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Motorcycle Buyer's Guide: 1,000cc superbikes


by Pascal Bastien ,

Designed for thrill seekers and pure performance addicts, 1,000cc superbikes use world-class technology and components that come straight from their racing equivalents. These machines can propel you from 0 to 100 km/h in less than three seconds and reach F1-like top speeds.

Some of them completely discard comfort and practicality, while others are more compliant and relatively friendly when not on the track. Advanced electronic aids keep spreading across this market segment, pushing performance, control and safety to unprecedented levels.

Motorcycle Buyer's Guide: 1,000cc superbikes

Aprilia RSV4
The RSV4 is an amazing bike in every way. It now comes with a full suite of electronic systems including variable intake, computer controlled throttle, as well as three engine and traction control maps. Derived from racing, this Aprilia has been slightly de-tuned for road use. The demanding riding position and firm Öhlins suspension of the Factory variant will delight track day enthusiasts, while hardcore commuters will prefer the RSV4 R whose softer ride makes it a tad more comfortable on highways and boulevards.

2012 Aprilia RSV4 front 3/4 view
2012 Aprilia RSV4 (Photo: Aprilia)

Racy, powerful and almost as nimble as a 600cc superbike, the S1000RR is an unforgiving steed that only shows its full potential to those brave riders who dare to push the performance envelope and make the most of its ultra-sophisticated components. You really have to put this BMW through its paces to discover how fast and competent it actually is. Anything less is wasting a razor-sharp chassis, myriad of electronics, and an explosive engine that achieves blazing speeds. The S1000RR offers an aggressive riding position with high-mounted footpegs and low handlebars. An evil track-eating monster for seasoned riders only.

2012 BMW S1000RR front 3/4 view
2012 BMW S1000RR (Photo: BMW)

Ducati 1199 Panigale
Electronics galore mixed with the industry's most powerful twin-cylinder, not to mention a new MotoGP-inspired aluminum frame that signals the end of the Italian brand's much loved trellis frame - the Panigale is quite radical and electrifying. But there's more: Ducati created an S Corse model with race ABS and exclusive colours. On the road or on the track, the Panigale doesn't allow any guesswork; you need to know exactly where you go and make sure you stick to your line. Ergonomics are typical of a race bike.

2012 Ducati Panigale front 3/4 view
2012 Ducati Panigale (Photo: Ducati)

Honda CBR1000RR
The Reds strike back with a completely redesigned CBR1000RR that's decked out to the nines after receiving a multilayer paint treatment, new suspension, lighter wheels, and optimized mapping. While it lacks traction control, this superbike can count on Honda's acclaimed C-ABS technology, superior ergonomics and rider-friendly dynamics to attract buyers.

2012 Honda CBR1000RR front 3/4 view
2012 Honda CBR1000RR (Photo: Honda)

Kawasaki ZX-10R
Here's a blistering 200-hp superbike that tips the scales at just 197 kg. Kawasaki's Ram Air intake system and multiple electronic aids (variable engine mapping, race ABS, adjustable traction control, wheel sensors, etc.) elevate the ZX-10R above and beyond all competitors in terms of safety and rider friendliness. It's a full-on racer with not-so-extreme ergonomics that you can enjoy on a daily basis.

2011 Kawasaki ZX-10R left side view
2011 Kawasaki ZX-10R (Photo: Kawasaki)

As light as a 600cc model and offering adjustable ergonomics (handlebars, footpegs, suspension), the latest evolution of the RC8R proves much more effective than its predecessor. It also stays in line with the brand's performance philosophy.

2012 KTM RC8R front 3/4 view
2012 KTM RC8R (Photo: KTM)

MV Agusta F4 RR
As the most exotic superbike of the bunch, the F4 RR raises the bar pretty high. This race-ready contender puts on a show with superb lines and graphics, premium features, and more importantly a delightful engine that sounds like no other. A work of art on two wheels that only the best riders can fully appreciate.

2012 MV Agusta F4 RR front 3/4 view
2012 MV Agusta F4 RR (Photo: MV Auguata)

Suzuki GSX-R1000
This old-school superbike has been a hit since 1985. Packing pure power in a frame that demands a bit more touch than most competitors, the GSX-R1000 offers the ultimate riding thrills and decent ergonomics for your daily commutes. The passenger seat cover (available at no extra cost) enhances its racing character.

2012 Suzuki GSX-R1000 right side view
2012 Suzuki GSX-R1000 (Photo: Suzuki)

Yamaha R1
Two-time AMA champion Josh Hayes rides a Yamaha R1, the only superbike in this list to share a direct connection with its MotoGP sibling. With electronic throttle control, variable intake funnels, a slipper clutch, 6-mode traction control, rider-selectable mapping, and a crossplane crankshaft that boosts mid-range torque, the R1 seems invincible. It's a hard beast to tame on the road and to maximize on the track, but once you do, expect some of the fastest and most exhilarating accelerations you can dream of.

Key Competitors