Life on bikes

3 bikes that could be a better investment than gold

Unlike gold, it’s rare to find a rich new seam of Brough Superior’s buried inside an African mountain.

Which goes someway to explaining why some bikes are appreciating in value at a faster rate than even that precious metal.

Granted, vintage and late classic bikes from the 70’s have been on a steady rise and are a well-trodden investment path.

At a time when interest rates are laughable, vintage and classic cars have gone through the roof, paintings are down to individual taste and wine should be drunk to get any pleasure out of it, investing in bikes starts to make sense.

Especially from the stunningly rich-pickings era of the late 80’s and early ’90’s.

Let’s face it, knowing you’ve got a beautifully-designed piece of engineering excellence under wraps in your garage is much more satisfying than knowing there’s bottle of Chateau Pisse you can’t drink in the cellar.

As an investment choice, a motorbike is practical, fun and while never guaranteed to go up in value, perhaps more stable than some investment classes.

Figuring that few of our readers have a spare £300,000 to £2,000,000 for a Superior, we’ve found three bikes that we think qualify as reasonable investments based on a few simple criteria:

1) Currently sub £30,000, the average amount Britons (who have savings) have squirrelled away
2) Limited in build numbers, so rarer than mass production bikes
3) Relatively inexpensive to maintain (because you WILL want to ride them)

So, from a financial perspective, which bikes are the ones to put your money on, bearing in mind that the value of investments can go down, as well as up…

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Ducati 996 R

Why not the 916, one of the most legendary bikes let alone Ducatis ever made? Because the 996 is the same bike, but more refined and as such, if you are going to ride your investment, the 996 will be a more enjoyable horse.

The ultimate embodiment of that is the 996R – the Racing spec includes all-round Öhlins suspension, carbon fibre bodywork, a revised fairing and, most significantly, a newly redesigned engine, the Testastretta which actually displaced 998cc not 996cc.

Ducati 996R

These bikes are genuinely rare – only 500 were made and as such prices are hard to work out. However, at the time of writing a bike was available in Australia for £27,000, which, with shipping costs would get us in under budget.

Back in 2010, the value was around £17,000, so in six years the value has increased 59%. By comparison, gold increased by only $200 per ounce from $1170 to $1340, a rise of not-quite 15% by comparison.

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Honda RC30 (VFR 750 R)

Bloody obvious really and if you’re old enough to remember it first time round or a serious bike collector you’ll be very familiar with this bike already. But if you’ve never invested in bikes and are looking for something like a sure thing, this bike should be top of your list.

Honda RC30

Its history is impeccable. Rated as one of the greatest sports bikes ever, it had just one job to do: Win the first-ever World Superbike Championship. It did that and repeated the feat the next year, both times with Fred Merkel on board.

Few sports bikes, with the exception of the Ducati 748/916, have been as elegant. Check out the sweep of the upper fairing below the bars to where it meets the midsection below the tank, and the lazy V formed by the frame and the lower part of that same mid-section (admittedly helped by the paint job).

But let’s forget the looks and think about the mechanicals for a bit. The engine was based on the VFR750F (itself a great road bike) but with the exception of the cylinder head and engine side covers, pretty much everything that was on the production line bike was thrown away and replaced by RC30-specific parts. Clutch, gearbox, crankshaft, oil pump, pistons and the cylinder heads themselves are bespoke.

We had to think hard on this bike about rule number three of our investment criteria, given those non-standard parts, but they are available if you look hard enough.

Rule number one is also going to be a challenge if you are not quick enough. In Autumn 2016 we found an 8,000-mile bike for just shy of £30,000. Given that 10 years ago the bike was hovering around the £12,000 mark, prices are really starting to step up.

In the same period gold was $1299 and now is $1340, well maths was never my strong point, but you can see which would have been the better investment.

The exact number of bikes produced is not clear, with estimate ranging from 3,000 to 5,000, which is way more than the 996R. Most of these bikes headed straight for the track and many would have been lost to the natural selection process that is crashing.

But despite the higher production numbers, this is still a rare bike and almost universally, by those that know of them, deeply coveted. Barring nuclear war, it’s difficult to see them going down in value.

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Yamaha FZR750RR OW 01

The RC30 is the glamour bike of homologation specials, but there’s another bike that, while not quite as exotic on the engine internals, is every bit as race bred.

Sometimes dismissed as just a fettled FZR750, the truth is the OW 01 was packed full of bespoke features: Magnesium castings, bore x stroke not seen on any other Yamaha and a stock-looking frame that is actually made from higher-quality aluminium.

Yamaha OW01

Brand new, the OW 01 was more expensive than the RC30. But the latter’s race success means, despite being produced in far higher numbers than the Yamaha’s 500-bike production run, the Honda has risen in value more. But this may make the OW 01 the better investment.

