We all love our motorcycles but, for whatever reason, very few are faithful to our bikes forever. It’s human nature that we want to ride the latest and greatest, and most of us like a change and will sell our bikes from time to time, and when that time comes, we want our bike ownership to have cost us as little money as possible.
There are multiple factors to consider when trying to calculate the total cost of ownership. Some of it will come down to the resale value of the bike, which will depend on things such as condition, supply and demand, mileage, originality, options and extras, the timing of the sale, rarity, and so on. Then there are the direct costs of ownership, such as insurance, maintenance, and servicing, fuel...
Phew, turns out owning a bike isn't cheap. And to make it even worse, there are some bikes out there that makes life just a little more difficult and ownership a little more expensive than it really needs to be.
The 25 bikes we've included in this list are some, but far from all, of the offenders when it comes to making our lives as bikers harder than it should be. There are some bikes that just need the GDP of a small country in order to keep it running, and there are some that cost a fortune when new, and then the value dropped lower than a snake's belly. No matter what the reason is, owning these bikes could be considered the same as burning money.
Ural motorcycles actually have somewhat of a following... Which is weird since most of the time they're not even moving. Get it? Forget about bikes from China breaking down, if you want the bike that's the very best at breaking down - get yourself a Ural.
Anyone who wants to own one of these contraptions better make sure to have some funds saved up for parts. Those who can't work on the bike themselves should never buy one - unless they're prepared to remortgage the house in order to pay the mechanic.
The company began in 1929 in Prague, Czechoslovakia, and exported its mainly 350cc models to more than 120 countries.
The Czech bike brand was famed in Speedway, dirt track and ice racing, and while they are a rare sight these days, except at historic motorcycle meetings, they are still quite common in Cuba where there are plenty of old Eastern Bloc motorcycles and cars. These bikes are the most basic communist transport. They break down constantly and are completely worthless; you can probably pick one up for a song - but that's still overpaying.
22 Ducati SS
These days, Ducati is a premium motorcycle brand. In the 80s, and all the way into the early 2000s things were a bit different. Back then, Ducati ownership meant you'd spend more time having the bike fixed than actually riding it.
While pretty much every Ducati from that era comes with a few issues, the 900SS was really bad. Let's just say that owning one of these would lead to premature hair loss, migraines, an empty bank account, and friends and family worrying about your sanity.
Resale values are low, plus you have to factor in spending more than the original cost of the bike on maintenance and constant repairs.
21 Royal Enfield
Royal Enfield was originally a British motorcycle manufacturer with a factory in the city of Redditch, then in 1955 Royal Enfield began making motorcycles in India. Today, you can buy a brand new Royal Enfield that's virtually unchanged from the original bike.
Even true lovers of retro machines would advise you to just stay away, though. These bikes aren't really cheap, especially when you consider what you actually get. And then there are quality issues and frequent maintenance needs, all of which will cost money. It's almost better to just burn the money right away...
20 Norton Commando
The Norton Commando is one of the most iconic British motorcycles of all time. It was - and still is - the most desirable bike in the world to some people. It's quite incredible that it was built by a small team of engineers with a minimal budget, limited resources, and an outdated engine.
Of course, there were reliability issues right from the start, in fact, it is so bad that their slogan should be: "If you enjoy burning money, you should probably get yourself a Norton."
The name Benelli has a nice ring to it, don't you think? It really sounds like a company that produces fast exotic bikes. And once upon a time, they did make some cool bikes - but these days they're in a partnership with a factory in China.
A modern Benelli will offer you poor build quality, vibrations, a finish that's below what anyone would expect of a modern bike, and depending on the model, you can also get a bike with bad power to weight ratio and less than inspiring handling. What a great way to spend our hard-earned money...
Erik Buell was an engineer of Harley-Davidson who created his own motorcycle factory in 1983. Due to financial difficulties, he had to sell 49% to Harley in 1993. In 2003, HD became the sole owner of the Buell factory and in 2009, it decided to shut down the production line.
It really pains us to put Buell on this list, but considering that the original manufacturer no longer exists, and several Harley dealerships refuse to work on these bikes, that means service and spare parts can quickly become a very expensive problem.
17 Kawasaki H2
Buying an older bike can often bring a bunch of interesting problems to the table, but the Kawasaki H2 offers a different problem than most old bikes. Let's just say it earned its nickname, "The Widow Maker".
