Cheap winter/commuter bike – What would you buy?

Being bikeless for a couple of weeks due to geographic/mechanical constraints and with a bit of free time has resulted in a couple of hours wasted online wondering what bike would I buy if I come to need a winter/commuter bike, leaving the (sensitive…and thirsty) Ducati free for joy rides and touring.

The bike in case would have to be:
– Under 2000€ and post 1990.
– Practical and mechanically simple so that I can do most of the servicing (using two hammers and my immense skills)
– Reliable, frugal and preferably with good crashability (is this a word?)
– and finally, if possible, cool!

The result of hours of naked ladies free internet searching? This selection of bikes currently for sale in the Netherlands:

KAWASAKI KLE500
KAWASAKI KLE500

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1992 model with less than 20.000km on the clock for under 1800€. With 50hp when new it won’t be going anywhere fast but the KLE is know for being bulletproof and this one looks to be in great condition. I would just need to change the green bits, really hate that color!

HONDA CBR 600F
Honda CBR600 F

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A jelly mould CBR600F from 1993 with a little over 40.000km on the clocks and one of the better looking 90s paint schemes. With a reputation for being absolutely indestructible and a nice mix of sportiness and practicality, this is one of the “sportier” choices of the bunch. At under 1500€ it’s a bargain.

HONDA NX650 DOMINATORHonda NX650 Dominator

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Another Honda, this time a 1996 Dominator with 38.000km for 1850€, not my favorite trail from the big H but with the Africa Twin rising in popularity (and prices) this (and the Transalp) are the only ones within the budget.

KAWASAKI KLE500
Kawsaki KLE500 2
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Yes another KLE, this one from 1996 with more or less 20.000km also and cheaper at a smidge under 1500€ and arguably in a better color scheme. Possibly a better buy than the previous.

DUCATI MONSTER 600Ducati Monster 600

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With over 70.000km, this 1998 Monster is probably not the smartest choice. Even at 1499€, naked and air cooled I am not convinced it would be the most reliable or cheapest to run. It looks cool though!

HONDA XL600V TRANSALPHonda XL600V Transalp

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No list of practical cheap bikes could be complete without a Transalp, so here is the one I would choose. A olive green 1993 with 47.000km and the mandatory crash bars for less then 1800€.

BMW F650BMW F650

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The choice of many overlanders looking for a simpler and lighter alternative to the ubiquitous R1200GS, the F650 may be a bit underpowered but the single cylinder engine means it’s simpler and cheaper to run. This one has done 76.000km costs just under 1.800€ and comes with top-case and crash bars.

APRILIA PEGASO 650Aprilia Pegaso 650

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At under 1.800€ and already fitted with top and side cases this 38.000km bike would make quite a practical commuter. I’m just not a fan of the styling, it’s a it too curvy and fluffy looking.The previous version of the Pegaso actually looks a bit manlier but from the ones for sale right now, this is a better buy thanks to the full luggage.

HONDA CBR1100XX SUPERBLACKBIRDHonda CBR1100XX

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A 1998 hyperbike with 66.000km for 2.000€ is an absolute steal. If there isn’t anything very wrong with this bike, it’s a great price.
What is a 4 cilinder 1100cc fully faired hyperbike doing in this practical and sensible list? You may ask.
Simple, I used to own one and love it! This one fits the “cheap” requisite, it’s also reliable and fairly practical…it does fail to meet all the other needs: simple mechanics, fuel economy, mechanical accessibility, crash resilience, etc. Still love it though!

SUZUKI DR650 RSESuzuki DR650 RSE

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The dual sports alternative, with the XT600 being too popular to find any in decent condition in this price bracket, the big brother to the Mondo Enduro bike looks great in this livery and should make a simple, fun and reliable every day ride.
This one is a 1998 with about 31.000km for 1990€. It may not be the best bike for motorway riding or have much in the way of luggage but it should be fantastic round the bumpy cobbled streets of Amsterdam.

And finally my favourite bike in the entire list! The fact that from all of this possibilities the one I most want to own has a “winter hack”/commuter probably says a lot about my skills for choosing cheap, simple bikes…

YAMAHA TRX850Yamaha TRX850

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It’s not the most practical bike or at 1990€ for a 1996 with 56.000km the cheapest, but just look at it – it’s beautiful!
A clear example of a design that wasn’t very popular when it was first launched but has aged really well. The trellis frame and semi fairing with that sportsbike inspired tank and rear fairing. I think it looks brilliant for a 90s bike.
Fit it with a open flowing exhaust and it will sound like a great, furious tractor is coming down the road.
I am not entirely sure about the reliability or ease of maintenance compared to some of the other bikes here, but the TDM derived parallel twin should be robust, the bike looks to be in great condition even comes fitted with good tyres.

What do you think of my list? Any obvious absences that you think could be had within this price bracket? What is your favourite of the bunch?

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