It’s one of the biggest motorcycling pub arguments of all: ‘What’s the fastest production bike?’ And by fastest, we don’t mean top speed – that’s been pretty much irrelevant since 1999’s informal agreement between the Japanese and European manufacturers, which pegged it at 300kph (186mph). No, we’re talking here about fastest accelerating – or, in other words, the bike with the best power-to-weight ratio of all. This is the figure that counts most to real performance junkies…
So what’s it to be? Kawasaki re-opened this debate when it launched its astonishing, supercharged, 310bhp Ninja H2R in 2015, a bike specifically designed to be the world most powerful production motorcycle.
But is it? And does it have the best power-to-weight, too? After all, there are plenty of albeit limited production behemoths such as the American car-engined Boss Hoss with more power than the Kwak. Boss Hoss’s top-of-the-range LS3 SS, for example, is powered by a monstrous 445bhp, 6200cc V8 but its equally huge 483kg dry weight keeps the magic bhp/kg ratio at just 0.921 where most modern superbikes today easily manage more than 1.0. While even Allen Millyard’s astonishing, 500bhp, Viper V10-engined beast (which he has offered to put into limited production so does qualify), ‘only’ manages 0.919.
So, to find out which truly is the ‘best’ we scoured through pages of spec sheets, dug out our calculators and came up with the following. For parity’s sake, the figures are based on claimed DRY weights, which more manufacturers publish, so take it with a pinch of salt. It’s also open to dispute as inevitably we’ve had to use the manufacturers’ own claimed power figures, too, which are notoriously variable. On top of all that, some of the bikes, like the H2R itself, are track-only machines, although we highlight these as such.
Either way, however, it all makes fascinating reading even if it doesn’t settle every argument. It’d probably be no fun if it did. So here, in ascending order, is the result:
10. 2017 BMW S1000RR
Claimed peak power: 199bhp
Claimed dry weight: 175.5kg
In truth, we could just as easily have put the latest Kawasaki ZX-10R here, the two are so close, but the German reinvigorated the superclass when it was launched with 190bhp in 2009 and it’s pretty much remained at the top of the power charts through all its incarnations since. Our figures for the ZX-10R, meanwhile, are hampered slightly by Kawasaki claiming both 200 AND 210bhp (with ram air) and only publishing kerb, not dry weight figures, so the BMW gets first dibs.
Claimed peak power: 212bhp*
Claimed dry weight: 175kg*
Mercurial Italians MV may be many things: exotic, flawed, extreme, hugely desirable and commercially erratic even. But one thing that’s never really been in any doubt is that its F4 superbike, and certainly in its most highly-tuned, exotic form, is a bloomin’ powerhouse. The most potent of all, of course, is the RC version of the RR, a £31,000 near-replica of the machine currently campaigned by Leon Camier in WSB. Of course, being a *track only machine bends the rules slightly. The street legal version, at 205bhp and 183kg, isn’t quite as potent, with a resulting power/weight of 1.120.
Claimed peak power: 199.2bhp
Estimated dry weight: 171.1kg
Again, there’s a tiny bit of guesswork involved here as Suzuki also don’t publish dry weight figures, but we shouldn’t be far out and there’s no doubting the VVT-equipped, ‘R’ version of Suzuki’s all-new Gixxer thou’ is one of the most powerful machines in the superbike class. Add that to a sophisticated, lightweight chassis and you’re left with (probably) the best power-to-weight of all the Japanese superbike fours. No mean achievement for a bike that’s fresh out of the box.
Claimed peak power: 209.4bhp
Claimed dry weight: 168kg
We all knew the V-twin Panigale was coming to an end and that’s just been confirmed by the unveiling of Ducati’s new V4 Panigale Stradale engine. But as a send off, this suped-up, ‘Final Edition’ version, at a whopping £34,995, takes some beating. With the very best of everything its engine is almost to the same spec as the super-exotic Superleggera (see below) while the aluminium chassis mimics that of the Panigale R. What’s more, with the Superleggera already sold out, this is probably the most exotic V-twin superbike you can still buy new.
Claimed peak power: 215bhp*
Claimed dry weight: 160kg*
It was a long time coming but Honda’s replica MotoGP bike for the road certainly didn’t disappoint… well, not in kitted form, anyway. In stock, road legal, £137,000 form it’s still sublime of course, although is detuned to ‘just’ 159bhp. However, with the track only ‘Sports Kit’ fitted, this is boosted to 215bhp which, along with its ultralight weight, is enough to give it one of the best power-to-weight ratios ever. Unfortunately, because of its loud pipe, in this form it’s not road legal, either…
Claimed peak power: 215bhp
Claimed dry weight: 156kg
The ‘Superleggera’ is the limited edition, ‘superlight’ version of Ducati’s Panigale superbike, of which there have been a number of different versions but 2017’s 1299 takes things – and performance – to a whole different level. Its unique, ultralight, carbon fibre monocoque, carbon fibre wheel, bodywork and more combine to slash overall weight while the engine, with 215bhp, is 10bhp more potent than any other 1299 and bristles with high tech. No wonder, then, that it’s the most potent V-twin ever built and, at £72,000, one of the most expensive, as well.
Claimed peak power: 215bhp*
Claimed dry weight: 146kg*
Ducati isn’t the only manufacturer in 2017 producing exotic, carbon-fibre-framed versions of its superbikes. The new BMW HP4 Race is a similarly mouth-watering version of the German firm’s already impressive HP4 variant of the S1000RR superbike. This time, though, on top of the semi-active suspension and lightened cycle parts, the Race also gets a full carbon fibre frame along with wheels and bodywork, plus a tuned version of the straight four engine, giving it, for a fruity £68,000, the best power-to-weight of any superbike. On the downside, however, this one is a track-only (*) machine.
Claimed peak power: 334bhp
Estimated dry weight: 219kg
What is it about Aussies making home-brewed V8 motorcycles? First there was Ian Drysdale, who fused together FZR400 and 600 parts. Then there was former Loctite Yamaha engineer Paul Maloney (hence ‘PGM’) who started development of this V8 made out of two R1s in 2008. Though hefty (that dry weight figure is an estimate based on a claimed 242kg wet weight), the result is pretty impressive, too, and is being offered for sale at £115,000 apiece, although we’ve no evidence of any actually being sold yet.
Claimed peak power: 320bhp
Claimed dry weight: 209kg
Now we’re starting to enter the world of the slightly surreal although, as it’s still a production bike you can buy (according to the Guinness Book of Records, although each bike is only made to order), the American Marine Turbine Technologies gas turbine-powered ‘jet’ bike is still valid here. The first, er, Y2K bikes were powered by a Rolls-Royce ‘Allison’ gas turbine usually used by helicopters and producing 320bhp, which is the one we’re quoting here. Claimed dry weight seems a little suspect to us, to be honest, but as MTT is now producing a higher performing 420bhp version (the 420 RR) we’re not going to quibble.
Claimed peak power: 310bhp*
Estimated dry weight: 193kg*
Kawasaki set out to produce the world’s most powerful production machine with the H2R and it achieved just that. Yet it is also the one with the world’s best power-to-weight figure. Sort of. In full bore ‘R’ trim, the supercharged four is claimed to produce a whopping 310bhp, rising to 326bhp with ram air effect. That, combined with a lightweight, tubular steel trellis chassis (although that 193 dry figure is a guesstimate based on its published 216kg wet figure). The only trouble is, in this ‘R’ form, the H2’s a track-only machine and not road legal. If you want that version, the H2, you’re only talking about 200bhp and a heftier 238kg wet weight… You pays your money (£41K for the R, £22K for the H2), you takes your…