Motorbike Miscellany

The Unloveables - Top 10 unloved motorbikes

Motorbikes are pretty conservative by design. Manufacturers spend millions developing new models, so there’s little room to take chances, particularly in these economically challenging times. Regulations dictate the spec sheets for many bikes anyway. Let’s face it, 1000cc fours are 1000cc fours because that’s what race regulations limit them to. Likewise, 125s exist primarily because that’s what learner regulations around the world restrict them to. It’s no wonder that most bikes when you take the badge off the tank, are more-or-less the same. It seems that riders like this familiarity and the marketing men are reluctant to break the mould. Occasionally, just occasionally, the engineers have their way and develop something outside of the box and occasionally, only very occasionally, it translates to a sales success (think Triumph Rocket III and, er,…). That said, there’s no such thing as a bad motorcycle on the market today and most lemons are more marketing maladies rather than engineering cock-ups. That can be a good thing. If you want to stand out from the crowd and think that one of these unconventional, unloveable motorbikes, is for you, you might just be able to pick up a bargain. They might be thin on the ground, but find one and the chances are that there won’t be a queue of potential buyers beating a path to the seller’s door. And, if you are trying to sell your off-beat model, why not save the hassle and get in touch with who, as the name suggests, will make you a cash offer to save you the bother of dealing with a bunch of timewasters.

the top ten unloved motorbikes.

And, in time-honoured fashion, here’s our list of the top ten unloved bikes. Don’t worry if you own one, they’re not all bad! There are a few of our guilty pleasures in here as well!


At 10, it is indeed one of my fav fun bikes from around 10 years ago. The idea was to develop a motorised BMX bike for the iPod generation, perfect for rushing around the city and pulling a few stunts on, a kind of trials bike for the road. Powering this 19kg, plaything was a simple as you like 249cc air-cooled, two-valve single. It was great fun to ride, as long as you didn’t want to do more than 40, or carry a passenger, or carry any luggage… Was it expensive, oh yes! Did it sell many, oh no! That was Yamaha’s little Tricker for you.


At nine we have a misguided attempt at building a BMW cruiser. As anyone who reads my column knows, I love Bavarian boxers, but the R1200C was just plain wrong, wrong, wrong. The market says cruisers should be V-twins, but this Germanic twist was just plain weird. With its telelever front end, apehanger bars, single sided rear and cylinders blowing in the wind, it appealed to neither the Harley crowd or the BMW diehards. The model had a spectacular launch, with James Bond appearing on one in the 1997 movie Tomorrow Never Dies (no doubt helped by a few Deutschmarks going the way of the film’s producers) but it was quietly dropped in 2004 as the world went GS crazy.


Our eighth bike confirms what fans of the BBC’s Apprentice know only too well – you should treat market research with caution. When Suzuki unveiled the B-King concept in 2001 it grabbed headlines around the world, helped in no small part due to the supercharged Hayabusa engine and massive 240 section rear tyre. Punters around the world took to their keyboards to say that they’d buy one, and so would their mates if only Suzuki would make it. So Suzuki did, but the punters didn’t. Admittedly the concept got lost a little along the way, with the 180bhp production bike retaining some of the looks but losing two of the concept’s biggest talking points, namely the supercharger and the monster rear wheel. It was too much for most naked sports bike riders but not enough for the nutters who truly lusted after the original show bikes.


At seven we have a classic case of style over substance. Aprilia makes some great bikes (not least the current RSV1000s), but Aprilia’s Moto 6.5 of 1995 won’t go down as one of them. Famed designer Philippe Starck was brought in to style the bike, which featured the venerable Rotax single cylinder engine and although the ‘product’ looked pretty cool it was totally impractical and, like most of the lemons featured here, was priced way too high for the market. Sales were slim but the Moto 6.5 did garner lots of headlines outside of the traditional motorcycle press, so maybe it wasn’t such a failure after all…


Coming in at six is a true lemon that led to better things. At the turn of the millennium, Triumph was something of a novelty. The Brit manufacturer made expensive, solidly engineered, bikes that sold well to those looking for some British iron (which, let’s face it was something of a small market). However, John Bloor’s crew had big ambitions and wanted a slice of the biggest market of the time, which was the 600cc sports bike class. It’s normal to benchmark (not copy) competitors when developing a new bike, but unlucky Triumph chose to develop their model on Honda’s CBR600F at a time when the GSX-R600 and YZF-R6 came and blew the class apart. Not only did Triumph’s TT600 look outdated, it’s one USP, fuel injection, worked so badly that they issued a monumental amount remaps before it finally fuelled with something approaching acceptability. That said, a sorted TT600 is a decent bike and the Daytona 600 which followed was far better (and even won a TT).


