Here's what we thought in the office, and in the May 11 issue.....
Triumph Tiger 955i
The Tiger 955i is a decent road bike and the motor is capable of covering serious miles with few problems. Many come with factory extras fitted, so check the ads for aftermarket accessories fitted to make commuting and touring easier. Some owners leave this stuff on when part exchanging, while others prefer to take it all off again. 2004 saw a big update to the bike, including cast alloy wheels, different swingarm and panniers, heated grips and centre stand now as standard. Colour-coded factory panniers were also now offered as Triumph repositioned the Tiger 955i as a grand tourer. Years of steady sales mean Tigers are fairly commonplace so there are plenty to choose from. The later versions with their ever improving spec are the ones to go for but tend to hold their values better.
THE CRUISER OPTION
Yamaha XVS650 Drag Star
If you want a cheap cruiser that's easy on the knees, the Drag Star is a fun and hassle-free way to enjoy your riding. It's got a low, comfy seat, big bike looks, ease of use and nice styling on its side.
The finish is very good, with high quality chrome and paintwork and thoughtful touches like rust-resisting, resin-coated spokes. It's shaft-drive, too, reducing mess and promoting longevity. The motor is very unstressed and should be good for years to come, too.
THE BRUISER OPTION
Triumph Speed Four
Incredibly capable and beautifully built, the Speed Four's distinctive looks are ideal for those who don't want to go with the flow. And it sounds amazing. There is loads of power in the midrange and fantastic acceleration. You have to use the gears to milk it to the max but that makes for an involved ride. It's pricier than Hornets, Bandits and Fazers but it's way above their league. Compare with a Ducati Monster S2R and the Duke comes out heavier, slower, less powerful and more expensive...
2004 Triumph Speed Four, £2200, 17,000 miles, private
THE SENSIBLE OPTION
If comfortable cruising, excellent economy, unflappable reliability and ease of use are priorities, then the Deauville could be a good bet. With its shaft-drive and famed build quality it should run and run. The motor has been in service, almost unchanged, with Honda since 1988 and is capable of truly huge mileage; well into six figures from many Honda Deauvilles. It's a cut-price Pan European.
THE BANDIT OPTION
Suzuki GSF1200S Bandit
The Bandit 1200 is one of biking's true bargains. Grunty GSX-R1100-derived engine, decent handling for its day and simple to tune up should you require more lairy fun. The 2000-onwards 1200 Bandits are more touring biased, a bit softer, but the finish is slightly better. There are loads to choose from on the used market, and for relatively low money you get a versatile motorcycle that can commute in the week, then let you play silly buggers at the weekend, should the need take you.