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Digital Subscriptions > Fast Bikes > 315 July 2016 > 2016 FAST BIKES SPORTSSBIKE OF THE YEAR


It’s that time of year again; the annual pilgrimage to sunny climes and a world class track with the ten best sports bikes on the planet to carry out the planet’s biggest, baddest test…

If Carlsberg did sportsbike tests, it’d be shite compared to this one. Fast Bikes’ Sportsbike of the Year jamboree has gathered authority and respect throughout the world’s motorcycle industry over the years, with many considering SBOTY as the most important, most informative and most entertaining around. If you’re unfamiliar with this test, we assemble the ten freshest and sharpest sportsbikes in the world, dress them in Bridgestone controlrubber to ensure fairness and equality throughout, and undertake two days’worth of unrivalled, arduous testing at one of the world’s finest circuits.

This year’svenue was a third visit on the trot to Portimao on the Algarve, the most spectacular circuit this side of Austin to emerge in the last ten years. 2016’s SBOTY test also sees the start of a new wave of bastardised bikes courtesy of much-maligned Euro4 emission regs. These power-sapping, noise-reducing rules have caused havoc with manufacturers–both financiinformative aally and dynamically –but like it or not, this is the face of things to come. Entry criteria means automatic invites for these fresh 2016 models, so Kawasaki’s ZX-10R and the Ducati 959 Panigale made the ferry. Both impressed in isolation at their respective debuts, but against aphalanx of Euro3 machines they’re going to have their work cut out.

Previous winners and close successors also get anod. Aprilia’sRSV4 –in various guises –has been victorious for the past five years so the current RF model looks to make it six in 2016. Although unchanged for this season, Ya maha’sR1M finished a more than respectable runner-up to the Apriliain 2015. The Japanese model that thinks it’s from Europe was the only bike to get any where near the RSV4’sall-round package, yet there may have been another to challenge last year…

Two days of action this close? Yup, it's hard to beat...

Suffering a terminal issue from the ride down to Portimao last year, the new for 2015 (and, hence, pre Euro4) BMW S1000 RR now has as hot at sweet redemption. Others making a return include MV Agusta’sF3 800 –a rare appearance from the lower capacity classes.

Judging by industry gossip, and plain old logic, we could well being saying goodbye to several 600s next year. Rumours suggest Honda, Kawasaki and Triumph will all sever middleweight manufacturing, but that doesn’t stop Hinckley’svery own Day tona675R making the trip to Portugal –not because it’s British, but becauseit’sbloody brilliant. Will it be its last trip?.

Sports bike of the Year exists for pure dynamic ability, with little thought on pricing. As such, last year we opted for the road-going KawasakiH2. This year we’ve chosen the mother ship –the full-fat H2R – because a mere 200 bhp is mind bendingly monotonous while taming the swells of Portimao... Also making its debut is Ducati’s Panigale R– the road-legal homologated version of Chaz and Dave’sblistering world super bike racer. Awesome stuff.

And, finally, we welcome a new manufacturer into the SBOTY stable for 2016.Bimota has never previously made an official appearance, soit’stime to greet a slice of Italian exotica in the form of the gorgeous S 1000 RR-engined BB3.And there, my friends, are your runners and riders for the 2016 SBOTY stakes.

Forming an orderly queue...

We know buying decisions aren’talwaysbased on lap times or ability, which is whywe’re super-analytical, overly critical and as subjective as possible, and our results aren’t swayed by how much ad money a manufacturer has chucked at Charlie. Some prefer green bikes to redones, others are so brand-loyal our opinions matter little. Even so, read on because the most comprehensive sports bike test in the world only comes round once a year…

Scenery, knee scuffs and sportsbikes. What's not to like?


Kawasaki H2R

I’ve always maintained that the human species isn’t qualified to handle the Kawasaki H2R. Opening the throttle with gusto is the motorcycling equivalent of dangling your balls over a snooker pocket, having Ronnie O’Sullivan waiting patiently with the cue ball after confessing to him you’ve shagged his missus. Imagine your scariest ever untamed roller coaster, sprinkle in some supercharger, a splash of 300bhp… and you’re still way off registering even a minor tremor on the H2Richter scale.

