Top 10 2015 superbikes

When speed and handling are really all you want

THE golden days of the Superbike – at least in terms of sales domination – are well and truly behind us now but there’s no question that if you want to experience the outer limits of what a motorcycle can achieve in terms of performance there’s never been a better time to try one.

Back when Foggy dominated WSB and a set of Fieldsheer Acid Worm leathers would take pride of place in your wardrobe (some readers might have to ask their dads about those references), Superbikes sold in the sort of numbers that would fill out the whole top end of the sales charts in the UK. But those bikes, lovely as they were, were merely a prelude to the machines that we have today. Ride an original Fireblade now and it will be a retro joy, rather like playing Sonic the Hedgehog on a Sega Megadrive.

The latest machines are poles apart and the development has been as rapid as their performance figures.

Most of our choices from this current crop aren’t likely to disappoint, but here’s our top 10. Each heading is a link to a review of the bike in question.

10: Suzuki GSX-R750

What? A 750 in this list? And an old one at that? Yes, because the GSX-R750 is in some ways the essence of an old-school superbike, lacking in terms of electronics but offering a great balance between performance and handling as well as a price that’s a whole league lower than many of the machines on this list. The combination of around 150bhp and a great-handling, lightweight bike is one that’s hard to argue with and the GSX-R750 provides just that. Sure, it seems a bit weird to buy a bike in 2015 without ABS, and it lacks the technology of its rivals, but the essential recipe isn’t far wrong.

9: Ducati Panigale 899

In fact, throw the latest gadgets at a GSX-R750 and you might end up with something like this. The Panigale 899 might be the junior superbike in Ducati’s range, but don’t start thinking its an alternative to a 600. If outright, straight-line speed isn’t right at the top of your agenda then the benefit of buying a 1299 over the smaller bike starts to diminish. It’s got all the looks, all the tech and all the cachet of its bigger brother, just some smaller numbers. On the downside, the price is still on the high side at £12,795 – you can get some very high-tech, 1000cc four-cylinder machines for that money that will leave the 148bhp Ducati as a dot in their mirrors.

8: MV Agusta F4

It’s hard to know quite where to place the MV on this list – there are so many variations on and versions that it could fill several slots if we allowed it to. Riders who want the style and exclusivity of an MV Agusta, as well as the frankly blistering pace that the latest bikes offer, won’t be disappointed, but if you’re on the lookout for the very best that can be currently achieved with a 1000cc four-cylinder superbike, there are superior alternatives. Having said that, if you’re looking at the full cost of ownership, it’s worth bearing in mind that a new, base-model F4 at £14,500 is cheaper than a new Yamaha R1. It might not be as good a bike, but there’s a strong chance that, a few years down the line, the MV might command a higher used value.

7: Suzuki GSX-R1000

And speaking of value, we come to the GSX-R1000. Blimey, this is looking like a bargain at the moment. £11k for an ABS-equipped version means it’s somewhere near 25% cheaper than some of its rivals, and surely it’s more than 75% of the bike. Of course you won’t turn as many heads on one this year as you might on a  2015 R1, but you’ll have enough money left in your pocket to get that massive home cinema you had your eye on. Or a pretty awesome family holiday. Or, and let’s be sensible here, another bike – after all, can you have too many? Oh, and make sure you’ve got your haggling hat on (available from all good milliners), since some dealers are offering as much as £1000 off GSX-R1000s at the moment – work at it and we reckon you’ll get an ABS-equipped one for four figures.

6: Aprilia RSV4 RF

At most tangible levels the RSV4 RF deserves to be far higher up the list than this. It’s got a frankly awesome V4 engine, WSB title-winning heritage, MotoGP connections, fabulous looks and a level of exclusivity that few bikes on this list can aspire to. Which is sort of the problem; while the Aprilia has got it all, both on paper and on a test ride, the all-in ownership experience has got the sort of reputation that sends potential buyers scurrying to rival firms’ dealers. When it comes to signing a big cheque, it seems that people who would probably love the Aprilia are – rightly or wrongly – scared to make the commitment. We’d suggest you make up your own mind. Speak to owners, get a test ride, get to know your local dealer (if you’ve got one) and, if it all makes sense, you might find that the RSV4 RF is the bike for you.

5: Kawasaki ZX-10R

What is it with bikes that are good enough to thrash all their rivals in WSB but can’t make an impact on the sales charts? The ZX-10R is, like the Aprila, a technological wonder with rocketship performance and awesome handling, and race teams certainly seem to be convinced by it. It’s been a favourite with many sections of the press and taken the win in several group tests, plus there’s a good dealer network and none of the reliability or back-up fears that might concern those opting for a less mass-made machine. It could simply be that the list price, at £13,199 for the ABS version is just high enough to send potential buyers off to either a cheaper Japanese bike or a more expensive, more exotic option, but if you can get a deal that suits you on a ZX-10R, it’s not likely to disappoint.

4: Honda Fireblade

Yep, it’s the grand old man of the 1000cc superbike class, since a couple of tweaks and a facelift can’t hide the current Blade’s roots in the firm’s 2008 model. If you’re looking for gadgets, go elsewhere – Honda will give you ABS but little else. And maybe that’s the secret to the Fireblade’s success. Year after year it outsells bikes that are (theoretically) faster (real-world lap times tend to suggest the Blade performs better than its specs would suggest) and it’s got none of the bells and whistles. If you want semi-active suspension, traction control and four zillion rider modes, there are other firms that will happily take your money. But an awful lot of people are happy to hand their cash to Honda and take a Blade, and they’re not wrong to do it.

3: BMW S1000RR

It’s weird that BMW was, until recently, not even interested in the superbike market. They missed out on a decade or so of booming superbike sales and then, just as buyers upped-sticks and went elsewhere, turned up with a machine that blew the competition into the weeds. And incredibly the firm keeps updating it – we’re onto the third generation S1000RR now, while some rivals have barely changed since the first gen one appeared. Race success has eluded it, but on the road there’s little better.

2: Ducati Panigale

Another bike that’s underperformed on the race track but one that’s hard to argue with on the road, the Panigale is part of a Ducati revolution that’s taken the firm from a boutique Italian exotica builder to a company that can truly compete with the very best and beat them. All the old provisos about reliability and servicing costs that used to accompany praise given to Ducatis no longer apply, and virtually everything in the firm’s current range is at the top of its class. Booming sales are the result, and they’re well deserved. As a long-term ownership prospect, the Panigale might even be the best bike on this list, since it’s always sure to have a strong resale value, which in turn could make it surprisingly cheap once the entire cost of ownership is spread over several years.

1: Yamaha R1

Yes, it’s the bike of the moment, and we might look back in a couple of years and wonder what all the fuss was about, but the latest R1 really seems to have picked up the goalposts and moved them, rather like it did back in 1998 and again in 2009. There’s a real feeling that Yamaha, a firm that once appeared to be gripped by lethargy in its R&D and timidity in its product planning, has got a new lease of life; the MT-09 and MT-07, the R1 and even machines like the Tricity seem to show that the firm has grasped its previous issues by the throat and decided to go all-out to create the best bikes it can possibly manage, regardless of any other considerations. Of the R1s on offer, we’d suggest that if you can get your hands on the R1M version, it’s probably worth it; using the sort of PCP deal that most buyers are going for it’s barely any more expensive than the stock model.

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