Ever wondered how many examples of certain classic – and some less than classic – bikes still actually exist on UK roads? For example, just how many versions of Yamaha’s great Nineties hub-centre-steered ‘white elephant’, the GTS1000, are still around? 10? 100?
Or what about Honda’s RC30? Or classic Ducatis such as the MHe900? Or even oddballs such as Aprilia’s Moto 6.5 and Honda’s CX500 Turbo? Thought there was no way of finding out? Think again…
Via www.howmanyleft.co.uk you can now do exactly that. It’s an online database/search engine which covers all vehicles – cars AND bikes – that have a valid tax disc or a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN). And though it’s not perfect, as it depends upon the correct logging of vehicle names and varies seasonally as people SORN bikes over winter (the latest figures are taken from autumn 2016), it IS roughly accurate and gives a fascinating, and sometimes depressing, insight to what bikes are still out there. Here’s our pick of some of the most interesting – and rare.
Let’s start with Yamaha’s ‘great white elephant’ itself – the GTS1000. Launched in 1993 the flagship sports-tourer was truly revolutionary thanks to its radical hub-centre steering – the first on a mainstream production bike. Designed in conjunction with James Parker it worked reasonably, too. Giving a steadfast if unremarkable ride. That, plus classy design touches justified the ‘flagship’ tag. Unfortunately the 102bhp performance from the detuned FZR1000 EXUP engine was unremarkable, too, chain drive put off some buyers while a hefty £9999 price tag put off more. Overall, although it limped on in Yamaha UK’s line-up until 1999 it was a sales disaster. Today, just SEVEN are taxed for the road in the UK with a further 11 on SORN.
(Interestingly, if you’re starting to wonder about the accuracy of the figures, think on this. Also according to www.howmanyleft.co.uk there’s 5103 MT-09s currently on the road and 3824 MT07s but there’s one other conspicuous Yamaha rarity: just NINE examples of the exquisite, homologation-special R7 are currently recorded, with a further 11 on SORN. Nice if you can get one…
Triumph Daytona Super III
The revived British firm is on a roll. We all know that. Following the launch of the all-new Bonnevilles, 2016 was a record-breaker, sales-wise. Indeed, the Hinckley firm has not only just posted a US sales record, overall it’s now selling more bikes than it ever has, even during its Meriden pomp. So, taking the Bonneville as an example, there are currently almost 17,000 in use on British roads and, if you take all the various models into account, even more Tigers. While the just relaunched Street Triple can boast an impressive 10,159 on UK roads. But they’re not all huge hits. The Speedmaster, for example, the slightly oddly styled US custom version of the Bonneville was never a huge hit and has just 325 examples on British roads (which partly explains why the new Bobber is so different). And if you go back further, well…. Remember the OLD, original 750/900/1000/1200 Daytona? No? Not many do. Or the more expensive, Cosworth-tuned, limited edition version of it, the Daytona Super III? According to our records there aren’t any currently on the road at all, and just TWO on SORN….
The US cruiser marque owned by the huge Polaris concern was in the news last week, but all for the wrong reasons. Polaris, which also owns Indian, announced the shock news that it is to shut the brand down as soon possible and concentrate its resources on Indian instead. Which makes you wonder how badly Victory was performing. The bikes themselves, while lacking the cache of Harley or Indian itself, were actually decent performers. Even so, the numbers of bikes on UK roads makes pretty dismal reading, with just fewer than 1500 machines in total taxed and a further 151 on SORN. And if you break that down it gets worse. The most popular model? The hot road styled Hammer, but even then there’s only 300-odd on UK roads. The cheaper Vegas is a little way behind and after that, while taking a little pinch of salt for miss-logged bike models, it all goes south. Remember the Victory Judge? No, didn’t think so. Just 68 are on UK roads. Or the Boardwalk? How about 20. Or, worst of all, the Magnum launched in 2014.The bagger may have been Victory’s best bike yet but it certainly didn't catch on. Just 14 are on UK roads…
OK, anyone with any biking knowledge would probably expect the repeatedly turbulent and always niche and boutique Italian exotica builder to be at least somewhere on this list but in truth they could pretty much dominate it, too.
Of course, that’s to be expected with handbuilt bikes. Even its most popular models are pretty rare. The Suzuki GSX-R1100-engined SB6 from the mid-Nineties, for example, which was one of Bimota’s most successful-ever machines, can today log only 10 examples on UK roads (with a further 26 on SORN) – so what hope have the truly rare models? There’s the ultra exotic two-stroke V-twin, the V-Due, for example (just four taxed with 15 more on SORN); or the exquisite, lightweight Supermono single (just one and two respectively, although this statistic might be skewed by it ostensibly being a racing machine). But there’s not doubt about the weird and unloved DB3 Mantra. The Sacha Lakic designed roadster was effectively a weird Ducati Monster, with a walnut dashboard (yes, really), and an obscene price tag. Apparently there’s just one surviving on UK roads, with a further three on SORN.
