As the YZF-R1 turns 20, we check out why 1990s sports machines offer plenty of bang for your buck. Scott Redmond shows you what is available.
A decade ago the thought of discussing 1990s motorcycles within CMM wouldn’t have gone down too well, but these machines offer some real bang for our buck and now some are marked as bona fide classics.
Britain was sportsbike mad in the 1990s and they were the big sellers, which means if you are looking for one now, there’s no shortage still on the used market. Some will be official UK bikes and some will be ‘parallel imports’ from other countries, which at the time were much cheaper than UK bikes. On the surface they looked identical, other than a headlight that dipped the wrong way and a km/h speedo, but some produced less power than UK-spec bikes. In the end UK importers had to reduce their asking prices and parallel dealers almost disappeared, but fast-forward to 2018 and the parallel issue is back in play. Buyers at the top end of the 1990s classic market are mostly focused on pukka UK machines and these set the benchmark for prices.
The kings of the Nineties Japanese sportsbike pack are the CBR900RR FireBlade and the Yamaha R1. To complicate matters prices then get model sensitive, a 1992 RR-N Blade can command price tags of over £7000 if bog standard and point perfect, yet the first thing we did back in the day was to fit a Micron can, Dynojet kit and tinted screen, so finding a minter is hard.
Later models (like the RR-W and RR-X model of 1998-1999) are superior machines to the 1992 original in every way but not as ‘wanted’ and can be had for less than £2000.
Strangely, the 1994 second-generation Blade CBR900RR-S ‘Foxeye’ is highly desirable, but only if they are finished in beige! Yup, the Urban Tiger is a cult bike. Good Tigers are rare, minters are non-existent and prices boil down to what someone will pay for one.
The prices for 4XV R1s are leaping up, but if you want a red and white 1998 R1 you will pay a premium over exactly the same bike that’s finished in blue. And beware if you want a red/white one. The lovely metallic white paint used by Yamaha is hard to copy – that’s why a fair few that I’ve seen of late are finished in a flat gloss white. So, go and look at the bike you’re buying – not just at a picture.
When a mate was looking for a 4XV in red/white, our own Andy Bolas had some wise words, suggesting he was better off buying a 1999 model in blue! Why? There are more about and for less money… Another Yamaha from the Nineties that falls into this honey trap is the YZF750. An original model in pink and white is a highly prized find (around the £3000 mark) yet a later model with its better suspension and bigger radiator can be snapped up for around £2000.
The 1990s is the last decade to offer us genuine bargains on emerging classic bikes. Everything from disposed kings of speed like the Kawasaki ZZR1100, Honda Blackbird and Suzuki Hayabusa were ‘hot’ back in the day, but not-so-popular bikes now make bargains. Bikes like the mighty ZX-9R. 1994-1997’s B model hasn’t aged too well, a mix of iffy build quality and not much of a following, yet the 1998 C model is a cracking bike. Prices for either the B or C are very sensible, with plenty of choice from around £1500.
It would be rude not to remind you that the YZF1000 Thunderace uses the best bits from the FZR1000 EXUP (engine) and a YZF750-ish chassis. It’s looks have never been its strong point, but there’s plenty of choice and good honest machines out there for around £2000. So what about Suzuki? Let’s look at the GSX-R750WT SRAD: some people hate the looks, while others love them. Maybe that’s why prices are still pinned back on the whole.
Fancy a twin? Due to the success of Ducati’s 916, the Japanese briefly flirted with twin-pot race-reps towards the end of the decade. The Honda VTR1000 FireStorm was a bit plain and it wasn’t until the SP-1 was born that anyone took Honda too seriously. Prices for the 916 clan are only going one way. It’s not a bike that everyone can afford or live with, but it’s desirable. Prices are dependent on spec/history. Meanwhile, Suzuki’s TL1000S (and the uniquelooking R) and Storm are residents of the bargain basement, selling for less than £2000.