rounder’ tag to become out-and-out track bikes. So while those machines were the best yet, they were also partially authors of their own demise. The financial crash two years later helped seal the deal. Of the new-for-06 bikes, the GSX-R600 was notable; new engine, new frame and new styling that still stands as probably best-looking of all the GSX-R generations thanks to its titchy exhaust and tight packaging. Massive spec included radial brakes, a slipper clutch (back when they were still rare) and a screamer of an engine. Put it next to the 2016 version and many people will still struggle to tell which is the newer machine. These days, £4k will get a low-mileage 2006 one, no problem.

4. Yamaha R6 (2006-on)

The other machine that made 2006 a special year for 600s was Yamaha’s R6. It grabbed headlines with its 17,500rpm red line twice – first when the bike was unveiled and again when it proved to be a false claim (actually, the rev limit was a true 15,800rpm). But controversy aside, it was still the best 600 of that year and one of the best we’ve ever seen. Remember that back then 600s were updated every two years? Well, it's taken until this year, 2017, for Yamaha to produce a new R6 that doesn't look almost identical to this one. The 06 model was so advanced that it remains competitive. They held they're value well but prices seem to be slipping thanks to the new model. Plenty are now advertised at under £4K. 

3. Triumph Daytona 675

Back when the Daytona 675 was launched in 2006, Triumph had a lot to prove. Its previous supersports efforts – the TT600, Daytona 600 and Daytona 650 – weren’t completely useless, but seemed to prove that any attempt to take on the Japanese in this part of the market was impossible. By thinking outside the box and reducing the cylinder count by a quarter, while upping the capacity by an eighth, Triumph hit upon a winning recipe that was truly surprising. Suddenly a Triumph was a viable alternative to a mainstream Japanese sportsbike, and there wasn’t even a premium to pay. In fact, it wasn’t just a rival; in many situations the extra torque means that the Daytona 675 is simply a better bike to ride than a screaming four-cylinder 600. Despite being bigger in capacity, it actually feels physically smaller than some fours. Regular updates since its launch mean that, while the current bike is still clearly related to the original, it’s a notably better machine, gaining kit like ABS as well as styling changes and other technical tweaks. Used prices for low-mileage examples start at under £4,000 and rise to more than twice that for late ‘R’ versions.

2. Honda CBR600RR (2007-on)

On the face of it the changes to the 2007 CBR600RR over the previous model weren’t huge, but they were enough to significantly raise its game. Honda has kept making small tweaks over the following years including the notable addition of optional Combined ABS in 2009 – the first on a sports bike. These days the CBR looks quite different, but the chassis and engine are largely the same as the 2007 model's. In terms of buying used, that means there’s a big range of prices out there and plenty of choice. Early ABS versions are now in the sub-£5k range and offer a level of safety that many riders stepping up to a 600 will surely appreciate, particularly now that ABS is standard on so many smaller, less powerful bikes. 

1. Kawasaki ZX-6R (2013-on)

Kawasakis has so far been notable by its absence from this list. The firm had a seemingly uncanny ability to make 600s that weren’t quite market-leading. But of the current crop (with the possible exception of the yet-to-be-launch 2017 Yamaha R6) the ZX-6R is arguably the best, and that extends to recent used machines too. Its advantages are simple. While others have carried over their bikes with minor tweaks, the 2013-on ZX-6R was largely new, with new styling, new chassis and a revamped engine that was (again) up-sized to 636cc. That 37cc advantage over its rivals is important, adding a touch of torque and flexibility that others lack. On the tech front the Kawasaki has been a leader, too, with Showa BPF forks, multi-mode traction control, multiple engine maps and ABS. Basically, it’s got all the kit we’re expecting to see these days, years ahead of its most obvious rivals. There are those who will tell you that a 600 doesn’t need traction control or ABS, but they’re wrong – this is kit that pays for itself the moment it saves you from one accident, whether brought on by idiocy, absent-mindedness, over-enthusiasm or an external factor. On the used market, 2013 models are dropping below the £6k mark (with damaged or repaired ones cheaper). Right now, it’s the best 600 on the used market.

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An earlier version of this article was first published on January 6, 2016.

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