Remember when superbikes from the late-‘80s were 750s and were the baddest motorcycles on the track, the ones we paid our hard-earned money to go watch those gods we call professional roadracers toss around at the limits of adhesion – and sanity? We do, too. But since the superbike class has moved on into the realm of the literbike (and 1200cc for Twins), many riders (and manufacturers, sadly) have forgotten the breadth of performance available from sportbikes whose displacement falls between 600cc and 1000cc.
Yeah, well, we haven’t.
We spent Super Bowl Sunday at the office. Really, they’re working…
To remind us all of the chasm between supersport and superbikes, we’ve assembled a trio of motorcycles for back-to-back track and street sessions to reacquaint ourselves and remind you, dear readers, of what has been overlooked in the era of liter-dominance. Back when the World Superbike series was launched, the rules mandated four-cylinder engines a limit of 750cc (represented by every Japanese manufacturer) and up to 1000cc for twin-cylinder machines, primarily Ducatis.
The Suzuki GSX-R750 is the last of 750s, and the V-Twin that fits under these rules is the recently launched Ducati Panigale 899. Joining the fray in what we’re dubbing the Super Middleweight sportbike class is the new MV Agusta F3 800, powered by an inline-Triple, which fills a displacement slot between the other two.
The differences in engine configuration and techno-wizardry are immense, but our testing revealed an incredibly worthy match. Before the shootout, we might’ve expected the often-overlooked Gixxer to be left behind by the exotic Italians. But while clearly less technologically advanced, the Suzook manages to old-school itself into our hearts for its friendly-yet-ultra-competent nature. Both the Duc and the MV can be extensively tuned via a series of menus built in to the instrument clusters, which give them a technological edge. However, they cost thousands more than the Gixxer while offering only a negligible increase in horsepower. Discovering their intricacies translated into tire-shredding fun on the track and the street!
The MO crew wondering where the teleprompter is.
Don’t expect us to tip our hand as to who will win the Super Middleweight Sportbike Shootout – you’ll have to wait a few days. But we can tell you the overall result is a tight one.
Consider this to be the road sign at the entry of a blind corner on an unfamiliar road. You only have the faintest clue of where the apex lies ahead. Just hang on, crank it over, and enjoy the ride.