Don’t be discouraged by prices, there are always a few used motorcycle bargains to be found. Here’s a few of our picks for rides when the account isn’t flush with cash.
Inflation, COVID, supply chain issues, bills. There might be many barriers separating you from another motorcycle these days. What is a rider to do if the bank balance, the significant other or life are standing in the way of motorcycle ownership?
And it isn’t just motorcycles, it is also cars. Have you seen the price of a used car these days? Even a 10-year-old sedan costs more this year than it did last and often by a significant margin (sometimes upwards of 20 per cent). If you have your eye on a car that is even slightly interesting, the price has jumped even higher.
The good news is that used motorcycles don’t yet appear to have suffered quite the same effects of inflation. Bargains are still to be found if stretching your dollar a little further helps and that big sticker on a new bike makes that option temporarily out of the question.
What is a decent budget for a bike? The median price of a street bike in Canada for 2022 sits somewhere around $15,000 meaning you could find half the bikes on the market for more money and half for less. The average price is higher as there are more expensive bikes than budget bikes out there. Which begs the question: are motorcycles now elitist possessions? There is some indication this might be the case because it’s been the higher end brands that have touted record sales through even the worst of the pandemic.
Let’s get back to finding a cheap bike and deciding what that even means. If $15,000 is the median price, then half that should qualify as a cheap bike – or at least within the realm of “reasonable” – so $7,500 or less. Hold up you say. Could you not buy a brand new bike for less than $7,500? Yes, you could but all that freight and PDI is going to add to the total so your brand-new bike would have to be less than $6,500 MSRP. Adding the fees narrows down the search but it is still possible to get a shiny new bike out the door for that price.
We have a few criteria for this theoretical “cheap” bike. It has to keep you happy for at least a few years, it has to be a bike that serves multiple purposes — a road trip, a two-up ride, and an enjoyable everyday ride. See what we did there? We just eliminated some of the inexpensive novelty bikes. And while this may upset a few of the devoted, the new-for-2022 Honda Monkey is a novelty bike. It would be great fun to own one for specific purposes but there is no way a Monkey could serve as your one and only multi-purpose motorcycle. Sure you could … just to prove a point … but do you want to?
The choices for buying a new 2022 street bike for less than $6,500 (if you don’t find a non-current model) are slim enough to count on almost one hand: Honda CB300R and Rebel 300, Yamaha R3 and MT-03, Kawasaki Z400 and KLX230 and BMW G310R. What are you going to choose out of that selection? They are all good bikes and have the spectrum covered: sport, dirt, cruiser, and standard. If you have a preference for one genre, pick it. Same goes for brand. But if you don’t have either of those preferences it’s hard not to lean towards the Kawasaki Z400 because in this segment displacement does in fact make a difference.
But broadening the horizons to used bikes makes a world of difference and opens up greater variety. You could look for one of the aforementioned bikes that is a couple of years old but what we are looking for here are bikes that provide some wow factor, some presence, a bike that maybe you missed when the sticker was much bigger. What could we find for between $6,500 and $7,500 because we can go higher now that there isn’t freight and PDI to pay.
But being that we like fun, the bikes on our list of potential buys all have a little spark and the potential for passion. We want them to be relatively recent models and not have clicked the odometer into the big numbers. We are looking for bikes we can ride hassle-free and do not raise the spectre of high repair bills. Yes, you could go far cheaper if you want to invest the time and effort but that is a different quest. Here we just want to ride carefree on a relatively modern bike.
These are some of our picks.
The Warrior seems to have faded into memory yet it shouldn’t have. It was an impressive and powerful bike that reached the peak of Yamaha’s air-cooled V-Twin development. Long and low with a giant stock muffler, the only styling hiccup was the long rear fender which hasn’t aged well and may not have appealed to many when the bike was new. But the rest of the bike was well styled, well engineered and fun to ride. Looking across Canada the Warrior isn’t all that prominent in the used market but examples are available for between $6,500 and $7,500 with very reasonable kilometres. More recent versions tend to start going beyond our price limit.
Honda VTX1300 / VTX1800
The Honda VTX1300 is readily available with low kilometres between the price of $5,500 and $6,500 and even lower if you go back into the early 2000s. You have two choices, the “R” or “C” model depending on your preference for hotrod or touring machine but the difference is mostly aesthetics. You do have an option in moving up to the VTX1800 which was the biggest air cooled motor you could buy when the bike debuted. The price difference between the two models seems to have leveled out in the used market with little variance found between used 1300 and 1800 models. The VTX1800 was a hairy chested beast with incredible torque, amusing but also challenging in the urban environment. We might just lean toward the 1300. All things considered it is still a big bike.
You have to go back to the early years of the Vegas to find a bike in the price range and you might also be able to find a Kingpin or a Hammer but you will bump against the price limiter. The Vegas was the original good looking Victory motorcycle and the inspiration for all that came after it until the likes of the Cross Country baggers appeared in those final years. For our money, the Vegas was one of the best in cruiser styling to come out of the mid 2000s and the bike still looks fresh and stylish today. As a plus, it will never feel dated sitting next to a new Victory because, you know, there aren’t any.
