Choose the right bike

There are plenty of sexy-looking second hand sportsbikes available, and many are a very good buy. In the 1990’s machines like the Ducati 916 and Suzuki GSX-Rs established the benchmarks for desirability and race-track capability you could afford. They’re already recognised as modern classics and mint examples, perfectly maintained, lack little in comparison to today’s bikes.

Beware of buying second hand

But there are loads of other older sportsbikes that have been thrashed and crashed, often seeing use as race bikes. You might be tempted because it’s cheap, but a bike like this is a potential death trap. On a machine with this much speed potential everything needs to be working 100%. And repairs, let alone a full restoration, can be expensive because of the high-grade engineering involved. Think very carefully before buying a second hand one, even as a track bike.

Buying new

Newer, lower mileage machines generally present fewer problems. But you still have to factor in running costs. Insurance will be higher, you’ll burn more gas and you’ll get through tyres much quicker. In fact all consumables will need replacing more often: chains and sprockets, brake pads and fluid, clutch plates, the lot.

When it comes to choosing a machine, be honest about how much track time you’ll do. Many things that make a great track bike make for a pain in the neck in road riding. Literally. Still, there are plenty of wicked track tools that don’t require a trip to the chiropractor after a long ride.

Among the most modern sportsbikes there are indeed no bad ones. But they can be radically different: to ride and as an ownership proposition. The best advice is to ensure you test ride as many bikes in the category as you can. This will give you an idea of what they are like as a day-to-day road bike. The bike reviews are all very well, but what suits the bike journo may not suit you at all.

Ride before you buy

It’s therefore pointless trying to list all the 600cc and above sportbikes and categorise them. Ride them. And don’t be afraid to say, “You know what? I don’t think I’ll get the benefit of the S1000RR’s 190 horsepower. I rather like this immaculate used R1200S instead: much more comfy and fast enough.” All high-performance bikes deliver way more power and speed than you can use on the road. Compromise is not a dirty word. It’s not all about sportsbikes, either. There are some classy, high-performance Nakeds and Sports-tourers around. And the lines are blurring with the likes of KTM’s 1190 Adventure knocking out 134hp.