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“Special Edition” or “Limited Edition” Models – Who Buys Them?


2016 Honda Fireblade SP ABS

I have often wondered which type of motorcycle enthusiast tends to buy “special edition” or “limited edition” models. These can range from bikes with unique paint jobs (and a few other cosmetic touches) to something like the 2016 Honda Fireblade SP ABS model shown above, which gets not only a “tri-color” paint job reminiscent of the bike raced by John McGuinness at the Isle of Man, but other pricey mods. These include an Akrapovičic exhaust, aftermarket levers, chain adjusters and brake discs. It carries a very hefty (several thousand British Pounds) price premium, as well.

Often these unique editions pop up during the final production year for a model (the Fireblade, as well as its U.S. equivalent, the CBR1000RR will be replaced next year). Do you pay a premium to buy bikes like these? Are you a collector? Do you ride them to the pub to show off … or do you just like the way they make you feel?


Suzuki’s 2014 GSX-R1000 SE was limited to 100 units world-wide.

See more of MD’s great photography:



  1. Steve says:

    I have a RSV4 RF. It looks and feels special. Didn’t cost a mint.

    No other reason, really.

  2. Mick says:

    What I would like to see in limited edition bikes are mash-ups. How about stuffing the parallel twin engines that just about everyone has now days into something other than the budget chassis that they now come in? Like Yamaha blessing the 07 engine with chassis from the R and/or the YZF bikes. An FZ-R07 LE with R6 and R1 parts and/or SMF-07 LE with a YZF based supermoto chassis.

    It would be a great way to test the waters for possible new models while building sought after collector bikes. Not to mention the ton of free press something like that would certainly enjoy.

    • xLaYN says:

      There are bikes like those:
      -Honda NC700: Let’s put half of that car engine into a bike… and let’s do it automatic too…
      -VFR800X: Let’s take the guts of our most awarded machine and do an adventure machine… for the street.. people want comfort and better suspensions
      -Buell XB12R and MT-01: let’s take that cruiser engine and do a fast cruiser around it
      -Super Motard: lightweight engine… road tires and 4 teeth more in the back… yeah, just the name: wheelie matic is not 100% okay
      -Tmax: sporty scooter?????

      • Mick says:

        I’m sorry, I am afraid that you totally misunderstood my thought. What I meant was that I would like to see limited editions come with front line technology. If you want a Honda, that would mean a CRF or CBR being fitted with a different engine. But using as many of the parts from the donor chassis as possible. Particularly the light weight items, suspension and brakes. I would rather that even the plastic of the CRF remain on the bike. The dirt bike industry has plastic and graphics fully dialed in. For the cost of the plastic on one street bike you could have different plastic and graphics, custom graphics at that, for every day of the week. The stuff would be far more robust as well.

        The two Hondas that you mentioned are basically adventure bikes. The have a vague resemblance to a Paris Dakar bike. But that’s about it. The Buell and MO-01 were re-purposed cruiser engines at a time when cruiser engines were very popular.

        My personal street bike is a supermoto, a highly modified XR650R, as a street bike it runs 15-40 gearing. About what you would find on most street bikes. Sometimes I would put a 14 tooth front sprocket on it when I took it to the supermoto track. But I found that it worked about as well with the street gearing. The shorter wheels and shorter suspension help keep the front end down. It doesn’t wheelie any easier than some high powered street bikes.

        I’ve been living in Paris, France for the last couple of years. The scooter market is huge. Paris doesn’t allow you to have a scooter that is more than ten years old. If those guys want some kind of overpowered scooter. Who am I to question them? They are people too.

        I’m on about what I would like to see. I used to average one new motorcycle per year until the year 2000 when I became disenchanted with the new offerings. I’ve bought two new bikes since 2000. Now I buy 2003-4 YZ250s and update them because I like the steel frame better than what is still a first generation aluminium frame that the new ones have. And my wife likes old school Multistradas for two up street use. So oddly enough. I have a 2003 here in Paris and a 2004 in my native Minnesota. I think that they are awfully lumps. But they are actually about the lightest of any similar bike. It’s really a sad state of affairs.

        Would I like to buy some new bikes? Yes. With every fiber of my being. But I’m not seeing an upgrade anywhere over what I already have. Hence my desire to see the sort of thing that I would buy.

        • xLaYN says:

          “that would mean a CRF or CBR being fitted with a different engine. But using as many of the parts from the donor chassis as possible”

          I see, like a CBR chassis, suspension and brakes with the new africa twin engine.

