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Bikes from the 80's

Discussion in 'Bike Reviews, Questions and Suggestions' started by MeltingDOg, May 25, 2011.

  1. Hi all,

    I have already posted a thread here asking about a recommendation for a cheaper cruiser bike and found that realistically the only 400cc+ bikes you are going to get between $2000-3000 are from the 80's.

    Now, a lot of people I have spoken to both on and off the forum have said to avoid bikes this old, whilst others reckon that many Japanese bikes built during that era have pretty solid engines and are still a viable possibility.

    I have put on hold searching for a new bike until I have set aside a bit more money, but just thought it might be worth opening a discussion to see what peoples thoughts were on the general reliability and viability 20 -30 year old bikes for both daily use and long trips.


  2. It more than likely wont be the engine that will give you trouble. Unless theyve had some serious tlc the biggest things to worry about are bearings, electrics and clutch/gearbox. If youre using it daily it needs to be reliable, id seriously look at getting something newer unless your happy to do some work on it to make sure its not going to let you down. Remember motorbikes are exposed to the elements more than cars and even the best made bike can have a lot of problems crop up due to weather and wear and tear.
  3. On bikes that old it is going to vary from bike to bike, depending on the history of it. As above, the engine is probably going to be OK but anything else will be on the table.

    You'll need to know (or learn real fast) how to swing a spanner. Getting it done at a mechanic is just not going to be worth it.

    Let us know the models you are looking at and we can opinion in more detail.
  4. get one of these. :D

  5. Stay away from the Honda These were some of their worst bikes.

    The suzuki is a better deal and has a direct linage to the GS500 although I'd expect to haggle a few hundred of that at least.

    When you posted cruiser I thought you were considering a 750 virago or similar. These 400cc jap twins are this cheap for a reason.
  6. I had one of these in an 1100 and quite frankly got sick of overhauling carbies. Put me off 4 cylinder bikes.
  7. Yammie Xj 600s are cheapish (90's)

    But again 4 carbies...
  8. Yeah sorry should have really said cruiser, naked, or road bike. I'm looking at 400s for LAMS reasons. Are you saying '400cc jap twins are cheap for a reason' in a bad way?
  9. Since both of my bikes are mid-eighties I can safely comment.

    The BMW R65LS has been extremely reliable and I've put a lot of kilometres on it. It's also pretty rugged and survived the kamikaze kangaroo on last year's icicle ride. Not super fast but certainly an excellent commuter and good touring bike. It's made a number of trips to SA and has managed 1622 kms in 22 1/2 hours.

    The 550 Katana has also been good - but heavier and has had a touch of the Katanan regulator/rectifier problems lately. It's still a good bike and has been known to comfortably haul a pillion back from up past Eildon when his nearly new Guzzi gave up the ghost :)

    The 550 Katana has slightly better performance but both are very close to the LAMS limit.

    The BMW cost me about $3K but is appreciating (they only made around 6,000) and the Kat cost me a whole $950 - and I've spent about $2K on it - including tyres, sprocket and chain etc. I'll be up for maybe another couple of hundred for the electrics.

    The point is that if you do your research properly and look up the specific bike you're interested in you'll do OK. Just don't expect a bike you can thrash at its maximum for hours on end and do budget for the occasional piece of work.

  10. Yes/no. They were cheap bike to start with and for $1500 more you can get a GS500 which is a more up to date bike. Of course $1500 is a lot money some times in your life.
  11. Aircooled 550s from Suzuki and Kawasaki are a good bet. Personally I'd try to find a shiny Suzuki GSX550 as they're a brilliant but underrated middleweight weapon. A Kawasaki GPz550 from the same era is a good bike but, in my experience (which is considerable seeing as these bikes were the backbone of budget biking in the UK during my time there) not as tough, as fast or as good handling as the GSX. Contemporary Yams were OK but god knows where you'd get spares now as they were getting awkward 15 years ago. XJ600 might be OK. I wouldn't touch an old Honda with a barge pole. I had a few back in the day because they were cheaper than anything else. I gave them up when I found there was a good reason for that.

    Going back a bit further, it's very hard to go wrong with a Suzuki GS550 if you can find a good one. Tough, fast enough and not bad handling by the standards of the time.

    Anything from the era will require you to be able to do your own wrenching or be willing to learn, but it's not that hard.

    These bikes can be a lot of fun and can provide a decent amount of budget performance but don't expect them to be plug and play like a modern. Then again, in your price range, even a modern is unlikely to be so either.
  12. I well remember the GS550. A sweet urban runner. Better than the GS750 I reckoned.
    Yamaha's XJ 650 was a very good midrange bike that had shaft drive.
  13. I bought a 1990 FJ1200 a while back as a project. Heaps of spares available, easy to work on and advice on forums is very helpful. I started our with very little servicing knowledge but over time this has improved heaps. If your going to look at an older bike my advice is be prepared to put some work into it for a few months before its ready to ride. The wait could be worthwhile and you will have gained enough knowledge to do your own servicing and maintain it as a reliable runner. As a project bike its great but I think I've was looking for an everyday ride I'd buy something newer.
  14. You're in Brisbane which makes it a lot easier (has anybody else noticed how consistently cheaper are bikes in Brisbane?).

    I've just about always ridden old bikes as my only transport. As others have said, you have to judge according to the bike rather than getting fixed on a particular model, when it comes to this age. The engine is usually less of an issue than electrics and carburretor condition, and both of these can be overhauled by the home mechanic with minimal knowledge and tools.

    When looking at age, and the fact some thing will need fixing, the golden rule is: simpler is better:

    Air-cooled is better than water-cooled.

    Less cylinders mean less $ if there's engine problems, but more importantly less carburretors (usually) to deal with.

    Less fancy electrical bits are better.

    And simpler bikes usually have easier access to parts, which matters when something's playing up and you need to fix it and leave for work.

    In my experience, Yamaha is great at keeping up supplies for old bikes. That can't be said for all brands. Plus Yamaha recycled a lot of parts throughout different bikes, which means used bits are easier to find. Plus Yamaha solidly over-engineered a lot of bikes.

    You can get a 1990s Yamaha XV535 for $3k in Brisbane.

    So, get a single or twin cylinder bike.

    Some that I'd particularly recommend:

    Yamaha XV535; XT600, TT600, XT350 (singles - dirt-oriented, but good for making into road bikes, and bullet-proof and simple).

    Suzuki GS500, DR350, DR650....

    These can all be got for $2-3K.
  15. +1 on the Suzuki 550 - The GS550 Katana I've got even looks good.It also has a plus in that it's got a fairly wide seat so my daughter finds it uncomfortable - so she doesn't steal it often :)

  16. Bear in mind that the OP was asking about LAMS bikes so anything over a 650 is going to be out.

    Suziki GS650 shaftie would probably be my pick for maximum capacity, although the GSX550 is considerably faster and handles much better. Depends what you can find and what you want to do with it.
  17. I'm with Tony in that I really rate bikes from the 80s. The cruisers were appallingly uncomfortable and generally featured models that proved to be rubbish like the XS250/400 Yamaha. I have an 83 Honda VT500 that may have over 100,000 on it that I bought for $500. It has never ever let me down, is LAMs approved and has been used and abused by numerous friends, children, wife etc. They're hard to find but worth buying. Suzuki's mid range fours are great as are the GS/GSX400 twins that were the origins of the GS500.
    Good luck
  18. And then there's one of the best ever early 80's bikes that no one has mentioned. The Plastic Maggot - the Honda CX500. They have gone up in price in recent years but you can still find them for $4K in good condition.
  19. 80's bikes ... Pffft!!