In a world where motorcycles are increasingly categorised and designed for very specific purposes, there are very few true all-rounders on sale these days. Of course, many will swear that big GS-style adventure bikes are the only bike you’ll need, while others will happily ride to work on their Fireblade every day – throwing in a pan European trip a couple of times a year to boot.
But what about those bikes that do try to be all things to all riders? Back in the day, bikes like the Honda VFR800 and Triumph Sprint ST were hugely popular machines that you could ride to work every day, load up for a weekend away and still get down and boogie with superbikes on an occasional track day. Do such bikes still exist? Here’s the Insidebikes team’s five favourites that you can buy new in 2019…
Honda are the masters of making practical sportsbikes. The VFR750/800 of the 1990s was the epitome of the sports tourer, and even today the VFR800F remains a staple of the Japanese giant’s range.
The CBR nomenclature is given to Honda’s sportsbikes. While the RR suffix is reserved for the company’s highest performing sportsbikes (like the CBR1000RR Fireblade) the single R models blend sporty looks with more sensible ergonomics and less extreme price tags.
The range includes single cylinder 125 and 300cc models, a 500cc twin and this, the new-for-2019 four-cylinder CBR650R.
With the distinctive twin LED headlights, the CBR650R could easily be mistaken for the legendary Fireblade at first glance, especially in the racey red colourscheme.
The £7729 CBR650R is an evolution of the outgoing CBR650F and delivers a healthy 94bhp (meaning that it can be restricted for A2 licence holders). It’s a bike with no real direct competitors and comes with useful spec that includes traction control, adjustable rear suspension and a modern digital dashboard.
With no CBR600RR in the range these days, the CBR650R is the closest thing Honda has to a middleweight supersport bike in the UK these days. It’s also eminently practical and benefits from Honda’s large dealer network and reputation for top quality reliability and build quality.
Ducati created quite a storm when it announced the new SuperSport for 2017.
In bringing out its new model, the Italian manufacturer acknowledged that not everyone wanted one of its extreme Panigale race reps, or a tall Multistrada adventure tourer.
The SuperSport uses a 937cc version of Ducati’s classic 90-degree L-twin Testastretta motor, with a soft tune that sees it pump out 110bhp. The SuperSport prides itself on its flexibility. The riding position is on the sensible side of sporty and the pillion seat is adequate, if not exactly plush. Ducati also make a range of touring accessories for the SuperSport, including panniers and a touring seat and windscreen.
At £11,995, it’s not a cheap bike – although it is well specified with traction control, multiple riding modes, adjustable windscreen and a quickshift gear change system, as you would expect from any modern day Ducati. A better appointed S model features the quickshifter as standard, as well as fully adjustable Ohlins suspension, albeit for £1400 extra.
Suzuki call the GSX-S1000F a ‘motorcycle built for real world excitement’. At its heart is a motor lifted from the legendary GSX-R1000 K5, the world superbike title winning bike from 2005 that is regarded by many ‘Gixxer’ fans as the greatest machine ever to wear the iconic GSX-R badge.
In many ways, the GSX-S (which also comes in a naked version) is the spiritual successor to the ever-popular Bandit, the 1990s model that provided maximum bang per buck in its heyday. The package is simple enough, with a modern twin spar aluminium frame caressing the lusty 150bhp motor. Although based on a near 15-year-old design, the GSX-S1000 engine has been updated with a slipper clutch, basic traction control and Suzuki’s low RPM assist system – which all add up to a bike that’s simple yet fun to ride on a day-to-day basis.
Ergonomics are fairly relaxed, but it’s got more than enough go to be hustled around on the back roads. It’s a lot of bike for the money too, coming in at £10,299 for the standard model or £10,699 for the FT version, which adds a tank bag, tail pack, larger screen and heated grips to the standard spec, as well as a different silver paint job.
BMW do a raging business knocking out big GS models but for shorter riders, or those looking for something a bit sportier, the RS brings the same boxer twin motor but in a pure road focused design.
More sports tourer than sports bike, the RS is one of the more overlooked models in the BMW range. It’s received the same 136bhp ‘ShiftCam’ engine as the R roadster, GS and full touring spec RT for 2019, giving it some added sporting credentials. It’s an uber practical machine, that can take the full BMW touring luggage and all the high-tech rider aids that have proved popular with boxer owners over the years (such as rider modes, hill start cruise control and cornering ABS). These all come as standard on the £13,900 ‘Exclusive’ version, but the base model can be snagged for £12,100, over £1300 less than the base R1250GS.
Kawasaki Ninja 650
When it comes to accessible sports bikes, there are few which can compare to Kawasaki’s £6449 Ninja 650.
The Ninja replaced the outgoing ER-6f commuter last year and gives the venerable parallel twin a sporty new makeover, with styling that echoes that of the ZX-10R superbike. The package itself is fairly basic, with the chassis sporting conventional telescopic forks, trellis frame and budget brakes and suspension, but together it works really well and has the look of a bigger bike.
Despite that, the Ninja has a relatively low seat and can be restricted for holders of an A2 motorcycle licence. It’s the only sports-style faired bike in a competitive class that includes the Suzuki SV650, Yamaha MT-07 and Kawasaki’s own Z650 (essentially a Ninja 650 sans fairing), and its racing credentials are even proven at the Isle of Man TT every year, where tuned examples lap the 37.73 mile open road course at an average of over 120mph in the Lightweight TT.
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