So What Should You Buy to Ride?
A quick look at usable bikes with an investment upside
Since the first two sales of 2013 seem to have swung back from investors to enthusiasts, what should you — as a riding investor — be collecting?
- Triumph Daytona/Trophy/Bonneville/Tiger 500/650/750cc twins (1959–79). The most popular British bikes in the U.S. in this period. Lots of spares and numerous mechanics are available. Prices are rising, with great T120 restorations already at $15,000–$20,000. Look for correct runners (no projects). $6,500–$13,500.
- BSA Gold Flash, Super Rocket, Rocket Gold Star, Lightning, Thunderbolt 650cc twins (1951–72). BSA prices trail Triumphs, but they likely have an upside. Ride them and restore them as you go. $5,500–$12,500.
- Norton Atlas/Dominator/Commando 500/650/750/850cc twins (1955–77). Comparatively undervalued, but stylish, sound and fast. Instant respect, if you can start it first kick. Ask grumpy old riders for leads. $5,500–$12,000.
- Honda CB77 Super Hawk twin (1964–68); CB450 DOHC Super Sports “Black Bomber” (1965–70). Early Honda sport bikes are surprisingly high-revving (10,000 rpm from the 450), light and fast. Some parts are hard to find, but these are largely underappreciated and underpriced as a result. $2,500–$8,500.
- Honda CB750 (1969–78). The electric start 750cc four finished off British bikes in the U.S. The 1969 model with “sandcast” engine cases is expensive, with others gaining ground. Reliable and fast, but top heavy. $3,500–$7,500.
- Japanese two-stroke multis from 1969–86: Kawasaki 250/350/400/500/750 triples; Honda NSR400 V3s; Suzuki T250, T500 twins, GT 750 triples, RG 500 Gamma square fours; Yamaha RD 400, RZ 350 twins and RZ500 V4s. For addicts only, and the best are expensive. Fast, but noisy and smoky. $1,500–$15,000.
- Italian singles 125–350cc from 1950–74, especially bevel-drive OHC Ducatis. Consider Aermacchi, Aprilia, Benelli, Bianchi, Mondial, Morini, Motobi, Moto Guzzi, Parilla, Rumi. Must be complete, with a spares source. Properly sorted, these are all a lot of fun. There’s a strong boutique market for pretty ones. $1,500–$7,500.
- Ducati 860/900 Bevel-drive V-twins from 1975–82; 750/900cc V-twins from 750GT (1972) to 900SS. 860 spring-valve and 900SS Desmos are iconic. Unmistakable sound, strong upside. The 750SS is already in six figures. $7,500–$35,000.
- Ducati Monster 600/750/900cc V-twins (1993–present). This is the 20th anniversary of an icon that led to a raft of imitators. A blast to ride, and must be considered premium sleepers. $2,500–$7,500.
- BMW R69/S 594cc boxer (1959–69). Sporting version of the staid R60 is a super tourer with comfort, reliability and speed, but quirky handling, with shaft-drive and an Earles fork. Many nice ones exist. $5,500–$15,000.
- BMW R90/S 898cc boxer (1973–76). Fastest street BMW of its time, with 125 mph top speed, unmistakable “faded” smoke orange and smoke gray colors and dual front disc brakes. Starting to be noticed. $6,000–$12,000.
- 1972–74 “toaster tank” R60/5 and R75/5 BMWs are popular with hipsters and café builders now. $3,500–$7,500.
- Harley-Davidson 55–61ci V-twins (1957–present). Starting with the Sportster in 1957, Harley set a course that has indelibly defined the American motorcycle experience — a big-inch V-twin engine, minimalist bodywork, and plenty of attitude and soul. So powerful is this cocktail that virtually every other company of note has attempted to copy it in some way. $5,500–$20,000.
- Harley-Davidson 74ci V-twin. (1921–29). Really good vintage ride, with lots of spares and mechanical support. Meet nice people on small town porches. $10,000–$25,000.
- 1950s Indian Chief. Relatively accessible and still affordable, with a great heritage and respect anywhere you ride. $20,000–$30,000.
Forget the unsupported brands from the 1950s and ’60s like Ariel, DKW, Durkopp, Piatti, Puch, Sunbeam, Terrot, Zundapp, etc., where you’re riding all the available spares. You need something that works and has a parts network. It’s downright gnarly to ride a good-looking Vespa or Lambretta like you mean it.
- Vespa GS 125/150/180cc (1955–66). Essential monocoque design, with the motor beside the rear wheel. A lively performer with tricky twist-grip shift and in great colors. The GS was the favorite Mod scooter in the UK, and many are dressed up with mirrors spotlights, antennae and tiger tails a la Quadrophenia. With finicky electrics, best to buy a well-sorted one. $2,500–$7,500.
- Lambretta Li 125/150 TV 175/200cc (1959–67). The other great Mod scooter, this time with a spine frame and removable body panels. Even faster than a GS180 Vespa and much sleeker. The TV 175 is classic, and the fuel-injected TV 200 could top 80 mph. $3,500–$7,500.