          I’m not sure if related but there is a category of racing bikes built around racing chassis with 2 strokes dirt bike engines.

          googling cbr chassis cr engine supermono 450

          I agree it would be interesting.

          • Mick says:

            I’m a bike for venue guy. My idea of a good bike for a street venue is something light weight with around 80 horsepower. The industry seems to feel that more power is anti-weight. I don’t feel that way. I feel that once a bike gets so powerful, it is no longer as fun to use in a street venue given the extreme limitations placed on riders in a street venue.

            The industry has shown that they can make power in small light weight packages. But they seem to have a fairly high weight minimum for bikes with any real power and only come across with good components on track day bikes. Nobody seems to have any interest in breaking that mold.

            I told my wife that she’ll know I came down with mid-life crisis when I show up with something from NCR. I consider them fairly cheap considering the price of a mid-life crisis car.


          • Jeremy in TX says:

            I think the number of bikes NCR sells a year is the reason we don’t see any OEMs bothering to go that route. And frankly, if it costs me an extra $60,000 to save 60 lbs, I’ll pass.

            I think the KTM 690 Duke R is the closest thing available from a major OEM to what you are looking for (though you’d have to settle for the standard 690 if you are in the US.)

          • Mick says:

            I don’t know how my link ended up going to the Leggera. Bang for the buck on a complete bike is the garden variety M4. It weighs 286 lbs (130 kg) with oil and battery. It’s more like a $40K premium, over an 1100 Monster, for something that is easily over 100 pounds lighter than anything close to 100hp. The M4 has 107 hp at 7,500 rpm, torque of 84 ft-lbs.

            As a mid-life crisis machine. That’s cheap as chips. Priced a Corvette recently?

          • Jeremy in TX says:

            Under 300 lbs. is pretty sick. I’d love to sample one.

  3. Austin ZZR 1200 says:

    Answer: The same tools who buy a vowel

  4. Norm G. says:

    WAAAHHOOO…! Nicky and the Blade SP on the podium at the Cathedral…!

  5. gary t says:

    In 02 i ended up with a Harley Edition F150 I justified spending the extra money by figuring the resale value would be much more than the standard models. It was.

    I loved that truck. but I hated the fuel economy, & when people felt they had to ask if I actually owned a Harley. I had a Buell at the time , but just answered “nope” to shut the MFers up.

  6. Jeremy in TX says:

    I don’t care anything for the “limited” or “special” status with respect to the collectible nature of the bike. But if it proves to have something I might really want – be it a slew of hi-spec components or even just a more pleasing paint job – then I take the bike’s value proposition into account. For example, I am not in the market for a CBR1000R, but I would consider the SP a bargain if I were.

    • Agreed. The CBR SP is a hell of a CBR. If you’re into that kind of thing. I can imagine plenty of enjoyment and pride of ownership of that machine. I like the paint, the new parts, and would love to ride a bike with that much attention to the engine. Though for that kind of coin, I would personally hold out for a bike featuring, in the least: two ride modes, nuanced and high-performing traction control with several levels, and preferably a quickshifter.

      I’ll be honest – and until recently I have been a long-time Honda fan – the thing that bugs me the most about the CBR SP is that it does not appear to be the bike Honda should be building 19 years after the RC30.

      • Sam says:

        From this comment and the one below I guess you are Rossi’s personal trainer.
        BTW all the motorcycles have a traction control with infinite amount of steps called throttle, which I guess is stuck full open all the time “if a quicker lap time is what we’re after”.

  7. Uffe Kristiansen says:

    In most cases “Limited Editions” exist for one reason only: The manufacturer has realized that a model range needs a “Limited Edition” to stay somewhat relevant to buyers. Most are “limited” to the numbers the factory think they can sell in order to squeeze a little more profit out.

    In my view the below tiers exist. 1=Most desirable. Just a couple of examples mentioned.

    Tier 1:
    Truly special bikes that are not derivatives of existing models. The only one I can really think of right now would be a Ducati Desmosedici.

    Tier 2:
    Ultra high-end component/engine/paint job specials such as Ducati Superleggera.

    Tier 3:
    Homologation specials such as Ducati R models, Honda RC30, Honda RC45.

    Tier 4:
    Component/engine/paint job specials such as Ducati Tricolore models, Fireblade SP, Aprilia Factory/LE models and MV Agusta Reparto Corse models.

    One could argue that 2 and 3 should be switched.

    Most wouldn’t be skilled enough to feel any difference in the way these specials ride, compared to their stock siblings. But hey, you’d rather wear a Rolex than a Timex, even though they are both telling time accurately right?

