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.

6: Kawasaki ZZ-R1100 (1990-2001)

The long-lived ZZ-R1100 went from hero to underdog in its 11-year span, but back in 1990 it was hot property. Back then, the claimed 145bhp still seemed a lot, and the slippery fairing helped it to world-beating top speed of 176mph. Plus it was comfy, if a bit wallowing when shown a corner. The engine remains something of a legend, as it was among the first of the modern four-cylinder motors to start being bolted to a new breed of kit car.

5: Honda CBR1100XX Super Blackbird (1996-2007)

At its 1996 launch the Blackbird was one of the world’s most exciting machines. Faster than any rival in top speed alone, it also raised the handling game when compared to earlier straight-line machines, and combined it all with a typically smooth, Honda feeling. With 164hp and a 188mph top speed, it was fast enough to make mainstream newspaper headlines – with typical predictions of carnage and overblown 200mph top speed suggestions – but in reality it was a friendly all-rounder, rather like an oversized CBR600F. These days a Blackbird is a used bike bargain.

4: Kawasaki ZX-12R (2000-2006)

Kawasaki’s ZX-12R was designed with a single-minded goal of being the world’s fastest production bike, but was neutered at launch by the last-minute adoption of the voluntary 186mph ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ top speed limit. That meant it was actually – on paper – a fraction slower than the 1999 Hayabusa, which hit 194mph. It was a shame, really, as without the restriction the 178hp ZX-12R, which was a more aggressive, sportier design than either the ZZ-R1100 or the Hayabusa, might have been the first bike with 200mph potential out of the box. As it turned out, the ZX-12R was left without a clear market – falling between the comfier rivals and the sportier 1000cc superbikes into a no-man’s land of valiant failures.

3: Suzuki Hayabusa (2nd generation – 2008-2018)

The second-gen Hayabusa, with 1339cc and 197hp, was clearly superior to the original in almost every measurable way – but without the mystique of that ‘fastest production bike’ record, it doesn’t hold the quite the same place in history. The styling has always been controversial, too. The first-gen Hayabusa wasn’t about to win any beauty contests and its successor looked like it had taken that criticism to heart and found solace in a truck-load of doughnuts, with a puffy, over-inflated look. Ignore that and concentrate on its abilities, though, and few bikes will cover miles as effortlessly fast.

2: Kawasaki ZZ-R1400 (2006-)

The last man standing in the over-1000cc hyper-sports-touring sub-category, the ZZ-R1400 still manages to attract a decent number of customers even today, more than a dozen years on from its launch. In that time it’s gained a few cubes – rising from 1352cc to 1441cc – and its power has risen from 190hp to around the 200hp mark. Intriguingly, for several years its homologated power figure was actually higher than its claimed number, at around 210bhp. Perhaps Kawasaki didn’t want to attract any unwanted interest from the lobbies that had so successfully declawed the ZX-12R a few years earlier. The fact that it lives on even now, alongside the supercharged Ninja H2 SX that fulfils a similar brief, is a testament to how right Kawasaki got it.

1: Suzuki Hayabusa (1st generation – 1999-2007)

Of course, the first gen Busa is our number one – after all, it’s why we’re doing this list in the first place. With a top speed of well over 190mph recorded in independent tests, it was undoubtedly the fastest production bike of 1999. And with the voluntary 186mph top speed adopted by most – but not all – manufacturers in 2000, it wasn’t going to be knocked off for a long time. Eventually MV Agusta, not a signatory of the original 186mph deal, matched the 1999 Busa with its F4 312 (for 312km/h, or 193.9mph) in 1998, and no doubt many modern superbikes will go faster still if unleashed from their electronic limiters. But the Busa is still the bike that immediately springs to mind whenever that endless ‘what’s the fastest bike’ question is asked, and that makes it a legend.

Join the conversation!

Let us know what you think, just sign up for a free account, leave a comment and get involved!
Register Now

Latest Videos