It’s very special in many ways; the technology, superfluous power, exquisite detail and snazzy silver paint. And when I say special, I mean special as in Timmy off of South Park special. Nothing can prepare you for the H2R’s impeding warp-speed trip. It isn’t just a smidgen faster than anything else in production – it offers a sky high level of debauchery that requires a psychopath’s level of mental resolve; taxing eyesight, vision and cajones like never before. Little Bruce Wilson’s face resembled the look of a man who’d just been violated after his first encounter. However, that H2R defilement has to be on anyone’s bucket list – you’ve got to try anything once, right?

It's a bit of an animal, as is the H2R...

Even sat on its bespoke paddock stands menacingly ticking over, it shakes, rattles, and vibrates like a shonky shed build. Blip the throttle and there’s a morsel of things to come as the bike shimmies to the right as the turbine’s gyro forces erupt angrily inside.

Launching the bike at Qatar was a smart move by Kawasaki. Losail circuit is fast, flat and featureless, lacking the European foibles of Portimao. Ridden at 50 per cent in the Algarve, there was an element of control and consistency. Anything more was left to the hands of fate.

Now where did that oil come from?

But this isn’t just a simple straightliner. As a standalone facet, the chassis is incredible considering its weight and what’s housed inside. It takes supplementary muscling and thought to hustle it round compared to its whippet-like rivals, but braking and corner entry is never an issue. It’s also remarkably stable under acceleration in the right circumstances, assuredly squatting at the rear, glamorously smothering the Tarmac beneath with 300bhp’s worth of Bridgestone slick (we dared not put it on R10s). Those who lament electronic aids obviously haven’t attempted to domesticate the H2R with everything turned off. The simple fact is without these electronics the H2R would be monumentally unrideable.

Thanks to this, the H2R is viable on UK tracks...

Much of the handling grumbles aren’t the fault of the chassis or the H2R’s morbid obesity. Throttle response borders on lethal when placed in the wrong rev parameters, which constantly upsets mid-corner stability and leaves only two realistic methods of riding the H2R at staunch speeds; surfing the torque in taller gears, pre-empting the madness before the supercharger takes over and managing boost, or taming the frenzy when the dash reads above 8,000rpm and relentlessly dealing with the cute cheeping sounds. The latter is virtually impossible and this is exactly where the snooker/gonads analogy becomes a reality. Unfortunately for everyone involved, the H2R decided to ejaculate its juices during the first morning at Portimao. With technical knowledge limited to hammering techniques (hit it hard or really hard), we decided to leave it rather than risking further damage, so no lap time was recorded. Given the H2 was only a second and a bit off last year’s ZX-10R, it would have been very curious to witness what 300bhp looks like on the stopwatch. Next time…

Tells you all you need to know – your speed!

Many have argued it’s a pointless motorcycle, which you can dispute because it’s really pointy. But it’s also a slice of engineering genius and a big Kawasaki-shaped middle finger to the rest of the industry – with a cherry on top. And now, with a quieter, trackday-friendly exhaust available, the H2R is suddenly a feasible UK toy – so long as resources to service the engine every 15 hours are also available. Dig deep, as in 41 grand deep, and you'll never regret it...

KAWASAKI H2R £41,000


The motor starts life as a 998cc inline four to which new technologies and the supercharger are added. A flat piston crown helps to prevent knocking and they are cast (not forged) for strength qualities. Polished intake ports and straight exhaust ports are used to maximise flow. Intake valves are steel but exhaust valves are made from Inconel to cope with heat. Top injectors spurt over steel nets for better atomisation. Cams, head gasket, clutch and a big new radiator set the R apart from the road legal H2 version.

Blink and you'll miss it...


A green trellis frame was used for better heat dispersion and flex qualities. The high tensile tubes are made up of many different diameters and are constructed to offer flex. The single-sided swingarm allows the exhaust to be closer to the bike’s centre and improves ground clearance. A mounting plate is bolted to the back of the motor with the swingarm pivot shaft going through this plate. KYB suspension uses MX technology with Air-Oil Separate fork; a 43mm with a 32mm piston pumps oil in a sealed area.

The brakes become important at 200mph...


▶ Brutish Blower

▶ Real silver paint

▶ Launch control

▶ Brembo M50s

▶ 216kg

▶ 320bhp

All that glitters... is silver!


Own those straights

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About Fast Bikes

TEST THE BEST IN THE BEST TEST Yes, it’s that time of year again when we all decamp to some far flung track and spend two days living the life of Riley; burning fuel, razzing tyres, scuffing sliders and scoffing pizzas. From the moment the light goes green to the second the circuit switches it back to red, we’re out on track trying to understand.