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A sportbike represents the pinnacle of motorcycle technology. Sometimes referred to as supersports and superbikes, sportbikes are always evolving.
Suspension, brakes, aerodynamics, and rider-assist technologies such as ABS or traction control are always being updated and improved, while horsepower and performance are ever on the rise. Sportbike models are designed for use in competitive racing so the riding position is aggressive with low handlebars, or clip-ons, and high footpegs that put the rider into a tucked position. The most popular sportbike manufacturers include Suzuki, Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki, Ducati, Aprilia, BMW, and KTM.
Cycle World has been testing motorcycles for decades, so you can always expect the most thorough, comprehensive sportbike reviews from our staff. We bring you first ride reviews from the latest press introductions, full bike tests, and long-term reviews, as well as sportbike comparison tests and superbike shootouts. Whether you’re in the market for a new or used sportbike, Cycle World’s reviews will give you the information you need before you put your hard-earned money on the line.
Our editors ride on the street and track wearing the latest sportbike gear and accessories to provide you with reviews of all of the newest products in motorcycle protective wear. Leather jackets and full-face helmets, gloves and armored pants or jeans, our long-term reviews feature our take on the best sportbike accessories to keep you safe.
Sportbike manufacturers strive to develop proprietary technology that gives their motorcycles an edge over the competition. Honda sportbikes are known for smooth, high-revving power delivery from their inline-4 engines, while Ducatis embrace the power and unique sound of their L twin and V4 engine design.
Kawasakis have a reputation for making big horsepower, and Suzuki sportbikes are legendary because of the popularity of the GSX-R models. Recently, Yamaha has brought crossplane crankshaft engine technology into the picture, while Aprilia has embraced the unique combination of power and torque that erupts from its V4 engine.
BMWs are known for their German clinicalness, unlike KTM sportbikes that make their presence felt with thumping singles and V-twins. No matter which sportbike manufacturer you choose, any sportbike will have a unique character that makes it exciting to own and ride.
Lighter, faster, and more powerful than when they were originally introduced, sportbikes have come a long way from their 1970s counterparts. Early sportbikes would be considered small-displacement motorcycles by today’s standards, averaging around 500cc. Currently, sportbikes fall into three categories: 250cc sportbikes, 600cc sportbikes, and 1000cc sportbikes.
The 250cc sportbike class was dominated by the Kawasaki Ninja 250R. This bike, and all small-displacement motorcycles, are considered by many to be the best motorcycles for beginners. The 250cc Ninja is still a perfect beginner motorcycle because it is an extremely forgiving sportbike, when compared to a 600cc sportbike. As times and tastes have changed, the Ninja 250R has been shelved for an updated sportbike model with 400cc, much like the rest of the 250cc sportbike segment.
The 600cc sportbike class, or the supersport class as it’s known in motorcycle racing, was one of the more popular classes during the ’90s and 2000s. This class was ruled by the Honda CBR600RR, Suzuki GSX-R600, and the Yamaha R6, all fantastic 600cc motorcycles that helped grow the entire industry. As time wore on, emissions regulations became stricter, causing the manufacturers to either update their supersports or ditch them. Honda decided to ax its CBR600RR from the European market and focus on other segments. Suzuki’s GSX-R600 and GSX-R750 suffered the same fate in Europe. The sportbike class that seems to survived them all is the 1,000cc sportbike range.
The 1000cc sportbike class, also known as the superbike class in racing and a literbike on the street, is the class that everyone had a poster of hanging in their bedroom when they were small. The superbike class is the largest in physical size and the fastest out of all of the sportbike classes. They are also the most technologically advanced out of any 1000cc motorcycle, or any motorcycle.
This is the result of racing development and the trickle down of the technology to consumers. As a result of engine configurations and how they deliver power, the superbike class includes engines that are not a true 1000cc. The 1000cc sportbike class is built around the idea of squeezing out performance, and that performance is something that every rider should experience once.