Having spent the last 25 years racing bikes and the last five years writing about them for mags and websites, I’ve been fortunate enough to have a go on most contemporary sportsbikes (probably all of them, when I come to think of it). And plenty more besides sportsbikes; custom bikes, retro bikes, naked bikes, adventure bikes and off-road bikes. As you can imagine, it’s been an absolute blast. With that in mind, it’s a fair assumption that someone like me might be able to identify the best bike in the world. But it’s not as easy as that, and just last weekend, when I was asked this question for the millionth time, I finally realised why.
It’s because it’s not really a fair question. What does ‘best’ really mean? Surely the term ‘best’ is subjective; it’s based on personal opinions and feelings, not facts. Or does it simply mean the fastest? Does it mean the most popular? The most exciting? The quickest round a track? Who knows? The question needs to be narrowed down a little bit more if you stand any chance of answering it.
Usually when someone asks me what the best bike I’ve ever ridden is, my brain instantly harks back to the time I rode a mates original 1998 Yamaha YZF-R1, only a few years ago. I took it on track at Silverstone and then some cracking roads local to me, and loved every second of it. I think that was the most I’ve ever smiled on a bike, so since then, the ’98 R1 is at the top of my list of ‘favourite’ bikes. But it’s obviously not the ‘best’ bike in the world, not by a long stretch, and on paper it couldn’t hold a candle to any of the modern superbikes.
If you want to know what the best production sportsbike is right now, then that’s easy, it’s the BMW S 1000 RR M Sport. But that doesn’t mean it’s the best bike for you. You might not want a sportsbike. You might not want a BMW. What about the best naked sportsbike? That’s a bit trickier, but you’d certainly have to put the Ducati Streetfighter V4S and the Aprilia Tuono V4 Factory up there. That said, I’d sooner have an MT-10 SP. Sure the MT is a few years old now, but it’s still a hooligan of a bike. And I’ve just persuaded a friend of mine to buy a Triumph Speed Triple; he didn’t want a Streetfighter, a Tuono or an MT-10. It wouldn’t have been my choice, but the Triumph’s definitely the best bike for him. Horses for courses, and all that. Enjoy your Trumpet, Rick.
The point I’m trying to make is that, these days, almost all of the bikes that roll off any of the big manufacturer’s production lines are pretty bloody good (note, I did say ‘almost’ all). In fact they tend to be so good that you have to be really critical when you are pitching them against each other. One of the bikes’ throttle response might be good, but not quite as good as the others. The same with the brakes, the suspension, the comfort, bla bla bla. But no two riders are the same and we all want something slightly different from our bikes, so the ‘best bike in the world’ as far as one bloke is concerned, could be a lump of shite to the next.
That’s why you’ve got to know exactly what you want from a bike when you’re thinking of buying a new one. And it’s also why it’s nigh-on impossible to say which bike really is the best in the world.