Of course, it’s not just the niche manufacturers such as Bimota which end up with the rarest bikes, if the leading producers get it wrong they’re as vulnerable to producing lemons as anyone else – as machines like Honda’s bizarre DN-01 scooter/motorcycle hybrid have proved. So maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that leading German marque, BMW, which, like Triumph, is riding high at moment thanks not just to its best-selling, boxer-engined, R1200GS adventure bike but also to an ever-increasing range of performance fours such as the S1000RR and S1000XR, has a few skeletons in its closet as well. The oddball R1200C cruiser is one that springs to mind but how about the distinctly weird, ‘roofed’ scooter, the C1 of the early Noughties or equally weird HP2 Megamoto off-roader? Nope, there’s worse. While there’s currently a whopping 6500 R1200GSs on UK roads, not to mention an extra 4000 Adventure variants, at the other end of the spectrum there’s 387 C1s and just 18 Megamotos (although there are 11 more on SORN). But the rarest of the lot? The futuristic K1 sports-tourer from 1989 with just eight examples surviving on the road with a further 19 on SORN.
Italian manufacturer Aprilia is another which, thanks to its occasional forays into the downright weird and less wonderful – remember the 850 Mana automatic abomination anyone? – might be expected to have a few rarities lurking on British roads and, if you look hard enough, you’d be right. The 1200 and 750 Dorsoduro supermotard twins are often referred to as something of a sales disaster although, in reality, there are still hundreds of them on UK roads. It’s the same story with the underrated SL1000 Falco. Though not much of a hit when launched back at the turn of the millennium, it has a notable following today. Philippe Starck-designed Moto 6.5 oddball single? OK, you’ve got me there – just 11 on the road and 16 on SORN. But it’s not the winner. That plaudit goes to Aprilia’s short-lived Paris-Dakar replica adventure single from 1988-99. Just two survive on British roads. Somewhere.
Aprilia Rivale 800
Another Italian marque, which you’d maybe rightly think, is fairly rare on UK roads. And you’d be right – but this time it’s mostly due to reasons such as short build runs and exclusive prices rather than downright weirdness leading to poor sales. According to figures, there are currently around 2100 MVs of all types on British roads, with a further 900-odd stashed away on SORN. Not that surprising in itself, but if we break those figures down it becomes more interesting. Brutales? A healthy 700-odd examples out there of all types, with more hibernating. F3 sportster? A similarly reasonable 240, while the recently launched Turismo 800, which is arguably MV’s most real world machine so far, also has 70 examples out there. Remember the Rivale though? The supermotard version of the Brutale, with, for British tastes even less of that bike’s practicality without any added style? Eight, yes, just eight examples on UK roads… Must try harder.
Honda CX500 Turbo
Even the largest motorcycle manufacturer of them all isn’t immune from the occasional ‘faux pas’. Remember the DN-01? Or the more recent NM4 Vultus? Of course, most of ‘Big H’s wares have been hugely popular and remain so to this day. Take the massively successful CBR600F, for example: there are still nearly 9000 of them on UK roads (although this is now down from its 16,000 peak of 2004). But older, less popular and sometimes more deliberately exclusive machines can be far more rare. CB250N Superdream? Just 91 remaining on UK roads. RC30? 70, with, apparently, far more stored on SORN, a figure which healthily beats its intended successor, the RC45, of which just 16 remain on the road with a further 37 ferretted away on SORN. Best of all though are Honda’s oddball, CX-based turbos from the early Eighties. The last, the CX650T, boasts just 14 survivors today (with 35 more on SORN). But there’s just five examples left of the original CX500 Turbo on the road, with 12 more in mothballs.
Perhaps we shouldn’t be expecting great things from revived Norton. After all, the revived British marque, now based in stately surroundings at Donington Hall adjacent to the famous circuit, after being relaunched by Stuart Garner in 2009. It has set its stall out to be a boutique, hand-built concern producing minimal numbers of exclusive machines. They still make interesting reading, however. The launch of its exciting, all-new V4 superbike should boost its numbers substantially when it goes into production later this year, but until now its all been about its retro-styled Commando 961. According to these figures, a total of 165 are taxed for UK roads with a further 37 on SORN. Of those, the most popular by far is the Sport variant (with 114/16 respectively) followed by the Café Racer (at 49/13) which, according to these figures, just leaves the most exclusive variant of them all – the original, ultra limited edition and high spec ‘SE’ (for Special Edition). There are two on the roads and eight more on SORN.
Ducati 907 i.e.
No review of British bike buying habits would be complete without a mention of the most exotic, successful and alluring motorcycle brand of all – the Italian ‘two-wheeled Ferrari’: Ducati.
Since nearly closing completely in the early Nineties, the Bologna-based concern has gone from strength to strength on the back of hugely successful models such as the Monster, Multistrada and, most recently, the stylish, novice-friendly Scrambler. In fact, the figures bear out that success. Apparently there are currently over 3500 Multistrada 1200s on UK roads, over 1300 Scramblers and 1000+ examples of both the Monster 696 alone and 848 junior superbike. On the flip side, however, there are also a few rarities. GT1000 sport classic? Just 103 (with 28 more on SORN). Exclusive MHe900ie collectable inspired by the original Mike Hailwood replica? Just nine, with 35 more stowed away. But the most unloved of all is the final version of the always-controversial Paso. 1991’s 907 i.e. version might have been the best, but it was never popular. Today just TWO remain on the road (with four more on SORN). Poor thing.