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Guide to buying a secondhand bike

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Guide to buying a secondhand bike

Post by Admin on Mon Mar 31, 2008 6:20 pm

When you go and look at the bike
So after spending time searching through adverts for a new bike, you've found one you like the idea of and have arranged to go and view it. It is a good plan generally to see the bike at the owners house, which should be the same as the address the bike is registered to. If they want to meet you somewhere (either before going to their house, or to view/ sell the bike) make sure it's somewhere public and where he wouldn't be able to do something without being noticed by others. When you first get there and meet the seller and see the bike, no matter how much you like it and want to buy it, don't be enthusiastic about it too much as it will let the buyer know you really want it and will give him an advantage if you try and haggle over the price.

Checking over the paperwork
Have a look through the paperwork they have for the bike, and check any details like frame number on the bike just to be sure it's okay. Have a look through old MOT's to see that the milage is a general increase, and to see that it all makes sense and fits with what you know about it's history. Have a look over any invoices for any work done, and if in any doubt about it give the shop a ring to ask them about it. It is a good idea really to do an HPI check on the bike ( www.HPIcheck.com ) before you travel to view the bike. HPI checks tell you if the vehicle has been reported stolen, if it has been written off, and if it has any outstanding finance on it. Don't just take the owners word for it, as if they're lying and the bike does have outstanding finance the bike can be taken away by the company who are owed finance. Better safe than sorry.

Test riding the bike
It is worth test riding the bike be it costing £100, or costing £10,000. It's worth doing so you can be sure that it is running as is being sold as, and that it performances the way you want it to. Don't just take the sellers word that it is running fine, check to be sure.
The seller is very likely (and fairly daft if they don't!) to ask to see a proof of ID (like a driving license or a passport) so that they are sure you are who you say you are, and to ask to take a deposit for the bike whilst they are test riding it. The keys to the car or bike you travelled there with are fine (as long as it is an appropriate value vehicle!) or just the value of the bike in cash. This is so there is an incentive for you to come back and not to just steal it. Remember that it is your responsibility to be insured when test riding a bike. Many policies will cover you TPO on other bikes as long as you have the owners permission, but it is your responsibility to make sure you are insured.

Trying to work out a deal
So you've decided you want to buy it, and you just need to work out a price now. Buyers generally will ask about 10% more than they want to get for it to allow for people haggling, but this is not always the case, and if they say they're not open to offers then fair enough. Cash works well as it's money in their hands right then as opposed to the time taken for cheques and bankers drafts. Don't be waving it around too much, just say that you are looking to buy with cash. If you are wanting to pay by cheque or any other method really, expect the seller to not be willing to give you the bike until the money has cleared into their account. This again is where cash is good as it means it's all dealt with then.

After working out a price
You've managed to agree a price and are now about to leave with your new bike. Ask for a receipt, you should have a copy for yourself and a copy for the seller. These should both be identical and both signed by yourself and the seller. You should be given part of the V5 it is only a small slip and the rest of it is posted off to the DVLA by the seller. Make sure you are given any stuff that was advertised or said as being included in the deal. Once you have got the keys and the V5 slip, and you have handed the money over thats the point where you have very little come back so make sure anything which you wanted to ask or inspect has been done before this point! Once you have the bike and are on your way home enjoy your new bike and get rid of any copies of BikeTrader you have around your home as you'll just see something else and think that you like the bike you've just seen more than the one you've just bought.

If something goes wrong
So the new bike you've bought now has problems. If you've bought privately you only have come back to the extent if the seller was lying in the advert and has been untruthful about the bike they sold you. You do not have any type of warranty or guarantee when buying privately it is just a case of buyer beware and sold as seen. Stuff does go wrong with bikes from time to time, and it is just as likely to happen shortly after you bought it as it is to happen at any other time so bear this in mind. Try and speak to the seller, they might well know what the problem is, or how to fix it, or be willing to help you (either by giving you details of people who can fix it, or by actually helping you do the repair) but be reasonable. If you turn around to them with unreasonable demands then they will just turn around and say no, and there is nothing you can do.

The receipt is your lifeline if you get informed that the bike is stolen, a write off or had finance owing on it, and if this happens the best people to speak to are Citizens Advice Bureau or a solicitor who deals with this type of stuff. Or post up in general chat and people will give their advice on what to do.

