Wet Bike: Are They Worth Buying?

james bond wet bike

When it was first released, the Wet bike was without a doubt one of the craziest looking vessels on the water. It gained a lot of initial attention for its looks and novelty, but somehow between now and then it has become all but forgotten about.

Despite being one of the first ever personal watercraft models, having multiple features in movies, and revolutionizing the pwc scene, the Wet bike has diminished to a vague memory for most people.

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What is a Wet Bike?

Wet BikeUnless you’ve been in the personal watercraft scene for a few decades, you most likely don’t know what a wet bike is. As the name suggests, it was essentially a motorcycle (or a bike) for the water. It was one of the original personal watercraft models to hit the market, but unlike Kawasaki, Sea Doo, and Yamaha, it never really caught on.

Rather than steering by changing the angle of the rear jet, the Wet Bike used tradition handlebars with two front skis to change direction. This took the term “jet ski” to a whole new level. The result of this concept was an oddly shaped snowmobile for the water.

Since the Wet Bike was in production was from the late 70’s to early 90’s, it has a distinct look to match. Most of the body styles have a lot of triangles and rectangles, with sharp lines and bright colors tying everything together.

A Brief History

The first Wet Bike model was made in 1978, back when the idea of jet skis was still relatively new. Back then, a jet ski wasn’t something you would see parked in all of your neighbors driveways. Personal watercraft weren’t nearly as popular, and a lot of people didn’t even know what they were yet.

james bond wet bike

It was manufactured by Spirit Marine, which at the time was a branch of Arctic Enterprises (now known as Arctic Cat). Before moving on to other brands like Tigershark, the Wet Bike was their front-runner.

Because of the unique look of the Wet Bike, it landed roles in several well known movies. It can be spotted in “James Bond: The Spy Who Loved Me“, “Police Academy 3: Back in Training“, and even “Red Surf“.

After being in production for a little over a decade, the Wet bike eventually stopped being manufactured in 1992. There are several reasons it didn’t last, one of the main ones being that it was a little harder to ride than other jet skis. This, of course, was due to the signature skis that made it what it was. Even if it was easier to ride, there were other obstacles standing in its way. The over all design made it difficult to keep up to par with other models performance wise. In retrospect it’s easy to see why it just couldn’t last.

Wet Bike Top Speed, Engine, and Features

Depending on the what year it was made, the typical Wet Bike top speed is 32 mph-36 mph. It usually needs to be going 10 mph-15 mph to rise up on the skis, but that varies depending on water conditions and rider weight. This might not seem like much, but at the time, it was more than impressive. Even now, it’s pretty amazing that such an odd looking jet ski could reach those speeds.

Just like with the top speed, the engine specs vary according to the year model. At its peak, the Wet Bike was using an 798 cc, 60 hp Suzuki marine engine. It had a two-stroke twin electric start, an automatic bilge pump, and a jet pump with 500 lbs of thrust.

Regardless of the model, the seat on it is very narrow and rectangular. Although this matches the design well, it isn’t the most comfortable on long distance rides. However, the thin body allows riders to lock in easily when riding. This helps make leaning into turns a bit more intuitive than if the body was wider.

Just above the seat is a large 9 gallon gas tank, which lasts quite a while when filled all the way. At first the Wet Bike’s top speed of 36 mph might seem like a drawback, but this greatly helps its fuel efficiency. Since it can’t reach very extreme speeds, it’s much less likely to burn through fuel quickly.

Overall the Wet Bike has some really cool things to offer. All of these features may seem mundane now, but at the time, this was all top of the line stuff.

Changing the Game

Despite its short life span, the Wet Bike really made a splash in the pwc industry. It inspired modern innovations like plastic hulls, tether style ignition, and intelligent suspension. Of course these changes most likely would have happened eventually, but it almost surely would have taken longer had the Wet Bike not cleared the way.

Looking back, it’s easy to see why it didn’t make it, but it’s a shame that nothing ever really took its place. The out of the box thinking behind something like the Wet Bike is what pushes boundaries, as well as progress.

When the Wet Bike was ended, it almost marked the end of an era. Soon after many of the top pwc manufactures tightened their belts as sales dipped across the board. It just so happened that the Wet Bike was the first to go.

Related: Is it still worth it to buy a Honda Jet Ski?

Is it worth Buying a Wet Bike?

Believe it or not, there is still a decent sized market for Wet Bikes. They’ve become somewhat of a cult classic within the pwc community, and that helps maintain a demand. It’s not hard to find a Wet Bike for sale, but finding one that runs might be a challenge.

Whether or not it’s worth it to buy one is really dependent on the person. They’re a novelty from the past that a lot of people see worth it. The problem is even the newest models are over 20 years old. To make matters worse, it may be difficult to find any needed replacement parts. Despite that, there are a number of people who still pick them up as side projects.

Typically a Wet Bike for sale costs between $1,200 and $5,000. The price largely depends on condition, year, and location. Remember to leave room in the budget for repairs, because it will more than likely need some.

Aside from requiring more maintenance, buying a Wet Bike can still be well worth it to some. There is nothing else like it, and the ride is truly unique. It can be a great weekend project, as long as you have the time and patience for it.

  1. Thank you for the article. I just picked one up myself and I’m trying to figure out what size motor it has in it. Is there any way you can help me figure that out

  2. I had two of these in the early 90’s. I would actually ride across the Monterey Bay.
    They were powered by 50, and later 60 hp Suzuki engines.
    750 & 800cc
    Right when they went out of business, a 90hp V4 was rumored as the gen 3 engine.
    That would’ve been interesting.

  3. I worked for Artic cat when these came out in 1978 used to ride them all the time in Michigan. Would love to find 1 to get on the east coast now.

  4. 798cc 60 hp it’s a suzuki engine from top to jest drive was distributed by Artic enterprises ARCTIC CAT the snowmobile people, I had them when new DEALER, used to be able to pick up a few parts to get her up to 50 t0 rr.

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