Do you ever do that thing where you open your mouth and words fall out?
That’s usually what happens with my ramblings on this site. An idea enters my head, and the words fall out of my mouth and onto my keyboard.
From there, they magically type themselves into a semi-coherent structure, and the result is what you read on your screen.
But sometimes, if I’m feeling somewhat organised or observant, I base posts on the questions people ask me.
Last week, you’ll know I posted an article on the benefits of buying a second-hand bike for touring rather than a new bike. You’ll know this because you’re a regular reader of Motorcycle Tourer, and you devour its content the minute it’s published. Yes?
Thought so! (It’s here for the heathens who haven’t read it.)
Anyway. That post was born out of a question someone asked me, so I felt it was worth writing. And naturally, having pondered my reply, he came back to me for suggestions on which used bike to buy for touring.
After some probing, it became clear he wanted a sports tourer, and he had a budget of no more than £3k. And that’s when I decided to write this post. After the used bikes post, it seemed like a natural progression.
Plus, I’m a big fan of sports touring motorcycles – an often forgotten and once almighty genre of the motorcycle world.
So in this post, I’m going to give you my top 10 sports tourers that can be had for under £3k (in no particular order.)
Related: Are Sports Tourers Making A Comeback? Here’s Our Top 8
I’ve always been a fan of the humble FJR. I’m one of those people that loves an underdog. And that’s what the FJR is – an underdog trying to beat down the charge from the likes of Honda and BMW.
But the FJR isn’t a bike to be sniffed at or ignored. On the contrary, mon Frere.
As sports tourer bikes, were always expensive from new. But if you’re buying second-hand, FJR’s make for a real bargain. For under £3k, they make for some of the best sports tourers on the market.
Sturdy, fast, accomplished. Shaft-driven, decent luggage space, heated grips, comfy seat. The FJR has everything you want from a thoroughbred sports touring machine.
If you want something lightweight, this isn’t the bike for you – svelt it is not. But if you value a bike that is planted, pulls like a train, can carry two people, and is reliable, you really can’t go wrong.
Expect an older model in the sub-£3k price range. When publishing, we found a 2001 model with 19k miles for £2,850.
I know the Deauville has a bit of a bad rep. And whilst it isn’t the most exciting bike to ever roll off the production line, it’s still a worthy, do-it-all machine.
Despite having been around since 1998, the Deauville still has a loyal following. And I even wrote a dedicated post about this modest bike here.
Granted, it looks a bit drab. But if you can put that aside and look at it as a tool rather than an extension of your, erm, ego, you’ll see the Deauville has a lot to offer.
They’re shaft driven, need minimal maintenance, are virtually bulletproof, and are cheap to buy and insure.
You get a lot of bike for your money when you buy a Deauville. And whilst many bikers won’t be bowled over by your choice, you’ll have a bike that will do everything you ask of it at an excellent price.
In my experience, you’ll be better off with the later 700 models over the earlier 650’s if you can get your hands on one. We saw decent examples with acceptable mileage for around £2,500.
Triumph Trophy 1200
If you fancy a piece of raw British meat in the guise of a Triumph Trophy, go for models post-1995. Here you’ll find a more streamlined fairing and bodywork, but more importantly, colour-coded hard luggage fitted as standard.
Considering she carries a 1,180cc lump, the weight isn’t all too tragic at 237kg. But be warned, the weight sits high. And that’s on top of an already tall bike – thanks to the firm suspension.
Whilst this makes for a planted feel in the twisties, it can be somewhat challenging to handle for shorter riders at slow speeds.
That said, the weight is handled nicely on the move, and the bike sits proudly as you push it through the bends.
The Trophy doesn’t quite compare to a BMW in terms of ruggedness and sophistication. And it doesn’t match up to Japanese bikes in terms of gadgetry and technology, either.
But if you want an old-school tourer that will let you cross continents with swooshing drive and the ability to carry you, your pillion, and all of your luggage, you really can’t go wrong with a Trophy.
At the time of writing, we found numerous examples in the 2001-2003 range, with around 25-29k miles, costing £2,000-£2,500.
