When the Honda Grom debuted for 2014, it was a curiosity. The first question was, “What the heck is a grom?” Since 1959, American Honda has been based in Southern California, a place known for its tasty waves. When the time came to name a 125cc minibike, it chose the slang term for a talented young surfer.
The next question was, “Who’s gonna buy it?” Everyone, as it turned out. Priced at $2,999, the low buy-in and appeal of a modern, playful minibike proved irresistible. Dealers ordered them by the dozen, and when they couldn’t get as many as they needed, they took deposits and put people on waiting lists. Some early buyers flipped Groms for a profit.
Almost overnight, Grom subcultures popped up like mushrooms after a rainstorm. Shops like Steady Garage in California and MNNTHBX (man in the box, get it?) in Tennessee started customizing Groms, and aftermarket companies began offering special parts like shocks, exhaust pipes, and big-bore kits. Grom enthusiasts started racing them, and friends and clubs got together for group rides.
There’s a house in my neighborhood that was occupied by four bikers who rode tricked-out Dynas and dressed like Sons of Anarchy cast members. At random times I’d see their garage door open, and out they’d come in black vests and half helmets on four identical Groms, their normally serious “cruiser face” replaced with boyish smiles.
The Grom has been Honda’s top-selling streetbike in the U.S. since it was introduced. Worldwide, more than 750,000 have been sold. And over the past few years Honda’s miniMOTO lineup has expanded to include the Monkey, Super Cub C125, and Trail 125, all powered by the same 125cc air-cooled Single.
After getting an edgy styling refresh in 2017, the Grom was updated for 2022 with a new look, a revised engine, a new transmission, a larger fuel tank, and a thicker, flatter seat. The goal was to make the Grom easier to customize, more comfortable, and – dare we say it – more practical.
Though still a fuel-injected, 2-valve 125cc Single with an overhead cam, the Grom’s powerplant now has a more undersquare bore/stroke (now 50 x 63.1mm vs. 52.4 x 57.9mm before), a higher compression ratio (10:1, up from 9.3:1), and a larger airbox, all aimed at making the little engine that could more torquey and fuel efficient. A replaceable oil filter simplifies maintenance, and the down pipe and muffler are now a two-piece design for easier replacement.
The Grom’s gearbox now has five speeds (up from four) and wider gear ratios, which, along with a larger 38-tooth rear sprocket (up from 34), help the bike cruise more easily at speed. Nonetheless, due to its top speed of about 60 mph, the Grom is too small to take on the freeway, not that I’d be inclined to do so even if I could. A larger 1.6-gallon tank (up from 1.45) will help the fuel sipper go even farther between fill-ups – last year’s model got an EPA-tested 134 mpg.
I showed up to the Grom press ride after a particularly stressful week. The day before we had shipped our August issue off to the printer, and I felt wrung out like an old dishrag. After getting a tour of the Steady Garage shop in Irwindale, California, and checking out some of their amazing Grom builds, our get-along gang of eight riders buzzed through the city streets and up into the San Gabriel Mountains.
I’m 6 feet tall and weigh more than 200 pounds. Honda hasn’t provided a curb weight figure for the 2022 model, but the previous model weighed 229 pounds. Even with my big sack of taters in the saddle, the Grom is zippy and pulls away from stops eagerly. Its clutch pull is ultra light, and rowing through the gears is effortless, which is good since keeping the Grom in the go zone requires the right gear and all the throttle you can twist out of the right grip.
Going up into the mountains was a tad slow, but going down was a total riot. With 12-inch wheels and barely 10 horsepower, the Grom is all about corner speed and drafting the person in front of you. Its brakes and suspension are as basic as you’d expect for a $3,399 motorcycle, but they are steady and predictable. (An extra $200 gets you ABS.) The Grom is tough and takes a lot of abuse without complaint.