Most bike sales are problem free, but there are ones which have problems and buying secondhand vehicles privately is not risk free. There are people who will be trying to rip you off, but the vast majority are honest sellers. You can't generally tell the difference, but just be aware that there are possible risks.

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Re: Guide to buying a secondhand bike

Post by Admin on Mon Mar 31, 2008 6:21 pm

So you've set your heart on bike X. There are a few things which you should check before heading down to Big Bob's Bike Emporium...

1.1 Insurance
Shop around for quotes. If you're young, be aware that insurance could be *a lot* and you're going to need to factor this in to the final figure for your bike.

1.2 Gear
If it's your first bike, you need to buy a helmet. Gloves. Jacket. Boots. Trousers. And more. You can spread this out over time to some extent, and it's worth shopping around as prices vary hugely. But basically, factor in £1000 for clothing, and other things you'll want like locks, luggage, a shiny tax disc holder...


2 How to pay
If you're buying from a dealer (particularly if its a new bike) they'll love you forever if you take out their finance. But this is dodgy ground... it can sometimes be a good deal but IMO it's generally a bad thing.
I took out Black Horse Finance on my first bike (went in, shiny things, got carried away, sign here madam and it's yours) and the APR was 18%. Ouch.
9 months down the line when I wanted to part exchange it for another bike I had to pay the finance off - it's essential that the bike's not got anything outstanding on it when you sell - and found that I'd paid about £450 of the actual amount off. Not amused.


2.1 Personal Loan
Shop around and these can be got for about 7% APR and you dont have the issue of the HPI register when you sell the bike, as the loan isn't secured against it. Just spend a day on the net checking out all the various options, most sites have calculators that let you work out monthly payments over different time periods and amounts - quite handy. This is probably the option most people go for when buying a half decent bike.


2.2 Credit Card
Also possible. Same as Personal Loan applies here, though the interest is generally higher.


2.3 Which to choose
With the 3 above options, it basically comes down to shopping around, doing the sums and working out what's best for you. When you're working out how much to borrow, remember to add in the insurance, the gear, and maybe a bit 'in hand' for whatever might crop up.

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Re: Guide to buying a secondhand bike

Post by Admin on Mon Mar 31, 2008 6:32 pm

A step up from a 125 or guide to 400cc sportsbikes

After some interesting goings on regarding some questions asked about these bikes, I thought that I might put a brief FAQ submission on the subject.

The big 4 Japanese manufacturers all made sports 400s. They are all out of production now due to a change in the licensing laws in Japan, which made it almost impossible to get a license for a bike over 400cc. This is a shame IMO as there is a large gap in the market between learner sized bikes and 600cc middleweights.

(Ducati made a 400cc sportsbike called the 400SS for the japanese market, but it is a 400CC V twin, very delicate very rare, and very very slow. The 600SS makes the same sort of power as the Jap 400s, so I won't go into any detail about the 400SS.)

Many of these bikes were never officially imported into the UK, and arrive as ‘grey imports’ brought over from Japan. Many of the bikes you may find that will have come straight off of the boat with some cosmetic damage, but will otherwise be in good condition. This is because as part of the Japanese bike test, it used to be a requirement to be able to lay your bike down and then pick it back up again! Also, the road tax on a vehicle is paid for the first couple of years with the bike, and after that time the road tax renewal is crippling. This means that many low mileage good condition 400cc bikes find their way to the UK and into the hands of young BCFers!

There are many weird and wonderful 400cc models that find their way from Japan, but I will just cover the sportier end of the spectrum. If I miss any out or omit any important details, then please feel free not to flame me for it!

Most 400 sports bikes make around 60bhp and have a top speed of around 130mph. Many are speed restricted to 112mph, and they often can be de restricted with a km/h Speedo converter, a special de restrictor box or even by removing the metal sensor plate from the back of the speedometer!

OK here goes:

Honda:
Honda made two configurations of four cylinder 400cc bikes. One is a V4 and the other is an inline 4. The inline 4 is known as the CBR400, and the V4 as a VFR400.

