Snag’s secret desires. The used bikes that are still affordable and will hugely reward the seasoned rider, without destroying the bank balance.
1996 Triumph Speed Triple
Why: Widely acknowledged as the prettiest of the Hinckley Triumphs and becoming more than a little thin on the ground.
Newborn Hinckley Triumph has now done the miles to prove it is more than a stayer – in fact, it’s become a very serious player on the global market.
This has allowed bikes from its relatively short history to enter the realm of possible collectables. The Speed Triple (T309) looks set to become one of these, along with the Daytona 1200 and the very hard to come by pairing of the Super Three and 750 version of the Speed Triple.
The bike represented Triumph’s modern interpretation of the café racer. In truth, there was more than an ounce of luck that a stripped down Daytona looked so damned good, but the simple fact is the bike represents just about the prettiest offering ever to come out of Hinckley.
It was masculine, top heavy and demanded commitment to ride fast, but the yowl from that triple was, and remains simply intoxicating.
Power came from a carbureted liquid-cooled, 885cc, DOHC, three-cylinder engine, which yielded 71.5kW at 9000rpm and 83Nm at 6500rpm.
Modern Triumph boss John Bloor demanded that any reputation that beset the old triumphs for unreliability be well and truly quashed. As a consequence, the T300 range was over-engineered and built like a brick outhouse. This made the bikes heavy (209kg dry), but has engendered them with a bulletproof reputation and this only adds to the allure of the Speed Triple.
The ’96 was the last year that the T300 was offered before Triumph went to aluminum frames and fuel-injection in ’97. The 1996 had ceramic brake pistons, six-speed gearbox and the Triumph full stainless exhaust system (made by Sebring) was optional. This makes the ’96 the pick of the collector bunch.
Consider if you: Have a love for the café racer genre. Brutally handsome and reliable, the bike can be used as a daily runner while you wait for the values to soar.
Give it a miss if: This is not a bike for the faint of heart. The bike is tall and top heavy, responding to determined output. Also, if this is your first naked, you may miss the protection a fairing affords.
Price range: $8000-$15,000
1994 Ducati 916
Why: The first of the model run representing a milestone motorcycle that can only rise in value.
The Ducati 916 changed motorcycling. Drop dead gorgeous today, in 1994 it shook the bike world on looks alone.
Designed by Massimo Tamburini, the bike was unashamedly race-bred and made no concessions to rider comfort. Very low clip-ons, a seat like a plank of wood, rearset pegs that fold the legs up like a concertina.
But the innovations. Underseat mufflers, single-sided swingarm… See how ahead of its time it was?
It had quarter-turn Dzus fasteners, mirrors that required just one small bolt to remove, and a rear suspension with independent ride-height adjustment. All pointing at the racebike lurking beneath street add-ons. Yep, this was a race bike for the road.
Power came from a liquid-cooled, DOHC, 90 degree V-twin desmodromic four valve that boasted 83kW at 9000rpm and 88Nm at 7000 rpm, toting a dry weight of 198kg.
The bike was simply unbeatable at World Superbike level (aided somewhat by rules that allowed a greater capacity for twins), taking the title under the 916 banner from 1994-’98 (Carl Fogarty three times and Troy Corser once) and that will only become greater in significance as the 916 lore grows.
That’s the sort of stuff that will see this bike improve in value. Think of it as the Porsche 911 of the bike world – a sure fire investment.
Consider if: You want to be noticed. Everyone knows what an influential motorcycle the 916 was and it is universally admired. As will you as the owner of one.
Give it a miss: If you want anything like comfort or intend taking a pillion. Your chiropractor will love you and your significant other will hate you. This really isn’t a day to day runner and you’ll need to own something else as well.
Price range: $14,000 – $26,000
Triumph Trident T150 and T160
Why: Because they are desperately under-priced and will never be this cheap again.
Launched in 1968, the Triumph Trident was fast, and handled well, but it was up against Honda’s ground-breaking CB750 and suffered because of it at showroom level.
Its pushrod valve setup, drum brakes and kick start were making the bike look a little old school at birth, but the 60bhp triple was pretty damned quick.
The factory initially produced two separate models, the Triumph Trident T150 and the BSA Rocket-3, which were near-identical apart from the Rocket-3’s angled-forward engine. Both were capable of close to 120mph, with handy acceleration and a lovely exhaust note.
In 1972, the four-speed T150 became the five-speed T150V. In 1973 a front disc brake appeared.
In 1974 the T150 was dropped from the range giving way to its successor, the heavier and therefore slightly more ponderous T160 Trident.
The T160 combined handsome new looks with overdue refinements such as an electric start and disc brakes. The 125mph T160 was the definitive British superbike, but the Japanese offerings robbed it of the sort of love and admiration it deserved.
Fortunately, this has changed and, with the right sort of mechanical love, the Trident is a lovely thing that can be ridden every day.
Good used bikes are worth the hunt, old roughies will have you swearing and there are many known faults (almost all of which have a modern fix). The T160 is the better pick, it’s a more refined and significantly faster package, but either bike will make for a fine classic ownership option.
Consider if: You want to connect with the halcyon British days but would like something different from the omnipresent Bonneville.
Give it a miss if: You are a maintenance miser. These things crave and reward mechanical attention.
Price range: $14,000 – $20,000
Snag’s career in motoring journalism spans 29 years with stints at major bike mags Australian Road Rider, Motorcycle Trader and AMCN along with contributions to just about every other outlet worth a hill of beans. He was editor of Unique Cars magazine and hosts his legendary podcast ‘Snag Says’ when he gets off his date.