It’s that time of year once again, where we find out ex­actly what the very best sportsbike on the planet is. So, en­joy, be­cause we bloody well did...

Fast Bikes - - GROUP TEST -

There’s some­thing in­her­ently ad­dic­tive about sunshine and mo­tor­cy­cles, and beer for that mat­ter. As tem­per­a­tures rise, man­u­fac­turer press fleets be­gin to blos­som and Bri­tish sum­mer­time com­mences, this can only mean one thing: Fast

Bikes’ Sportsbike of the Year. SBOTY re­ally is the most de­fin­i­tive, com­pre­hen­sive and in­for­ma­tive test of cur­rent su­per­sports weaponry around. As well as the world’s finest testers – rang­ing from fast road pi­lots to fighter pi­lots – we use a now (sadly) old-school method of scru­ti­n­is­ing called ‘hon­esty’, but mixed with new-fan­gled tech­nol­ogy such as GPS.

Other than noise and er­gonomics, the truth is that most bikes feel the same when be­ing rid­den at 50 per cent of their abilities, so it’s our job to bring you a no-non­sense ver­dict and cut the peng from the pong. All of these bikes feel bril­liant in iso­la­tion. It’s about dis­sect­ing ev­ery strand and de­liv­er­ing a con­cise con­clu­sion.

The ob­ser­vant among you will have clocked just eight bikes in the 2017 line-up, rather than the de rigueur ten. Sim­ply put, with bug­ger-all 600s on of­fer, very few mid­dleweight op­tions, and MV Agusta’s fail­ure to pro­vide bikes (namely the F4 RC and new F3 800), only eight de­serve to make the cut any­way.

Thanks to Euro 4, 2017 is a new bike fest, so SBOTY has a ver­i­ta­ble feast of fresh en­trants this term. Per­haps the most ea­gerly an­tic­i­pated play­ers are the Honda Fireblade and Suzuki’s GSX-R1000R, both boast­ing all-new pedi­gree for this sea­son. While the Suzuki claimed top spot in our road-only

shootout last month, it has an on­slaught of ri­valry to con­tend with in Por­tu­gal – and must prove it­self on the stop­watch.

Other new bikes for 2017 in­clude Yamaha’s up­dated R6, which isn’t here solely to make up the num­bers. The last of a dy­ing breed of 600s, 2017’s changes are sub­tle to say the least, but R6s have al­ways per­formed ad­mirably at SBOTY. Talk­ing of per­form­ers, the Aprilia RSV4 has romped to five con­sec­u­tive test vic­to­ries in the past, and rolls into 2017 in the heav­ily mod­i­fied RF guise – far more than just a Euro 4 makeover. The same couldn’t be said for Yamaha’s R1M and BMW’s S 1000 RR, although that mat­ters lit­tle for the reign­ing SBOTY cham­pion from Bavaria. Mmm, beer...

Kawasaki was the first to de­liver Euro 4 su­per­bike of­fer­ings last sea­son. For 2017, the Big K got all ho­molo­ga­tion on our ar­ses and re­leased the ZX-10RR. Does the Rea rep’ have enough in its ar­moury? Fi­nally, un­changed for this year as the sole Euro 3 con­tender, Ducati’s 1299 Panigale S makes what could be a fi­nal ap­pear­ance be­fore Bologna’s su­per­bike range gets re­vamped in 2018.

One again we’re back at Por­ti­mao for a fourth con­sec­u­tive year. The Al­garve track of­fers an un­ri­valled host of chal­lenges and gives any bike a thor­ough work­out – it’s the Jane Fonda of cir­cuits. And, of course, we have a con­trol tyre to keep things fair, with all SBOTY com­peti­tors re­ceiv­ing a grip up­grade courtesy of Bridge­stone’s bril­liant R10.

In the mar­ket for fresh metal? Read on. Just in­ter­ested? Read on any­way. It doesn’t get any bet­ter than this...


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