At five, is a bike so inaptly named that it has to appear on the list. The Suzuki Savage, a 650cc single cruiser from 1986 was just ugly and underpowered. That is all. Apologies to Suzuki, but at four on our list is another model from the Hamamatsu factory. With Ducati ruling world superbikes with its V-twin superbikes, it was little wonder that the Japanese factories got in on the act with their take on the concept.


Suzuki was first to market with the TL1000S, which was in many ways, a fantastic motorcycle with just one major flaw. That flaw was its apparent instability, perceived or otherwise, that saw it shake its head when ridden hard on bumpy roads. The press had a field day and the widowmaker reputation was cemented when Suzuki offered a recall to fit steering dampers to calm the TL down. The following TL1000R was actually a very fine bike, but the damage was done. The GSX-R1000 was introduced and the TL twins did little to persuade buyers away from their Ducatis.


At three, is another fine bike from Yamaha that the market just wasn’t ready for, the MT-01 of 2005. The idea was that buyers wanted sports bike handling, but not necessarily all the ferocious power. The concept had been trialled with the sterile Bulldog (which would most certainly be on the list if not for the MT) and Yamaha mated a tuned (to 89bhp) version their XV1700 cruiser engine with a tasty chassis. The marketing men went to town, twittering on about Kodo, the state of your soul during a moment of pure exhilaration (yes, really). True to their word, Yamaha delivered what they set out to achieve. The MT-01 looked great, handled sweetly and had loads of soul. With 150Nm of torque, it was a hoot to ride. Unfortunately, it cost loads and, fatally, they misjudged the market. Sportsbike riders, it seems, did indeed want to go as well as show and the MT was indeed empty in the engine department. Sales were slow, and rumour had it that Yamaha scrapped a warehouse full of unsold stock that they just couldn’t sell.


Honda’s sole entry on the list comes at two. The bike that inspired this post was recently sighted while on holiday in Cornwall. It is another case of building a bike without an established market. Step forward the Honda DN-01, an attempt to build a fully-automatic motorcycle aimed at… well, we are not too sure really. This fusion between maxi-scooter and cruiser missed the target on all counts. The 680cc V-twin only made 45bhp was introduced in 2008 and ain’t no laid-back Harley clone. There’s a lot of T-Max/SilverWing about the tech, which is good. But the DN-01 misses all that’s good about that genre, namely storage space and practicality. Add in a ludicrously high price when new, questionable George Jetson-inspired styling. It's easy to see why the model that was dubbed the Honda Don’t sell so few in a three-year run.

But the top of the lemons is an Italian, a very rare Italian at that.

Bimota could best be described as a boutique manufacturer who built their reputation. By putting together stunning low volume sportsbikes that wrapped their incredibly light aluminium frames. Around the best Japanese superbike engines (as well as the occasional Ducati V-twin) and dressed them in exotic bodywork. The bikes were amazing and expensive. But when the Japanese finally made mass production bikes that handled (sometime around the late 80s) so, Bimota became irrelevant. The company’s solution was to build a superlight 500cc GP replica with their own engine. With bikes like the Suzuki RGV250 and Aprilia RS250 delivering the purest riding experience of the time. The concept was good. Unfortunately, the bike was a total dog. It looked great and handled as Bimotas do, but the fuel-injected two-stroke engine fuelled so badly it stuttered dangerously around. Bimota staked everything on the V-Due. With all the engine problems the project went massively over budget and massively over deadline. Just over 300 bikes were sold upon the eventual launch in 1997 but none ever worked properly. It was a PR disaster that the tiny company could ill afford, and they went bankrupt in 2000.


28 Jun 2013

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