The motorcycling community is large and diverse, with various riders asking different things of their bike. Some prefer models suited for long road trips, some want a comfortable commuting bike, while others simply want a motorcycle that looks great -but for riders who favor performance above all else, nothing tops a 1000cc sportbike.
For the uninitiated, sportbikes are a class of street bike that are specifically tuned and aimed to achieve the most power available on the market. The models in the 1000cc class represent the cream of the crop in terms of pure performance. In fact, modified versions of these bikes are the primary vehicles used in top-flight competitive motorsports events like the AMA Superbike series.
When buying a sportbike, riders have several things to consider. First and foremost, nobody should be expecting to travel long distances on their new sportbike. The aggressive riding style means that bikers will be leaning into corners, putting pressure on their wrists up front and practically laying down on top of the bike. It’s simply not a comfortable way for riders to travel outside of a small metropolitan area.
Bikers also need to be prepared to handle the power that the engine can produce. First-time riders will be better off trying a 250cc or 500cc model until they learn the basics of maneuvering a sportbike, which can be quite different from any other model. While sportbikes are typically thought of as the supercars of the motorcycle world, most anyone can competently handle a high-end Audi or Maserati right off the bat, but the same might not be true of those looking to purchase a 1000cc sportbike.
In terms of specifications that a rider should look for, the most important performance measurements are horsepower and weight. Horsepower will represent how quickly a bike can accelerate while weight will be a rough approximation of handling and agility. That being said, no rider should make a purchase based off of the numbers alone. Subtle differences like footpeg location can make a big difference in how well the bike “feels” to a rider. Always test before you buy, especially with regards to an expensive purchase like a 1000cc sportbike.
To help the process, we’ve compiled some of the top picks for the 1000cc class. These bikes all perform well in terms of handling, power and a variety of other factors. While drivers can’t go wrong with any of these models, they each have their own pluses and minuses.
Yamaha has not one, but two models that made our list. The more famous offering is the Yamaha YZF-R1, which has been in production for a number of years. The R1 produces 151 horsepower at 11,500 RPM, which translates to good mid-range power for the model. Weighing in at 474 lbs when fully fueled, it’s one of the heavier bikes around, but that could be due to its large fuel tank at 4.8 gallons while getting 29.3 miles per gallon.
Where the R1 really shines is in comfort. One of the bike’s key features are the adjustable footpegs, which allow riders of any height or size to fit comfortably. At $13,290, it’s also one of the more affordable 1000cc options.
The Yamaha FZ1 is a similar bike in many aspects, but features an upright riding position rather than the traditional aggressive stance. It offers slightly reduced performance at 147 horsepower, but also comes at a significantly reduced price of approximately $10,490. Yamaha claims that the FZ1 is an “upright R1 ready to take on the world.”
Riders looking to maximizing their comfort might also be interested the KTM RC8R. The RC8R features a customizable seat, footpegs and handlebars, meaning that a rider will be able to tailor the bike exactly to their specifications. With 86 lb-ft of torque at just 443 lbs, the RC8R is one of the best handling bikes available. The 155 horsepower is outclassed by several other bikes, but still gets the job done for the vast majority of riders. Perhaps the only downside for the RCR8 is its nearly $20,000 price tag, but with the the highly customizable features and top performance, it may just be worth it.
For those looking for a slightly more affordable option, the Kawasaki ZX-10R is a strong buy in terms of pure performance. This model delivers 163 horsepower and 76 lb-ft of torque with a 458 lb weight, making it one of the best-performing bikes available on the market. Riders interested in styling hopefully like bright green, as the model only comes in the traditional Kawasaki coloring. Although at just $13,199, riders can use their savings to customize their ZX-10R any way they want.
Suzuki fans were disappointed when the Japanese manufacturer announced that there would be no new Suzuki GSX-R1000 for 2010, as the GSX-R series, also known as a “Gixxer” is a storied model with a long history. Fortunately, the Gixxer is back with a vengeance for the 2011 model year, and promises to continue the prestige carried by the model for more than 25 years.
The first Gixxer essentially defined the superbike class, and the modern version of the Gixxer continues to be a top buy for riders. With 160 horsepower and 75 lb-ft of torque powering a 460 lb frame, the Suzuki is a strong all-around bike. It also posts a strong 33 miles per gallon, making it a good commuter bike. The low seat height will also make the Gixxer a preferable choice for shorter riders. Suzuki has priced the new model at $13,599 and offers it in either metallic blue or black.
Finally, the Honda CBR1000RR is a classic case of a bike that doesn’t do anything spectacular but does everything well, making it a strong choice for bikers. The 153 horsepower and 77 lb-ft of torque put it on par with most of the other bikes mentioned, but the bike is able to do more with the power because of its slim 451 lb frame, which also makes it easier for less-experienced sportbike riders to handle. The bike’s excellent suspension also means that riders looking to handle some corners on either the track or the city will find the CBR to be a great partner.
The orange/silver/black paint scheme attracts attention and gives the CBR slightly more flash than many of the other bikes mentioned. The bike starts at $13,399, but riders looking for safety may want to spring for an optional anti-lock brake system, which retails for an extra $1,000.
With so many options, fans of high-end sportbikes will be able to pick out a model that exactly matches their riding style.