Just like the modern H2, the old H2 was the fastest street motorcycle of its day. It didn't have the brakes to match its speed - it barely had brakes at all. The handling also left a lot to be desired, so it's safe to say that if you get one you'll either need very good insurance, which will be expensive or upgrade the handling and brakes, which will also cost a pretty penny.
16 Ducati 350
All motorcycle manufacturers have failures that they would like to forget. In Ducati’s case it was the parallel-twin, a bike so unloved it doesn’t even get a mention on the Ducati historical website.
The main problem with the parallel-twin was reliability. While they were sound in concept, crankshaft failure, and short-lived valve gear were among the problems that afflicted them all. Oil pumps were known to fail, there were also cam chain and camshaft problems. But most problems were caused by the variable build quality, something that affected all Ducatis from that era. We don't know about you, but spending a small fortune to keep a bike on the road is not what we call a good time.
15 70s Harley
The '70s is widely recognized as the worst period for Harley with regards to quality and reliability. In 1969 US Machine and Foundry, AMF, bought the ailing Harley Davidson, saving it from going broke. However, struggles between management teams and labor forces within AMF caused new problems for the company.
Large cuts to the workforce resulted in labor strikes. This reduction in workforce and cramped assembly-areas led to a markedly lower-quality product. With the bikes made during the AMF-era which was a poor quality time period for the company, it means owners will have to spend more money keeping the bike on the road.
14 Kawasaki H1
Another old Kawasaki, and while this one wasn't nicknamed "The Widow Maker", it kind of deserved to be. The 500 Mach III had a 500 cc, air-cooled, three-cylinder engine that developed 60 stampeding horses, all connected to the wheels via a five-speed transmission.
To say the bike's handling was poor would be putting it mildly. Regular visits to the gym for strength training was necessary in order to make the bike change direction. New riders would freak out, hit the brakes - only to learn that they didn't really work either - and then ended up in the emergency room. Any owner better factor in paying for better components or face the consequences.
Victory was founded in 1997 and started selling their first bikes the following year. Its parent company, Polaris Industries, created Victory following the modern success of Harley-Davidson - with their bikes designed to compete directly with Harley-Davidson and similar V-twin engined designs. Victory was profitable for a number of years, but then things eventually went downhill.
Just like Buell, Victory ended up on the list due to no longer being in production. When shutting down in 2017 it was said that spare parts would be made available for ten years and dealers were to continue offering service and warranty coverage to owners - But after that period, things will likely become much more expensive.
12 All Bikes From China & Taiwan
While the quality of motorcycles from China and Taiwan has improved tremendously over the last few years - each new model year is an improvement over the previous one - they still can't be called reliable.
The lack of reliability is down to a couple of reasons; They don't have a long history of making bikes, and they use materials of lesser quality to keep the price down.
Buying one means zero resale value, and most likely spending time and money just to keep the bike running.
BSA stands for Birmingham Small Arms Company Limited and in 1861 they started making guns, before gradually moving into bicycles and motorcycles - for which they are most famous - although they also made cars, buses, tools, and all kinds of other stuff.
Their Gold Star 350cc and 500cc single-cylinder four-stroke bikes were considered among the fastest of the 1950s. At the time, BSA was also the world’s biggest motorcycle manufacturer. During the 60s the more modern and reliable bikes from Japan took over, and BSA went broke in the early 70s. These bikes are about as reliable as a politician's words, and owning one means spending a lot of time and money in order to keep it running.
10 Honda CX500
The Honda CX 500 came with a few issues, the biggest of which was its low-speed maneuverability. Though Honda is a respectable brand name and has produced several amazing bikes, this one was not a home-run by any means.
Despite the issue, it still managed to sell surprisingly well. Then, after a while, another problem with the CX showed up - it saw more than a few faults with the crankshafts, which caused a major downfall of the Honda CX 500 throughout the entire market - secondhand values dropped drastically, and owners were practically giving them away.
9 Suzuki V-Strom
To be honest, this bike really isn’t that bad but, compared to its competition, it definitely wasn't anything to write home about. The V-Strom was blessed with a great engine, and for the value, the 1,000cc version was a great purchase.
