Used Motorcycle Guide (Pandemic Edition)

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Quick-detach hard luggage, like the bags on this Ducati Multistrada, is far more convenient on a street tour.

It’s been one messed-up year for the Canadian motorcycle industry. Some dealers are seeing a huge drop in business, while others are selling bikes like mad. Off-road motorcycles are doing very well, while other segments continue to suffer. Some dealers aren’t able to get the bikes they want, even if they do have customers lined up. Notoriously cautious importers aren’t willing to stick their necks out in this pandemic situation, so you may not be able to find the new machine you’re longing after, even if you’ve got cash in hand. Perhaps you’ve been financially hit by the pandemic and a new motorcycle isn’t in the cards this year anyhow. 

The used market may have what you’re looking for. CMG’s mothership, autoTRADER allows the opportunity to search their new and used marketplace based on make and/or model, proximity, price, mileage – even colour. The Coronavirus pandemic might make second-hand sales more challenging, but human beings have mastered complicated things like space flight, nuclear physics and the rebuild/balancing process for a VFR750’s carburetors. Surely, you can figure out how to safely buy a bike from a stranger.

Below, we’ve listed machines from several categories that may strike your fancy. Most have been in production in the past 15 years, and a couple of them are much more recent models, or currently available. No doubt someone’s going to get mad, because we missed their favourite used bike bargain. Be sure to let us know where we’ve erred, via the comments section, because everyone knows that arguing with strangers is the real point of the Internet. 


Kawasaki ZX-12
Simply put: If you want ridiculous, barely-manageable horsepower, the Kawasaki ZX-12 is unbeatable.

Hyperbike: Kawasaki ZX12

If you’re searching for mad, mad power, then the Kawasaki ZX-12 is likely the best bang-for-buck on the used market. Kawasaki made this machine from 2000 to 2006, so you’re not going to get modern features like leaning ABS, traction control or electronic suspension.

What you do get, is around 175 horsepower in stock form, from its 1200 cc engine—and when you got up to speed, that number went up to 190 horsepower, thanks to the ram air effect. This Kawi was basically as fast as a Suzuki Hayabusa in its day, but doesn’t have the same notoriety. For that reason, you can find a used ZX-12 for $4,000, or even less. If you want eyeball-melting speed, then this is probably your ticket.

The V-Star 1300 was a bit heavy and under-powered, but came with plenty of modern options.

Bagger: Yamaha V-Star 1300 Deluxe

Yamaha’s V-Star 1300 Deluxe was supposedly a “mid-sized” bagger when it debuted back in late 2012. Errr, at 323 kg, that’s a pretty hefty middleweight. However, the 1300 came with plenty of features for your hard-earned dollars when it debuted, and you can still find them for sensible money.

What made it so great? Stock, the V-Star 1300 Deluxe came with 28.5 L hard saddlebags, and a fork-mounted fairing with dual iPod-ready speakers built-in, along with a Garmin Zumo 665 GPS system. Factor in a 4.6L/100 km (51 mpg) fuel economy rating, and this bike was a sensible touring machine right out of the box. The biggest downside? The 1,304 cc liquid-cooled, fuel-injected 60-degree SOHC eight-valve V-twin supposedly made 70 horsepower, which is considerably less than most V-twin tourers on today’s market. You should be able to find a V-Star 1300 Deluxe for $9,000 or less, though, so you’re still getting a lot of bike for your money. When the pandemic is over, flip it, and buy what you want, if it’s not working out.

Suzuki GS500
The Suzuki GS500 isn’t a bad-looking bike, and while it’s got old tech (no EFI, no ABS), it’ll still serve new riders well. Even more experienced motorcyclists should find it fun, in the right circumstances.

Beginner Bike: Suzuki GS500

If you can’t find a brand-new beginner bike, take heart: There’s a lot of turnover in this market, and you can easily find a used version of just about any learner-friendly machine. But if you’re super-low on funds, and you can’t afford a $4,000 Honda CBR500, then take a look a little further back into history, at the Suzuki GS500

The GS500 was unlucky to be built at the same time as the Kawasaki Ninja 500, which was admittedly a better bike in many ways, and in the same sales segment. But these days, it’s easy to find a lightly-used GS500, while many of those same Ninja 500s have been ridden hard and put away wet for years. You should be able to find a clean GS500 for $2,500 or less. With an air-cooled parallel twin engine making a claimed 50 horsepower, the Suzuki will keep up on any highway, but it’s still simple to maintain. Buy one, learn to ride it, keep it in decent shape, and you should be able to sell without losing too much money when you’re ready to move up.

The Bike That Never Changes, the Suzuki DR650SE. This machine is one of the best-priced machines on the new market in Canada, but if you’re buying used, you should be able to save money and maybe even get one that’s still under warranty.

Dual Sport: Suzuki DR650

Once upon a time, the KLR650 ruled the dual sport scene in North America. Now, the DR650 has taken over. It’s basically unchanged since its 1996 debut, so if you buy a used one in good shape, the only real difference between that machine and a new one (besides the odometer reading) is bold new graphics. Most riders would tell you the older DRs had better paint anyway, the new ones come in a grey colour that looks like it belongs on a battleship, not a motorcycle.

