What is a SuperSport motorcycle

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Tom RoderickJune 14, 2017

Photos by: Evans BrasfieldVideo by: James Martinec

It’s been two years since we summoned together the superpowers of the sportbike world. In that time the Aprilia RSV4 RR, Honda CBR1000RR,Kawasaki ZX-10R, and Suzuki GSX-R1000 have either been heavily revised or completely overhauled. These changes beg a reinspection into the pecking order of world’s premier street-legal superbikes. Can Japan wrest away the literbike crown from the European OEMs, Aprilia and BMW, that have dominated the class since 2010?

2015 Six-Way Superbike Track Shootout

2015 Six-Way Superbike Street Shootout

The last time a Japanese motorcycle won a MO superbike shootout was 2009 (2009 Literbike Shootout), with Honda’s CBR1000RR coming out on top. The next year BMW introduced the S1000RR and changed the landscape of top-class sportbikes, winning every shootout it’s been involved until the Aprilia RSV4 seized the crown in 2015. Chief superbike flogger Kevin Duke clarifies the Beemer’s impact in his Best Of 2010 Awards.

2017 Superbike Spec Chart Shootout

“After years of incremental increases in performance among sportbikes, along comes a fresh player to shake things up in the literbike world in a way we haven’t seen for more than a decade when the first-gen R1 debuted,” said Duke.

Two years ago BMW’s S1000RR defeated Aprilia’s RSV4 RR by 0.5%, the CBR1000RR was already ancient, Ducati had Panigales in its media pool, and we didn’t even bother including a Gixxer. 2017 is a changed superbike landscape.

Following the RSV4’s ascendancy to the superbike bridesmaid  in 2015, the RSV4, now equal in power output to the mighty BMW, claimed MO’s Sportbike of the Year award for 2016, and narrowly defeated Kawasaki’s new-for-2016 ZX-10R in our $17,000 Superbike Faceoff. For 2017 the RSV4 returns with improved electronics, which we covered in our First Ride Review last month. Is it enough to keep the new Honda (2017 Honda CBR1000RR And CBR1000RR SP Review) and new Suzuki (2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000 Review, 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000R Review – First Ride) at bay?

This shootout outlines how these sportbikes perform in street environments, from city riding to freeway droning, and, the best part, flogging them on some of our favorite twisty roads. Their racetrack prowess will be discussed in an upcoming article.

The results of our testing weren’t unanimous among our cadre of seven testers, so we again had to rely on our comprehensive Scorecard to sort out the differences and distinctions of each bike. Frankly, a consumer could be very happy with any of these adrenaline-producing machines.

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Twin Notes

You’ll notice the glaring absence of a Ducati in this shootout. You’re also unlikely to see one in another American-based comparison test, as Ducati hasn’t stocked its U.S. press fleet with any of the big Panigales. It almost seems as if some of Ducati’s American reps might be unwilling to risk the chance of its bikes losing in shootouts. We had a similar problem in our 2015 shootout when Ducati suddenly backed out of our track testing and we scrambled to use a private-owner’s Panigale S instead. That bike finished a strong 3rd in 2015. Another contributing factor could be the long-rumored V-4-engined sportbike expected to debut at the EICMA show this fall, a move that would likely demote the Panigale as the Italian brand’s flagship. It makes us wonder if 2017 could be the the final season of World Superbike racing in which a V-Twin claims a victory…

But a superbike shootout wouldn’t be the same without a V-Twin in the mix, and we were able to source an 1190RX from EBR Motorcycles to provide a deeply booming exhaust note to our mix of four-cylinders. Ironically, EBR’s current owners, Liquid Asset Partners, announced during our testing that it was unable to secure additional investors for EBR, so all of the company’s assets are back up for sale to the highest bidders.

Liquidation Sale On EBR Motorcycles Factory Assets

V-Twins have had a huge influence on superbike racing since the series came online in the 1970s, winning loads of championships for Ducati and inspiring Honda, Aprilia, Suzuki and Bimota to build V-Twin contenders – not to mention driving the actual displacement limit to 1000cc for all bikes, not just the twin-cylinder ones. Suddenly, the V-Twin superbike looks to be joining the endangered-species list.

—Kevin Duke, Editor-in-Chief

  • Seventh Place: EBR 1190RX – 86.28%

    CategoriesEBR 1190RX
    MSRP100%
    Weight96.0%
    Pounds/HP92.9%
    Pounds/Torque100%
    Engine87.1%
    Transmission81.4%
    Handling91.1%
    Brakes69.3%
    Suspension85.7%
    Technologies72.1%
    Instruments/Controls83.2%
    Ergonomics84.6%
    Quality85.7%
    Cool Factor91.1%
    Grin Factor83.2%
    Overall Score 86.3%

Get ’em while they last. With the announcement – untimely delivered while we were out testing these bikes – of EBR’s next demise (Liquidation Sale On EBR Motorcycles Factory Assets) prices have dropped to an advertised $10k for a new 1190RX. For equity we kept the MSRP of $13,995, but who can deny the allure of such a bargain for 162.3 rear-wheel horsepower?

