Used nakeds: Yamaha Fazer 1000 (2001) V Honda Hornet 900 (2003)

Both these bikes are the product of 'modular engineering'. But do they represent a good BUY?

The business of making motorcycles is a very competitive and expensive operation. Planning, developing, testing, manufacturing, marketing and selling motorcycles costs a fortune. Making profits isn't easy.

The biggest manufacturers have the advantage of economies of scale. And the sheer number of bikes they sell gives them a better chance of a good return on the huge expenditure incurred in getting them to the showrooms. But whatever the size of the firm, if manufacturing costs can be reduced, then the more profitable the model stands to be.

And that simple economical philosophy is the reason behind the manufacture of the two bikes we've tested here - Yamaha's Fazer 1000 and Honda's Hornet 900. Both bikes use many parts common to other models previously offered in their ranges, significantly cutting the price of getting them to the market in the first place.

The Fazer and Hornet both use engines and running gear that have been used before - saving the Japanese firms significant sums of money. The cost of R&D of these major components has already been covered, so anything earned from the sales of bikes using these bits means more profit. It's called modular engineering and, in the case of these two bikes, it's a system that works very well.

We tried a couple of used examples of the pair to see if either Yamaha's or Honda's cost-cutting has resulted in reduced value to secondhand buyers or not.

Yamaha Fazer 1000

Yamaha Fazer 1000

The Fazer 1000 is one of the easiest and most entertaining big-bore bikes to ride on the market. Powered by a detuned 120bhp R1 engine it has, unsurprisingly, got plenty of power and speed. And, even though its chassis spec can't quite match that of the engine, the Yamaha's handling is still definitely well up to the job of back-lane blasting.

Even better news is the bike's ability as a top all-rounder. It's dead easy to ride at whatever pace and for however long you fancy.

The sit-up-and-beg riding position is the main reason for all the ease of use. Tall, wide bars help you dominate the bike, and muscling the Yamaha around doesn't need much effort at all. Even when you're going fast, changing direction requires nothing more than a slight tug on the bars and weighting of the footrests. The Fazer might not boast the sort of sharp chassis geometry and light overall weight of a superbike, but the leverage the bars give make the Fazer's relatively relaxed and weighty spec nothing more than academic. So whether you're commuting through heavy traffic or blasting down your favourite backroads, mastering the flickable bike couldn't be much easier. The lofty riding stance also gives you a great view of life ahead, with the added advantage of keeping your body free from the sort of painful contortions dictated by many more focused machines.

There's a bit of a physical price to pay if you do start spending longer periods at speed, and though the Yamaha's fairing and screen do a pretty good job at fending off the windblast, the bike falls a bit short of Pan European levels of protection.

However, the rest of the bike is well up to longer stints in the saddle at a less manic pace, with the relaxed riding position and plush seat giving all day comfort for both rider and pillion. So as long as the speedo needle is pointing at more sensible numbers, 10-hour or 500-mile days are pretty straightforward.

It can be tricky to stay in the sensible zone at times, though. The detuned, free-revving R1 engine of 1998 vintage is a beauty. And sampling the fullness of its excellent spread of power and torque is sometimes hard to resist. The gearbox might be a bit on the stiff and clunky side, but given the stomp the inline-four has, most of the time all you'll need to do to go faster is twist your wrist. Ton-up pace is always on hand, and if you hang on for long enough in top cog, and dip down behind the screen a bit, a genuine 150mph awaits.

Going really fast on the Fazer round corners takes a bit more effort. Though in fairness, you only need to reach for the tool kit to make life easier. On standard settings the Yamaha's suspension isn't really up to the job and the lack of damping in the forks and shock soon has the bike moving around and wallowing a bit too much for comfort. Stiffen the damping settings with a screwdriver though, and most of the composure needed to scratch hard and seriously returns instantly. Though anyone following should expect to be showered by sparks from the low-slung footrests.

Should you need to slow the pace quickly and sharply, the brakes can be relied upon to give some very impressive service. The four-piston, one-piece calipers pinched from the earliest versions of the R1 superbike are some of the best about. They're hugely powerful and have the bonus of being very progressive and sensitive, so even when conditions are less than perfect they can still be used hard and safely. Though it has to be said, unless they're kept in tip-top order with regular cleaning they do lose some of their prowess, especially if used through the winter months.

It's a similar story with the bike overall. And the slightly fragile finish of the Yamaha makes regular cleaning and polishing essential. Though as the case of the used example we tested proves, if that's done often enough then the bike will remain looking fresh. The 2001

Y-reg Fazer we tried was on sale for £4795 with 16,000 miles on the clock but looked almost new - a sure sign of a careful owner.

Aside from the great engine and chassis the Fazer benefits from some detail touches to make life a bit easier all-round. And the two grab rails, clock, fuel gauge, bungee points, excellent mirrors and centrestand will all be very much appreciated by an owner.

The Fazer 1000 might not quite be either a full-on sportsbike or tourer. But it can do a fair bit of scratching and long range travelling, and do so with plenty of style, entertainment and ease. This versatility makes it a great secondhand buy.

