I picked up a 1981 XS1100 for what I thought was the bargain price of £750. The owner had seemed desperate to get rid of it. My test ride around some desperately boring housing estate streets revealed a stable bike with bags of torque. It did have a heavy clutch and jerky transmission, but I ﬁgured I could live with that. So I offered £250 under the advertised price and was somewhat surprised to find myself owner of Yam's then largest straight four.
My test ride hadn't taken the bike over 60mph; on the motorway ride home I soon realised why he'd been so keen to get shot of it. It felt like there was loads of free play in the swinging arm and as if the tyres were worn down to the carcass above 80mph. The thing weaved and wallowed in the long curves on the motorway. It was much worse than an old Honda 750 four.
I put stiff springs and heavier oil in the front forks, bought Koni rear shocks and the best tyres money could buy. The only difference it made was to make it slightly more stable in a straight line. Try braking or shutting off the throttle in a bend and the direct shaft drive would try to shake free of the back end and the bike would waltz over to the wrong side of the road. The brakes couldn't cope with 600lbs of metal and were either on or off in the wet.
As long as I kept below 70mph the bike was fine, but there wasn't much point buying a 1100 if you had to use it like a 125. I did once get 130mph on the clock but it was so frightening (it also vibrated like a Bonnie) that 1 had to back off down to 90mph after a few seconds.
Tyre wear was extremely rapid but the engine was reasonably economical (50mpg) and didn't use any oil. But I found the thing un-rideable at speed so I stuck an ad in MCN and sold it the first day at a profit. I went and bought myself a Kawa GPz550 on the proceeds.