Honda Nighthawk S, Yamaha Fazer, Yamaha RZ350 And More! - Cheap Skates

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.

**Bargain Basement
Below $2000
**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.

Yamaha Fazer
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 RZ350
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.

Kawasaki GPz1100
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.

Semi-Cheap
$2000-$4000

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.

Suzuki GSX-R750
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 TDM850
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.

Yamaha FJ1200
'Twere about 1989 when Yamaha updated the long-legged torque monster FJ with a 17-inch front wheel, etc. What started out as a semi-cutting-edge open-class sportster ended in '93 a beautiful sport-tourer (with ABS, even). Read the ad. You want the one with "low miles" and "backrest," not the one with "stage-three jet kit, runs nines."

Kawasaki GPZ750 Turbo
Prices for these things are all over the board. Some people think they have a collectible and want big money; most think they have an old red bike they need to get rid of. Either way, the relative complexity of the injected turbo kept most wrench monkeys at bay, and a few low-mile examples of this historically important bike are out there for a song.

Honda CBR1000F
The second-generation CBR1000F returned to the United States in 1990, having lost its "Hurricane" appellation. It's not quite as powerful and modern as the current CBR1100XX, but it's close. Like the XX, the CBR-F was always more sport-tourer than pure sportbike, and as a result they tended to be bought by more, shall we say, mature riders. You can scare up nice ones for $3500 or so.

Higher End
$4000-$6000
Yamaha YZF600R

The '97 iteration of Yamaha's middleweight sportbike carved out a niche for itself that's now vacant (except for the new ones Yamaha still sells for $6999). Not as light as the current crop of 600s, the YZF exchanges the final 10 percent of performance for about 50 percent greater everyday ridability. Perfect low-milers can be had for well under $5000.

Harley-Davidson Sportster
Need a fast Hog? Drive a bargain on a base Sportster, then bore those cylinders out, throw in Wiseco pistons, and you've got yourself a 1200 that rips-OK, goes a little faster. Or Buell will sell you heads, pistons and cams that bring your Sportster up to X1 spec. Five Gs will get you a clean, five-year-old 883.

Yamaha YZF1000R
Yes, the R1's a superior track machine, but if we wanted to do a little traveling on our 130-horse street ripper we'd opt for the previous generation. The YZF-R weighs 50 pounds more, and that extra weight consists of a better place to sit, a bigger fairing to hide behind, etc. Steal one for less than $6000.

Suzuki GSX-R1100
Notice a trend here? Liter-class Japanese sportbikes have always been expensive and nicely put together, and as a result have tended to be bought by affluent riders who didn't abuse them too much, frequently due to the no-time-to-ride syndrome. Take advantage. Apparently we won't be seeing the likes of the '95-'97 dreadnought-class GSX-R again; a great fast, smooth sportbike for less than $6000.