Let’s put on the rose-tinted glasses and have a look back at our top 10 sportbikes that have really rocked us over the last 22 years.
We live in the most technological age in human history and never has this been more true than in the sportbike space. The dawn of the new millennium has seen the disappearance of carburetors, the inclusion of traction control, chassis that help you go around corners faster than ever, and horsepower numbers hitting markers that were solely the domain of MotoGP barely a few years ago. With that in mind, we thought we’d go for a ride down memory lane and list our Top 10 Sportbikes Since 2000.
10. 2001 Suzuki GSX-R1000K1
Let’s kick off this top 10 sportbikes list with a banger, shall we? The Gixxer thou of 2001 was Suzuki’s first 1000cc superbike. With a claimed 160 hp on tap from its 988cc inline-four motor and only 430 pounds (claimed, wet) to push, it trounced the then class king in the Yamaha YZF-R1 and forced Honda’s hand into creating the CBR 1000 RR of 2004. And from 2003 to 2010, the GSX-R went undefeated in the AMA Superbike Championship in the hands of Ben Spies and Mat Mladin. As far as first time missiles go, Suzuki knocked it right out of the park.
9. 2004 Kawasaki ZX-10R
The 2004 ZX-10R gets a nod simply for the scare-your-pants-off performance it exuded, more so than any race wins. This was well before the age of rider aids and its claimed 174 hp crank horsepower hit hard and fast, the 10R’s twitchy and nervous chassis, propensity for massive power wheelies and tank slappers, and no factory-fitted steering damper, giving it a widow maker reputation. Subsequent years of the 10R gradually saw some civility bred into the machine, but the 2004 OG 10R remains the gold standard as far as Japanese superbike lunacy goes.
8. 2005 Suzuki GSX-R1000K5
Talk to anyone from Suzuki and they will tell you the 2005 GSX-R1000 was the company’s finest-ever superbike. With a claimed 175 hp and one of the most superb chassis ever created in the superbike space, the K5 was damn near untouchable on the track and on the showroom floor the minute it became available. Australians Mat Mladin and Troy Corser won the AMA Superbike and WorldSBK Championships, respectively, with the K5, and the machine itself went on to spawn a wide variety of machines like the rebirthed Katana, the GSX-S1000F, and the GSX-S1000.
7. 2006 Ducati Desmosedici D16 RR
The 990cc era of MotoGP competition is fondly remembered as the wild west of technological development, but in 2006, Ducati decided to let the general public in on the action by creating the stupendous Ducati Desmosedici D16 RR. Closely modeled on the 2004 Ducati Desmosedici MotoGP racer of Troy Bayliss and Loris Capirossi, the RR is as close as one could get to a MotoGP bike for the street. With 200 hp and 85 lb-ft of torque on tap from its 990cc V4, top-level gas-charged Ohlins forks, and the first production motorcycle with magnesium wheels, the Desmosedici is one of Ducati’s absolute greatest hits. And if you’re lucky enough to hear one with the race exhaust fitted, your ears will thank you.
6. 2006 Yamaha YZF-R6
Next on our top 10 list is the 2006 R6, Yamaha’s finest-ever mid-size sportbike. It debuted many production firsts such as the ride-by-wire throttle in Yamaha’s Chip Controlled Throttle (YCCT), variable inlet tracts, titanium inlet, and exhaust valves, and the little monster revved to a crescendo of 18,000 rpm. If you weren’t on an R6, you were up against it in supersport competition. The ’06 was so successful it only received periodical updates until Yamaha stopped importing the machine, much to sportbike riders’ heartache across the United States, in 2020.
5. 2009 Aprilia RSV4
Trust handling geniuses Aprilia to create a machine so close to perfect as to be almost imperceptible. The stunning 2009 Aprilia RSV4 packed a monster 180 hp V4 motor that sounded almost as good as the Desmosedici of a few years ago and wrapped it in a small, svelte chassis. The design used much of their knowledge gained from years of domination in 250GP racing and was penned by the man who later turned Ducati’s MotoGP racer from a pig to the best bike on the grid, Gigi Dall’Igna. It was little surprise that Max Biaggi, the man largely responsible for those 250GP wins, was hired to bring Aprilia its first WorldSBK title, which he duly did in 2010, backing it up for another in 2012. Sylvain Guintolli added another WorldSBK title for the RSV4 in 2014.
4. 2009 BMW S 1000 RR
If there’s one word to describe BMW’s first modern day superbike, it would be “digital”. The S 1000 RR was one of the first bikes created for the public with variable traction control, ride-by-wire, ABS, and a motor that produced a whopping 190 hp from its four inline cylinders. The engine was also used to debut finger follower valve actuation, which did away with the old shim-and-bucket layout, in turn creating a more compact and lighter top-end. The S 1000 RR came out at a time when the Japanese manufacturers were scaling back development costs due to the Global Financial Crisis of 2008, while BMW went full steam ahead and gained an advantage over the competition that took years for them to claw back.
3. 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1
The 2015 R1 took lessons from the 2010 BMW S 1000 RR and cranked everything up to 11. With a fully revised cross-plane crank motor and a much slimmer chassis than we had between 2009 and 2014, the R1 also had brand new electronics such as a six-axis IMU, multi-level traction control, power and ride modes, wheelie control and quick shifter, and the new Slide Control platform that limited how far sideways you could slide, while the traction control limited the amount of wheelspin. As Yamaha so aptly put it when presenting the 2015 YZF-R1 to the assembled press, “No longer is mechanical superiority enough to stay at the top. The digital era has arrived.” Truer words have never been spoken.
2. 2015 Honda RC213V-S
Honda’s halo motorcycle. The RC213V-S used the RCV1000 MotoGP machine raced by the late Nicky Hayden as its base, and Honda’s creation of just 200 units made it instantly the most desirable production motorcycle to carry its name since the NR750 of 1992. But you had to pay to play with the RC. Units imported to America were restricted to 100 hp from its 999cc V4, but once you fitted the uber-expensive HRC race kit and fitted the stunning titanium exhaust, you had a claimed 214 hp in your right hand mated to one of the finest production chassis ever created for the public. Rarer, more exclusive and more expensive than the Ducati Desmosedici D16 RR, the RC213V-S is the ultimate MotoGP bike for the street.
1. 2020 Ducati Superleggera V4
A carbon fiber tour de force is about the best way to describe the 2020 Ducati Superleggera V4, number 1 on our top 10 list of sportbikes since 2000. Almost every structural component is made from the magic black material… front frame (chassis), subframe, bodywork, wheels, engine and wheel guards, you name it. Then there’s the Öhlins 43mm NPX25/30 pressurized fork and TTX36 shock with GP valving and a titanium spring, and fiercely beautiful red and black paint and winglets. Not to mention the claimed 224 hp (234 hp with the Racing Kit exhaust) and a claimed wet weight of 350 lb (335 lb with the race kit), the Superleggera V4 almost trumps the Desmosedici D16 RR as the most desirable Ducati of the modern era.
And there you have it… our Top 10 Sportbikes Since 2000. Did your bike make the list? Are there any sportbikes that we missed or that you think should have made the cut? Are there any bikes on the list that you feel shouldn’t be?
Let us know in the comment section below…