Top 10 big-capacity sports bikes

Nothing offers a buzz like a superbike and these are the best legal highs on the market


BRITAIN'S bikers might not be as superbike-mad as they once were but we’re still connoisseurs of the breed.

There’s a good reason for it, too. Superbikes might force you to compromise on comfort but they remain the ultimate expression of what’s possible on two wheels. Performance that seems to defy the laws of physics goes without saying, but over and above that these bikes are constantly taking huge strides in controllability and electronic trickery.

You might have thought it’s a small niche, but we quickly totted up around 25 different brand-new superbike models on the market in the UK without even dipping into the bespoke, Bimota-style offerings that are out there. So while sales aren’t as high as they once were, the choice is wider than ever before.

Given the massive range of prices and specs, everyone is sure to have different priorities, but here’s our top 10 countdown of current brand-new superbikes (and here's our 2017 inline four-cylinder superbike group test).

Starting with...

10. Suzuki GSX-R750

DOES IT qualify as a ‘big-capacity’ superbike? We’ll leave that up to you to decide. But Suzuki’s GSX-R750is arguably the daddy of the entire breed. Today it’s short on technology and can’t hold a candle to the most powerful litre bikes on the market, but there’s still an argument that the mid-sized GSX-R offers an ideal balance of power and handling.

10. Suzuki GSX-R750

DOES IT qualify as a ‘big-capacity’ superbike? We’ll leave that up to you to decide. But Suzuki’s GSX-R750 is arguably the daddy of the entire breed. Today it’s short on technology and can’t hold a candle to the most powerful litre bikes on the market, but there’s still an argument that the mid-sized GSX-R offers an ideal balance of power and handling.

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LIKE THE GSX-R750, the Panigale 959 sits in a no-man’s land underneath its more powerful sibling. But unlike the GSX-R, it’s a properly modern bike with all the electronics you could hope for. The 150hp, 955cc twin would have had all the performance needed to win outright superbike comparisons not that long ago. What a world we live in where it’s seen as the ‘junior’ choice…

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The MV F4 might be getting a little long in the tooth these days, and rumours of a replacement have been rife for years, but even so it’s still well worth considering. What you lose in terms of the ultimate ability that bikes from bigger companies might offer is made up for in exclusivity and sheer style. Despite its age, the F4 still looks great. It’s not far behind the times in terms of electronics, either, and with a claimed 195hp power isn’t lacking. Even price – once a big MV stumbling block – isn’t such an issue, as the base version’s £15.159 isn’t that much more than Japanese rivals. Get the £20k, Ohlins-suspended RR version or the £34k RC for that really exclusive feel, though…

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IF THE MV Agusta uses its character to make you forget its flaws, perhaps it’s the Fireblade’s slightly sterile nature that makes its own – minor – shortcomings stand out. The new-for-2017 Blade has had a rough time so far, particularly in racing terms, and its roots still lie in the 2008 model, but taken on its own it remains a stunning piece of machinery. Ideally we’d opt for the more expensive SP1 with semi-active Ohlins, or the homologation-special SP2 version which throws in a dash of exclusivity and character along with its high-end kit, but then price (£19,125 for the SP1, £22,250 for the SP2) means they’re playing in a tougher market.

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WHEN YAMAHA launched its latest R1 in 2015 it gave the superbike market the kick up the backside it needed. Piled high with technology, wrapped in head-turning – if controversial –styling and taking performance up yet another notch it showed the others, particularly its Japanese rivals, they needed to up their game. And they have, which is why the R1 can’t climb higher. The pricier R1M is a better choice still, if you can get one, although limited numbers and a higher price means that’s not easy.

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OH, APRILIA. The RSV4 is, without doubt, a stunning bike. With multiple WSB titles after its name, an incredible V4 engine and some up-to-the-minute electronics it really deserves to be far more successful in terms of sales. A regular winner of magazine group tests, the RSV4 tends to stumble when it comes to persuading buyers to part with their cash. And the RF version is a lot of cash, too - £20,002. It’s a brilliant bike, no mistake. Aside from the lack of customer confidence – which is perhaps unwarranted – Aprilia would be selling tons of them.

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IT'S BEEN eight years now since BMW stormed onto the superbike scene with the S1000RR and a constant stream of updates since then means it remains a buying choice that’s incredibly hard to argue with. Another machine with cutting-edge electronics and incredible performance, it also offers a Honda-style peace of mind as a purchase – no doubt one reason for its huge success. You’ll love or loath the lopsided looks, and with superbikes at this level that becomes as good a reason as any to choose one model over another.

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NEXT YEAR Ducati will have a completely new V4 superbike on sale. Which means if you want a cutting-edge, 200hp-plus machine with fewer than four cylinders, you’d better get a Panigale sooner rather than later. To be fair, Ducati hasn’t made many missteps in the last few years, and the Panigale – despite some radical technology – has proved reliable and is spectacularly well-equipped in terms of electronics. As the only twin in a field of fours, it also offers a different riding experience and power delivery. It may well remain the ultimate twin-cylinder superbike for many years to come.

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KAWASAKI'S recent WSB dominance isn’t a fluke. The firm has honed the ZX-10R to a fine point, and is reaping the rewards. Tweaks for 2016 made the bike better still, while the addition of the homologation-special RR version for 2017 adds improvements that might not make a huge difference on the road but add even more to its racing potential.

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IT'S BEEN a long time since Suzuki has been our top litre-bike pick. The GSX-R1000 has an impressive heritage, and the K5 model from 2005 is something of a legend, such was its advantage over the competition, but the battle for superbike supremacy has been a hard one in recent years. The latest model breaks new ground with its variable valve timing system, and reaps the rewards with extra low-down grunt and no lack of top end punch. Right now, it’s the bike we’d choose from the mainstream superbike options.