Dirt bike edition.. Street bikes will get their own list
What makes a collectible motorcycle? Is it limited production? Technological innovation? Mass appeal? Epic failure? Or a combination of many things? Well in this article I will delve into that and give my list of bikes that I believe could be collectible in the future.
In making a list like this I must differentiate collectible from valuable. There are a lot of collectible things in the world that are not necessarily valuable and a lot of valuable things that are not always considered collectible. Most of these bikes listed are bikes that are collectible AND ride-able, unlike the insanely valuable yet crude bikes of yesteryear. I also feel I must define what future collectible means for this list. Looking 30-40 years in the future what bikes produced now or in the recent past will be considered collectible (not necessarily valuable, see below).
I want to preface this by saying, just because the bike is on my list doesn't make it valuable. I don't want people running out and buying up all the Kawasaki KL250G Super Sherpa's they can find for a retirement strategy. Dave Ramsey would call you an idiot. Now on to the criteria.
My criteria and conditions for "future collectibles". First I am putting my cutoff year somewhere in the early 90's as by this time the motorcycle market and technology had kinda stabilized, innovation was still happening but at not as fast as in the previous decades. Another criteria is the bike does not necessarily have to be out of production or even that old to make the list. I am also limiting my list a bit to dirt bikes or dual sports. This list will only concern models that were available in the US, so models may still be in production for sale in other countries. Including street bikes, cruisers, crotch rockets, race replicas, and such would be overwhelming and I want to keep this list condensed. Maybe in the future I will make a list for those categories.
This is my list, it is not designed to be totally inclusive and in no particular order. If you think I missed something or have models you would like to add, leave them in the comments below! I would love to hear your opinions.
1998 Yamaha YZ400/426F started and legitimized the 4 stroke motocross movement. Arguably the 426 is the better bike. This is before the eventual displacement bump to 450cc. Honda skipped some steps and went all in on a 450cc machine, this was before the 4 stroke revolution had really taken off.
2009 Husaberg FE450 As sort of KTM's test bed for radical ideas. The interesting engine design, frame, EFI and other quirks it is a forward thinking motorcycle that is surely to be collectible sometime in the distant future.
20?? Ossa Enduro 300i If this bike ever makes it into production (at the time of this writing) It will be another modern oddity that while probably not taking the off roading world by storm it will be a unique footnote 30-40 years from its creation.
2009 BMW GX450 The Bavarian Motor Works entry into the small bore off road world (well small bore for a company versed in 1200cc flat twins) A definite oddity that failed to catch on with the general dirt riding public. An innovative frame, unique engine design, and suspension to match. BMW really wanted to change up their product mix and enter a market they had no inroads in. The GX450 would never be a hot seller but a unique foray into the 450cc off road market.
2006 Aprillia RXV/SXV 4.5/5.5 Fuel injected V twin 450cc and 550cc remarkably the magazine tests gave it favorable reviews, however some question the reliability and expense of two high maintenance cylinders. The unique frame and engine configuration is a forward thinking idea that should prove to be collectible if nothing for the oddity of it in a sea of single cylinder off road bikes.
Honda CR500 and Kawasaki KX500 The last of the mass produced Japanese big bore 2 strokes. Many will argue which is the best out of these two, but the one thing they have in common is the 4 stroke 450 killed them off.
2004 Kawa-suki 250F (KX250F/RMZ250) A weird sharing of technology and resources between two competing companies to get into the 250cc 4 stroke motocross market. This weird relationship would only last 2 years and created a less than stellar bike in the reliability standpoint but it did get both companies into the segment that was started by Yamaha. Collectible only because of the unique way in which it all came together, badly.
Early KTM electric start motocross bikes, Still a controversial thing now, but KTM rocked the motocross world by offering electric start on a race bike as an option, and then later taking away the kick starter. It is possible that 30 years from now the controversy will seem passe'.
1996 Honda CR250 the last of the steel framed Honda motocross bikes. The last of the "old tech" at least in Honda's eyes. However hindsight being 20/20 this bike is far better than the bike that replaced it.
