Before you start peppering me with hate mail about how on earth a Yamaha R7 could possibly be the best Sportbike, let’s remember what our MOBOs are about in the first place. It’s not strictly about performance. If that were the case, then clearly the Yamaha would be pretty far down the totem pole. How the machine works is a factor, sure, but it’s also about a motorcycle’s significance in the greater overall context of its category and motorcycling in general. Considered in this context, the R7 should start to make a little more sense.
We have to start, obviously, with its performance. The R7 is one of my favorite motorcycles to ride on a racetrack, regardless of displacement. Its torque-heavy 689cc Twin is fun to exploit, and its flexy-flier chassis brings me back to my Suzuki SV650 roots. Riding one of these quickly requires a mastery of the fundamentals. There’s no cheating. You also can’t lean on electronics to act as a safety net. The R7 has nothing but ABS. Get it right and it’s extremely rewarding. As I said in my First Ride of the R7, this bike is sport riding distilled. Just man and machine. It’s pure. I like that.
Then, as we look at the bigger picture, the R7 comes in under $9000, re-opening the sportbike category to a wider range of would-be enthusiasts – and lord knows this category needs an injection of enthusiasm again. Combine these two factors, and to us anyway, picking the Yamaha R7 as our Sportbike of the year is fitting.
We can’t completely overlook performance when talking about sportbikes, and the updated Aprilia RSV4 has reinvigorated our love for the model. Aprilia had to rejigger the model to comply with Euro5 regulations, and the fruit of this labor was a bike I gelled with during our First Ride at Laguna Seca.
Updated styling to get closer to the RS660 might be the first thing you notice. Or maybe it’s the wings on the Factory model. Even closer inspection will show a different swingarm, too. Whether you like it or not isn’t for me to decide. What’s important is that the sweetness of that chassis hasn’t left the building. It’s still as razor-sharp as ever. And despite the changes Aprilia had to make to keep the feds happy, the V4 engine still sings that sweet song we’ve loved for so long. Tweaks to the electronics suite help to keep us safer, and electronic suspension on the Factory model is fine, though I’m happy to report the analog versions on the standard model are more than up for the job.
But wait! What about the BMW M1000RR, you say? It’s a worthy contender, there’s no question there. However, I refer you back to one of the main criteria for this award: At least one of us MOrons has to have ridden it prior to our selection process. To date, none of us have. It’s on the docket, however, so it goes into the selection pool for the 2022 awards, along with Ducati’s updated Panigale V4S.
But back to the Aprilia. With all that good stuff, and a reasonable sub-$20,000 price tag (in sportbike terms, anyway) to boot for the base model? I’m down with that. There’s little reason why you shouldn’t be, too.
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