    Just my two cents.

    • PN says:

      Actually, a jeweler I know who loves watches and bought a Rolex for $8K was disappointed by its time keeping. It ran a good minute slow every couple of weeks. Other Rolex owners he talked with had the same experience. He also said Omega makes the best watch. I have a $10 Casio:)

  8. DuhMoon says:

    I’d like a Triumph Rocket X. Not sure why but I really like the look of that bike.

    • SausageCreature says:

      Get one. You won’t regret it. I have a Classic, but wouldn’t mind an X or just a regular Roadster. Rockets of any variety are a hoot!

  9. wjf says:

    I don’t get it – hundreds more for a paint job – HA!
    Performance additions? – like I can even use the normal version to 1/2 its potential
    I think it comes down to head swell – how good will I look riding this, or how jealous my friends will be, or the chicks will surely dig me now….
    It is tough to admit why we buy things, but think about it

    For example, does anyone really need a 20k+ R1200GSA to ride anywhere? And can they even ride it?
    – But it looks cool

    • I think you might be too humble. A rider does not have to ride a bike to 10/10ths to notice lighter wheels, more-controlled suspension, better brakes, etc. A sweeter ride is a sweeter ride, long before you start trying to take time off your lap.

      Heck – and in support of your assertion that we buy things irrationally – if a quicker lap time is what we’re after, most of us should invest in tires and track school ten to one over so-called performance enhancements.

  10. Norm G. says:

    oh yeah honorable mention to most honorable #41 (best Japanese businessman bow ever)…

  11. Norm G. says:

    Q: or do you just like the way they make you feel?

    A: well just between us fellas, they give me a tingle in my nether regions.

    example… (Jules Winnfield voice)

    the 30th Anniversary Zed tarted up to match the old ’84 Zed.

  12. Dave says:

    In a sense, all products are “limited edition”, as in limited by the company’s forecast. I’d like to buy a brand new 2001 Honda VFR 800, but I can’t, because the limited run they made is now long gone.

  13. GuzziGuy says:

    The only limited edition I ever purchased was a Suzuki LTZ400 quad. The SE part was white plastic with red, white & blue – very patriotic looking and after some minor haggling, only a $200 premium. Much nicer than the standard blazing yellow at the time.

  14. Mick says:

    I’d pony up a limited edition if it was all about content. My issue is that I can’t find a standard edition that I can get the least bit excited about. What good is a limited edition of something that I don’t want?

  15. Scott says:

    I just buy whatever bike I like, and I really don’t give a fig what anyone else thinks about it.

  16. I’m not sure it qualified for “limited edition” as intended by the title of this post, but I once owned an “S” model Ducati. The forged wheels, high-end suspension and monoblock Brembos seemed like a reasonable value for the money, particularly as the setup was sussed out and the parts warranted by the OEM. That bike was the most expensive bike I’ve owned, by some margin, and felt it when riding. Good times and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
    That said, I will never understand paying more for just a special paint job, particularly when it’s anything like one of those Repsol thingies that Honda sells. First, my riding will never substantiate dressing anything like the Rossis, Pedrosas, Stoners, Marquezes, and Haydens of the world. And second, on those race bikes which are being mimicked, sponsors pay big money for the signage. Honda, Repsol, and the like, should pay riders, real world or not, to sport those colors. You want me to put your sticker on my bike? Pay up.

    • jabe says:

      Well put.

    • Wait, on second thought, I CAN understand paying a few bucks more for the new yellow Yamaha paint jobs. 😉

      • Snake says:

        THANK YOU!

        As the prior owner of 3 limited edition vehicles, why did I buy them?

        Two were extra-special: performance versions that you couldn’t get anywhere else. The fact that they were limited wasn’t truly the point, the point that their unique performance modifications were present was important. The mods therefore made them limited by nature.

        The third vehicle was a limited edition paint scheme. Why buy it? Because I wanted the model but hated the plain-Jane black, which would have been my 5th black vehicle. No. I wanted a change, and the limited edition was the only viable alternative. The fact that I liked the paint job, and colors chosen, sealed the deal.

      • MGNorge says:

        I fail to see the difference between a Repsol color scheme and that of the yellow Yamaha scheme. And yet, just look here at the many who got all excited when Yamaha showed it! Seems much the same to me.

        I look at it as marketing and consumerism. Ferraris need to be red, British sports cars green, Ninjas green, iPhone cases need to show the Apple logo through an opening.

