Once so popular with British motorcyclists, the middleweight category of sportsbike went into rapid decline over a decade ago. Sales of the traditional 600cc inline four, a staple of production supersport racing, all but disappeared, a combination of the global financial crisis, increasing costs and a new generation of electronics laden 1000cc superbikes which were easier to ride than previous models. The decline became so severe that some of the most popular motorcycles of the time, bikes like the Honda CBR600RR, Suzuki GSX-R600, Triumph Daytona 675 and Yamaha YZF-R6 disappeared from new bike showrooms completely.
But middleweight sports bikes are back, albeit in a less expensive and more accessible form. This mixture of more affordable speedsters includes a wide range of motorcycles featuring two-, three- and four-cylinder engine layouts. We’re really excited about this new generation of ‘supersport’ motorcycles. Here, in no particular order, are five thrilling newcomers to the scene…
Triumph Daytona 660
The Daytona name has been synonymous with Triumph and its sport bike range until 2018, when the Daytona 675 was culled along with many other supersport machines.
For a while it looked like that would be it for the sportiest name in the Triumph back catalogue but, here is the new Daytona 660. It produces 17% more power than the naked Trident upon which it is based. Thanks to some clever engine mods it pumps out an impressive 93bhp and 69Nm of torque from its inline three-cylinder motor, which can also be restricted for A2 licence holders if needed.
It comes with three rider modes, non-adjustable 41mm Showa big piston front forks (with preload adjustment at rear) and a brand new frame with ergonomics similar to that of Honda’s CBR650R.
We will see it on track, too, with Peter Hickman having developed a race kit so the bike can be raced in new National Sportbike Championship.
If the Tiger Sport 660 and Trident 660 sales are anything to go by, the £8,595 Daytona 660 should be a successful addition to Triumph’s line up, going on sale in late March.
Next up, we have the rebooted Honda CBR600RR, which was unveiled last November.
Honda’s legendary 600 was among the best of the traditional supersport breed, but hasn’t been on sale in the UK for the past seven years.
The latest version will set you back £10,499, which is less than the 2024 Kawasaki ZX-6R and the track-only Yamaha R6 Race, with Honda also admitting they bought back the 600RR for the pursuit of racing success.
Although heavily based on the old model, it’s had a comprehensive update. Peak power is increased slightly, at 119bhp, but it’s away from the engine and frame where the biggest developments come. Electronic aids are an addition and sound impressive on paper, with six-axis managing a suite which includes five rider modes, wheelie control, cornering ABS, rear-lift control and an up/down quickshifter. There’s also a modern TFT dash and a bodywork restyle, which takes the 600 a bit closer to the bigger 1000cc Fireblade in looks, while MotoGP style winglets are said to improve handling.
Suzuki have shied away from out and out sportsbikes in recent years, dropping the flagship GSX-R1000, but underneath the sporting bodywork of the GSX-8R you’ll find the familiar 776cc parallel twin engine also found in the GSX-8S and V-Strom 800DE, producing 81bhp and 78Nm of torque.
Indeed the 8R is a natural development for the naked GSX-8S, being largely the same under that racy fairing. It’s controlled by a ride-by-wire system that enables three riding modes, three different power settings, traction control, and an up/down quickshifter as standard, as well as a smart looking 5” full colour TFT dash.
Ergonomics are sporty, but not as extreme as other models in the class, and while it’s not the return of the traditional GSX-R name, looks or inline-four engine many would have hoped for, the GSX-8R ticks a lot of boxes for a lot of riders.
It’ll cost £8,899 when it goes on sale in February.
Aprilia RS 457
Aprilia is renowned for making great sports bikes, so it’s safe to say we can’t wait to ride the new Aprilia RS 457.
Right on the cusp of being A2-licence compatible, the RS 457 produces a category maximum 47bhp and weighs just 159kg dry. It’s got the best power-to-weight ratio in its class, which should make it a joy to ride on your favourite B-roads, and even on track.
The parallel twin motor is at the cutting edge, utilising the technology developed in the Italian company’s expensive superbike models. Sophisticated electronics are developed around a ride-by-wire system controlling three riding modes, three levels of traction control, with a quickshifter as an optional upgrade.
It’s the spiritual successor to the iconic RS 250 of the 1990s. We absolutely love its bigger RS 660 sibling, which is more comparable to the Yamaha R7 and the new Triumph Daytona, so if that’s anything to go by the new RS 457 should be a blast.
One of the most eagerly anticipated little sports bikes gracing us this year comes from Kawasaki.
The nostalgic among you will probably remember how popular the original ZXR400 was, with its 14,500rpm red line and racy handling. Launched in 1989, it looked like a mini ZXR750 superbike. For many of us feels like yesterday, never mind 35 years ago. Fast forward to 2024, and who’d have thought Kawasaki would bring back a high-revving inline four-cylinder 400cc sports bike?
The new ZX-4RR has kept true to its heritage with a screaming in-line four motor with a redline beyond 15,000 rpm, and a trellis frame with dimensions inspired by factory WorldSBK team to give it that proper race-bike feeling.
Modern touches include a 4.3” TFT dash with smartphone connectivity, four riding modes, up/down quickshifter and adjustable suspension.
Costing £8,699, it remains to be seen whether the 2024 ZX-4RR will be as popular as the original 400 screamer, but you’ll be able to see a full grid of them in the new British Superteen class this year.