The rather flashy photos in this article were taken by the genius that is Steinhardt Photography. Go and check out his Tribe/Facebook and Instagram.
It's every motorcyclist's wet dream isn't it? Four of the most pukka race-reps out there worth £80,000 between them. The million-dollar question is which one would you pick for the weekend?
Whilst working for SuperBike Magazine on a group test I was faced with this rather pleasant quandary. The Honda Fireblade SP had just hit the shops and was the must-have flavour of the month for all the magazines. In reality though it was just another slightly boring 'blade with some fancy suspenders fitted. Pass.
The Aprilia RSV4-R was a machine I'd ridden before, and I already knew the fuel bill on that thing would be crippling - if it made it through a tank of fuel that is. We'd experienced some quite serious reliability issues with Aprilias loaned to us. Not forgetting these were brand-new and well prepared press bike that were unexpectedly breaking on us. I witnessed a gearbox die in dramatic fashion during a previous test and this was enough to put me off taking another one home with me. I'd be in for a proper bollocking if we had to hand another broken one back. On the plus side all of the Aprilias we tested came with super-cool Italian numberplates on them. I don't think South Wales Police were able to accurately track those things you know...
... . The BMW HP4 carbon was the blingy offering from Ze Chermans and if I wasn't completely bored of inline-four engines at that time, I'd have put it right at the top of the pile. Who doesn't love to play with launch control after all? Have a listen to the clip below.
Playing with the BMW HP4 Launch Control. More addictive than Pringles sprinkled with crack.
Who am I kidding though? I only ever had eyes for the big, loud, brash and reassuringly expensive Ducati from the beginning. The 'R' model was the top of the tree in their lineup at the time, just before the Superleggera was launched. The 1199cc V-Twin made 200bhp and the top speed was also very near 200 if you tucked in enough with the wind behind you. With the SuperBike Magazine fuel card in my pocket, blistering summer weather and 1000 miles of Welsh roads to play on, it was set to be a memorable weekend
You'll be surprised to hear then that in actual fact, the £28,000 Ducati Panigale R is a pretty shit road bike. Yes it's so fast it'll turn your brain to mush and make you dribble like a simpleton. On the road though it's simply too expensive to push hard, and if you do try and push hard, the chassis is so stiff you'll experience next to zero feedback whilst the bike laughs off your attempts to ride quickly. Traffic? Forget about it. And forget about ever having children after riding it thanks to the searing heat and buzzing vibration through the granite-hard seat.
The 'R' was so frustrating and crippling on the road, surging around on anything less than full throttle - that I decided to do what every other Ducati owner does. I took it to the pub to pose for a bit. Then rode to the local bike meet to pose for a bit longer. The big red beast certainly attracted its fair share of attention. Which is the main reason people buy them in the first place. As anything more than an occasional toy? Forget about it
Words: Shaun Pope - Top photograph: Phil Steinhardt