The Cost of Sportbike Performance
How much better can one really make today’s liter-class sportbikes? Stock machines are now capable of turning the dyno with as much as 180 rear-wheel horsepower and in some cases come standard with trick bits like traction control, Ohlins suspension and carbon fiber bodywork. Even the cheapest of modern big-bore sportbikes make upward of 160 hp and feature parts that put a decade-old factory Superbike to shame. Thus, is it even worth the time and money to modify your literbike for street or track use these days? Let’s find out...
For this three-way motorcycle comparison we added varying levels of performance modifications to three of today’s hottest sportbikes – from totally stock, to modified street bike, to fully-kitted Superbike. As for the bikes, we made sure to include one of each popular sportbike engine type – a traditional Japanese Inline-Four and a pair of Italians Vs – one a V-Twin and the other a V-Four – each class-leading in their respective categories.
Aprilia’s all-new RSV4
Factory remains untouched, coming in as one of the most anticipated and hyped sportbikes to hit U.S. shores in the past decade. The Suzuki
GSX-R1000 gets a host of Yoshimura modifications, while Ducati’s 1098R hits the track with nearly everything Ducati
Performance sells – this is the bike for the guy who has everything and wants more. A true track-only Superbike.
As for costs, both the stock Aprilia
and modified Suzuki come in at roughly 20-large, while the Ducati tips the scales at an if-you-have-to-ask-you-can’t-afford-it 70-grand. To put them through the paces we took all three to the ultra-fast Willow Springs International Raceway, the perfect place to let these high-horsepower steeds stretch their legs. Our VBox data acquisition system was also fitted to each to bring you as much juicy track-based information as possible. That was followed up with quarter-mile performance and dyno testing, as well as usual weights and measurements.
Now we know that by modifying each to different degrees as well as different price points opens an endless can of worms for criticism and backlash. Why pick one bike to modify over the other? What would happen if the shoe were on the other foot?...etc, etc. It’s for this reason that while we have done more than enough data to pick a winner, due to the massive differences of each bike, this will be a comparison, not a shootout; the winner would be too far to cost-biased. Think of it as three separate full-tests all bunched into one. Then you be the judge and jury as to what best fits your wants and needs, as well as your pocketbook – we’re just showing you the hard data and rider opinions to help you decide.
It’s no easy or cheap task to supply tires for a comparison, but the Italian rubber company stepped up with its Diablo Supercorsa Slick race tires, which performed flawlessly. The Pirelli rubber's grip and feel was universally praised and held up to all the abuse our 1000cc Superbikes could throw their way and then some.
Providing trackside tire support was the hard-working CT Racing team. Owner Corey Neuer is a knowledgeable tire supplier as well as talented motocross and road racer himself, so when the guy gives advice, we listen. If you want Pirelli’s on the West Coast there’s only one place to buy them: CT Racing.
Want more performance from your sportbike, Suzuki especially? There are several companies one can turn to, but only one with the racing pedigree and tuning history of Yoshimura. They took our Suzuki GSX-R1000 and turned it into one potent street-legal Superbike, and this is only Stage 1. The Japanese tuning giants and MotoUSA have plenty more in store for the project bike, so be sure to stay tuned.
While the Ducati Performance 1098R Superbike may not ‘technically’ be ours, or was even built for us, just the ability to ride the bike for the time we did was privilege. And the fact that a company like Ducati would make such a high-dollar motorcycle and then let a magazine flog it for a month shows just how passionate and performance-driven the Italian manufacturer is.