Top 10 ultimate track day bikes [2019]

Phil West
By Phil West
PhilWestNew Former Editor of Bike, ex-Road Test Editor of MCN, ridden more bikes than he can remember. Likes: GTS, Paso, Mantra. Dislikes: own rust bucket LC and 900 T-Bird daily driver.

 

When it comes to track day bikes, we all have a fair idea of what’s available – but what’s the very best, the most extreme, the ultimate?

‘Track day bikes’ by their very definition, are just that – machines designed to work best on a racing track with high performance engines, fine-handling sports chassis and the best in cycle parts such as brakes and suspension and electronic rider aids such as traction control and cornering ABS, and the more of that you have, the more it inevitably costs…

So, while at the entry-level, affordable end of the spectrum, a road-going, 47bhp CBR500R can be a great introduction to track riding, over time its limited power, basic suspension and more will also limit your performance – and thrills. While at the other extreme, although an ex-grand prix bike on slicks is, again by its very definition, the most extreme track performance available, in reality it’s an option not available to most of us (although we have see the occasional ex-Moto2 bike available to well-heeled track day-ers….)

So, within that spectrum of track day bikes, what really is the ultimate? Which are the ones that, while being available to all to buy new, are also the ones with the most extreme performance, the most fantastic specification and the most exclusive appeal? Well, for 2019, there are now more than ever and none of them naturally are cheap, so you better hold on tight to your wallets. Here’s our current 10 of the best, in ascending price order…

 

No.

Make and Model

Price

1.

BMW S1000RR with M Package

£19,315

2.

Suzuki GSX-R1000R BSB Replica

£19,999

3.

Kawasaki ZX-10RR Performance

£21,749

4.

Yamaha YZF-R1M

£21,999

5.

Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade SP2

£22,549

6.

Norton V4 RR

£28,000

7.

Bimota BB3

£28,000

8.

Ducati Panigale V4 R

£34,995

9.

Aprilia RSV4 X

€39,900 (£35,134)

10.

MV Agusta F4 RC

€40,900 (£36,250)

 

With a budget from £19k – £36k, we pick out the best track day bikes that 2019 has to offer

 

BMW S1000RR Sport with M Package, £19,315

It seems odd to see a brand new, top-spec and utterly brilliant BMW as the most affordable of any category, but then it’s also worth bearing in mind that we’re dealing with the very crème de la crème, here and, being a BMW, buyers are also more than likely to add further options, which will hike its price further…

Neither of which should detract in any way from the German company’s astonishing, all-new-for-2019 S1000RR.

If the 2010 original revolutionized the superbike class for its blend of class-topping 190bhp power, sophisticated electronics and all-round road and track performance, this all-new version has done the same again – and then some.

Smaller, lighter and more compact (all to aid its racing potential, the only criticism of the original), the new RR also boasts a whopping 207bhp, a fat midrange (thanks to BMW’s novel ShiftCam variable valve timing system) plus fabulous electronics controlled through a slick colour TFT screen that helps make it a surprisingly practical road bike, too. What other superbike has heated grips and cruise control, for example?

However, this top spec M Package also turns it into one of the very best track bikes around, as proven by its race success already at the TT and in WSB and BSB. Weight is down by 3.5kg thanks to carbon wheels and race seat, there’s a lighter battery, BMW M-sport livery, adjustable ride height and swing arm pivot plus uprated electronics including customizable modes, traction control, ABS settings, wheelies and slide control. Enough in fact, with little more than a change of tyres, you have you at the very front on any track, even if your bike doesn’t look quite as exclusive as some.

We’re focussing on 2019 models here but then there’s always the £68,000, full carbon HP4 RACE to consider…

 

>> Read about our long-termer here

With a budget from £19k – £36k, we pick out the best track day bikes that 2019 has to offer

 

Suzuki GSX-R1000R BSB Replica, £19,999

After persevering with the old, more road-orientated GSX-R1000 since 2012 which, while entertaining on track, simply wasn’t sharp and fast enough to be a competitive racer, Suzuki finally introduced not one, but two all-new, lighter, more compact, far more sophisticated, 199bhp GSX-R1000s in 2017 – a base model currently at £14,199 and the uprated R version now £16,499.

