Once in a blue moon, Honda likes to flex its muscle and remind everyone that it’s Honda, and when its team of engineers and designers want to, they can produce cool motorcycles capable of completely blowing your socks off. Bikes like the RC35, RC45, RC51 (arguably), the oval-piston NR750, and who can forget the road going MotoGP bike, the RC213V-S? And though we haven’t ridden it yet, the CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SP promises to carry on that tradition, at which point those same designers and engineers can go back to their usual business of coming up with things like the DN-01 and NM4.
How do you top a 221 hp, wing-sprouting beast like the Panigale V4 R? If you’re Ducati, the answer is to add more winglets and replace the V4 R’s fairing and chassis with carbon fiber and reduce the weight by 35 pounds to a claimed dry weight of 351 pounds. Top it off with a paint scheme inspired by the Desmosedici GP19 MotoGP bike’s livery and you get the 2020 Ducati Superleggera V4. A limited edition model (only 500 individually numbered units will be produced), the Superleggera V4 is billed as the “most powerful and technologically advanced production Ducati ever built.”
The KTM 1290 Super Duke R has always been a sledgehammer of a motorcycle. While the blunt instrument approach to producing power has its fans, there is something to be said about using a little finesse when dishing out a gut punch. With the development of the 2020 model, which KTM has dubbed “The Beast 3.0,” the focus was on refining the techniques the Super Duke R uses as it brutalizes the laws of physics. And I think that it will produce even bigger smiles on the hearty souls who choose this mount to beat their local tarmac into submission.
In the wake of declining sportbike sales, we’ve seen manufacturers drop supersport models or leave them untouched for years on end. For the more versatile, upright sporty bikes, the industry as a whole has not given up. For Honda and Kawasaki, models like the Ninja 650 and CBR650R offer sportbike looks with practical ergonomics and performance that riders can grow with. With both models receiving updates within the last year – including seriously stepping up their game in the looks department – these everyday sportbikes are even more enticing than ever.
I’ve been reviewing BMW’s flat-Twin boxer powered bikes since I started testing motorcycles in the late ’80s and have burbled around on historic versions too, dating back to a beater ’64 R60/S my now ex-husband gave me to ride (quite possibly because it was less traceable then cyanide). Through it all, the boxer, with its punch-punch rhythm and unique seesaw jig always felt like an old friend, no matter the sprinkling of magic German engineering dust, or the ambition of the motorcycle BMW built around it.
For the past few years, the collective motorcycling world has lost its minds with the Ducati Panigale V4. Understandable, considering how much of a departure it is for Ducati to abandon the V-Twin for its flagship sportbike, but also because the Panigale V4 and V4R are absolute knockouts in the engine department. Lost in the hoopla of the Ducati V4 engine sat the lowly 959 Panigale, a pleasant and capable machine, it serves as a gentle reminder to everyone that Ducati hadn’t completely abandoned the V-Twin. A part of the “Super-Mid” category of sportbikes (“Standard-Mid” being something in the 750cc-ish category, we assume?), it’s a little funny to think Ducati’s lower-displacement sportbike, at 955cc, is now larger than it’s former legendary flagship, the 916 family.
Kawasaki is acquiring a stake in Bimota, breathing new life into the Italian brand best known for its hub-steering motorcycle designs. Once the deal is completed and passes regulatory approval, Kawasaki Motors Europe, through its subsidiary Italian Motorcycle Investment, will purchase a 49.9% share in Bimota, with the controlling 50.1% being retained by its current owners (formerly Bimota S.A. but officially renamed B and Motion S.A.).
The history book (or Wikipedia page, if that’s your thing) on electric motorcycles is rather slim, especially compared to its internal combustion counterparts, but what you’ll find is a myriad of ideas and concepts. Such is the beauty of a technology in its infancy. The section on electric racing motorcycles is even thinner. If you discount the inaugural MotoE championship running alongside MotoGP this year, the biggest stage for electric racing motorcycles has been the Isle of Man TT Zero race, wherein each entry tries to complete one full lap around the 37-mile course as fast as possible. Well, it was until the event was put on hold for at least two years. The machines you would have found at the TT Zero are full of ideas and concepts to win the race, but the one constant is the fact the batteries dominate the vehicle’s overall design. It’s understandable, considering you need a lot of battery to travel nearly 40 miles at 150-plus miles per hour.
It’s an interesting time in sportbike land, as displacement limits have gone up, technologies are ever-improving, and in general, motorcycles are getting better and better. But one fact of life no manufacturer can escape is the looming Euro5 emission regulations. The toughest standards to date, Euro5 rules are said to be significantly more stringent than the Euro4 rules that preceded it. To meet the new standards, some OEMs have simply added displacement to engines to offset the increase in the number (or size) of catalyzers.
Talk about staying power. Ten years on and the Aprilia RSV4 platform is still the cream of the crop. With the RSV4 1100 Factory, however, the newest member of the RSV4 family is simply stunning. The way Aprilia has achieved this, though, is a little deceiving. Yes, the 1078cc V4 (sorta) shared with the Tuono 1100 sees some improvements the Tuono doesn’t get, but Aprilia found a way to integrate the increased power into the same magic chassis without upsetting its balance – a task which can’t be overstated. Riding the RSV4 1100, you can tell there’s more punch than before, but it doesn’t blow your socks off like the Ducati Panigale V4 S does. The senses have more time (although, not a lot more time) to process the incoming speed, and the chassis works its usual magic in placing you exactly where you want to be without any drama. The experience isn’t too far removed from the 1000cc RSV4, until you look down at the stopwatch and realize how much faster you were than before.
Watching the sunset from the British Racing Drivers’ Clubhouse aside the Silverstone circuit was one I won’t soon forget. Of course, I wasn’t there to enjoy the sunset and hors d’oeuvres. Motorcycle.com had the North American exclusive coverage of the media launch of the new Triumph Daytona Moto2 765 ahead of the MotoGP weekend at the British circuit.
The reality is that the first thing many people do when they buy a sportbike is to change the exhaust. While it’s getting harder and harder to do this legally (many exhausts will say “For off-road use only”) that hasn’t stopped folks from pulling off the stock, quiet pipes and replacing them with lighter, louder pieces. From a performance standpoint, replacing an exhaust makes sense; lighter is better when it comes to sportbikes, and who doesn’t like a little improvement in power?