The 1190SX is right in the thick of things with Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha. The CBR is surprisingly underpowered, especially when compared to the 180ish ouptut of the two Euro contenders, Aprilia and BMW. Note how the power of the CBR (after being the highest-output four-cylinder in the 7000-8000 range) flattens out after 10k rpm, followed soon after by the ZX, GSX-R and R1, so that they are able to pass the EPA’s noise-emissions regulations by partially closing throttle plates at high rpm. It appears once again that the Euro bikes are unaffected.

Boasting a color TFT display and traction control, the EBR is otherwise devoid of electronics. In its streetfighter 1190SX guise, we didn’t mind so much placing it third in our Yet Another Streetfighter Shootout!, but in this group of envelope-pushing superbikes the EBR’s lack of electrons is hard to overlook.

“The platform feels fantastic but the whole package just isn’t as refined as the other bikes, like it’s five years behind the times,” says John Burns. “For me, it’s a raucous modern interpretation of a `90s Ducati 900ss with twice the power. It’s the only Twin here and vibrates a bit more than the others, but always in a really good fuzzy-amp way to me.

For street use the EBR’s trend-bucking single, large, rim-mounted disc, and reverse caliper provide suitable braking performance.

Some of us, such as guest-tester and master of the sexual innuendo, Thai Long Ly, found even more reasons to like the discordant V-Twin.

“I love the raw, visceral feel of the motor. Like a thick manly shoulder rub from a homeless bodybuilder, or so I’ve been told,” says Ly. “The EBR rumbles like something this powerful should. Its unrefined nature and unpolished performance is something I can completely identify with. I like it.”

Like polishing the back of one’s shoes, the view of the EBR’s underside shows a nicely finished motorcycle including the tucked-out-of-the-way kickstand.

Measured with a 451-pound curb weight, the EBR is the fourth-heaviest bike here, but it sure doesn’t feel like it. Light on its feet with a willing and confident chassis, the EBR was admired by our testers in the twisties.

“I didn’t know if I was going to be a fan of the EBR all that much, but the more I rode it the more I liked it,” says Dirtbikes.com editor Scott Rousseau. “On the street, it feels small and light, and it’s also nice and stable all the way through a corner.”

Conversely, Evans Brasfield noted that “vibration makes it feel unrefined, unfinished. Some people call that character, I just found it mildly annoying. Great sound, though! Opening the throttle releases a bellow that makes up for many of the EBR’s shortcomings.”

  • Sixth Place: Yamaha YZF-R1 – 88.49%

    Categories Yamaha YZF-R1
    MSRP83.8%
    Weight98.2%
    Pounds/HP96.3%
    Pounds/Torque86.7%
    Engine91.6%
    Transmission90.7%
    Handling82.9%
    Brakes87.1%
    Suspension85.0%
    Technologies93.2%
    Instruments/Controls90.0%
    Ergonomics76.4%
    Quality92.5%
    Cool Factor88.2%
    Grin Factor84.6%
    Overall Score 88.5%

A motorcycle’s ergonomics are certainly in the spotlight when conducting a street test, and for the Yamaha its low Ergonomics/Comfort score of 76.43% was a damaging blow to its overall standings. Burnsie was the most vocal among us regarding the R1’s seating position.

“I’m actually a Yamaha guy who owns a 2000 R1, and I continue to not get this one. It’s a great sportbike after you get to where you can unlimber it – but getting there is a literal pain in the ass for 5-foot-8 me,” he says. “Once you make it to S2, though, it’s got great systems integration that rivals the Honda’s, advanced cool techy gauges to play with, awesome suspension and brakes, a great gearbox and the next best engine sound after the Aprilia’s V-4. But it’s the last one I’d pick if I needed to go 400 miles in a day.”

In terms of torque production, nothing really touches the EBR – the only bike in this test with more than 1000cc. The Yamaha produces the least amount of torque, which is a detriment at street speeds where riders spend more time away from peak horsepower, and the ZX also shows a lag in midrange output. The BMW bests the four-cylinder bikes when it comes to pound-feet numbers.

Curb Weights (full fuel)
Aprilia RSV4 RR470 lbs
BMW S1000RR460 lbs
EBR 1190RX451 lbs
Honda CBR1000RR433 lbs
Kawasaki ZX-10R454 lbs
Suzuki GSX-R1000444 lbs
Yamaha YZF-R1441 lbs