Although a great bike at a tempting price, however, the base model has failed to steal the spotlight from traditional favourites such as Kawasaki’s ZX-10R and Yamaha’s R1, while the R version, complete with variable valve timing (VVT), more sophisticated electronics and better cycle parts, is also, despite a one-off Senior TT win with Michael Dunlop in 2017, yet to gain much race success, either – particularly in WSB – which is probably why a mooted uprated version is imminent.

This, limited edition, uprated version, however, goes some way to make up for that. Announced at the end of 2018, inspired by the BSB racers of Bradley Ray and Richard Cooper and based on the stock GSX-R1000R, it’s the ultimate track day GSX-R1000. Just 50 are being produced and you get: striking Buildbase Suzuki livery, smoked double bubble windscreen, upgraded brake and clutch levers plus brake and clutch lever protectors, clutch and alternator cover protectors, tank pad, fuel cap trim, clear paint protection sticker kits, front and rear axle slider sets, chain adjuster set and seat tail cover. You even get a paddock stand, garage mat, indoor bike cover and Ogio trolley kit bag, in fact everything you need for that track day ‘entrance’!

 

With a budget from £19k – £36k, we pick out the best track day bikes that 2019 has to offer

 

Kawasaki ZX-10RR Performance, £21,749

The sharply-styled, 200bhp screaming, electronics-laden ZX-10R has been the most track-focussed of all the Japanese four-cylinder superbikes ever since it was first introduced in its current form in 2011. And, thanks to successive, successful tweaks and updates, most aimed at retaining that track performance, it’s remained there ever since, as proven by racing success including five WSB titles, three BSB crowns and countless TT victories.

The latest version (there were slight internal changes for 2019) boasts 202bhp, a sharp-steering chassis and some of the best electronics around, all for £14,499 – although its LCD screen is now more than a little dated. However track fiends can also go for the SE version, which comes with semi-active suspension and Marchesini forged wheels for £5000 more, while the true, race-ready RR variant also comes with uprated Brembo M50 front calipers, modified cylinder head and crankcases plus an up and down quickshifter. A ‘Performance’ version comes with an Akrapovic exhaust as well, perfect for all budding Jonathan Reas…

 

>> Read our review here

 

With a budget from £19k – £36k, we pick out the best track day bikes that 2019 has to offer

 

Yamaha YZF-R1M, £21,999

Yamaha’s long-loved flagship superbike has been one of the most track-orientated of the Japanese bikes in the class ever since it was extensively reinvented in 2015 modelled on no less than Valentino Rossi’s MotoGP M1. That bike, as is often the case with track-targeted machines, was smaller, lighter, more nimble and, with 197bhp, more powerful than ever before and, as is also to be expected, boasted a host of electronic rider aids including slide control. For track aficionados, however, the even bigger news was the parallel introduction of the race spec ‘M’ version, which also benefitted from semi-active Ohlins suspension which provided even more sophistication and grip, magnesium wheels, carbon goodies, a handy datalogger and even a Yamaha Racing Experience as part of the deal.

That version was updated further in 2018 and more sophisticated anti-wheelie control and an auto-blipper, in a bid to keep pace with the latest from Kawasaki and Honda, while for 2020 it’s just been updated again with further electronically controlled Ohlins suspension refinements, a new electronic engine braking control and revised styling including a full carbon fibre fairing. In terms of spec it’s up there with the very best but when pushed hard there are still slight question marks about its brakes, although refreshed it’s still starting to look a little old and in terms of power and exotic components it can’t match the latest Europeans, as perhaps echoed by its race results on track. Still among the very best from Japan, though…

 

>> Read our review here

 

With a budget from £19k – £36k, we pick out the best track day bikes that 2019 has to offer

 

Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade SP2, £22,549

Of all the ‘Big Four’ Japanese motorcycle manufacturers, with arguably the exception of Suzuki, Honda has conspicuously failed to compete with the very best on-track superbikes in recent years. Although a great all-rounder, its ‘last generation’ 2008-2016 Fireblade remained underdeveloped and eschewed electronic rider aids and, despite success at the TT, began to fall behind in racing both in BSB and WSB. That was supposed to all change in 2017 with its launch of not just an all-new standard model, with a smaller, sharper chassis, boosted 189bhp engine and Honda’s first electronic rider aids, but also an SP version with semi-active Ohlins suspension, Brembo calipers in place of the stock Tokicos, quick-shifter/auto-blipper, titanium fuel tank and uprated electronics. While, for true track fans and racers, the homologation special SP2 (just 500 have been made) also received lightweight, forged aluminium Marchesini wheels, has more robust and tunable engine internals, uprated electronics and classy HRC paint job. However, although undoubtedly a brilliant, classy bike, the new Blade, even in SP2 trim, has quite been the success Honda hoped for it, partly due to road-biased electronics, which caused problems at the TT. It’s also failed to live up to expectation in BSB and WSB, which is why a significantly updated version, complete with Ducati V4 R-style ‘aero’ aids, is expected for 2020. All that said, the Blade, in both SP and SP2 trim, is a phenomenally classy sportsbike with typical Honda quality. It might not be as hardcore as the latest from Kawasaki, Yamaha or Ducati, but is still a classy and desirable track machine.

 

>> Read our review of the 2017 model here

 

With a budget from £19k – £36k, we pick out the best track day bikes that 2019 has to offer

 

Norton V4 RR, £28,000

Fledgling, upstart British company Norton’s long-promised road, production version of its TT racing V4 superbike has been hugely anticipated and, after repeated delays from the small, bespoke, Donington Park based concern, first deliveries began earlier this year – and for the most part it’s been more than worth the wait.

Essentially it’s an all-new 1200cc 72º V4 as inspired by Norton’s Aprilia-sourced 65º 1000cc V4 in its TT racers. This is held in a bespoke chassis with single-side swing-arm and using the very best cycle parts and ancillaries all-wrapped up in mouth-watering bodywork. Two versions have been built. A limited-edition SS, now sold out, costing £44K, which boasts carbon fibre wheels, hand-made swing arm and other billet parts and upgrades and is finished in plain carbon, while the £28K SS has OZ wheels, cast swingarm, chrome livery and slightly lower spec. On paper, neither lack for anything – 200bhp, big TFT screen, Ohlins suspension, Brembo M50 brakes and so on and are, simply, outrageous in the flesh. The ride, however, as is to be expected from such a young, small manufacturer, can’t quite match the sheer potency, sophistication and refinement of the latest from, say, Ducati or BMW. In most ways, that’s to be expected. In many ways it doesn’t really matter, either. The Norton is a thrilling, effective, startling track bike that, while lacking true race credibility and performance, has a paddock presence like no other.

 

With a budget from £19k – £36k, we pick out the best track day bikes that 2019 has to offer

 

Bimota BB3, £28,000

Sadly, the days when bespoke, exclusively Italian, thoroughbred sporting Bimotas were simply in a different performance and especially handling league to the Japanese superbikes, which loaned Bimota their engines, are long gone. While the likes of the 1990s SB6 or YB11 were not only more beautiful and better-specced than their Suzuki GSX-R1100 and Yamaha ThunderAce donors, they were far better handling as well, 20 years on the prowess of Japanese machines and the added complexity of electronics which smaller firms simply can’t replicate has rendered the likes of Bimota all but obsolete – which is why floundered repeatedly into bankruptcy ever since. And yet the Italian firm still soldiers on.

Its latest, the BMW S1000RR-based BB3 launched in 2014 makes a decent fist of keeping Bimota’s traditions alive. Lighter and sharper than the BMW on which it’s based – which is no bad thing considering size, especially on track, was the old S1000RR’s main criticism – it’s as stylish and superbly equipped as Bimotas of yore. And, with Brembo M50 brakes and fully adjustable Ohlins suspension it’s classy, too. But the electronics and dash are, by necessity, lifted straight off the donor bike, its headlight is conspicuously from the GSX-R1000 and the rough edges we’d have happily ignored 20 years ago, don’t pass muster in the modern age. Yes, it’s 200bhp past, fine handling, classy and exclusive – and for many track types that’ll be tempting enough – but it’s also £28K when there are plenty of more able bikes at half the price….