VFR400:
The VFR400 series of bikes is based upon a 400cc ninety degree V four configuration with gear driven cams. The earliest of these would be considered a sports tourer by today’s standards and was known as the VFR400 NC21. With a comfortable dual seat and strange wheel sizes, it can’t really be considered an out and out sportsbike, but is very reliable and should be cheap. The model ran from 1986 to 1988 and so won’t be in tip top condition after all of this time, but can make a good used buy if cheap enough. With an eighteen inch rear wheel and a sixteen inch front, tyres can be a problem, but they seem to handle well.
Ahh the nostalgia!

The next model in the VFR400 line is the NC24. The NC24 has a couple of new features over the NC21, the most noticeable being the less padded seats, with the pillion accommodation being much less practical. The other feature being Honda’s Pro-arm single sided swing arm, and a five spoke rear wheel. Otherwise it was pretty much the same bike as the NC21.


The third and most popular little VFR is the NC30. Made as a miniaturisation of the famous Honda Super bike contender the RC30, the NC is a gem of a bike. Small, and cramped for taller people, but with a bulging midrange for a 400 because of a reasonably major engine re-design, and rapier like handling, the NC30 is seen by many as one of the best handling bikes around. Bike magazine reckon that only a well ridden 748 can beat it in the corners. This relies on the fact that you have a good one, and as with all grey imports the journey of often months, along with perhaps years of storage strapped down in a container can mean the suspension is past its best. The NC30 was officially imported into the UK for a time, but it cost more to buy new than Honda's flagship litre bike the CBR1000! This means that most of these are grey imports, however parts availability ought to be better because of it. And there is a Haynes manual!


The newest and arguably the best looking VFR is actually not a VFR but an RVF, the RVF400 NC35. This is basically a cosmetic revamp of the NC30, with fractionally less power and upside down forks. Again these handle like they are on rails, and because they are slightly newer and more expensive, you are less likely to get hold of an abused model.


All of the bikes mentioned here have a fantastic reliability record and are all well built. Obviously the older the bike, the more likely it is to break and the older NC21 and 24 models can be quite bad. A lot of Hondas are known for Regulator/rectifier issues, and there are aftermarket reg/recs that fix these troubles. The VFR/RVF bikes are known for these types of issues, although they are generally considered to be sound otherwise. However, if something does go wrong parts can be a nightmare, and the V4 engines are small and fiddly to work on, and so expensive. This leads to another downside of the bike which is that the generally younger owners often tend to ‘forget’ maintenance tasks which can be very expensive as mentioned earlier. Despite the excellent reliability record of these bikes, any bike that is abused can become a money pit. Beware of models that look unloved!

CBR400
The CBR400 is the slightly cheaper inline 4 model that Honda produced in parallel to the VFR. The original versions have CBR600 style jellymould fairings and are known as the CBR400 aero. These, like the NC21 and 24 are very old now and only worth a look if cheap. The Aero build quality was not up to the standard of the VFR series and so can be in a state by now.


The first of the ‘pretty’ CBRs is the CBR400 Tri-Arm. These were released around 1988 and again, can be in a state after 16 years or so. They are very handsome looking bikes and handle well, if a little softly and are generally reliable if looked after.


Then we get to the really nice CBR the Gull Arm. The difference between the Gull Arm and the Tri arm is in the name really, the Gull arm has what is known as a banana swingarm. The styling was changed somewhat to more reflect the fireblade of the same era. It won't fool anyone, but is a very nice looking bike nonetheless.


What holds for the VFR in terms of reliability and parts availability pretty much holds true for the CBR. However the CBR is easier to work on with a less complex engine. The suspension is marginally more budget than that of the VFR series on the whole, however I doubt that you would notice when riding. I have heard rumours that the clutches on the Gull-Arm models are weak, and that checking to see if the bike drops out of second under hard acceleration is a good idea before buying.

These Hondas are a couple of notches above the other manufacturers sports 400's in terms of build quality, and good examples will stand up better to UK winters than, say, the Suzuki GSX-R400. The VFR is generally known to be that bit better than the CBR however, because the VFR series of bikes was meant as a showcase as to what Honda can do.

Kawasaki
Kawasaki made a number of sporty and all out sports 400cc machines, one of the earliest common ones being the ZX-4.

ZX-4
The Kawasaki ZX4 is the direct forerunner of the well known ZXR400. It is styled similarly to the VFR400 NC21 mentioned above and is fairly rare. Parts availability for this bike is a nightmare, despite this it can be a solid buy as long as it is cheap.

