Top ten most iconic superbikes ever made

To coincide with the launch of Ducati Panigale V4 916 and the new Yamaha YZF-R1, here’s our rundown of the top five most iconic superbikes ever built

Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10RR

AS Ducati is about to launch a Panigale that pays homage to the legendary 916, and Yamaha is about to release their reboot of the Yamaha YZF-R1, we thought it only right to get together a list of the top ten most iconic superbikes ever made.

They may not all be ‘superbikes’ as we know them today, or scored multiple world or national championships but, these are the bikes that shook the applecart and paved a new way building and designing bikes. If it wasn’t for these machines, who knows what we’d be riding now!

10. Suzuki GSX-R750 (1985)

The race rep that pretty much started it all. The ‘Slabbie’ featured flat-slide carbs, alloy frame and four-pot calipers upfront meant all it needed was some yellow headlights and you had yourself a Bol d’Or racer for the road.

The combination of a four-cylinder engine, full fairing, and aluminium cradle created the pattern that modern superbikes still follow today.

The very first GSX-R was a four-cylinder 400cc sports bike. It was this Japan-only model that pioneered the alloy-frame, four-cylinder layout that the GSX-R750 would bring to a worldwide audience a year later.

9. Vincent Black Shadow

For a bike that was built in the 40s and 50s; the Black Shadow was years ahead of its time. For starters, there was the almost conventional-looking (by today's standards) swingarm, with a shock absorber mounted akin to that of a more modern bike. The engine was also used as a stressed member, keeping the weight of the bike low and improving the handling

And let’s not forget that in a time when most motorcycles would struggle to hit 100mph, a decent Vincent in standard trim would whisk the brave – and well-heeled – up to a 125mph maximum speed.

Is it iconic? Yes, it just took the world of motorcycling a long time to catch up!

8.  Honda VTR1000 SP2

Built for the sole purpose of sticking two fingers up at Ducati, the SP2 was an exercise in playing the Italian factory at their own game – and it worked.

At the time in WSBK, teams running twins could run excess capacity compared to higher revving (and, when compared pound for pound) more powerful four-cylinder engines but the V-twin configuration gave Ducati the upper hand when coming out of mid to slow-speed corners. Honda wanted a slice of the pie and set about building the VTR1000 SP1.

The first iteration was good but flawed on the road by a twitchy throttle that meant most owners ended up fitting a power commander to smooth it all out. The second version aptly named the SP2, was a different story, scoring 11 WSBK wins and an army of fans and race-rep paint-jobs.

7. BMW S1000RR (2009)

It’s difficult to get your head around the fact that, the factory that built the tawdry tourers and posh off-roaders that Boorman and McGregor rode around the world on, would launch one of the most bonkers sportsbikes of the early 2000s.

It’s not that the S1000RR used any uber-tech back then either, it was the headline power figure of 190bhp that’s still good by today's values – back then it was class-leading. Add to that the success the bike has had at the Isle of Man TT and you can’t deny it is a formidable machine for road and track riding.



6. Kawasaki Ninja H2 (and H2R)

Kawasaki has form when it comes to building bonkers motorcycles that grab all the headlines and a shitload of sales to boot! The H2 (and its track-only cousin the H2R) is no exception.

Pushing out well over 200hp from a supercharged four-cylinder 1000cc engine (over 300hp from the H2R!), the machine landed at the motorcycle show back in 2014. In a genius move by Kawasaki’s marketing team, the bike was strapped to a dyno and fired up for top-speed runs on the rolling road every couple of hours. It was such a simple idea, but it worked! I was at the show that year and remember hearing punters talking about heading home once they’d seen it as that’s all they had wanted to come and see!

For the top five head to page two >>>