Make no mistake about it: the world of sportbikes is evolving. From the inclusion of high-tech electronics fitted to make these 400-something pound rockets easier to ride, to mechanical hot rodding born from racing, it’s obvious that sportbikes are changing—fast. Need more proof? Look at how the middleweight class’ engine displacement has morphed from 600 to 675cc, and beyond.
The Japanese were the first to push the technology envelope two-plus decades ago with release of the original superbike: Suzuki’s GSX-R750. This motorcycle developed a cult following based on its racing success that transferred directly to the road. With a reasonable price tag and race-inspired design it became one of the most attainable and sought after replica racers ever built. Although it was pushed out of the spotlight when the liter-bike class took off in the early 2000s, the Gixxer 750 remains a viable option because of its svelte 600-based chassis, nimble handling and brawnier motor performance. Today, Suzuki
still funnels R&D dollars to the project, routinely endowing it with technical updates to help it maintain competitiveness against smaller and larger machines alike.
was the first European brand to break the so-called gentleman’s agreement in the Supersport class by shining Japan’s 600cc Inline-Four formula for its own 675cc Triple-cylinder engine configuration. Although the Daytona 675 and its up-spec ‘R’ twin haven’t seen the kind of success some expected in top-level road racing, the British bike has become a force to be reckoned with on showroom floors. Stronger bottom-end and mid-range acceleration along with a playful engine howl equate to a motorcycle that flies out of dealers year after year. And with an all-new updated model set to launch this winter that trend is sure to continue.
Italy’s MV Agusta is the latest manufacturer to enter the class with its all-new F3. The MV shares the same Inline-Three engine configuration as the Triumph with a hybrid aluminum and pressed-steel chassis keeping in line with its bigger F4 superbike-class brother. It also sports an advanced electronics suite that rivals anything out there—even in the Superbike class. After a bit of a delay the F3 has finally reached U.S. dealerships, but the question still remains as to how it compares against the venerable competition.
Although it isn’t exactly new, Ducati’s V-Twin powered 848 EVO slots into this class, too. Ducati didn’t have a machine available for this test so we’ll have to wait until our mega eight-bike Supersport Shootout this spring before we see how it ranks in the class. Lastly with the recent re-introduction of Kawasaki’s 636-powered Ninja ZX-6R sportbike there is yet another official entry in the new-age middleweight class, but due to the logistics of its world press event detailed in the 2013 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R First Ride we weren’t able to get a test bike in time.
2012 Middleweight Sportbike Shootout dyno charts.
For the test we racked up miles on odometers during the eight-to-five work week to evaluate what they were like to ride to work. We followed it up by a few days at the racetrack to experience what they are like to play around on over the weekend or during faster paced rides. We also ran up and down the drag strip to establish key performance numbers followed by some fourth-gear pulls on our in-house dyno—all in an effort to unequivocally prove what is the best middleweight sportbike currently on the market. Numbers were crunched and points assessed via our tried-and-true Formula 1-based scorecard. Finally, as opposed to our big track-only shootouts, we opted to run the stock tires as to more authentically ascertain the true performance of these bikes right off the showroom floor.