Buying a motorcycle from the police could be a great way to get a high-spec bike that has been meticulously maintained. Or could it? And if you go to an auction to find a great one, which one should you choose? We asked former Police Motorcycle Sergeant Dave Yorke to review the best-used police bikes he has ridden in his years with the Merseyside force, and to tell us how they differ from what the public normally buys …
What is the best police motorcycle and what makes them different?
Think of a police motorcycle and what comes to mind right away? You may be old enough to remember the glory days of British manufacturers, or you may be thinking of something a little more modern.
Virtually every major manufacturer will have had a motorcycle used by the police somewhere in the world; it’s the versatility of a two-wheeler that makes them so popular. From fighting crime to escorting the royal family, police motorcycles lead a varied life, but even so, there are certain motorcycles that are better suited to some roles than others.
While I have not ridden all the police bikes, I have been fortunate to be able to choose from a variety of motorcycles to suit any day …
Best long-distance police bike: BMW R1250 RT-P
BMW actually provides a Police (or other public sector) motorcycle directly from the factory, and even names it differently from the motorcycles that the public buys; They come with a ‘P’ after the model name, so the BMW R1250 RT becomes the BMW R1250 RT-P. And it’s a similar story for the F850 and 750 GS.
If you’re going to spend your workday in one, you want to be comfortable, and I’ve done many 450 mile, 14 hour days on an RT.
What makes them different, besides the obvious unique seat? Well, they get the blue lights and sirens, along with dedicated BMW switch gear for the handlebars, which saves law enforcement from having to poke unsightly holes in the fairings (though that doesn’t mean they won’t).
Knowing what function buttons and switches do is a job in itself; front strobes, rear strobes, 999 mode with sirens, strobes without sirens, strobes without headlight flash, and blue cruise lights, a feature we don’t use much in the VENTOS, but it’s essentially blue lights in a mode output drops steadily (so not bright).
The 279 kg of the R1250RT-P is carried low and the 136 hp moves very well, making it very easy to maneuver in the city where fast turns are a must.
All bikes come in a single seat configuration with additional electronics that fit under the rear hump. That hump does stretch the leg though, and I’ve seen a lot with telltale streaks of boot polish.
Best off-road police bike: Honda CRF250L
To go a little further off the road than the RT-P, GS-P or grain counters allow, some forces are using the Honda CRF250 L. They don’t even bother to install blue lights and sirens on them. Some don’t even conform to reflective police markings, thinking of them as a presence to disrupt criminals and throw them where road bikes can take control. I bet it was never in the design brief when Honda released it.
Best Police Bike for Undercover Work: Honda Fireblade
There are many different unmarked bikes and technically the CRF250L can fall into this category, although most people think of unmarked bikes as high powered sports machines.
Love them or loathe them, they are a great tool, and not all of them have blue lights and hidden sirens. But even when they do, they are only found on close examination (or in their mirrors when we turn them on).
I used to race a Honda Fireblade to catch motorcycle thieves, the top one of which is no longer in service, before someone says I’m helping criminals. Unmarked motorcycles are often packed with technology to record incidents, including four-way cameras that record in ultra-high definition, which in the case of car drivers caught doing things that injure motorcycles, such as running a red light or stopping in front of you, are the latest argument against a statement of ‘sorry friend, I did not see you’.