 

With a budget from £19k – £36k, we pick out the best track day bikes that 2019 has to offer

 

Ducati Panigale V4 R, £34,995

Now we’re heading into really serious track day exotica territory. Ducati’s revolutionary – and initially controversial – switch to V4 (from its traditional V-twin) superbikes was hugely anticipated and hasn’t disappointed. Powered by a monster (no, no that one), all-new, 212bhp, 1299cc V4 inspired by its MotoGP Desmosedici and held in a high-tech, stumpy chassis complete with single-sided swing arm it’s also available in three base forms: the standard Panigale V4 from £19,495; the higher spec Panigale V4 S complete with Ohlins semi-active suspension, uprated electronics and forged lightweight alloy wheels from £24,295 and, here, the ultra-exotic, track-targetted, homologation special Panigale V4 R with not just a boosted 221bhp but MotoGP-inspired aero ‘wings’, an ultra-light 172kg dry weight, simply mind-boggling electronics and even a full race kit that takes power up to a gob-smacking 234bhp. While the V4 S pretty much has it all as a road and track superbike, the R was pure and simply built to win on track and, despite a bit of a glitch in WSB, has pretty much done that first time out. Not for the feint-hearted or uncommitted, it might be a fearsome and dauntingly sophisticated track machine but, reassuringly, it’s also smooth and rideable for mere mortals as well. Light, stiff and brutally powerful it comes into its own as a track bike par excellence when pushed to the max by skilled riders. For the rest of us, no track bike has more presence, allure, specification and potential, whether you’re capable of maximizing it all or not.

 

With a budget from £19k – £36k, we pick out the best track day bikes that 2019 has to offer

 

Aprilia RSV4 X, €39,900 (£35,134)

Now here’s something very special – if you can lay your hands on one. Aprilia’s RSV4 revolutionised the superbike class when it was first launched way back in 2010, not just for its powerful V4 engine (a template not just Norton but Ducati have since copied), but even more for its compact, no compromise racer proportions, class leading electronic rider aids and a succession of ever higher spec and track-orientated versions, such as the RR, Factory and so on. It worked, too, becoming world superbike champions three times between 2010 and 2014. Since then, however, although repeatedly updated, the base design has started to age, rivals have caught up and overtaken and, in racing at least, it’s now become obsolete. That’s not the end of the story, however. The latest 1100 Factory version, now boasting 214bhp and sublime handling, electronics and cycle parts, remains one of the very best track bikes you can buy, even if it’s no longer raced, while this 2019 limited edition RSV4 X, of which just 10 were built, all selling out immediately, takes things to a further level still. Priced at over £35K (if you can find one), developed from the RSV4 specifically to be the ultimate track bike, boasting no less than 225bhp and an incredible light weight of 165kg dry and boasting the very best of currently available cycle parts and electronics, it’s even painted in Aprilia’s MotoGP livery and built by the factory MotoGP team. If you want the closest thing to a factory-prepared MotoGP or WSB bike available, this surely is it.

 

With a budget from £19k – £36k, we pick out the best track day bikes that 2019 has to offer

 

MV Agusta F4 RC, €40,900 (£36,250)

When it comes to motorcycling ultimates and track exotic, no listing is complete without a mention of Italian legends MV Agusta. And although the revived, historic marque has, commercially, stumbled from pillar to post since its rebirth in 1999, initially with its four-cylinder F4 750 superbike, its allure certainly remains – and none more so than with its top-of-the-race, ‘race-replica’ F4 1000 RC superbike.

Although based on the second generation F4 1000, which debuted in 2010, although able, desirable and exclusive it’s also never succeeded in quite matching the best of it s four-cylinder rivals from Japan, especially as the base design has got older over the years. On the plus side, however, MV are particularly good when it comes to producing high spec, exclusive versions of its machines and the F4 1000 is no exception. The RR version which debuted in 2011 boasted a riotous 201bhp from its shorter-stroke, high revving engine, plus Brembo brakes, Ohlins suspension, lightweight wheels and decent electronics to go with its poster-boy looks. And although too heavy and crude to quite match its rivals on track, remains a desirable machine. But most mouth-watering of all is the RC version launched in 2015. A homologation special that formed the basis of MV’s WSB effort just 250 have been built, boasts 212bhp from its reworked engine a mouth-watering specification including all the Ohlins, Brembo, Marchesinis and carbon you can imagine and, in the flesh, is simply as gob-smackingly beautiful, and desirable as motorcycles get – as it should, considering the price. Sure, it hasn’t quite the speed, modernity or sophistication as the latest from Ducati or BMW, but when something looks this good, who cares?

 

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