If this doesn’t bring a tear to your eye, you’re one stone-cold person. After 26 years, Wayne Rainey – three-time 500cc World Champion and current MotoAmerica President – got the chance to ride a motorcycle again. It’s his first time back on a motorcycle since his life-changing crash in Misano 1993 that left him paralyzed from the waist down.
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.
Clearly, I’m not going to turn down an opportunity to ride two of my favorite sportbikes – the Yamaha YZF-R1 and R1M – around one of the best circuits in the world, the Circuito de Jerez. But an evolution, not revolution, of the current R1 platform first introduced in 2015 (which, coincidentally, I was also present for) seemed hardly a reason for Yamaha to spend a sizeable chunk of cash to rent the world-renowned track, fly journalists in from all over the world, feed them, and put them up in a fancy hotel. What was up?
Old soldiers might just fade away, but what happens to old race bikes? Basically the same thing. Though a few GP bikes still get destroyed to keep engineering secrets secret, most old race bikes, or many of them anyway, get bought up by guys with more money than they really need, to park in the den. Others get bought up by type-A riders who want the ultimate trackday weapon (but the joke is shortly on them, since the life expectancy of any competitive advantage is, well, it’s short). And some get bought up by collectors, possibly with the hope that today’s deeply discounted last-year’s greatest thing might someday be the next Crocker or Brough Superior or even gray-market RZV500R.
There seems to be much doom and gloom in the motorcycle industry surrounding the state of sportbikes these days. We keep hearing about dropping sales and shifting consumer interest, which will combine to turn the sportbike as we know it into a museum piece one day, gone the way of the Dodo bird.
It’s not unusual to hear a Yamaha R1 engine screaming its cross-plane-crank howl down a racetrack, but it is odd to hear eight of them in chorus on a dirt-track course in cars. That was the combo of odd sights and sounds we witnessed at Perris Auto Speedway during an exhibition event at the Budweiser Oval Nationals sprint-car race on November 11.
During the media launch of Yamaha’s significantly updated R6 at Thunderhill Raceway, the bikes were fitted with the GYTR Communication Control Unit (CCU) first available on the high-end YZF-R1M. This electronic device logs data incorporated from a GPS sending unit and the bike’s ECU that allows riders to analyze braking, throttle position, gear indication, as well as other data that can be helpful in evaluating performance of both bike and rider.
For those who’ve lapped up every word, expression, and metaphor of the performance novel that was our 2017 Superbike Track Shootout and Superbike Street Shootout, the heir apparent is as obvious as the bike coming in last place. For those still wallowing in anticipation, unable to decipher our MOrse code, you can take a breath because, without further ado, we give you…
A few days riding seven of the most powerful sportbikes available on public roadways without incurring a single speeding ticket is next to miraculous. Johnny Law, wildlife, tourists, and sharing hotel rooms with one another are only a few of the occupational hazards we navigated when conducting our 2017 Superbike Street Shootout. The street-centric comparison may be representative of the actual lives most of these motorcycles will lead in the real world, but for us it’s a necessary precursor to where we prefer to be and where these bikes should actually be ridden: the racetrack.
It’s been two years since we summoned together the superpowers of the sportbike world. In that time the Aprilia RSV4 RR, Honda CBR1000RR, Kawasaki ZX-10R, and Suzuki GSX-R1000 have either been heavily revised or completely overhauled. These changes beg a reinspection into the pecking order of world’s premier street-legal superbikes. Can Japan wrest away the literbike crown from the European OEMs, Aprilia and BMW, that have dominated the class since 2010?