by Todd Halterman from https://www.autoevolution.com
It begins with the story of the legendary Suzuki Hayabusa. When that beast launched back in 1999, it triggered a hurricane of anxiety among various manufacturers – and it all came down to the top speed of the bike – a stunning 194 mph.
The Hayabusa represented a quantum leap in speed and made it the fastest motorcycle you could buy and ride on the streets. In fact, it took the title away from the already insanely fast Honda CBR1100XX Super Blackbird, and it did it by a startling 14 mph.
In answer, Kawasaki announced the creation of the Ninja ZX-12R, and it promised a top speed of more than 200 blistering miles per hour. That announcement led regulators to consider tamping down the lust for speed among manufacturers, and it also led to what’s come to be known as The Gentleman’s Agreement among the top motorcycle manufacturers across the globe.
As the story goes, the “agreement” called on manufacturers to set the upper limit on motorcycle speed at 200 mph. Since then, that agreement has been violated to varying degrees, and here are some of the motorcycles that flirt with – and exceed – the barrier posited by The Gentlemen’s Agreement.
The Yamaha YZF-R1M, which purports to achieve a top end of 185.7 mph, has itself become legendary for its on and off-track precision and power. The R1 line and the street legal R1 models achieve their punch following a power-and-less-bulk formula.
Offering lightweight carbon-fiber construction and powered by an explosive 998cc, liquid-cooled “cross-plane” inline-four, the R1 creates 200 hp and offers 89.2 lb-ft torque. When that kind of juice moves through its 6-Speed manual, the R1M does 0-60 mph in a snot-loosening 2.3 seconds. One of these beasts will set you back just over $26,000 USD.
Next up on this rogues gallery is the KTM 1290 Super Duke R. This KTM is a naked hypersport bit of lunacy that packs a 1301 cc, 75-degree V-twin motor into a novel frame. The 1290 Super Duke R wacks the limits of physics to the tune of 180 hp and cranks out 103 lb-ft of torque.
At a svelte 462 lbs. dry weight., the Super Duke R covers 0-60 mph in just 2.6 seconds and is limited to 186 mph. If you must have one, this KTM will set you back right around $18,000 USD.
The Hayabusa is back, and the 3rd Generation variant uses the same 1340cc inline-four motor to produce a healthy 188 hp and 110 ft-lbs of torque and covers 0-60 mph in a serviceable 3.2 seconds.
While it’s now restricted to 186 mph top speed, it does its progenitors proud. It will be priced at just north of $22,000 USD.
The BMW S1000RR represented a huge technological leap for the time, and when it launched in 2009, it was packed to the brim with electronics and rider-assist features unheard of even for the sophisticated ‘ultra bikes’ of the time.
The latest iteration, the 2021 BMW S1000RR is powered by a water/oil-cooled inline-4 motor that generates a stunning 205 hp and 83 lb-ft of torque.
In ‘Race Pro Mode’ it covers 0-60 mph in 3.1 seconds and is capable of reaching a top speed of 192 mph. All that performance does not come cheap and the sticker price is expected to come in around $30,000.
An Aprilia RSV4 1100 Factory is a sublime example of Italian design and engineering and an amazing achievement when you consider the fact that the has only been in the game since the end of the Second World War. Aprilia is dedicated to motorcycle sports and they use the competitive anvil to forge their lightning-fast and supple machines.
The RSV4 1100 Factory is powered by a 1099cc V4 engine which turns out 217 hp and 90 lb-ft of torque. And perhaps most critically, it weighs just 390 lbs and that finely-balanced power-to-weight ratio means it can do 0-60 mph in just 2.9 seconds and achieve a reported top speed of 198.8 mph. The Aprilia RSV4 1100 Factory sports an MSRP of $25,999.
Known for the subtlety and innovative character of their designs, Ducati remains iconic for their blend of finish, style and pure power. The Panigale V4R combines carbon fiber and their signature desmodromic engine, Desmosedici Stradale R 998 cc Inline-4, produces 221hp straight out of the factory and you can ramp that power up to 234 hp with the addition of an Akrapovic full-racing exhaust.
The Desmosedici Stradale motor puts out 92 lb-ft of torque and travels from 0-60 mph in 3.2 seconds before ultimately achieving a top speed of 199 mph. You can be the proud owner of a 2021 Ducati Panigale V4R for just under $23,000.
As we near the top of this list, we find a pair of Kawasakis perched near the pinnacle. The ZH2 and the Ninja H2 are both said to be capable of 200+ mph, and these novel supercharger-boosted motorcycles feature 998cc inline-4 motors that crank out 200 hp and 101 lb-ft of torque.
The ZH2 with the ability to cover 0-60 mph in under 3 seconds and reach a top speed of more than 200 mph also represents a devil’s bargain of sorts. For 2021, Kawasaki ZH2 is priced at just over $17,500.
The lunatic Kawasaki Ninja H2R – with a stated top speed of 248 mph, is a track-only machine and therefore not allowed on our list. The H2R does hold the record holder for top end speed as it reached a snot-loosening 250 mph in just 26 seconds. For 2021, the Kawasaki Ninja H2 is priced at $29,500.
But the bike at the top of the list of mad-dog bikes you can ride on the street belongs to the Lightning LS-218.
Electric motorcycles are clearly the future, and the neck snapping torque offered up by an electric motor is surely attractive to wild fools in search of speed at all costs.
The Lightning LS-218 is powered by a 380V electric powerplant coupled to any of three battery packs: 12, 15, or 20 kWh. At its top tuning settings, this nearly silent monster churns out 200 hp and 168 lb-ft of torque and can reach a top speed of 218 mph.
Coupled with a demented 0-60 mph time of just 2.2 seconds, it takes the top slot when it comes to streetworthy guts. The 2021 Lightning LS-218 comes in at around $39,000 USD out the door.
Of course, most of these figures are reported by the manufacturers and results may vary according to conditions and tuning…