Used Yamaha Fazer 1000 tips

  • Fit Yamaha crash bungs and frame protectors. They can save a lot of damage and money
  • The gearchange action is stiff. If the bike tends to drop out of gear then repairs can be either very cheap (a new selector spring) or massively expensive (new gearbox)
  • Engines burn oil from new. A litre every 1000 miles is not uncommon
  • Clutches will slip if abused. Test the bike hard in the higher gears
  • The rear shock's damping is quite weak. Set the rebound adjuster to max and check its action
  • Finish is a little weak Fasteners are particularly vulnerable to corrosion. Clean often and protect with WD40
  • Standard screens are low. A taller Yamaha version makes life a lot easier at speed
  • Check the headraces for notchiness. Fazers get wheelied a lot, which damages them
  • EXUP valves seize. Check it rotates when the ignition is switched on
  • Fit a Yamaha hugger. It keeps road muck away from the shock, saving lots of money and grief
  • Always keep the brakes clean and serviced to keep them sharp
  • Batteries are expensive. Keep it charged whenever storing the bike for long

Honda Hornet 900

Honda Hornet 900

Honda jumped on the naked streetfighter bandwagon a year after Yamaha when it launched its Hornet 900, though it's a wonder why it didn't do it sooner.

It had most of the bits it needed to build the bike in its factory already, as the Hornet is basically a beefed up 600 version (which had been out for nearly four years) fitted with a 1998-spec 919cc FireBlade engine with fuel-injection fitted.

It was certainly a bike worth waiting for though, proving to be an easy-to-ride, useful all-rounder with lots of entertainment value - just like the Fazer, in fact.

Jump on the Hornet straight after the Yamaha and you'd think it had shrunk. Compared to the Fazer, the Honda is tiny and much more compact. It'll suit those short in the inside leg department or anyone put off by the overall tallness of the Yamaha. And it's 14 kilos lighter too.

Just like the Fazer the Hornet is an absolute hoot to ride. It has the same comfy, upright and very relaxed riding position to make you feel at home straightaway. And it gives you a chance to master the bike much more than some sportsbikes, which you're simply wrapped around and can't dominate as much. Though it has to be added that the Honda's bars are far narrower than the Yamaha's and don't offer anywhere near as much leverage.

Don't worry though, the Hornet is still a very flickable and agile tool, and devouring corners doesn't require much in the way of bicep-busting. And, just like the Yamaha, the Hornet can still be hustled hard down twisty roads.

Its suspension is a lot firmer than the Yamaha's so you won't feel the need to adjust it even when you're riding harder and grinding hell out of the footrests. Which is just as well really as, save for preload adjustment on the shock, there's no provision for fine-tuning. That shouldn't worry most people though as the fork and shock offer a nice balance of comfort and control in standard trim. Only those who want to use the bike on trackdays would need to think of upgrading with a fork rebuild or aftermarket shock.

Braking isn't an area you'll need to modify much. And though the spec of the Hornet's brakes isn't quite as high as the Fazer's, there is still some serious stopping power available, produced in a very friendly manner.

It's a similar story when you want to gain speed too, thanks to the well-mannered detuned 108bhp FireBlade engine. It can't boast quite as much peak power and torque as the Fazer so it doesn't feel quite as fruity and enthusiastic overall. But there's a hint more grunt right at the bottom of the rev range making it slightly more flexible around town.

Out on the open road the smooth, linear delivery and 14 less horsepower combine to make the Honda a little less exciting to ride hard than the Yamaha, and the motor gets a bit buzzy at higher rpm too. The Hornet still has a fair turn of speed though, because if you wind the wick up a bit and flick through the slick box then you'll soon see some serious figures on the speedo. It's no full-on sports bike but it's nippy enough for all but the most serious speed junkies.

But three-figure pace does require quite a bit of effort thanks to the lack of wind protection and it won't take long before you're forced to either weld you chin to the tank or back off a bit to reduce the battering. Honda does sell an aftermarket flyscreen to make high speed cruising a little easier and it's well worth a look if you want to spend some time on motorways.

Somehow it seems a shame to use the Honda on boring roads though. It can turn its hand to pretty much anything you ask of it, and makes as good a scratcher as it does tourer or commuter. But its easy-going nature and entertaining personality always encourages you to take life a little less seriously and makes it a perfect bike for sunny Sunday backroad blasts. It's a fun bike that always seems to have the ability to put a smile on your face. And isn't that what biking should be all about?

Our test bike (a 53-reg, 2700-mile example on sale at Pidcocks in Nottingham for £4995) was in superb condition and rode as new. But we've seen plenty of older and higher mileage Hornets that look and ride as good as this one, underlining the strength of Honda's build quality and finish.

The Hornet might not quite match the Fazer's entertainment value or its equipment (it doesn't have a clock or centrestand), but it's even friendlier and easier to use making it more suitable for those a bit new to bigger bore biking. And it provides a great stepping-stone for anyone who wants to bridge the gap between a middleweight machine and a more focused bigger-engined sportsbike.

Used Honda Hornet 900 tips

  • The finish of the Honda is pretty good. Don't buy a rough looking one without getting the price reduced. There are plenty around so you can afford to be fussy
  • Look out for leaking fork and shock seals
  • Ride the bike hard in second gear. If it jumps out, the gearbox will need expensive repairs
  • Check discs for warping
  • Engine noise should be minimal, although some noise at tickover is to be expected
  • Check for notchy head race bearings caused by wheelying
  • Fit a one tooth smaller gearbox sprocket to aid acceleration
  • A Honda flyscreen will make longer trips more comfortable
  • Fit a Honda rear hugger to keep road muck away from the rear shock
  • Fit Honda crash bungs and frame protectors. They can save a lot of damage and money
  • Check that the clutch doesn't slip under hard acceleration
  • Fitting a Honda centrestand will make rear wheel maintenance much easier
  • Check rear wheel bearings for play. Wear is normally worse on the disc side