Liter Bike Wars
Our obligatory look through history leads us to the late 90's and the birth of the liter bike. Everyone was searching for a top end bike. Suzuki tried a 750 and Honda went for the 900 Fireblade, but they were all surpassed by the Yamaha R1. The original R1 was the first liter bike and seemed to hit the sweet spot in the market. This caused all manufacturers to rush to match the 1000cc offering.
The big 4 all came out with 1000cc super sports within the next couple years and the speed war was on. The early 00's were a golden age of motorcycles. Performance is king, and good ol' fashioned tuning is the road to the throne. Every model tried to be lower weight and higher powered than the last. Over the years these bikes saw gains that would make Arnold proud. These were arguably the most pure sports bikes we have been able to experience, before they were ruined by electronics.
Yes, I said it. Modern day electronic nannies have neutered the raw performance of top shelf bikes. Don't get me wrong, technology has done a lot for performance gains but the fly by wire throttles and traction control has somewhat diminished the feeling of a super sport.
The New Age
The new age has ushered in a fury of new bikes all with 1000 gizmo's and gadgets. They are extremely fast but has it all been worth it? I mean should just anyone be able to walk in off the street and hop on this years R1 and be able to whack the throttle wide open at the apex and come out the other side not questioning their life choices? Anyways, love or hate them, it seems the electronics are here to stay.
The new liter bike class is full of masterpieces. Each with a TFT displays, high spec suspension, and crazy amounts of tech. Also, the performance is insane. Take the R1M, S1000RR, and ZX10RR for examples, each have claimed over 200HP and will outperform most riders who get one them. These race bikes with headlights are the pinnacle of performance on two wheels.
Or they were at least... until The Ducati V4R and Aprilia RSV4 showed up. These bikes are sporting 1100cc engines that put out even more performance than just a lowly liter bike. Is this the new speed war? Should we expect more manufacturers to jump to the 1100cc category? Will MotoGP see a jump in displacement? All good questions and all very exciting! A new speed war would be impressive to see and these bikes truly are mind blowing. I mean the Busa was the king of straight line performance. The new age is trending towards matching insane drag performance but also extreme handling. Yeah, I'm pumped too.
But How Usable is it Really?
Ok, so we have these insane bikes now what? See article on Ducati Streetfighter. Admittedly liter bikes are not necessarily designed for the street in the same way as a naked or other street focused bikes, but lets not pretend we all don't want a shiny new V4R to commute on. Are all the sensors and performance adding to it though? For a bit of canyon carving it might be nice to have a little more performance than a simple street bike, but 200+ HP and race bike performance might be a little excessive. The street is a place of law and order and unfortunately these new 1100cc's are way above what is usable at their limit. Plus, why would you want to sentence a bike with this much performance to a life of street duty?
Street bikes should be sensible, comfortable, with only enough grunt to get around and have a bit of fun on the weekends. I mean its a crazy world out there and too much power can be disastrous. Our esteemed Dr. Jeremy Clarkson weights in claiming "Speed has never killed anyone. Suddenly becoming stationary… that's what gets you." The street does have a great many things out there waiting to bring you to a sudden halt.
I know, I know that was painful to hear. It hurt me too. It is not the end though. No one really bought a motorcycle to be practical right? Ok, maybe some of you did but not everyone. I mean a 600cc sport bike isn't really practical for street duty yet it is a very popular choice. For many, it is not about street ability and creature comforts. Owning a motorcycle it is about having the prettiest, fastest, coolest bike out there. I mean Ducati is the Ferrari of motorcycles, right? Showing off on of these bikes and outrunning all your friends is an intoxicating proposition. Those lucky enough to be able to use either of these bikes for the track will truly be able to enjoy what these bikes were created for, even though you are likely crapping yourself while only scraping the surface of the bikes abilities. Either way it is a rush, and you might as well enjoy being able to pass everything and everyone on the straights. Just don't take it personal when they are all laughing at you when it breaks down.
Ultimately you do not buy either of the bikes because it is the smart thing to do. You do it because you have $40k burning a hole in your pocket and feel like flexing on the rest of us. Man, do you get a great machine for it too. Performance aside, just look at these bikes! From every angle they are a work of art and have been turning heads since they were announced. So go on and enjoy your motorcycle and forget being practical. Riding should be about passion and enjoyment.
What do you think? Trying to figure out how to rearrange some assets to fund one of these? Join the club! What are your favorite street bikes or super sports? Let me know in the comments!