1997 Honda CR250 first commercially successful aluminum twin spar frame motocross bike. It may be kind of a stinker and under developed it would set the precedent that most of the other manufactures would follow into the future.
Kawasaki Super Sherpa KL250G, Not a successful bike and only offered for a few years 1999-2003 (US models) but a unique offering of a modern updated small displacement dual sport bike offered at a time when that market segment was dwindling. Think of this as the modern equivalent of the 70's Kawasaki F7 175 enduro that is loved the world over.
Kawasaki KDX250 On the older end of "modern" but a very under rated bike that gets glossed over, much because it was only around for 4 years. Engine wise it was nearly identical to the same year KX250 only with a much mellower power delivery making it powerful but very ride-able bike in the tight off road trails. Some say its discontinuation was that it had a more palatable engine than the KX and thus outsold it, forcing Kawasaki to kill it off and focus on the KDX200 and 220 versions, which are completely different. This segment of the industry is almost gone today.
Suzuki RMX250 One could argue that this bike is already being collected and for good reason. Like the KDX250, it was loosely based off the same year RM motocrosser of the same year. It was designed around an off road application and was produced for a good number of years.
Honda NX series bikes The bike came in various displacements with the 650 being the most popular. While not a commercial success in the United States market, some models were never imported, it is a unique bike and an unusual alternative to the other smaller dual sport "adventure" bikes.
Honorable mention: Honda TransAlp another underrated bike that deserves more love.
Suzuki DRZ400E, Specifically the "E" model. The "E" model featured the best overall offering stock from the factory. The later models came from the factory with the less than ideal carburetor suitable for sale in California. While ALL models and years of the DRZ400 are/will be desirable as the aftermarket is plentiful, an "E" model will always be more collectible for being a pre-California spec model.
Any first gen motocross bike that came stock with Air Forks, While not perfected and still controversial, 30 years from now these bikes will be considered cutting edge and a risky venture for the manufactures but that is what will make them collectible.
KTM 144SX When the Japanese killed the 125cc (and 250cc) 2 strokes and a rule change from the AMA, KTM was not giving up on the 2 strokes. The KTM 144 SX was the revitalization of an amateur level "big bike" offering. 30-40 years from now it will be seen as the bike that transitioned 85cc riders to 250F superstars.
2001 Cannondale MX400 This one makes my list mostly out of notoriety. Kinda like the collectible bad bikes of the early days of motocross, I am looking at you Suzuki TM400 Cyclone, the Cannondale will be collectible for its oddness AND the way it was presented and brought to market. Not every bike can be proclaimed 1998's Bike of the Year (Dirt Rider Magazine) 2 years before it even saw the light of day. Its kinda like how Barack Obama won a peace prize just for making a speech, but not actually doing anything. Well as we know now the Cannondale (like Obama) failed miserably in almost all areas that were supposed to make it a game changer. If you can find one that doesn't have a broken crankshaft in 30-40 years it will be a unique conversation piece about how a well known quality bicycle manufacturer failed to make a competent and quality motorized machine.
2013 ZERO MX Motocross The first mass marketed electric motocross bike. Who knows the 30-40 year future of this technology, but if it is anything like electric cars (the first ones produced in the 1880s) we will marvel that there was an electric motocross bike built and sold before the year 2054. While still somewhat impractical today, they will be a collectors item in the 2050's
Last year production Japanese 125cc 2 stroke motocross bikes??? This one I am on the fence. There were a few notables in all the manufactures offerings but after 1995 ish they really only had their subtle differences. I am not sure how collectible these bikes will be, other than triggering a memory of "Remember that James Stewart 259 at Budds Creek poster? He taught us the scrub and dragging foot pegs over the top of a jump on a 125cc 2 stroke"
If you think I missed something or have models you would like to add, I know I am forgetting some milestone Euro bike models, leave them in the comments below! I would love to hear your opinions.
Jon "the junk man" helping to promote responsible riding and recreation whether it be at the track or at the trail. Your source for motorcycle how to videos and much more!