(Woot! I found an image of one! )

ZXR400
In 1988 Kawasaki brought out in Japan, the earliest ZXR400. This is the twin headlight model that is only in this country on the grey market. That is to say it was never officially imported. This bike is mechanically similar to the newer officially imported model, but parts can still be an issue. As with the other older bikes mentioned before, they are quite old now, and so finding one in good condition will be close to impossible.


In 1990 Kawasaki Released the physically largest of all of the 400cc sportsbikes, the ZXR400 that we all know and love (and thrash as some members may testify! ) This bike handles well (as with all other sports 400's) and are fairly reliable. They were officially imported and so parts should not be an issue. The design of the bike has not changed since it was released and manufacturing ceased relatively recently. This means that there should be a ZXR to suit any budget.The upside down forks of the ZXR provide oodles of cornering confidence. The rear shock on these bikes is known to be a little on the hard side (as with all kawasakis) however. They are not the most comfortable of bikes with high pegs and a longish reach to the low bars, but saying that, this bike is probably the most suited to take pillions out of the full on sports 400s. The ZXR400 is also the most powerful sports 400 as standard, making some 5bhp more than the others on average (65bhp). It is also the most tuneable, however as with most 400's it is easier and cheaper to go out and buy a 600 Reliability is better on these models than the grey import ones, however as mentioned before, the older the bike, the more likely it is to have been abused.


ZZ-R 400
The ZZ-R 400 is a sleeved down version of the early ZZ-R 600. Heavy and slightly underpowered, these sports touring aimed machines are more suited to taking pillions than the other full on sports 400s. Fairly practical too, but rare and parts can be a pain as not every part between the ZZ-R400 and ZZ-R600 is interchangeable. They are popular however, and you don't have to ride everywhere like you have something to prove, as you have to with the sportier bikes. They are also physically large and so suitable for all of you lanky freaks who are taller than five foot five!


Suzuki
GSX400R
Suzuki released the beam framed GSX400R in the late eighties as their 400cc sports competitor. Often misdescribed as a GSXR400 these bikes were short on power compared to their counterparts of the era. They have a dual seat, and again are somewhat similar in style to that of the VFR400 NC21.


GSXR400
These distinctive 400cc pocket rockets are easily distinguishable from their counterparts because they have an up and over double cradle frame. This is seen by many as a disadvantage, but chassis flex can't really be too much of a problem on a 400!
These machines are reputed to be very uncomfortable, but they make reasonable power, although not quite as much as the Hondas or ZXR. They handle sweetly as the other sports machines do, and as an added bonus they have upside down forks (for the tart value!).
Parts can be a pain as they are not as common as the Hondas or ZXR, but some see the GSXR tag as outweighing any disadvantage like this.


Yamaha
FZR400R
The Yamaha FZR400 is reputed to be the best handling of the Jap 400's. The trouble is, they are quite rare and delicate, and so not many people have had an opportunity to test this theory. I am lucky in that I recently had the opportunity to ride a minter which had been modified with FZR400SP forks (the single seat high spec race version). I have to say that it handled like a dream, and the EXUP enhanced engine had a lot of midrange for such a small bike. I rode a CBR400 on the same day, and despite the fuelling being somewhat off on it, I have to say I preferred it. The FZR had loads of midrange and handled well, I just felt much more confident riding the CBR. This was a personal thing, and it might just have been because the FZR had been completely rebuilt the day before and was very shiney indeed!
The main downside to this bike (as with many Yamahas) is that it has a notoriously weak clutch. Be sure to test ride any bike that you conteplate buying (or get someone to do it for you for the 33bhp'ers out there) and check that the clutch does not slip under hard acceleration. Again, as with many of the other bikes mentioned above, FZR's are very rare and parts can be a nightmare. They are very pretty though!


A word on insurance
All of the sportier models of these bikes are in insurance group twelve. This is the same group as a Hornet 600. However, these bikes will be cheaper to run and handle better. It also depends on wether or not you want the look of a sportsbike. The CBR400 aero, NC21, NC24, and ZZR400 will all be marginally cheaper to insure, but I am not sure of their specific insurance groups because of their rarity.

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Re: Guide to buying a secondhand bike

Post by Admin on Mon Mar 31, 2008 6:34 pm

Which 500 Twin?

