7 TOP SPEED HE­ROES

Seven rock­et­ships of dif­fer­ent eras By Neil Mur­ray

Motorcycle News (UK) - - MCN Garage -

Kawasaki H2 Ninja (2015-present)

The worldõs first and, so far, only pro­duc­tion su­per­charged mo­tor­cy­cle. And that rare thing, a com­pletely hand-built Ja­panese bike. In­cred­i­bly fast, with mas­sive power and torque ab­so­lutely ev­ery­where, itõs like all great Kawasakis − it feels quick even when not ac­tu­ally trav­el­ling quickly. Itõs se­ri­ously scary some­times, even for ex­pe­ri­enced rid­ers. An over­pow­ered thug of a bike with plenty of faults: heavy clutch, bru­tal throt­tle re­sponse, epic thirst, and the rear tyre life of a mayfly. None of this mat­ters: itõs the sort of bike you never thought any­one would be al­lowed to build, but Kawasaki did it. What you’ll pay now £17,000-£19,000. But should you? A toughie. You have to ac­cept its faults and just en­joy the wild ride.

Kawasaki GPZ900R (1983-96)

Com­pletely rewrote the Jap sports­bike rule­book and set the tem­plate for ev­ery­thing there­after. Not the first liq­uid-cooled 16v in­line four, but the first big one. It com­bined the lat­est tech, light weight and a lot of power in one com­pact pack­age, and it aced ev­ery­thing. Other bikes did 150mph be­fore the 900R, but they did­nõt han­dle like it. It was so good it out­lived both the GPZ1000R that was sup­posed to re­place it and the ZX10 af­ter that, and re­mained in pro­duc­tion for other mar­kets even af­ter 1996. Ab­so­lutely one of the epochal bikes, and prices are still lu­di­crously low.

What you’ll pay £1400-£4000 (for a mint A1, but the A7/A8 ones are bet­ter).

But should you? As an in­vest­ment? God, yes.

Suzuki Hayabusa (1999-present)

Suzuk­iõs con­tender for The Fastest Bike In The World was the bike that prompted the 300kph (186mph) Ja­panese Ôgentle­menõs agree­mentõ to limit top speed. In orig­i­nal un­re­stricted form it would show 200 on the speedo and get grat­i­fy­ingly close in re­al­ity − a few care­fully pre­pared near-stock­ers did in­deed get to 200mph. Itõs long and low, and not a sports­bike, but it steers way bet­ter than youõd imag­ine some­thing this size could, and is sur­pris­ingly eco­nom­i­cal, given the per­for­mance. Has been re­vamped, but still is recog­nis­ably a Õbusa. Noth­ing else looks like it. Oh, and why Ôhayabusaõ? Be­cause itõs a bird of prey that eats black­birds.

What you’ll pay now £2500-£8500. But should you? If you want a su­per­fast Grand Tourer, yes.

Honda CBR900 Fire­blade (1992-2003)

Big power in a bike that weighed as lit­tle as a 600, all driven by de­signer Tadeo Babaõs ice-cold think­ing. Itõs been through many model changes in the last 25 years, and itõs still a front-run­ner, even if cur­rent mod­els have lost some of the sim­plic­ity of con­cept that marked the early ones. Ev­ery­one should ride a Blade once. What you’ll pay now £1500-£10,000. But should you? Oh, come oné

Laverda Jota (1976-1983)

Slater Bros, UK Laverda im­porters, asked for a hot­ter ver­sion of the 3C triple for eval­u­a­tion and slapped a free-breath­ing ex­haust on it. The re­sult was a mir­a­cle: an an­i­mal that did 140mph. Big and heavy, it han­dles but needs to be bossed around. Noth­ing else looks like it, or sounds like it.

What you’ll pay now £10,000-£15,000. But should you? Yes, if you can live with the right-foot change. But beware fakes and im­ports.

Vin­cent Black Shadow (1948-55)

In­cred­i­bly ad­vanced for its time: it used the 45-de­gree V-twin en­gine as a stressed frame mem­ber and had can­tilever rear sus­pen­sion. Its 45bhp was a big deal in the 1950s, and it could be in­duced to pro­duce more. It did over 120mph at a time when a fam­ily car was hard-pressed to ex­ceed 75.

What you’ll pay now £60,000 and up. But should you? It has its idio­syn­cra­sies, but if you can af­ford it, oh, yes, yes, yes.

Tri­umph Bon­neville (1958-88)

Quite sim­ply the sports­bike of the 1960s. Tri­umph took the 650cc twin, tuned it with twin carbs and hot cams, and gave it neat, sparse styling. It was a sell­out sen­sa­tion. The Bon­nie is still the apoth­e­o­sis of the ver­ti­cal twin.

What you’ll pay now £3000-£15,000 de­pend­ing on year and model.

But should you? Yes, but take ex­pert ad­vice when buy­ing.

Looks like it’s do­ing 200mph stood still. H2 is bonkers

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