An investable, excellent quality reasonable miles bike will be around £15,000. That’s half the layout of the RC30. In fact, it could be argued that the Honda has done all of its rising (we think not), but still makes a safe investment.

Given the low production number, the ultra-high specification (Ohlin race suspension, magnesium brake callipers etc.) and the fact that many bikes have never even seen the track but went straight into living rooms, the OW 01 might be the best investment here. If only this Superbike had seen more success in the World Championships…

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The Mystery Bike

Daytime TV watchers will be familiar with the concept of the Mystery House on those programs that help buyers find a new home. Never ones to miss out on ripping off someone else’s slightly non-sensical idea, we thought we’d introduce a fourth option to our list, the bike that might be undervalued.

Aprillia Moto 6.5

The obvious choice is Honda’s SP1. They’re holding their price, relatively rare and having been bred from a World Championship bike are pretty much epic at pretty much everything.

Less rare, way less accomplished in every way but potentially collectable is Aprillia’s Moto 6.5. Yes, that one. The bike that to some it’s a complete mystery why it was ever built, but bear with us.

Conceived by genius French design Philippe Stark it looked like no other bike at the time or since, with an egg-like frame hugging the engine and possibly the neatest radiator that’s ever been seen on a bike.

Aplillia Moto 6.5

The pretty form, with its narrow exhaust sweeping in an elegant, elliptical line from the frame is by accounts not matched by any overly-worthwhile function.

Using a detuned 650 engine from a trial bike, producing just 45hp, reviewers of the time were more likely to mention its ‘chugging’ performance and ‘gentler pace’.

Grinding out some sort of power from the throttle was likely to be met with complaints from the chassis in weaving form.

But with only a single disc at the front, outright speed is perhaps not what the bike is about. That would be its looks, which to me at least, are worth of inclusion in a reasonable collection. As is the unusual provenance of the designer, by motorcycling standards at least.

I’d say that the post-2000 bikes are less desirable because of changes to the front end that meant the radiator wasn’t as integral to the look from then on.

Rarity is hard to define. Production actually stopped for a couple of years and numbers are unlikely to be high given that the bikes are rarely seen on the roads. Despite this, prices haven’t really risen. Yet.

This could be a sleeper. There could be a few Moto 6.5’s tucked away in sheds and garages but not so many to destroy prices, which currently stand at around £4,250. Could that double in the next 10 years?

It’s maybe the one bike here that might not perform as well as gold, but hey, it’s way more fun even with it’s lacklustre performance and it’s much better looking than your average nugget.

Kidding. Go buy an SP1.

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Looking to invest?

You should do lots of your own research before investing in a historic vehicle as prices can go down as well as up – there is no guarantee an investment will perform the way you want it to.

Gold prices are more prone to speculation than limited-availability vehicles like these bikes. In some periods, gold has outperformed pretty much every commodity out there, but over the long run, the increases have been more moderate.

Unlike gold, the costs associated with a bike investment can be complex. There are mechanical issues you may need to contend with, proper storage and so on. With gold, you simply keep it somewhere safe and pray its value will rise.

One last bike suggestion

On our travels around the trade ads, auctions and bike sites we spotted a low miles, ’96 Fireblade, not even in Urban Tiger colours, for sale at £4,500… That’s the same as a ‘Blade 10 years younger with twice the miles.

Even though the CBR1000RR is a volume bike, the sheer desirability of the original models might mean if you have one you might want to hang on to it.

Get yourself sorted:

If you are serious about motorcycle investment we’d suggest familiarising yourself with the specialist auction scene to get a feel for the market and prices. You’ll also spot other bikes that aren’t quite as exotic as the main three bikes here. Let us know if you spot something: [email protected]

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The Author

Ian Malone

Ian Malone

Ian is the Editor and a co-founder of Biker & Bike.

He is obsessed about bikes to the point that he often starts conversations with new people by saying, "Please don't get me onto the subject of bikes. We'll be here all day."

Inevitably, the next question asked is nearly always, "What bike have you got, then?"

He's 'down' to three bikes at the moment:

'97 Triumph Daytona T595
'11 Triumph Tiger 800
'13 Triumph Speed Triple R

He's not even a huge Triumph fan, it just turns out that's how the stable is filled at the moment.

Having been on every continent except Antartica (as long as Cuba kind-of qualifies as South America) he is a big fan of travelling. However, to his deep but hopefully not eternal shame, he's only ever explored Europe on two-wheels and only started doing this a few years ago.

His main mission now is to explore as much of the world on two wheels as possible, at the same time as trying out as many new motorcycling experiences as he can and go on to inspire other bikers to do the same.