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Choosing a Project

Do you have a motorcycle you really like? For me they fall into two categories, the ones my friends and I had when we were spotty teenagers (FSIE, C50, Puch Grand Prix 50, DT50, DT175, GT185, X7s, RG250, RD250LC, Z400, Z650, etc.) Secondly, the superbikes we lusted after when we were adolescent bikers with the biking passion, but woefully short of the money (H2 triples, Z1s, GS1000S, CB750s, etc.). Or, those "superbikes" we later owned when we finally finished our apprenticeships (big Zeds, Rickman Kawasaki CR900, GPz900/1100/750 turbo, Eddie Lawson Replicas, GSXs, RG500s, RD500s, etc. etc).

I wanted a Suzuki Katana 1100 when they were introduced (first time around) and I could not afford one at that time. When I was fortunate enough to be able to afford one, I passed it by, in favour of one of the early "faster, better", GPz900Rs. (Remember "who can catch a Kawasaki?). However, I became very attached to the Katana idea and years later, when older and better able to afford one, I started a search for one to restore. I still have it. It is now finished and you may see it on the Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Club or Suzuki Owner's Club stands in the UK.

The point of my rambling above is, you can restore for "investment" reasons if you are shrewd and that way inclined. You can also restore to save rare and historically important machines, which in my view, is a very worthy cause. However, for most of us, I believe the personal memories and links associated with our biking past are the best reasons for selecting a motorcycle. There is some emotion involved. It's personal and where there is passion there is usually will power. On a cold winter evening, when things are not going well and in fact, have just turned much worse, it will take resolve to see you through. (a cup of coffee in the warm house and a night-off usually fixes me nowadays!) The down side to selecting a motorcycle for this reason is that it is possible to spend more money on the motorcycle than it is worth - but we're then back to investments and investment appraisal - aren't we? The pleasure is that feeling of satisfaction when the engine starts for the first time, or when the electric’s all work, or when the paint work goes on, and the bike looks a million dollars…..I guess you get the picture.

When you finish your restoration, then ride it, show it, talk about it. ENJOY IT! Your restoration is a very real and personal achievement.

So what's my guess at the next generation Japanese classics?

I guess the Kawasaki GPz900R, the first 150 MPH plus production bike will be there. I remember mine with fond memories (except the carb icing in the winter! Oh and the early cam chain tensioner problems). It was good enough for Tom Cruise in the film Top Gun, or was that the 750 version!

Suzuki RG250. When the rev counter starts at 3000RPM you know the intent is all out hooliganism. The Yamaha RDLCs may be more attractive at the moment, but watch the RG 250 and its bigger brother the Suzuki RG 500, I think they will be just as sought after.

Talking of two-strokes, (how much longer before the emissions lobby gets them banned?) how about the Honda NS400R. We all wanted to ride like "Fast" Freddie (Spencer), winning the 500GP championship in 1983 on the NS500, then the 250 and 500 championships in 1985. On the NS400R you were Freddie, although it would have been better (in my opinion) if it were a 500cc bike. The V3 layout, HRC decals, Rothmans colours and replica composite wheels and of course, aluminium frame, meant handling, looks and rarity (only 600 imported officially?); which all add up to one to watch.

The Yamaha FZ750, five valves per cylinder drew cries of "too complex" at the time. A mate bought one, I was a convert .....and he thought he was Steve Parrish at Daytona in 1985 (not!). Race proven in the early superstocks series.

The Honda CBR 900R Fireblade. I've owned one and it is a great bike, in the mould of the GPz 900R. A true "superbike", It was the bike to have until the Yamaha R1 was introduced. It is reliable, fast, handles and great fun.

Four stroke and race bred hooligan - it must be the Suzuki GSX750R then.

It's not intended to be an exhaustive list. I am also sorry that the list is filled with my prejudices. If you feel strongly, almost insulted that a bike is missing, that's IT...the bike YOU should choose to restore. WHAT'S STOPPING YOU!!!