However, design-wise it was outdated, so those who did purchase a new one back in 2012/2013 realized that they had to lower the price significantly compared to other bikes in the adventure motorcycle segment when it was time to sell. Seeing as the V-Strom had sold in such significant numbers also meant there was plenty of available bikes for anyone who wanted one at a discount price.
8 Suzuki GS500E
The GS500E is actually a very reliable and long-lasting bike if properly maintained. It has an air-cooled parallel-twin engine, which in truth is fairly simple - but it gets the job done. It's not the bike to get if you want a thrilling ride though, as the handling is less than inspiring.
Being an entry-level bike, the GS500E is often used by learners, which in most cases means it has been used A LOT. This is where the problem lies - it doesn't matter how well you've cared for your bike, its secondhand value will be the same as those other mistreated examples.
7 Cleveland Cyclewerks
Cleveland Cyclewerks sell bikes from China to hipsters. That should be all the explanation needed as to why buying one is the same as burning money.
But just in case someone wants some additional info, there are a few reasons why you'd struggle to even give these bikes away for free. There are tons of owners and former owners complaining about the bikes breaking down and leaving them stranded, and when RideApart tested one of their bikes, the front brake caliper fell off - which apparently happened to other press bikes as well. Just stay far away and save your money!
Korean Hyosung is kind of the Hyundai or Kia of the motorcycle world. Not the Hyundai or Kia of today, mind you. More like what you'd expect from those brands a few decades ago.
It's not all bad, but sometimes these bikes develop problems that means you might as well set fire to it rather than spend money trying to fix it. Of course, the resale value reflects this, so anyone who's ever bought one is probably better off riding it until it gives up, rather than trying to sell it and expect to get some money back.
5 Aprilia Falco
Several of Aprilia’s old V-twin-powered machines are worth considering for those who are looking for a sport-bike from Italy that's a bargain compared to most Ducatis. Which of course is bad news for the owners of older Aprilia bikes.
While the original RSV Mille is cheap compared to its Ducati 996/998/999 rivals, the mostly forgotten Falco adds a dash more practicality and is even cheaper on the used market. Seeing as these bikes aren't very popular, there's more than a fair chance of getting away with an insultingly low offer and scoring yourself a practical sport-bike for less than you'd spend on a proper night out.
4 Yamaha BT1100
Nobody thought much of the BT1100 Bulldog when it was new. Initially, it appeared to be Yamaha’s attempt to create a Buell-style, cruiser-engined sports naked bike. In reality, it didn’t have the handling to back that up.
However, if you go in with low expectations and ride it more like a cruiser, it’s actually not that bad. These things depreciated like crazy when they were new, and now surviving examples are potential bargains - Great for those in the market for one today, not so great for those who bought one new...
3 KTM RC8
KTM’s first – and only – attempt at making a superbike is an impressive effort, but since it’s not even on the radar for many potential buyers, prices are surprisingly low. Love or hate the origami body styling, but there’s no doubt the RC8 is eye-catching.
Examples without too many skeletons in the closet start at around the $7k mark. Compare the 2010 RC8 to what you’d pay for a similarly-aged Ducati 1198, though, and it's easy to see which bike is a bargain today - which means someone has lost a few thousand dollars.
2 Honda DN-01
The Honda DN-01 is weird-looking, to put it kindly, and the technology underneath is even stranger; In particular, the hydraulic drive system that created a completely unique automatic transmission. There’s no chain, no shaft, no belt – the rear wheel is driven by a high-pressure hydraulic fluid.
When it was new, the DN-01 fell flat thanks to its insane price tag of around $15,000. Even with the mad price, there were rumors that Honda lost money on each bike thanks to the labor-intensive process of building its crazy transmission. Now $3k is enough to get a nice one, meaning someone has lost a lot of money on this purchase.
1 Used Sport-Bikes
Sport-bikes tend to attract a certain type of rider, the ones who like speed and want to feel the adrenaline rush through their veins as they're scraping their knee-sliders through the corners on twisty mountain roads. And there's nothing wrong with that.
The problems arise when you buy a secondhand sport-bike from someone who didn't really have the means of sport-bike ownership - there's a chance some corners have been cut when it came to regular maintenance. Repairing someone else's mistakes is not only costly, but it's also incredibly annoying as well.
Sources: Revzilla, Eat Sleep Ride & Visordown