Updated on May 17 by Miles Branman to include the Aprilia RSV4 RF.
Motorcycles. They’re efficient. Fun. Stylish. Rebellious. They scream of freedom from the daily drone, giving you a means of kickstarting your boring commute. That’s all fine and good, but sometimes, it’s really all about speed. Insane speed.Ludicrous speed. Lose your license — or worse — speed.
Forget “safety first” for a moment and thrill to the kind of bikes that epitomize the enormous power of the modern motorcycle and don’t apologize for being really fast. Oh, your million-dollar “supercar” can go from 0 to 60 mph in 2.8 seconds? Well, you just came in a very distant second to my sub-$20,000 hyperbike. Sucker.
So in no particular order, let’s take a look at who’s making the fastest moto machines you can buy today.
Sorry to say, but at this point, you’ve missed out on getting your hands on Honda’s real (and very limited production) “MotoGP racebike for the street,” the insane RC213V-S. But go ahead and thank me for saving you about $180,000. Instead, just point your wallet to the limited-edition CBR1000RR-S.
The “S” designation tacks $3,300 onto the price tag over the garden-variety CBR1000RR’s MSRP of $13,999, but hey, so what. Even the basic bike would likely make you wet your knickers at full boil, but you do get some fancy upgrades for the dosh, including a buttery Ohlins suspension setup, improved exhaust, upgraded engine internals, a solo seat, better tires, and a myriad of other bits.
It also includes an optional Repsol Honda Racing replica paint scheme, so maybe you could talk Repsol Oil into paying your insurance premiums in exchange for being a rolling billboard. Good luck with that. If you can’t handle all the Repsol fame, the down-market CBR1000R is available in basic glossy black, just don’t forget your ninja outfit.
While Honda doesn’t talk horsepower figures, the base CBR1000RR makes about 145 ponies across most tests, so count on a solid 150 hp or so with the S option, along with less weight — and that’s on a bike already on a very strict diet. Velocity and acceleration should fall in line with the cream of the hyperspace-capable bike set, with 0 to 60 mph coming much closer to 2.0 seconds than 3.0. Top speed quickly bangs into the voluntary 186 mph (300 kph) limit that most bike makers are still adhering to. But feel free to experiment with that.
Like Honda, Yamaha has an up-market version of their top sportbike, the YZF-R1, which most riders just call “the R1.” It’s called the YZF-R1M, and while Yamaha didn’t ship the bike off to BMW, the effect is essentially the same. Prepare to part with the better part of $22,000, or about $5,000 more than the proletariat R1, which, like the base CBR, is still capable of brain-melting performance.
The R1M upgrade list includes the de-facto Ohlins suspension upgrade, but in this case all the adjustability can be done using the fancy LCD screen and some buttons. Leave the wrenches at home. Other upgrades include a hand polished aluminum gas tank, a shiny swingarm, numerous carbon fiber bits to offset the added weight of the Ohlins, different tires, and a connectivity package for fine-tuning the bike on track day. You were going to take it to the track, right? Every weekend? Thought so.
Speed and performance are comparable to the top-spec Honda (and Kawasaki and Suzuki and…), meaning these bikes have reached a velocity nirvana of 0 to 60 mph in about 2.3 seconds and a top speed of 186 mph. What’s left is making these insanely powerful machines handle better, stop better, and think better. And we must say that in this case, the Yamaha R1M is a winner in the looks category as well. It’s hand polished, for gawd sake.
Kawasaki’s Ninja line has been at the top of law enforcement’s Most Wanted list since Tom Cruise rode an early iteration inTop Gun. While Kawi calls their bruiser ZX-14R the “King Of All Sportbikes” (and that may be a justifiable claim), the real stallion in the stable is the ultra-limited H2. Because nothing says “overkill” like bolting a supercharger to your already insane 1000cc inline-four and then adding lights and turn signals.