        Why do people do anything?

        • Dave says:

          It’s easier for me to accept signature marketing colors of the product itself (Yamaha, Honda, etc.) as if I’m purchasing, I accept that brand and in some cases, even feel good about celebrating their history since they may have produced products that delivered great experiences and memories.

          Emblazoning them with an oil company, cigarette company (camel, Lucky Strike, etc.) is different to me. I don’t feel any alliance to any of the brands that they’ve put on the bikes and even donate my own money and time in opposition of some (cancer-tobacco).

        • Dave and I would agree on the difference between a sweet signature brand look and a bike which has been turned into a billboard.

  17. Fred says:

    If these ‘special editions’ were initially released first up, how many extra sales would be generated? Look at the GSXR in the picture at the head of the story.
    It would be far more attractive to the new year of sales rather than the endless variation of Blue/White.

  18. azi says:

    Special Edition and Limited Edition can be two different things – with the former usually being dressed up end-of-series models being offloaded before the arrival of a new series, and the latter being a hotrod of some sort.

    End-of-series Special Editions also tend to be the most mechanically sorted release, with all the prior recalls and niggles ironed out.

  19. rapier says:

    I think it’s people who think of it as some kind of investment. As if any bike even an MV is going to appreciate.

    To wit. ZX14 07, 450 miles

  20. John says:

    Most of the time, I find them to be more garish and hideous at a higher price. I prefer a classier, more understated bike. There are rare exceptions to this, but most of them are stupid.

  21. North of Missoula says:

    Special edition or limited edition models that only involve cosmetic changes or a special badge are a complete waste of money. The offer no real increase value or future resale value.

    High performance models are different. The CRB1000RR SP, for example in addition to the cosmetic updates has seriously upgraded suspension and has a Honda Factory blue printed engine. There is more than sentimental value in that.

  22. Delmartian says:

    This past October I bought a “pre-owned” 2012 BMW K1300S HP, “High Performance” model, limited to 750 units worldwide, with only 1400 miles on it. In addition to the special black/white/blue paint scheme and graphics, and the Akrapovic exhaust, the HP model came with all the electronic options: gearshift assistant, electronic suspension adjustment ESA II, automatic stability control ASC, tire pressure control, heated grips, onboard computer, etc. I also really love the billet aluminum footpegs and all the tastey carbon fiber pieces, which were exclusive to the HP.

    I didn’t buy a new one back in 2012 as I was hoping for the rumored 2013 K1400S, which never came. So I bought my K1300S HP last year and sold my 2005 K1200S. On the used market, a standard 2012 K1300S is going for between $11,000 – $12,000, yet K1300S HP’s are going for $16,000+ (I paid $16,300 for essentially a brand-new condition bike), so yeah, the limited edition HP’s are holding their value very well.

  23. Kent Taylor says:

    I met a fellow who owned an MV Senna and a Ducati Senna. Had them in his living room, one on each side of the fireplace.

  24. Tommy D says:

    I just bought the new R1 with the 60th Anniversary paint job that was an extra $500 and carries the LE designation. I wanted that speed block paint and gold mag wheels from the days of my youth. First I was going to buy an R1 and when I saw that color I knew it was the one for me. I did get the EU only Akrapovic laser etched logo R1 pipe from AU. It’s what the EU guys get with their LE. It just looks right with it. I will not treat this bike as a collector bike. It will be ridden at track days and not treated as a garage queen. I just liked the color

  25. Jamo says:

    I don’t get it. Why wouldn’t someone buy a limited edition bike?

    • Vrooom says:

      $$ compared to the “ordinary” version.

    • xLaYN says:

      You may… depending on what’s desirable for you.
      Let me explain, would you pay 1500$ more to change the suspension to Ohlins and brake calipers to Brembo?
      Maybe you are not planing to drive the machine that far and standard equipment is enough but there’s a lot of people investing money in their bikes and starting from a really good base it’s cheaper and straightforward “understandable”.

      aaaaand them there is a lot of bikes with less stellar components that would benefit from this strategy… **cough GS500… bandit series…**.

      I think until a couple of years ago trims (another word for version) on motorcycle didn’t exist, FJ1300 it’s an example.

  26. Craig says:

    Gosh… that Suk up top still makes me Vurp to this day… Really? How did that get approved? I wonder if they even sold all of them?

    That said, if the right mods were on a bike, shocks, exhaust, etc… and it was priced appropriately, then yes… it’s balance of…”is it worth it?”

