Fast Bikes - - GROUP TEST -

A s an owner of one of these bikes, you may be think­ing we’re be­ing overly crit­i­cal of your steed. That’s far from the case. Of course, rid­den in iso­la­tion, all eight are smash­ing mo­tor­cy­cles but when we have the lux­ury of boast­ing eight of the best sports­bikes on the planet and spank­ing them back-to-back, their high­points and neg­a­tives are em­pha­sised ten­fold.

In the words of Jessie J, it’s not about the money. SBOTY is all about the best of the best, the here and now, and price has lit­tle rel­e­vance to our out­come. A £10k bar­gain could well have out­gunned £20k ex­ot­ica. It didn’t. We had the same tyres and track, yet the times were faster – de­spite me be­ing fat­ter. The bar has been raised and, for those that re­main stag­nant, that’s all too ob­vi­ous in such es­teemed com­pany.

After briefly flirt­ing with a per­fect elec­tron­ics equi­lib­rium in re­cent years, it’s clear that Euro 4 reg­u­la­tions have scup­pered not only out­right power and noise, but track pro­to­col for many of 2017’s su­per­bikes – pre­dom­i­nantly ABS and its unswitch­able state. Why brak­ing from speed at a track should be pe­nalised for ‘safety’ rea­sons, which only man­i­fests into safety con­cerns, is hard to stom­ach as purists. And isn’t it ironic that the win­ners wear con­ven­tional sus­pen­sion rather than semi-ac­tive tech? They’re a vic­tim of their own tech­nolo­gies. Sad faces...

And so to the or­der. Fin­ish­ing eighth (and last) is noth­ing to cry about, and the R6 was a wor­thy chal­lenger, de­spite the seis­mic power gap. Yes, it’s gut­less, and yes, it’s ex­pen­sive for what it is, but Yamaha has, re­mark­ably, sin­gle­hand­edly rekin­dled the 600cc su­per­sports class and only mer­its ap­plause. Other than a 959 Panigale, and dis­count­ing MV Agusta’s volatile F3 range, the R6 is now the only brand-new mid­dleweight avail­able for pub­lic con­sump­tion.

Next up is the 1299. There’s noth­ing in­trin­si­cally wrong

with the Ital­ian stal­lion, but the Panigale, as a pack­age, is near­ing re­tire­ment and found the pace too hot in Por­tu­gal – a bit like BJ. The Su­perquadro engine and this par­tic­u­lar mono­coque chas­sis has come to the end of its devel­op­men­tal life­span, which is ex­actly why Ducati will un­veil the V4 come win­ter. Now that’s a mouth-wa­ter­ing propo­si­tion.

Scrap­ping for the fifth and sixth were the Kawasaki ZX-10RR and Honda’s Fireblade SP. For a £16k su­per­bike, you want some­thing pretty spe­cial that smacks you in the face and fright­ens you into sub­mis­sion. The Ninja, de­spite a very short list of gripes and be­ing ex­tremely ca­pa­ble, just hasn’t got the min­er­als to com­pete with the big boys. The RR’s ho­molo­ga­tion sta­tus aside, the base is over a year old, and even such a short time has proven to be crit­i­cal. It’s a clas­sic ex­am­ple of WorldSBK’s fail­ure to cor­re­late with road bikes.

Ev­ery­one thought the Honda would per­form bet­ter. So much hype, so much prom­ise but the SP is too flawed to be a true con­tender. Look­ing at Honda’s cur­rent com­pe­ti­tion dilem­mas, it seems the road bike’s de­fi­cien­cies don’t van­ish in race trim. Still, it was a jolly good hoot to thrash.

The fight for the podium spots was ridicu­lously close; the clos­est it’s ever been with a quar­tet that’s in­fin­itely su­pe­rior to the bot­tom half of the field. So close, we hadn’t sorted a de­fin­i­tive or­der un­til the test was long fin­ished and the bikes were be­ing loaded in the van. Last year’s SBOTY win­ner claims fourth place in 2017, yet the BMW could well be your ideal road-only steed.

Yamaha’s R1M gets third spot thanks to ex­quis­ite track eti­quette. It’s left lack­ing against the Suzuki and Aprilia but per­fectly fix­able, and it brags some­thing su­per­nat­u­ral to mo­tor­cy­cling – that slide con­trol. Although our wrists did, we can never get bored of pin­ning the throt­tle of the R1M.

Suzuki’s GSX-R1000R was so close to win­ning on its SBOTY de­but. Only the brakes let the side down. Dare we say it – the L7 is the first GSX-R to match the K5’s pro­fu­sion of in­volve­ment and ex­cite­ment? The money saved on an Aprilia would net some se­ri­ous after­mar­ket good­ies, like some proper brakes, but it’s no Aprilia RSV4 RF.

Why hasn’t the RF won more? The harsh re­al­ity is, Aprilia doesn’t have the ad­ver­tis­ing bud­get to spend with other ma­jor publi­ca­tions. Whether or not this im­pacts the re­sults of var­i­ous group tests, we’ll never know, although I’m cer­tain it has in the past. This is the fastest, best han­dling su­per­bike money can buy (within rea­son) and it com­pletely shocked us.

Those who slate Aprilia’s re­li­a­bil­ity are merely sheep fol­low­ing ob­so­lete gos­sip. The fact that deal­ers are now of­fer­ing a life­time war­ranty as a way of lur­ing in pro­mis­cu­ous cus­tomers says some­thing about that out­dated myth. There are no ex­cuses any more – the Aprilia RSV4 RF is 2017’s

Fast Bikes Sportsbike of the Year!

I’m the win­ner – yay for me!

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