Well it seems to be asked quite alot on sites. Which 500 is the best for me? or Which one should I go for? Which one is the fastest?

Many people consider the 500 Twins as a first "proper" bike, which they are very good for! They are also damned good winter and commuter bikes too being light and easily maintained.

Well they all have there advantages and disadvantages. If your not too familiar with the 500's, they comprise of the Suzuki GS500, the Kawasaki ER-5, EN500 and GPZ500S and the Honda CB(F)500. (There are a few other 500's, like the Moto Guzzi V50 and Honda VT500 and CX500, due to these being quite rare and old I decided not to include them.)

And having owned or atleast ridden all of them here is my opinion and some history behind them.

Suzuki GS500 1989 - Onwards



The GS500 has been in production since 1989 and the engine is probably one of the most proven units in a motorcycle, as it started out as a 400cc Twin in the GS400E in the early 70's .
Since its birth in 1989 its hardly changed apart from the usual colour changes and a cosmetic update in 2001 to the tank and seat cowl.
Its the most basic of the 500's and the cheapest to buy new, Its also the cheapest to run with it being air cooled meaning servicing costs are lower and its only group 7 insurance so its very cheap to insure too!
Having been in production all this time spares are easy to come by.

The GS500 is a reliable bike too and very easy to ride, so easy that you will get bored of it in a short period of time, it also has a light flickable feel and its so easy to chuck into bends at speed, but with the GS being 15 years since it was introduced it can loose it composure at higher speed bends. It can begin to shake its head through some bends at 70MPH+, as I'm used to this now it doesn't really bother me and you can deal with it.
Handling is good and so is the engine, just keep it between 6k-9k RPM and it really flies.

Corrosion is a problem in this bike, be aware and look for corrosion on the swing arm, frame, and pitting on the fork stanctions. Also has thin paint so look out for crazing etc.
Other problems reported are fuel starvation due to a design fault of the fuel tap and starter motor brushes wear alot making the bike impossible to start, though this is fixed quite easily.

Prices Range from £400 for a 1989 GS500EK to £3349 for a new GS500K4

My Opinion: Good little bikes, engine power seems to be soaked up by the balancer alot though this makes it a smooth bike, handling betrays the last 10 years of development, go for the better GPZ or CB

Engine Size 487cc
Claimed Dry Weight 170KG
Claimed Top Speed 115MPH
Claimed Power 52BHP
Insurance Group 7
Average Servicing Cost £110

Suzuki GS500F 2004 - Onwards



New for 2004 the GS500F is a faired version of the standard GS500.
The engine does differ somewhat to the unfaired version with the inclusion of an oil cooler to stop the engine overheating in all that plastic!
There are no other differences between the bikes and it has the same vices and advantages at the unfaired version, but it may hold its value better.

With it being virtually a new bike there doesn't seem to be any used ones at this time, price new is £3649.

My Opinion: Good little bikes, engine power seems to be soaked up by the balancer alot though this makes it a smooth bike, handling betrays the last 10 years of development, fairing adds alot of comfort, go for the better GPZ or CB500S

Engine Size 487cc
Claimed Dry Weight 176KG
Claimed Top Speed 120MPH
Claimed Power 52BHP
Insurance Group 8
Average Servicing Cost £120

Kawasaki GPZ500S 1987 - 2003



The GPZ has been with us since 1987, it uses the same engine as the ER-5 which is basically half a Ninja engine (the original Ninja 900R).
Its hardly changed since its inception in 1987 apart from a few colour and graphics changes, fairing differences, the transition from 16" wheels to 17" wheels and the adding of a rear disc in 1994 on the D1 and the adding of a 2nd front brake disc in 1998 on the D4 UK Model.
The GPZ is also cheap to run but not as cheap as the GS, its water-cooled so servicing is slightly harder, an Achilles heel of the EX500 engine is that the water pipes run across the top of the engine meaning the coolant has to be dropped out for the valves and top end to be checked, Also there are alternator problems on earlier A Models (A1-A6) though the later D and E Models are not affected.
Also don't neglect the the oil changes on this bike because its widely known if they are missed the engine could be in trouble as early as 20,000 Miles.
The GPZ is very reliable though it servicing is kept up, and its also very easy to ride and can spin up to quite a respectable speed. Insurance is cheap too with it being group 9 though it does cost more to insure than the GS or ER.
The GPZ is also bloody good fun to ride, it can easily be ridden round town at sedate pace but get it above 7000RPM and it takes off and you can be a total loon.