    With a new Honda coming out and a almost 10 year old design, I think most will take that money for the SP and wait for what is coming out. I would hope Honda would do the upgrades and then STILL price it VERY competitively to get buyers to buy the old model… My .02

  27. SausageCreature says:

    I’ve never bought a special edition bike, but I’ve been tempted. I really liked the paint job on Honda’s 25th anniversary VFR (2006, I think). Triumph had a special edition Speed Triple a few years ago that looked really good, too.

    I think special edition bikes are a good idea, generally. If nothing else, the manufacturers really put some thought into the paint jobs, which is much better than their current one paint job every couple of model years or so mindset. And if they do offer two different schemes, one of them is usually flat black. Nothing wrong with flat black, in principal, but it’s just become kind of tiresome (I’m looking at you, Honda).

    In any case it wouldn’t sway me toward a bike I wasn’t already considering.

  28. Brian says:

    I had wanted a crossplane R1 when they came out. the 2010 LE with Rossi “autograph” and graphics was something my wife really liked.
    I would have taken the classic Yamaha blue, but when she saw the Fiat design, she told me I “had to by that”.
    So its just a paint job with no other frills or racing parts, but for only $750 extra and the blessing of the wife, it was an easy purchase!

  29. HMAppalachia says:

    Give ‘H’ credit,their homolagation special is much more attractive than the one pictured from ‘S’!

  30. Starmag says:

    A friend of mine bought a Paul Smart Ducati Sport Classic because he thought it was beautiful. It’s looking like a really wise investment at this point.

  31. PN says:

    I think it’s silly. These are still mass production items for a mass consumer society whose distinctions are mostly artificial They’e really not that special. Sort of marketing’s version of lipstick on a pig. That UK Honda looks nice.

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “That UK Honda looks nice.”

      “there once was a man from Nantucket” (and a domestic Honda even nicer than the one shown above).

      Nicky knows what i’m talking about…

      • Blackcayman says:

        I had an agreement to purchase the first one (M.Y. 2000) to hit a North Suburbs of Chicago Honda Dealer.

        He sold it to his buddy. Imagine that.

        Yes, I was actually going to pay full rip and buy a new bike.

      • xLaYN says:

        hardcore Ducatista with a soft spot for a Honda vTwin…. suspicious

        • Norm G. says:

          must respect the engineers, must respect the Boffins.

          HRC’s take on the 90 Twin is really what beget the Testastretta, the 996R (circa 2001), and made “Troy Bayliss” a household name. well, in this household at least.

  32. azi says:

    One limited edition I should have bought when available was the 20th Anniversary 2005 GSXR750K5 in the 1985 tribute colour scheme. A K5 in the best colours – arguably the Gixxer at its peak!

  33. J Wilson says:

    While there are plenty of ‘paint job’ special editions, things like this RR1000SP and the R-model Ducatis can be a money-saver for guys who can appreciate and use the improvements. Honda in the case of the SP used Ohlins TTX suspension bits that are bespoke only to that motorcycle. Add in the Brembos, the hand-selected, balanced motor, etc., and the price bump is a third of what it would cost someone to do it over-the-counter, plus who-knows-how-much for competent installation. Sounds like a deal to me.

  34. Shaunock says:

    Who buys “Limited Editions”?

    Anyone who has ever bought an MV Agusta.

  35. Gary says:

    I’ve had a few limited production Ducatis before and they were always more than just a cosmetic make-over. These machines came equipped with bits of (near) unobtainium components only found on factory race bikes. Yeah, you could probably source these parts elsewhere and maybe be able to build the same thing cheaper (maybe not), but the limited Ducati was always truly a low production special and it always came with that magic little number plate on its yoke.

  36. TimC says:

    I have a favorite saying:

    “No matter where you are, no matter what you are doing, always ask yourself – ‘Am I in the tool shed?'”

    OK, the above is aimed at the people who get the Repsol Honda billboards (how about a rebate for the ads? DUH). That said, they can be a hell of a good deal if not just cosmetic, usually better than sum of parts if you DIY.

  37. PABLO says:

    I own a couple of limited edition bikes. 1.1994 NSR250 Rothmans edition. I bought it as Mick Dohan raced the 500 version in the early 90’s and as a young impresionable teen i though i would love to own a bike like that one day. I only ride it once a year at Christmas.
    I looked at buying an SP blade and you have left off two realy important big $$$ differences over the standard bike. 1. It has Ohlins forks and Ohlins shock along with Brembo brakes and “balanced pistons and con rods (within 1grm variance according to Honda)

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