When it comes to liter-class sportbikes, technology has become the name of the game. There’s an alphabet soup of acronyms out there to describe the many number of ways you, the rider, can lap a racetrack as fast as you can with far fewer consequences for a mistake than ever before. Yamaha, Ducati, Kawasaki, BMW, Aprilia are just a few of the manufacturers offering top-level sportbikes with sophisticated levels of electronics.
On Monday we brought you a flying lap of Auto Club Speedway aboard the 2016 Kawasaki ZX-10R, the runner-up in our two-way fight between it and the Aprilia RSV4 RR (which you can read about here). We praised the Kawasaki’s handling prowess and were really impressed with its updated electronics. However, we still gave the overall win in the comparison test to the Aprilia by the sheer fact it’s so easy to ride quickly. The V-4 engine’s wonderful, distinctive growl down low, combined with its pissed off bark up top encourages its rider to want to twist that throttle every chance they get. Luckily for us, that engine also produces abundant, usable torque throughout its rev range – a feature that helped it win our comparo.
Look around the liter-class sportbike landscape. The field is littered with some of the most technologically advanced and blindingly fast motorcycles the world has ever seen. Trickle-down technology from the world of MotoGP and World Superbike is making its way to production motorcycles faster than ever before, and it’s hard to deny the sportbike landscape is all the better for it.
In spite of protestations from various peanut gallery season-ticket holders who claim disinterest, our mostly annual Superbike Comparison remains MO’s single biggest deal of the year when it comes to clicks and comments. Apparently, many people who don’t have much interest in owning any of these motorcycles are still really interested in riding them vicariously, which is fine by the MO staff; we’re willing to make the sacrifice, for a few weeks anyway. Whether you lust after one or not, it only makes sense to be interested in them, since this is where the new performance stuff turns up first, as motorcycles, like everything else, grow more sophisticated.
From the unchained environment of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, where performance is the sole consideration for victory in our 2015 Six-Way Superbike Track Shootout, we move to the confines of public roadways to determine which superbike renders the best street-legal exhibition. As tight as our track test results were, the street shootout was just as close with a half-percent separating second from first place. If the MO offices were located in Florida, I’d demand a recount.
You really do have to be careful what you wish for. Before I came to Motorcycle.com 1.5 years ago, my tastefully graying hair had me relegated to “testing” the occasional cruiser or scooter at the Big Magazine when nobody more competent could be found. And when I wasn’t doing that, I was shuffling around the office rooting through musty old files in my slippers, Bartleby the Scrivener style, to put together some sort of retrospective. Or maybe rounding up six old superbikes from my era and getting them running so the popular kids could go out and ride them. It was very, ahhh, peaceful. It felt like the long slide toward the abyss had begun…
In preparation of our upcoming 2015 Superbike Shootout we came across this similar gem posted a decade ago. From then to now we find similarities in the entrants as well as the editors, such as Yamaha’s R1 and Sean Alexander. In terms of performance, things have, of course, progressed far beyond what these four machines possessed – mostly in the realm of electronics. “You don’t have a 6-axis gyro, TC, slide, lift and launch control,” asks the 2015 of its predecessor.
Cresting the hill coming onto the front straight at Sydney Motorsport Park (better known as Eastern Creek Raceway), the throttle is wide open in second gear. As I click into third, the front comes up, rests at a neutral position about a foot off the ground, then gently returns to Earth moments later. All the while, the throttle was resting on the stop. Drive never felt interrupted, and despite the roughly 200 horses packed inside the new 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1, there was never a fear of being too liberal with the throttle. That’s when I knew Yamaha has just raised the bar. A lot has changed since the original R1 was introduced in 1998, and with the 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 and R1M, never has the line between MotoGP and lil ’ol me been so blurred. That’s not just a Yamaha marketing tagline, either. Valentino Rossi himself (along with American Superbike champ, Josh Hayes) had a significant role in developing the R1, with the aim to incorporate the most sophisticated level of electronics on a production sportbike. These are just a few examples:
If you’re like us, then you must be salivating over the 2015 literbike prospects. With no less than eight new bleeding-edge sportbikes on the table from both European and Japanese marques, the bar is being raised in the quest for track domination or, in the case of the Kawasaki H2 and H2R, simply having the rider experience intense acceleration like they’ve never felt before. However, there’s an interesting trend in the method in which each manufacturer is going about upping the literbike ante. More and more, a greater emphasis is placed on technology and electronics rather than hardware. Sure, hardware isn’t being ignored, but with today’s bikes making so much power, being able to harness it effectively is of utmost importance.