The GPZ is one of the better handling 500's, it can be chucked into bends and doesn't loose any of it composure at all, its light and precise and can be ridden hard without much thought.
The fairing also adds comfort and you can go long distances without fatigue.

Corrosion is also a problem on the GPZ, look out for it in the usual places and importantly on the steel frame under the top fairing.

Prices start from £300 for a rather bad condition 1987 GPZ500S A1 to £3595 for one of the last unregistered ones still remaining in dealerships.

My Opinion: The best 500, handles great, well put together, engine is abit of an animal at higher revs too, fairing makes cruising at higher speed attainable and means you can go further.

Engine Size 498cc
Claimed Dry Weight 169KG
Claimed Top Speed 125MPH
Claimed Power 60BHP
Insurance Group 9
Average Servicing Cost £130

(The GPZ500S is no longer imported or for sale new in the UK)

Kawasaki ER-5 1996 - Onwards



The ER-5 is basically a GPZ500 with the fairing removed and a retuned EX500 engine for more torque lower down but this takes away the power kick at 7000RPM that the GPZ has.

The ER-5 has some what of a top heavy feel, you can feel it at slow speeds and when setting off, it also doesn't go threw bends aswell as the GS or GPZ, but it does feel more composed maybe down to the weight. The gearbox is also spot on too though it does clunk alot at slower speeds and the engine has a wide spread of power.

Corrosion affects this bike too, more so than the GS and GPZ. Look out for it on the swing arm and frame.
Look out for electrical problems on the ER-5, as it suffers with dodgy rectifiers (most go between 10,000 and 20,000 Miles) and can take out batteries often (problem has been reported on all current models), also speedo cables snap often, also check for sagging rear shocks as they can be worn out in as little as 10,000 Miles and cause the bike to fail its MoT.

Prices start from £800 for an early 1996 model in reasonable condition with higher miles to £3499 for a brand new one.

My Opinion: GPZ500 with the fairing removed, good for the newbie but not as good or aswell put together than the GPZ, go for the GPZ instead or the GS500

Engine Size 498cc
Claimed Dry Weight 174KG
Claimed Top Speed 110MPH
Claimed Power 49BHP
Insurance Group 8
Average Servicing Cost £125

Honda CB500 1994 - 2003



The Honda CB500 introduced in 1994 is probably the best 500, with the usual honda build quality.
As far as I know there are no major problems with the CB, though there are a few reports of dodgy rectifiers (a usual honda problem).
The CB is very reliable though, its been tested upto 200,000 miles by honda and was used in 24 hour endurance races at Le Mans and ALL of the CB's raced finished without problems!
They also race CB500's in the CB500 Cup!

Having only ridden a CB500 once, I found the handling to be very very good, It would just go where I pointed it like it was on rails, its also very light and easily flicked into bends and is spot on and doesn't loose its way even going at speed!
The engine is also really nice and smooth and get it above 7500RPM and it comes alive, and lunges forward right up to the red line!

Corrosion normally isn't a problem on the CB500 with it being a Honda but do check out for signs of pitting on the forks and the usual areas on the frame/swing arm.

There is also a S version which is basically a CB500 with a top fairing.

Prices start from £600 for an early 1994 high miler to £2900 for one of the last 2002/2003 models with low mileage.

My Opinion: The best handling 500, well put together too, costs more than the other bikes and I cannot really justify this extra expense over the GPZ which is equally as good.

Engine Size 499cc
Claimed Dry Weight 170KG
Claimed Top Speed 120MPH
Claimed Power 57BHP
Insurance Group 9
Average Servicing Cost £125

Honda CBF500 2004 - Onwards



The CB500 has now been replaced by the CBF500 which is a whole new bike and frame but using the old CB500 Motor with catalytic converter to conform to Euro-2 Standard and the CBF has some cosmetic changes to make it more modern looking and appealing.

Price is £3799 OTR, no used ones seem to be for sale yet, there is also an ABS Option called the CBF500 ABS, its £3999 OTR.

Engine Size 499cc
Claimed Top Speed 118MPH
Claimed Power 56BHP
Insurance Group 9
Average Servicing Cost £125

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