Top 10s

Top 5 best bike battles you can't stop watching

We've dug out your ALL-TIME favourite battles

WE'VE looked at the stats and here are your top 5 favourite bike battles of all time! First up...

5. Yamaha MT-03 vs KTM 390

To kick us of the two most exciting sub-500cc nakeds on the market go head-to-head!

What's Europe ever done for us? Well, it’s arguably the reason we have these two bikes, or at least the licence rules that create a place for them in the UK market.

That’s right – those meddling Eurocrats are indirectly responsible for probably the two most exciting sub-500cc naked bikes we’ve seen in decades.

I wrote once about the KTM RC390 that it was the closest thing we have today to two-strokes of the ‘80s and ‘90s, and some readers reacted like I’d defiled the memory of their first love.

I stand by it, and think the same is true of the 390 Duke, the original naked version of the RC390 using the same engine and chassis. Of course it’s very different – it’s a four-stroke single – but it makes 43.5hp and weighs 139kg dry, putting it near enough in RD350LC territory (47hp and 143kg according to RD350LC.net).

Basically, there’s nothing else on the market this small which goes this fast, with the possible exception of Yamaha's MT-03, the naked version of the R3.  

In fact even that can’t quite match the impishness of the KTM. The Yamaha seems tiny until you get back on it after trying the tinier Duke, which makes it feel like a middleweight.

The seat of the MT-03 is lower and the bars further away, so that you feel more that you’re sitting in it than on it. It’s like getting off a toy and onto a proper bike.

By any standard other than the KTM’s, the MT-03 is still very small, and slices through city traffic like a Hattori Hanzō sword, but with more poise and balance.

But again, it’s an impression which is put into a new perspective by the KTM, which is like the same blade heated by fire and used to part butter. If a bicycle can squeeze through a space, so can the Duke, usually.  It will turn sharply enough to cut 90° angles across unmoving queues and fire itself through closing gaps with a twitch of throttle, and it’s controllable enough to do it all without taking a foot off a peg.

Both machines are precision tools for commuting, rivalled in the city perhaps only by each other, but there’s a lot more to them than that.

You can read the full review here.

4. HONDA Africa Twin vs BMW R1200GS Adventure

BMW’S R1200GS has long been a colossus of motorcycles sales, dwarfing the numbers achieved by other big bikes and even beating most of the mass-selling small commuters.

It’s arguably the bike that made BMW Motorrad the brand it is today, transforming it from a staid maker of plod bikes to one with the profits to develop class-changing machines like the S1000RR. 

With a little help from Ewan McGregor and his babbling friend Charley, of course.

It’s also the reason the big adventure bike class is now so populated, with every manufacturer desperate to get in on the Ewan and Thingy phenomenon but none able to… until now.

This year saw the launch of the new Honda Africa Twin, and it hasn’t been hanging around in showrooms for long.

You can read the full review of this head-to-head here.

3. YAMAHA MT-10 vs BMW S1000R

Two super-naked motorcycles using the blistering engine and frame of a flagship sports bike, both detuned from about 200hp to exactly 160hp - Yamaha's MT-10 and BMW's S1000R couldn’t be more closely matched. So which is best?

These two bikes have clearly been itching for a dust-up since the day the Yamaha was launched in May this year.

Two super-nakeds using the blistering engine and frame of a flagship sports bike, both detuned from about 200hp to exactly 160hp for stronger torque lower in the range. They couldn’t be more closely matched, and the Yamaha has clearly been created to take from the BMW’s impressive sales.

They are the Yamaha MT-10 and BMW S1000R, derived from respectively from the R1 and S1000RR. And here they are, ready to sort this out.

It’s essential to ride a bike alongside one of its competitors in order to get to know it properly. Most motorcycles seem pretty good ridden in isolation but it’s the back-to-back test that reveals how good they could have been.

On the MT-10 launch in Spain, for instance, it was difficult not to be impressed by the torque, with the front wheel keen to leave the ground at about 7,000rpm in second. But was it quite as strong lower down in the range as I remembered the S1000R being?

No. The S1000R is the brute I remembered. While the MT-10 retains a little of the R1’s top-end bias, the S1000R has everything: top-end, mid-range and bottom-end. The detuning has paid off more – this BMW is monstrous. It’s a sign of how good the S1000RR engine is to begin with.

You can read the full review here.

2. KTM RC 390 vs Yamaha R3

It's the KTM RC 390 against the Yamaha R3. We pit the two hottest A2 bikes of 2015 against each other in a back-to-back road test.

There's never been a better time to be a young, free and in possession of an A2 licence. Manufacturers are once again making exciting small capacity bikes that will appeal to new riders who don’t want to ride something so bland it could be a washing machine.

If that sounds like you, then the two newest bikes in the sub-400cc entry-level sports bike class, Yamaha’s R3 and KTM’s RC 390, are certain to be on your radar. Although they have different personalities, both offer newer or younger riders the prospect of capable commuting, heaps of weekend fun, frugal fuel consumption, sports bike looks and triple digit top speeds… allegedly. They both come in at a shade under £5,000; the KTM costs £4,998 with the Yamaha costing a bit less at £4,799.

You can read the full review here.

And lastly, your favourite motorbike head-to-head of all-time is...

1. YAMAHA R1 vs Ducati 1299 Panigale S

Twelve months ago the superbike class was in danger of looking a little tired. A little lacking in recent significant development. So it’s nice to see that it’s gone absolutely stupid again, with enough new models to make a new stupid club: the 200hp+ club.

You’re looking at two of the stupidest members.

Yamaha’s R1 makes a claimed 200hp and weighs 199kg with a full tank. That’s 2hp more and 5kg less than a BMW S1000RR. It’s got a MotoGP-derived electronics package with traction control, slide control and ABS, all of which adapts to lean angle.

The Ducati Panigale is even more powerful and lighter, at a claimed 205hp and 190.5kg with a full tank. The electronics package doesn’t come with quite so many acronyms but it does include traction control, engine braking control and full-on cornering ABS, which lets you grab a handful of brake mid-corner without washing out.

These are not just two of the fastest production motorcycles ever made; they’re two of the safest.

You can read your favourite bike battle review in full here.

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