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!