Related: 10 Best Touring Motorcycles For Short Riders (No Cruisers!)
The ST1100 was always going to be on this list of sports tourers for under £3k. And if I’d written this post a few years ago, you wouldn’t have been able to get a 1300 model at the sub-£3k price point.
Now, however, you can get your hands on the earlier 1300 models for less than £3k. And that, my friend, makes for one hell of a touring machine bargain.
Noted for being one of the most solid bikes around, the Pan European is durable, comfortable, and practical. And that’s not to mention its legendary status in the touring arena.
There’s somewhat of a rivalry between those who prefer the ST1100 and those who prefer the ST1300.
Personally, I’d go for the ST1300. But the truth is, either will be a good buy for the money.
If you want a touring machine that is fast, powerful, practical, comfortable and built for munching miles, the Pan European needs to be on your list.
Bonus Tip: You’ll find a lot of old-school mechanics who ride Pans. If you can find one for sale that’s been owned and maintained by a reputable mechanic, you’re in luck.
For reference, we came across a 2005 ST1300 with 37k miles on the clock for £2,995.
Those looking for sports tourers with some Italian pizazz for under £3k, look no further than a Ducati ST4 (or the ST4S, or even the ST2).
Granted, I wouldn’t buy one of these and immediately embark on a round-the-world trip.
But if you can find one that’s been well-maintained and has a full service history, run it for a while to iron out any niggles and you could be on to a winner.
In a world where Monster’s are on every street corner, and Multistrada’s are clogging up every Alpine pass, people forget about the practicalities of the ST4.
But the reality is that the 916cc engine in the ST4 comes from the Panigale 916. Detuned for more torque and low-down grunt, this results in a bike that pulls smoothly and confidently but with space and comfort to boot.
Perhaps the biggest problem with the ST4 is maintenance. It requires the very best – all of the time. And it’s also not the easiest of beasts to tame at slow speeds.
Related: Practical Slow-Speed Riding For Motorcycle Touring
Honda Gold Wing
Over the last few years, old Gold Wings have turned into classics. And that makes them very difficult to find.
A few years ago (before they became ‘classics’) you could likely pick up a high mileage GL1500 in the £3k range. These days, you won’t find such luck, with these models now costing £5k+. And even then, they’re likely to be rough examples.
If you have your heart set on a Gold Wing, our choice would be to forget the expensive GL1500 and go for a well-kept 1200 instead.
Back in the day, the GL1200 was the creme-de-la-creme of the touring class. Quite literally unbeatable.
Despite its size and weight, it was fast, agile, comfortable, and practical.
If you want to cross countries, the GL1200 will sit at 3-figure speeds with you, your pillion, and all your luggage. It will never strain, never tire, and never run out of power.
We could only find one at the time of writing – a 1984 model with 71k miles on the clock, selling for £2,500. I still can’t believe you can get one of the best sports tourers on the planet for under £3k!
It’s also worth keeping an eye on auction sites such as eBay if you’re looking for an older model. But be vigilant in your search – there are a lot of duffers out there.
Related: How The Honda Gold Wing Has Stood The Test Of Time
I originally intended to include the R1150RT in this list – until I saw its successor was also available for under £3k.
Much like the Pan European above, if you can get a good example of an R1200RT for under £3k, that’s a lot of bike for the money.
It’s lighter than its predecessor. Faster, too. The ergonomics are better, and so is the ‘suite’ of electronics and gadgets.
For the money, not only is it a great touring bike, it’s a great bike all-round.
A good deal lighter than the 1150 (20kg to be precise), it’s up on power by 15bhp. And whilst that doesn’t sound a lot, you can certainly feel it when you ride it.
The weight reduction also results in a bike that is flickable and responsive. And that means you can hustle it in the bends.
Unlike today’s models, older models such as this didn’t come with luxuries as standard (such as heated grips etc.) They were extras. It’s worth bearing this in mind when searching for your 1200RT.
Our search found a 2005 model with 46k miles on the clock for £2,800.
Honda CBR1100XX Super Blackbird
I couldn’t, just couldn’t, leave the Blackbird off this list of sports tourers for under £3k.
