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Old school fool
1994 CB 1000
5,725 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
One of the recurring themes I have observed while moderating the New Riders’ Forum is that older sportbikes are often touted as a safe choice for inexperienced riders. I'm not sure why some people often overlook the fact that the bike they are thinking of as a “starter bike” was, in recent memory, the same bike that magazines hailed as the “greatest sportbike ever produced” and that it backed up that assertion by dominating racing.

As a rider who owns an older bike, I shake my head when I see those posts. The bike I own, a 1991 GSXR1100 was a beast when it was built and remains so today. In stock trim, the bike packs 130+ horsepower into a frame that is, by today’s standards, a rubber band and routes all that power to the ground through narrow old-school tires attached to a suspension that makes the bike handle, as I was once told, “Like a pig on stilts.”

Smaller bikes aren’t much different. One of the bikes that always seems to crop up when people start thinking "older is safer" is the CBR600. But did you know that even a first generation 1986 Hurricane produces 83 horsepower? By the time the 1990 CBRF2 hit the market, that power was up to 100 horsepower and the bike was the lightest, quickest middleweight that money could buy. The F4 model makes over 110hp and the F4I adds another 5 percent to that – that’s astounding! Do you think that kind of power is condusive to learning?

Generally, the bikes aimed at new riders make in the 50 to 60 horsepower range and feature very linear power bands. Sure, they aren’t as sexy as a full-on sportbike from any era, but they ride well, pack plenty of power for most people to learn on and hold their resale value. The average new rider can buy one of these, spend a couple of years in the seat and then move up to the bike they really want – usually by then, however, reality has set in and the bike they want is NOT the hot, big-bore supersport they thought they wanted.

Without getting into the “How much power do you need on the street?” argument, let me give this advice to new rider. Start out on a beginner bike, use it to get a good grasp of the fundamentals of riding and then go out and be safe on whatever it is you’ve been dreaming about. Remember that an old gun will kill you just as dead as a new one, and that the tough kids from the Old School might not be be as tough as the kids from the New School, but they can kick your ass just the same.
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