Top 10 torquiest production bikes

Power is all very well but torque is the often-overlooked metric that can define a bike’s appeal

IN ANY discussion about motorcycle performance horsepower tends to take centre stage – but at some point a wise voice from the back will pipe up and suggest that torque is equally (or more) important.

Of course, you really need a balance of the two. Horsepower without enough torque leads to screaming, high-revving engines that constantly fall off their power bands, while torque without the revs needed to turn it into power will result in something that feels more like a tractor.

We’ve scoured the specifications and come up with a list of the 10 torquiest bikes currently on sale. Discontinued models haven’t been included on this occasion and all the figures are manufacturers’ own claims. We’ve also opted not to include any car-engined monstrosities – after all, a Boss Hoss with a Chevrolet V8 has enormous amounts of torque (455lb/ft at 4,750rpm), but they’re not really designed to be used as motorcycles in the way that most of us picture - could you imagine commuting, scratching or even touring on one?

Where the same engine is used by multiple models we’ve combined them to allow more machines onto the list.

If we’ve missed anything that you think should be on the list, do let us know in the comments below… Oh, and we haven’t included the Kawasaki H2R (121.7lb/ft at 12,500rpm) because it’s not road-legal; the normal H2 doesn’t make the cut at 98.5lb/ft at 10,500rpm.

10. Suzuki Hayabusa

There aren’t many performance-based lists that would rank the Hayabusa as low as 10th but the very fact it’s made it on this one is an impressive feat – you’ll notice as we go on that sports bikes are in short supply here. With 114lb/ft at 7,200rpm, the 'Busa is like one of those old guys who was super-fit when he was younger but has let himself go a bit over the years; youthful, lighter opponents can run rings around him, but despite a paunch and three rolls of fat on the back of his neck you know he’ll knock you into next week if he manages to land a punch. Torque is closely linked to capacity, so while the Busa’s 196hp peak power is now matched by several lithe 1000cc superbikes, it’s still got around a third more peak torque than any of them can muster.

9. Harley-Davidson CVO models

Harley’s engines might all seem much the same to the casual onlooker but there are several layers of performance on offer and the highest of them come in the firm’s CVO models. The current line (CVO Street Glide, CVO Limited and CVO Road Glide Ultra) all use the Twin-Cooled ™ Twin Cam 110 ™ (got to get those ™s in there for the proper Harley feel) and it makes an impressive 115lb/ft at just 3,750rpm. Power – officially undisclosed but in reality about 89hp at 4,000rpm – isn’t so impressive, though. There’s also a torquier engine in H-Ds arsenal, the 120 cubic inch 120ST, with 117lb/ft and a more impressive 107hp, but it’s not currently standard in any of the firm’s production bikes.

8. Suzuki M1800R

Not only is the Hayabusa beaten on a performance metric by other bikes, it’s even beaten by one in Suzuki’s own range. The M1800R might not be in the first flush of youth, and its lack of ABS means it’s going to need to be updated or replaced if it’s to remain on sale beyond the end of this year in Europe, but it’s got a serious chunk of torque: 118lb/ft at 3,200rpm. Power-wise, it does pretty well for a cruiser, with 125hp peaking at a surprisingly high (for such a big V-twin) 6,200rpm.

7. Kawasaki ZZR1400

The ZZR1400 has long been at the head of our 'most powerful production bikes' list (based on EPA homologation figures rather than manufacturer's claims) and remains there despite the fact that its rating has dropped from 210hp to 202hp with emissions-led technical changes for 2016 (Kawasaki only ever claimed the lower figure, even for earlier versions). And it’s doing pretty well on the torque front, too, with 119.9lb/ft at 7,500rpm. That’s an impressive figure for a 1441cc engine, and shows why some riders still prefer bigger sports bikes like the ZZR despite the on-paper performance of smaller 1000cc machines. It’s around 30-40lb/ft more than you’ll get from a 1000cc superbike.

6. Honda Goldwing (and F6B/F6C)

While the Goldwing might make an appearance on several lists of the most extreme motorcycles (it’s big in terms of weight, girth, cylinder count, capacity and price) you might not have expected to see it up here on a performance-based list. But once again cubic capacity comes up trumps here and endows the Wing with an impressive 123lb/ft at 4,000rpm. The bike’s peak power, 118hp at 5,500rpm, is less impressive, particularly give its 1,800cc capacity.

5. Yamaha V-Max

At nearly 203hp the V-Max is an impressive performer thanks to that stunning 1679cc V4 engine and its torque figure of 123lb/ft at 6,500rpm is also not to be sniffed at. The V-Max is often seen as a drag bike for the road – it’s certainly at its best in a straight line with the throttle wide open – and the numbers back that up.

4. Motus MSTR

So far, most of the bikes on this list have been things you can easily lay your hands on at a local dealer but the Motus MST is a little different. Unless you live in America, you might struggle to lay your hands on one, although no doubt it’s possible if you’re determined enough. The bike’s engine is an illustration of the lengths this little firm has been willing to go to – it follows none of the usual rules for bike engines, instead taking inspiration from pushrod V8 car motors, with impressive results. The base model makes 123lb/ft and 167hp (enough to earn fifth spot on the list) and the ‘R’ version’s 1650cc V4 is tweaked to 182hp and 126lb/ft, pushing it into fourth place. We’ve combined the two, as devoting two places to such a rare machine might have been overkill.

3. BMW K1600GT and GTL

With 129lb/ft at 5,250rpm from 1649cc, the K1600 is an impressive machine, particularly since it also has the power to match (160hp at 7,750rpm). The super-smooth six-cylinder BMW engine is one that the firm keeps hinting will be spread into more bikes in the future – there’s certainly a bagger coming soon, and the naked Concept 6 from six-and-a-bit years ago still looks good now – but at the moment it’s still got a huge tourer to lug around. Give it a few years and it’s easy to imagine the K1600 engine becoming the motor of choice for specials-builders looking for an imposing motor with the performance to back up its looks.

2. Triumph Rocket III

You were expecting this to be in the number one spot, weren’t you? So were we when we started on this list. After all, it’s hard to argue with the 2.3-litre triple when it comes to grunt, and with 163lb/ft at an incredibly low 2,750rpm it’s still leagues ahead of the next-placed bike. Power – 148hp – isn’t exactly in short supply, either. And to be honest, this is the torquiest bike that any of us are likely to get a chance to ride in the real world right now, since the number-one spot machine is a little on the rare side. More than a decade old now, the Rocket III has always looked like something of an outsider in Triumph’s range, and one has to wonder whether it’s long for this earth. While it’s still here, we should celebrate its insanity.

1. Lightning LS-218

This one is going to be controversial, and we were torn on whether to include it or not, but the LS-218 can officially be reserved now, even if you’ll have to wait for delivery, and real, running bikes have been seen and tested, even by Jay Leno. The Lightning even won the 2013 Pikes Peak hill climb and a torque figure of 168lb/ft just edges out the Rocket III, putting the Lightning into the number one spot. There’s power too, 203hp, and a speed record of 218mph from a prototype to give the bike its name. Because of the way electric motors work, the peak torque comes from zero rpm and will drop as revs rise – not necessarily ideal unless you’re a big fan of uncontrollable wheelspin from a standstill, but great to give a feeling of boundless performance. Even if you’re an electric bike sceptic, the LS-218 suggests there might be a bright future in battery-powered bikes.

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