Don't feel bad if the booming economy hasn't lifted your own barnacly vessel. In fact, be happy, because the feeding frenzy at the top of the bike food chain ensures a veritable cornucopia of nutrients drifting down to the vigilant bottom feeder. Another beauty of the new economy/information age is the ability to look at lots of bikes without leaving your computer...OK, your local library's computer. Type in www.traderonline.com for a start. Or pick up a Walneck's Classic Cycle Trader if you require paper. Here are a few off-the-top-of-our-head suggestions.
Down here in the primal ooze you need to show open-mindedness and flexibility. Anything that's clean, has lowish miles and runs well is worth considering.
Honda Nighthawk S
Honda stamped these out from 1984 to 1986. Still more sporty looking than the current stodgy Nighthawk, the old S is even less of a strain to own thanks to shaft drive, a feature that also attracted adult buyers. Honda sold trillions of these, at least, so shop around 'til you find a clean one.
Sold in the United States in '85 only, the tricky looking Fazer sported, along with that year's all-new FZ750, Yamaha's first five-valve head. Destroked and retuned for more low-down power, the sit-up-straight Fazer pretty much predated all the nekkid-bike/Monster-style stuff that's currently in vogue.
Yamaha stuck catalytic converters into its liquid-cooled two-stroke twin and sold them in America in '84 and '85. Buyers promptly stashed the heavy exhausts in the garage rafters and had neat little motorcycles to show for their effort.
In '83 Kawasaki gave its big air-cooled, fuel-injected bomb swoopy new plastic and a single shock rear end. It was a great sportbike then, it's a great sport-tourer now, if you take your time and wait for a well-preserved unit to turn up. They're out there.
Having a few thousand dollars to spend opens possibilities up considerably. Now you're a player.
Suzuki Katana 750
What came first, the chicken or the Katana? Suzuki began extruding these in 1989, and didn't update the bike much at all until 1998. What you get is an air/oil-cooled GSX-R750 engine, tuned for midrange power, plastic-wrapped, and sporting excellent all-around ergos and a cushy seat plenty big for two. There are thousands of them on the market, many with very low miles, for less than $4K. A great all-around sportbike, too.
In '93, Suzuki gave its GSX-R liquid-cooling, and in '96, it updated the bike completely. Guys with perfectly clean, low-mile '93-'95 models often want more than four grand for their bikes. It's your duty to set them straight. These bikes are two generations out of date, but still great sporting motorcycles without which the motorcycle salvage business would cease to exist; tons o' spares, in other words.
Yamaha foisted this Weird-Alice parallel-twin onto the public in '92, who rejected it like bad ceviche. Too bad, because the 10-valve motor made this a great sport-tourer. A bit less than $4K should get you a nice one.