Top 10 high-speed sports tourers

With the page turning on Suzuki’s iconic Hayabusa, we look back at some other high-speed mile-munchers from years gone by.

Top 10 high-speed sports tourers

Suzuki’s Hayabusa is disappearing from the European market at the end of this year – leaving us without a rival to Kawasaki’s ZZR for the first time in two decades.

Of course, the motorcycle market has changed beyond recognition since 1999, when the Hayabusa first went on sale. Back then, the Busa’s 173bhp 1299cc fuel-injected engine was right at the cutting edge, offering more power and performance than anything else available. Sure it was longer and fatter than a superbike like the Yamaha R1, but it also offered noticeably more straight-line performance and that additional size and comfort put it into class of high-speed sports tourers that’s nearly extinct today.

Yes, modern 1000cc superbikes are just as capable of reaching the theoretical 186mph that bikes from most manufacturers have been voluntarily limited to ever since 2000, when the restriction came into place as a treaty to end the top speed arms race that the Busa was a key player in. Those modern 1000cc machines accelerate just as fast and manage corners far better than the bigger, heavier Busa-class bikes, too. But despite all that, the calm and stable straight-line performance of an over-1000cc super-sports-tourer has an appeal of its own.

Over the last three decades we’ve been spoilt for choice when it comes to such bikes, and while they’re a near-dead species now, these are our top ten high-speed sports tourers.

10: BMW K1200S (2004-2008)

With ‘only’ 167hp the 2004-2008 BMW K1200S was a day late and a dollar short when it came to out-and-out straight line performance, but it’s still without doubt a notable addition to the high-speed sports tourer class. Being a pre-S1000RR BMW, it’s emphasis edges towards the touring end of the envelope, with shaft drive as a key advantage on that front when compared to its rivals. The weird, Hossack-style front suspension was a BMW foible that actually works well.

9: Kawasaki ZX-10 (1988-1990)

The short-lived ZX-10 – not to be confused with the ZX-10R line that has been with us since 2004 – was arguably the genesis of the entire class of bikes that the Hayabusa later came to define. Although intended as an out-and-out sports bike to rival the Yamaha FZR1000 and Suzuki GSX-R1100, it put its emphasis on top speed above all else, ranking as the world’s fastest production bike until 1990, when its successor – the ZZR1100 – put handling to one side  to concentrate on speed alone.

8: BMW K1300S (2008-2015)

Although clearly a derivative of the earlier K1200S, the 1293cc K1300S had both the capacity and the power to be a more convincing member of this class. With 175hp it at least matched the original Hayabusa on power – although its debut coincided with the launch of the second-gen Busa that once again pushed further ahead on that front.

7: Kawasaki ZZ-R1200 (2002-2005)

By 2001, the ZZ-R1100 was decidedly old-hat. Once the world’s fastest bike, it had been comprehensively out-gunned by the Hayabusa and its own sister model, the ZX-12R. But the new-for-2002 ZZ-R1200 didn’t really do much to move the game on. At 160hp its power was up on its predecessor but lagged behind the class leaders, and the fact it still featured carbs rather than injection was an indicator that this wasn’t a machine destined for a long life. So it proved. A decent tourer, but largely ignored when new and oft-forgotten now.

Head to page two for the final six...