The Suzuki Katana
Front WheelEngineKatana BodylineEngine Casing
"The product must have 'Art', if it is to be successful"

Past Reviews: Used Bike Guide - September 1997

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Words by Rowena Hoseason

UBG - Sept 1997 ContentsNow look. Stop obsessing about all those Shiny New Bikes on display in the Shiny New Bikeshop.. It's not good for your blood pressure - nor for your wallet neither. What do you want to be throwing all your hard-earned at one of them for, anyway? They cost a fortune to put on the road, another fortune to insure and a further lifetime of anguish as you watch your 'investment' slowly decay in the British climate. Nah, you don't want a new bike - and especially not when there's heaps of brilliant 'new to you' motorbikes (loads fresh from the grey-crates, too) waiting to be snapped up.

Take the new Speed Triple, for example (bet Triumph wish you would). T'riffic Daytona motor - shame it's dressed up like an indecisive transvestite wearing pin-stripe strides and a Jean-Paul bustiér … not to mention the problems with the frames (no, no; don't mention the problems with the frames!). Why would anyone want to spend the best part of ten grand on the T509, when - available now only to the discerning used-motorcycle buyer - you could pocket the better part of £4K and enjoy the delights of the earlier, rather more tasteful, Speed Triples? Make mine a black one and don't spare the aftermarket accessories!

Similarly, you could splash out (far too much) on a Jap-market, upsidedown forked, single-sided swing-armed bandit, only to discover that once you hit the real streets the same old lads, riding old LC's or RG's still buzz by with monotonous regularity. Wake up and smell the 2-stroke; think how many track days and race schools you could pay for with the cash difference between an RD250LC and an RS250 and think what a difference that experience would make to your riding…

'previously enjoyed'

Or let's look at the more genteel side of things - the Grand Tourer market. Yup; there's plenty to choose from here, if you can bear thinking about five figure sums before breakfast. Let's see, would Sir prefer a smart BMW K1 100LT-SE, a snip at around £12,000, or perhaps a Honda Pan European ABS-TCS with CBS (each initial seems to cost another couple of hundred quid) for , oh!, about £12,000 again? And of course Sir will need to allow for dealer servicing, an appetite for big fat tyres and the inevitable curse of the catalyst with these types of purchase. Not interested? Good Lord, you do surprise me.

Well how about a ten year old, flat-four Gold Wing then? For well under half the money you get all the options (on-board suspension adjustment, radio cassette, hard luggage, bomb proof fairing and the occasional hernia) on a bike you can actually service yourself. Not bad, huh? Plus you have the huge satisfaction of knowing that you're riding the Original (maybe even Best), not one of these wet-behind-the-lobes, car-mimicking (reverse gear; I ask you) overweight wobblers.

And surely no one in their right mind could turn down the opportunity to own the Worlds's First Hyperbike? Even Kawasaki knew that the GPZ900R was just too good a thing to drop from the lists, which is why you could still pick one up brand-spanking new only last year. Common sense failed them in 1997 however and the original Ninja's crown has finally been usurped by the (hardly worthy) Young Pretender - the ZX-9R. Conspicuously the motorcycle press has not rushed to applaud the ZX-9 as being a huge improvement over the 900R; it's not massively lighter (only seven kilos) nor greatly more powerful (only fifteen bhp), although the handling is noted as a great improvement - er, not! The GPZ Nine was way ahead of its time, so much so that it's still an ace sports bike and pretty damn handy as a tourer these days, too. Another good reason for buying used…

In case you wanted to know - this is my GSX1100SD. Lovely.If you need yet more convincing, just look at the retro or, erm… classic scene. Wow! A brand new Indian Enfield 500 for only £3300! Gosh, that's a real bargin isn't it, when you have to pay as much as, oh, say £1800 for a real, Royal Enfield, with all its history and patriotism intact? And which actually runs better. Er, perhaps not, then. Or have you always fancied yourself on an Eddie Lawson rep? You can still pick up a genuine, unadulterated fire-and-brimstone Z1R for under two grand which is some £5500 cheaper than the ZXR1100 replica Kawasaki were touting at the shows last autumn. OK, so you might need a mile or two of braided brake hose, a top end rebuild and a new zorst, but that still leaves about four grand in the kitty (and your old bike doesn't have to conform to current noise regulations, now does it? Heh, heh, heh…).

Got the picture yet? Started to feel sorry for those poor saps who have to go through the tedious routine of buying new every time? Just consider all that running-in business, taking care of teething troubles, worrying about warranties while you watch your Pride and Joy depreciate by 20% as soon as it touches tarmac. Brr - doesn't bear thinking about.

Look at it another way. You could save, and save, and save, and save a bit more, and eventually give up and borrow the rest, to achieve your heart's desire aboard a Ducati 916. Then you could park it, lock it, alarm it, Datatag it and embark upon a career of eternal worry (in direct proportion to the amount you saved, earlier) lest thieves or scoundrels deprive you of your treasure. Or you could do the sensible thing and buy an older Duke, no less lovely, considerably more secure and infinitely more rideable. Say, a 900SS or an 851, or a 900SD Darmah, or maybe even a Pantah … virtually limitless choices await you at the 'one careful owner' depot.

And because you're only spending half the money and because the second-hand market is pretty stable at present, providing you don't ride your latest scoot straight into the ground you'll be able to swap it in six months time for another All Time Great you've Always Wanted. Like that FZ750 (like Julian Ryder, remarkably), or maybe an XBR500, or even a Hesketh V1000 - whatever takes your fancy. Meanwhile of cource, Proud Owner of New Bike will be less than one sixth of the way through his finance agreement (sob) and will be further dismayed by the latest models in next year's range - all of which make his baby look completely outdated. They don't know what they're missing…

...because how else are you ever going to own a (proper) Katana? Sometimes, you just have to buy used - it's the only way!

Why Buy New?
…when the equivalent used motorbike is either better, cheaper, more fun - or all three? Here's our UBG Top Ten Bikes you can Only Buy Used

What's yours?
BMW R100R Mystic £3950 V R1100R £9000
Ducati 900 SD Darmah £5000 V 916 £15000
Honda CBX750 £1500 V CB750F2 £6000
Honda GL11/1200 £5000 V Six-Pot 1500 £16000
Norton Commando Original £3000 V New 'Replica' £8000
Kawasaki GPZ900R £3500 V ZX-9R £9500
Suzuki Katana 1100 £2500 V Nothing else on the Plant!
Triumph Speed Triple £6000 V New Bug-Eyed Horror £9000
Yamaha FJ1200 £4500 V Thunderace £9500
Yamaha RD350LC YPVS £1800 V Kawasaki ZXR400 £7000

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