The thing about this segment is that to find a bike in our price range means going back in time before everybody jumped onto the ADV bandwagon—say, 2004-05. There were simply less choices back then. Looking for a BMW or KTM at our price point means going back even further or coming across a bike that has logged a lot of miles.
The few options for price and low mileage are the Suzuki V-Strom 650/1000. Considering that both bikes, but perhaps the 650 in particular, were partly responsible for filling the ADV bandwagon, the V-Stroms have merit. The DL650, like the Suzuki SV650, was a bike that many riders preferred over its larger 1000 stablemate. It did everything the bigger bike did but to an 8/10th scale. There are benefits to smaller. The DL650 had an incredible range between fill-ups and often was substantially less to insure. Add to that the comfortable seat, great ergonomics and protection from that big windscreen and it is easy to understand why the bike helped fuel the ADV craze.
This category was surprisingly tough to nail down. We thought about the original Kawasaki Concours but frankly as legendary as it was, it was too old. The new Concours, even the very early ones, don’t qualify unless they have racked up a lot of miles. Some searching will find a few Yamaha FJRs that are both in the price range and not too high in kilometres. The ones you see between $3,000 and $4,000 have been used as intended and enjoyed a lot of miles.
Occasionally a Honda VFR1200 will drop into our price range but that bike never sold in big numbers so finding one is harder — especially if you prefer shifting your own gears as the VFR1200 was also available with a DCT.
A little remembered gem might be the Bandit 1250S which was available with hard bags and a big easy-going inline four. There are a surprising number around with very low miles and prices well below our ceilings. The reasons why might include that the bikes were quite spartan and the final drive is chain which was unusual in a segment that mostly moved to shaft drive.
THE FUN STUFF
The first-gen V-Max (1985-2008) before the arrival of the second-gen VMAX can be had for less than $7,500. You are getting an icon here but be aware that the 2008-2020 VMAX version provides a big increase in handling and performance. But Gen-One was no slouch and aside from things like a tiny gas tank, spindly fork and some unique styling cues it could make for a pretty good every day ride – and is, without doubt, a legend.
Again you often need to dip into the 2005-ish range to find one in the price range. But the bike has been around for a very long time and until the reveal of the new Hayabusa, the low MSRP reflected its almost immortal stature. The last of the first generation was a great deal, the price of the second-gen Hayabusa more reflects the state of the new market.
The good news is that while the Hayabusa received a few upgrades and styling tweaks through Gen-One, it mostly remained the same and part of that sameness was a dedication to performance. Even though the bike got old, its motor never did.
WHAT ABOUT CHEAPER? : LESS THAN $4,000
A new SV650 isn’t that expensive, which is why you can find a used SV650 quite frequently for between $2,500 and $3,500. The sportbike with a great little Twin and both faired and unfaired versions can be had. True, the really cheaper ones come with higher mileage but rest assured if you take the time and be patient a good one will turn up. Oddly it seemed that once a SV was in the 2012 and newer range, prices were often not far below the price of a new one.
Ducati Multistrada 1000 DS
The first Multistradas are nothing like those of today. The bikes are so different they should have different names. The first Multistrada was a quirky street touring bike with an air-cooled V-Twin, an uber-cool under-seat exhaust and, to put it nicely, the most unusual front fairing on the market. Yes, the dry clutch clattered like a sack of hammers but it was unique and fun to ride. There are several around for less than our max price (even much less) but buying an early Multistrada pretty much insures there will be higher maintenance charges down the road. Perhaps you could trade it in before that is required.
WRAPPING IT UP
In the final analysis, there is a large market available for anyone looking for a used bike in Canada and shopping for one has never been easier or more convenient. Gone are the days of searching only your local newspaper classifieds or buy ’n’ sell, or relying on word of mouth that old Bob across town or in the next town over is trying to unload his Yamaha Maxim.
The used bike market is markedly larger than the new bike market so shop around and be willing to go further to find the bike.
Do your due diligence, get the bike checked out at your favourite dealer if you aren’t sure about it. Get the VIN to check for damage claims; it is a caveat emptor world. The good news is this is Canada where for much of the year most motorcycles are tucked away in a garage somewhere. We are always mildly surprised to see how few kilometres a 15-year-old bike has clocked.
We didn’t include Harley-Davidsons on the used motorcycle list as not too many would fall into our category of $7,500 or less but there are comparatively good deals on Harleys to be found. And there is everything else from just above our price limit all the way to paying the sticker price on a brand new bike.
Looking back on the list, Suzuki seems especially well-represented. This has happened entirely by chance but there may be a reason. Suzuki tried harder than the others to stuff more excitement or purpose into bikes that didn’t have the bigger price tags.
Canadian Biker Issue #359