At production, it was the fastest road bike in the world, having demoralised its competitor of the day – the Kawasaki ZZ-R1100.
Is it necessary? No, of course it isn’t. But when were hyperbikes ever supposed to be necessary?
That said, it’s as practical as it is stupid. It’s well-built, reliable, incredibly refined, super comfortable, and confident in its role.
In fact, it was so good, that Honda never truly replaced it. They attempted it with the VFR1200 (a good bike in and of itself, but it ain’t a Blackbird).
And remember the days when one of Honda’s selling points was quality? Well, the Blackbird simply oozes that old-fashioned Honda dependability and build quality.
All-in-all, the Blackbird is a modern-day classic – legendary in the hyperbike space and still a force to be reckoned with in the 21st century.
Be careful, though. You’ll find yourself doing 3-figure speeds in third gear. And you’ll swear you thought you were only doing 50mph.
Triumph Sprint ST1050
Triumph has done well over the last few years. Almost too well. With models seemingly being released every week, I sometimes wish they would stick to what they do best. And that’s creating sports tourers as wonderful as the Sprint ST1050.
For me, the ST1050 was the best sports touring motorcycle of its generation. And man, it looked good. In fact, over a decade later, it still looks good.
As with the BMW R1200RT, the Sprint is an excellent all-round bike – not just an excellent touring bike.
And for the price, it was incredibly well-rounded. It was excellent value from new, and that still stands in the used market.
Unfortunately, the Sprint left the production line just in time for adventure bikes to take the throne. And as such, the Sprint’s reign was cut (unfairly) short.
The good news is you can find newish models with few miles at very reasonable prices.
We found earlier 2005/6 models (high mileage) for a hair over £2k. But we found a 2011 model with 30k miles on the clock for £2,750. I’m half-tempted to go and buy it myself!
I love the engine and styling of this bike. As did many others. Like the Sprint 1050 above, the VFR800F defined modern-day sports touring.
The V4 engine is legendary – the 107 horses provide more than enough umpf for every situation. That said, it’s calm, considered, and linear in its delivery.
Honda became very good over the last 20 years at producing neutral bikes. Whilst some people define that as boring, others describe it as safe and familiar. It’s whatever works for you.
Despite weighing less than the Sprint and having smaller dimensions, it doesn’t steer as quick as the Sprint. Nor does it steer as quick as the ST4, come to think of it.
The VTEC for me has always been intoxicating. And it got better as the models went on. Addictive, yet manageable.
On the plus side of the list, the VFR800F comes with a 22-litre fuel tank, a comfortable place to park your ass, and (believe it or not) a centre stand. Remember those?
One thing to beware of is the under-seat exhaust which means throwing over soft luggage is impossible. You will need to buy hard luggage for touring on this bike – so either ensure it comes with the bike, or factor it into your purchase.
Related: Why I DIDN’T Buy A Honda NT1100
Top 10 Sports Tourers under £3K: Conclusion
It’s funny. I’ve spent the last decade working my way up from shitty bikes, to not-so-shitty bikes, to half-decent bikes, and then (eventually) to new bikes.
But shopping for older bikes like the ones in this list instils me with so much more excitement than shiny showrooms and clean, clinical, characterless new bikes.
Maybe it’s just me. But older bikes like these remind me of times when the world was honest – when bikes were well-built, durable, and dependable.
And that’s the good thing when looking at sports tourers under £3k. You’re buying modern classics. Good, honest, wholesome motorcycle engineering.
So if you’re looking to see the world but worried you can’t afford a £20,000 bike, fear not.
Grab one of the bikes on this list. Not only will they enable you to tour, but they’ll make you smile – at a fraction of the price.
Top image: Jan de Keijzer
2 thoughts on “Top 10 Sports Tourers Under £3K”
Good bikes all around, just wanted to mention that the VFR800 that you show does NOT have underseat exhausts. It’s the previous models that have that.
Hi Matt, well spotted! I think I must be biased – I once owned the exact same bike in the original picture… even the same colour! Picture updated to the correct model.