After a recent survey conducted by 44teeth.com, the top five most iconic sportsbikes have been revealed. The bikes in the short-list have all been voted for by you, the 44teeth.com community. There are some real golden oldies that didn’t quite make the cut, like the ZXR750, the GSX-R750 and the FZR1000 EXUP, but our top five are all seriously iconic sportsbikes. And with four different manufacturers represented, there’ll be something to put lead in everyone’s pencil.
5. 2005 – 2006 Suzuki GSX-R1000 K5
I can remember when the K5 Gixxer Thou’ came out and every dick and their dog wanted one. Back then it was dubbed by many as the fastest, most bonkers-est thing to hit the roads since forever. And even now, 15 years on, the model still enjoys a decent following. And for good reason. It’s a bike that has the perfect blend of solid performance, a fast engine and reasonable handling, and all before the fun was castrated with umpteen traction control and power modes. Ok, I know all that stuff is moving the job forward but it’s taken some of the charm and character out of a lot of bikes.
No, the closest thing most ‘K5’s got to rider aids was an aftermarket quickshifter; but that was back in the day when people realised the throttle worked both ways. 176bhp put the Gixxer right at the sharp end of the superbike tree, at a time when there was strong competition. Unfortunately, the K5 was the last world-beating Gixxer, with BMW S 1000 RRs, ‘big-bang’ Yamaha YZF-R1s and Gen 4 Kawasaki ZX-10Rs just round the corner. But it’s still got a special place in a lot of people’s hearts.
4. 1987 -1990 Honda VFR750R RC30
If you say the RC30 is a more iconic sportsbike than the RC45 to the wrong person (i.e. fans of the ’45) they can get a bit eggy. But really, they just need reminding of the facts of life. Developed for HRC’s assault on the newly formed World Superbike Championship, the VFR750R RC30 was as trick as trick got back then. Titanium con-rods, gear driven cams, close ratio box, slipper clutch and Showa forks, you name it. And it worked. All that kit helped Fred Merkel win the inaugural World Superbike Championship in 1988.
By 1994, the ’30 was getting a bit old in the tooth so Honda released an updated RVF750 RC45. Another ‘homologation special’, the revvier, fuel injected, more race focused ’45 enjoyed championship wins all throughout the mid to late ‘90s. You might call the RC45 the ultimate ‘90s race bike, but without the trail blazing RC30 it probably would never have existed. And that’s why the Honda RC50 placed fourth in our top five most iconic sportsbikes countdown.
3. 1998 Yamaha YZF-R1
When I was seven-and-a-half-years-old there was only one thing on my Christmas list. The fat bloke obviously didn’t get the memo though, because instead of a Yamaha YZF-R1 under the tree, all I found was a tin of Linx Africa and Dr Doolittle on VHS. Oh well. Since I was a kid I’ve had a serious soft spot for the whole R1 dynasty. And it was a soft spot that turned into a raging hard one the day I finally got to ride one.
150bhp might not sound like a lot by todays standards, but back in 1998, it was a real game changer. It was Yamaha’s answer to Honda’s FireBlade and Ducati’s 916, number two and one in our countdown. And what an answer. It had the best power to weight ratio of any superbike before it, and not just because of its power, but because it was dead light too. More R1s were sold in the UK than any other country. In fact you’d rarely see one in a dealership; because as soon as they received them, they were sold.
2. 1992 Honda CBR900RR FireBlade
Whether you are a fan of the FireBlade (that’s not a typo, it had a capital ‘B’ until 2004, when it was dropped in honour of the retirement of Tadao Baba, Designer and Project Leader) or not, there is no denying that Honda’s flagship superbike has been a benchmark in the sportsbike class for over 25 years. The FireBlade is a household name (well in any self-respecting home, anyway).
Since its launch in 1992, the ‘Blade has gone onto win the hearts and minds of motorcyclists the world over. As well as Isle of Man TT races, British Superbike Championships, World Superbike Championships and Le Mans 24 Hour races. So you’d have to agree, the original one is a super important motorbike.
With all that power (122bhp) and such little weight (185kg), the Blade was said to be a real widow-maker. And at the time it was, but it probably had more to do with that 16 inch front wheel. When Tadao Baba was drawing up plans for the 1992 Blade, he wasn’t particularly bothered about the fact that 17 inch front wheels were all the rage for sportsbikes of the day. They were much maligned and a pain in the arse to replace. And it wasn’t until the Millennium ‘929’ Blade that Honda decided to make 17 inchers OE fitment. But you still voted it number two in our most iconic sportsbikes countdown.
1. 1994 – 1998 Ducati 916
The Ducati 916 is possibly the only 25-year-old motorcycle that looks as if it could have rolled off the production line yesterday. It’s as beautiful today as it was back then. It single-sided swinger, upside-down forks and under-seat cans set it apart from the rest. Maybe that’s why you’ve voted it the world’s most iconic sportsbike. Or maybe it’s because the 916 won more World Superbike championships than any other bike in the 90’s. Three of which with Carl Fogarty (and one with Troy Corser). But it didn’t just win races, it won ‘bike of the year’ awards here there and everywhere. And despite them not being cheap, they sold like hot cakes.
Like the other bikes in our top five, the 916cc twin-cylinder set new standards in performance whilst its steel tube trellis frame (which it later shared with the 748) gave it an agility that was unrivalled by its Japanese contemporaries.
It’s often referred to as designer Massimo Tamburini’s greatest work. I mean, just look at it. It’s official, the Ducati 916 is the most iconic sportsbike, ever.