Not long ago, on an Island in the middle of the Irish sea, the 44T wrecking crew embarked upon a quest to find the very best production sportsbike over the mountain section of the Isle of Man TT course. And we found it. You’ll find no spoilers here, but I will say the winner was the most expensive bike on test. If that doesn’t give the game away, I don’t know what will. Anyway the winner, which was roughly £25k, was absolutely incredible; but when asked if it would be the one I’d buy, my honest answer would be no. Because, if you ask me, the perfect superbike might cost you £25,000, but you won’t find it in a showroom. And this is why…
Off-the-shelf-superbikes of the 21st century are, as a rule, very good. In fact some of them are nigh-on perfect. But none of them are 100% perfect, in every way. They’re built to suit everyone, or at least to suit the average sportsbike rider, but everyone’s different; we’re all different weights, different sizes, we all ride in different ways and want different things from our bikes. So for the manufacturers to make a production bike ‘perfect’ is impossible really, unless you’re talking about making it perfect for the 1% of the motorcycling population that are ‘average’.
So if I had £25k to spend on a superbike, I wouldn’t spend it on a bike that cost £25k out the crate. I’d look for one that cost nearer £15k. In fact, I know that if I looked hard enough, I’d be able to find a Kawasaki ZX-10R or a Suzuki GSX-R1000 for sub-15k. And I’d be more than happy with either, especially if they cost me less than £15k. Because that would mean I’d have £10k to spend on it. £10k to turn a good bike (but by no means the best), into a bike that’s perfect. Or at least perfect for me.
And here’s your change
So what would I spend my £10k change on? Well the first thing I’ll do is get some proper suspension on it. If you’re buying a sub £15k superbike, it’s not going to have all-singing-all-dancing suspension fitted to it. I doubt I’d go for anything electronic, because a) it’s too much money and b) I’m not really sold on it anyway. I’d look for some decent spec, fully-adjustable stuff, Öhlins, Maxton, K-Tech, or anything like that. I’m not talking about full-factory gear, just the kind of thing you might stick on a superstock bike; fork internals and a decent aftermarket shocker. And if I budgeted £3k for it, I’m sure I’d be able to find a very serviceable setup, that’s a big step-up from the bog-stock kit.
The next big-money buy would be a set of carbon fibre wheels. Again, you’re talking about the thick end of £3k for a set of carbon wheels, and some would say that’s a little bit excessive. But if you’ve ever used them, you’ll know just how much of a difference they make to the agility of a superbike, compared to most alloy OEM wheels.
Flash ah ahhhhh
These days, standard braking systems on production sportsbikes are quite often left wanting, particularly the Japanese ones. The problem is, invariably, the ABS. You can have top of the range master cylinders, calipers, discs and pads, but if you’ve got meters and meters of brake line that runs through pumps and sensors and god knows what else, you’ve got a gallon of brake fluid to squash before anything happens at the other end. You can rabbit on about the benefits of ABS ‘till the cows come home, but if you ask me, it’s not the most efficient way to slow a motorcycle down. So I’d bin it off, quick smart.
Getting rid of the ABS would improve the brakes as well as saving a load of weight. And a set of decent braided lines should only cost a hundred quid or so. If I budgeted a grand on the brakes, I could get myself some trick discs too.
Without ABS, there’s a possibility of error codes and engine management lights appearing from time to time. But that’s nothing that a quick ECU flash can’t solve. And I’d be having an ECU flash anyway, once I’ve got the new exhaust fitted.
Exhaust-wise, I wouldn’t go daft and buy a super-lightweight titanium jobby. In fact, I’d probably leave the standard headers on, to save myself a few quid, opting for the bare minimum to get rid of all the emissions gubbins. £500, would be more than enough. That’d mean I could spend another £500 on dyno-time and still have a couple of grand left.
And the two grand I’ve got left, I’d spend on getting my near perfect superbike ready for the track, should I wish to book a trackday. I’d buy a set of race bodywork, and fit some crash protection, so there’s a grand. And then I think I’d treat myself to a trick dashboard; the cheaper superbike (the aforementioned ZX-10R and GSX-R1000) dashboards are a bit lemony. For about a grand, you can usually find a plug-and-play replacement, that’ll do everything the standard one does, and more; as well as looking a lot tricker.
Now, this might not be the perfect superbike for you, but the point I’m trying to make, is that with £10,000, you ought to be able to turn a good bike into a perfect one. That’s because you’ll know exactly what you want, and you, hopefully, will be able to afford to create it. Of course you could spend £25k on a bike that’s readymade and almost the perfect superbike. But I think a £15k bike, with £10k spent on it would blow a £25k bog-stocker out the water.
What do you think?