Buying a used dual sport is usually good sense anyway. They’re not hard to maintain, and when you tip it over in the woods, you won’t feel as bad. Since the DR has had the same oil-cooled single-cylinder engine (approximately 45 horsepower) and unimpressive suspension since its debut, there are plenty of aftermarket parts to make it faster, if that’s what you want, and many used bikes will already have a few farkles added on. For about $3,000, you should be able to find a DR650 in good shape that doesn’t really need any work. Pay less than that, and expect some wrenching.

The CBR650F is built very much along the same ideas as the older all-round CBR600 models, before everything got all track-focused. It’s an excellent sport bike for the real world, and you should be able to find one for less than half the price of a modern 600.

Sportbike: Honda CBR650F

The Honda CBR650F was the first of the modern crop of sensible, usable sportbikes when it debuted in 2014. You won’t get the same performance as a litrebike, or even a modern 600, but you will get a more rideable machine that’s still got enough horsepower to lose your license (a claimed 85 hp from the liquid-cooled four-cylinder). Shop around, and you’ll probably be able to find a used example with ABS, and that’s definitely worth the extra money.

The CBR650F is usually a reasonably-priced bike on the used market, around $6,000 or less. Some insurers consider the CBR650F a sport tourer, which saves you even more money.

Here’s one you missed out on. Willy sold this Super Glide a few months back. As you can see here, you can easily add bags and a windshield, if you want to put down some miles.

Cruiser: Harley-Davidson Super Glide

If you want an old-school, plain-Jane cruiser, not a bagger or touring bike or whatever—look for a Harley-Davidson Dyna Super Glide. It’s not a universal rule, but you can usually find a Super Glide for close to the same money as one of the newer rubber-mounted Sportsters. A Super Glide will do anything the other Big Twins of the ’90s and ’00s can do. But, you can find a Super Glide for $8,000 or even much less, while many of the other, more flashy Big Twins will sell for a premium because of their looks, or because of their lux touring packages.

If you really want to spend your money wisely, then do your research ahead of the purchase, because all Super Glides are not created equal. Harley-Davidson did considerable tinkering with the engine and chassis in the 2000s, and you may find it makes a major difference.

Kawasaki ZG1000 Concours
The Kawasaki Concours ZG1000 was a no-nonsense bike, with styling that looked Teutonic, not Japanese. These are popping up for silly-affordable money now, and if you find a well-preserved specimen, it would be an extremely fun tourer to flog this summer.

Touring Bike: Kawasaki Concours

The Kawasaki Concours had the same basic liquid-cooled inline-four engine as the old Ninja 1000R, with a touring-friendly shaft drive and a big, ugly fairing. It made just under 100 hp and topped out just under 200 km/h, so even though it was de-tuned for touring, it was no slouch in its time. The 1000-series Concours ended production in 2006, and the price has really dropped in the decade and a half since, although most of these machines have many years of life in them.

Or maybe they don’t. Who cares? Buy a Concours for $2,000, or even less, beat it like a rented mule for the next three months, then sell it to a “cafe builder,” or part it out on eBay. It’s pretty hard to go wrong with one of these dinosaurs; as long as they’re in good running nick, you’ll have a comfortable and powerful ride. Maybe you’ll fall in love?

The R1150 GS was a CMG favourite when it came out many years back, and it’s still an excellent all-round ADVer.

Adventure Bike: BMW R1150 GS

BMW’s GS series has never been cheap, but in the past few years, prices have really climbed on the older R80 and R100 series. Guess what’s next? The R1150 series will soon be priced silly-high, and it’s too bad, as these are probably the best all-round machines in the GS series, from a shade tree mechanic perspective. They’ve got enough power to do anything you want, just enough technology to make life easy (ABS, electronic fuel injection), but not so much technology that you need an engineering degree to fix them.

Expect to pay at least $3,000 for an R1150 GS in good shape, and probably more. These bikes will go several hundred thousand kilometers if maintained properly, so don’t be afraid of high mileage. Just make sure the throttle body linkages are all synced correctly, the final drive isn’t about to grenade itself, and so on. Before you buy one, learn what the common problems are, and make sure you don’t get skunked on a deal.

Suzuki Bandit 1200
It’s no KTM 1290 Super Duke GT, but the Suzuki Bandit 1200 had plenty of fun to offer in stock form. If you liked to tinker, you could hot-rod this bike far past its original specs.

Naked Bike: Suzuki Bandit 1200

The Bandit 1200 was a bargain when it was introduced, and it’s still a bargain. The massive oil-cooled inline-four made just under 100 horsepower, and thanks to Suzuki’s legendary parts bin engineering, you can mix-and-match a lot of Gixxer parts onto these machines. The result? A bike with far superior handling and performance to the original. The aftermarket liked this bike too, and there are plenty of touring add-ons and other useful bits for the big Bandit.

Look for a machine that’s got some of these add-ons, as well as ABS. You can find a decent Suzuki Bandit for $3,500, easily.

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