GROUP TEST UNSUNG HEROES
Three stunning buys you shouldn’t ignore
These are three of the most exciting bikes on planet Earth. The growling RSV4 RF, screaming GSX- R600 and bonkers Hypermotard 939 SP all leave you shaking with adrenalin and breathless with lust after every encounter. They sum up what I love most about bikes: speed, acceleration, flat-stick cornering and crossed-up, hovering wheelies. But clearly they’re not for everybody because they are not the big sellers you might imagine.
To find out why we asked you online and were bombarded with your opinions – regardless of whether they sell or not, these are bikes you care about. We also visited Suzuki and Aprilia dealers to hear what the people who sell them actually think.
A lifetime guarantee
Of all the bikes here it’s the RSV4 RF that elicited the most opinion on MCN’S Facebook page. Happily there are lots of satisfied Aprilia owners out there, but there’s an equal amount who wouldn’t buy this incredible superbike.
Most point to its price, which is a fair whack more expensive than its rivals, but the RF is cheaper than the equally exotic Ducati 1299 Panigale S, which sells in greater numbers.
Lots go on to mention the small pool of dealerships and back-up in the UK, which doesn’t instil them with confidence. On the flip side for those who have a dependable local dealer, servicing, spares and parts aren’t an issue.
When we spoke to Wheels Motorcycles, who sell around 50% of all Aprilias in the UK, they said they give a lifetime guarantee on every Aprilia sold, as long as they do all of the servicing. That’s a huge piece of mind, especially as some early bikes suffered mechanical teething problems.
The RF’S tiny Biaggi-developed dimensions put many off, as does the perceived (but unfounded) unreliability of a bike packed with so many electronics. Others point to poor depreciation, high insurance and the fact that you’ll only see the Aprilia compete in WSB and rarely in Superstock or BSB.
The Italian manufacturer is working hard to boost customer confidence with better reliability and improved dealer support, but let’s put that to one side for a moment and talk about the machine itself. Put simply it’s one of the best superbikes money can buy.
It’s not as cramped as you’d imagine and actually has more legroom than its rivals. It’s civilised at normal speeds, comes with the safety net of ABS and traction control and it’s built with breath-taking attention to detail.
On the road the lightweight wheels and Öhlins suspension let you glide from point to point and the flexible V4 engine has a delicious wide spread of power. On the road or at a trackday it will keep up with anything out there.
Hypermotard Ducati’s hooligan-mobile
Talk about niche - the Hypermotard 939 SP is as single-minded as they come and at close to thirteen grand for a supermoto, no matter how special, is an awful lot of cash.
We heard from a few hardcore fans that would never be parted from theirs, but even Ducati Peterborough admitted that for many it’s a second, or third bike for the lucky few that can afford it.
Most agree the Hypermotard is a one trick pony – one to enjoy for an hour on a Sunday morning, and they’re right. But for the short time you’re in the Ducati’s company you forget about the lack of practicality and enjoy the mono-wheeled craziness of it all.
New for this year the Hypermotard motor is bored-out to 937cc. It has more power, torque and 18% more oomph in the midrange, which of course means even easier wheelies.
The base model costs £10,195, but this SP version is another £2655. For that you get Öhlins suspension, forged Marchesini wheels, racier electronic riding modes, a bit of carbon and a grippier seat. Power stays at 113bhp, but dry weight is trimmed back 3kg to 178kg.
It may look like an off-roader, but this is every inch an exquisite, exotic Ducati. As well as all the top-drawer components and carbon fibre, it’s flawlessly screwed together.
Riding along you can see down the back of the tank, where it’s sculpted to let the bars turn and even there the paint is reassuringly glossy. You’re going to get as much pleasure looking at the SP as you are riding it – almost.
Every part of the Ducati works in harmony with the next. The motor has a perfect throttle and instant, hardhitting grunt in every gear. It’s stable in the corners, has Brembos that would have you over the bars if it weren’t for the ABS and the agility of a BMX. It’s a great town bike, stunt machine, formidable back lane scratcher and trackday warrior all rolled into one.
The WSB champ Dash has a track mode with a clear lap timer The axe murderer The wheelie monster SUZUKI GSX-R600 30TH ANNIVERSARY DUCATI HYPERMOTARD 939 SP £9499 APRILIA RSV4 RF £12,850 £18,236 The RSV4 has three WSB titles, dozens of wins and impressed us during countless MCN superbike tests, but bikes sold in 2016 totalled just 128. This is the goodie-laden 30th Anniversary edition, but the bike hasn’t fundamentally changed since 2011. Suzuki have only sold 174 this year. Refreshed with a bigger 937cc Euro4-spec motor for 2016, the Hypermotard is as niche as they come and Ducati have sold just 85 SPS this year. A small dealer network and perceived unreliability unfairly harm RSV4 sales
Supermotos have always been a niche market and a price tag of £12,850 doesn’t help sales
It’s not a dash, it’s a wheelie height gauge