By the time we got back to the valley, I had all but forgotten what I was so stressed out about. I had been so focused on keeping up and being smooth and laughing inside my helmet at the silliness of it all that the fun had displaced all of my concerns
It has been said that you never see a motorcycle parked in front of a psychiatrist’s office. That’s especially true if the motorcycle is a Grom. Go ahead, have some fun!
2022 Honda Grom Specs
Base Price: $3,399 Price as Tested: $3,499 (Grom SP) Website: powersports.honda.com Engine Type: Air-cooled Single, SOHC w/ 2 valves Displacement: 125cc Bore x Stroke: 50 x 63.1mm Transmission: 5-speed, cable-actuated wet clutch Final Drive: Chain Wheelbase: 47.2 in. Rake/Trail: 25 degrees/3.3 in. Seat Height: 30 in. Wet Weight: 229 lbs. (2020 model) Fuel Capacity: 1.6 gals.
Yes, this is a review of the 2021 Triumph Speed Triple 1200 RS, the legendary streetfighter from Hinckley that has been completely redesigned. More power, less weight, all the must-haves – you get the idea. For me, testing the Speed Triple was personal. But before I get into it, you should know the backstory.
London, England, 1998. I can still fit everything I own into the trunk of a hatchback, and for the first time in my short life, I’m earning more money than I’m spending. When my employer relocates me to a new office in the financial district, my commute becomes a 45-minute crush on the Tube. With a modest pot of cash building in the bank, I decide now is the time to buy my first proper motorcycle. Lane splitting in Britain is legal, and I plan to join the multitude of well-healed professionals commuting through the traffic and into the city each morning.
It’s the same year Triumph gives its naked hooligan, the Speed Triple, an aggressive redesign. Introduced in 1994, the Speed Triple had already left its mark. The new styling for ’98 includes wider, higher bars and distinct double headlights under a minimal flyscreen, a design that Tom Cruise will come to immortalize in Mission Impossible II.
The engine is now the 955cc Triple from the Daytona, producing a whopping 130 horsepower. I visit the Triumph dealership in Vauxhall so often the sales staff make fun of me and pretend to close the shop, telling me, “turn off the lights when your done sitting on it.” The Speed Triple’s price tag is hanging from the handlebar: £7,999 (around $13,000), which is about ten times more than I’ve ever spent on anything.
Alas, saving for my first proper bike is competing with the fiscal demands of London’s nightlife, and ultimately, I scale down my plans. The Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R I buy leaves £2,500 for some decent gear, but as much as I love the Ninja, I lament the hooligan and tell myself there will always be a next time.
Fast forward to 2005. London is history, as is the Ninja. New York is now my home and the center of the universe. Business is going well, but occasional rental rides are not cutting the mustard from a thrill perspective. As if in answer to my thoughts, Triumph releases the fourth generation of the Speed Triple, with a larger 1,050cc inline-Triple and a new chassis. But it’s the massive dual underseat pipes, which help expose the single-sided swingarm, that catch my eye.
I head down to the Triumph dealer in SoHo and climb aboard. It’s bigger than I remember, and meaner looking. I decide, right there and then, I’m going to buy it. But a test ride is “out of the question” until I get a New York driver’s license, as is insuring any bike I buy. I book the test, but somewhere along the way, a petite Italian also catches my eye, and suddenly I have a shared bank account and an eye-watering mortgage. My new fiancé doesn’t think a new motorcycle is a priority right now.
Time marches on. With each generation, the Speed Triple gets better and better. And with each passing year, it seems farther out of reach.
Now it’s 2021, and I’ve been living in Los Angeles for a few years. A few weeks after starting my new job at Rider, our EIC says he needs me to test the new Speed Triple 1200 RS. And just like that, I’m holding the keys – a keyless fob, actually – to a machine I’ve coveted for years.
Revised from the ground up, the new Speed Triple certainly looks the part. The underseat pipes are gone, replaced with a superbike-style can, but the fox-eye headlights, which replaced the iconic round ones in 2011, are as menacing as ever. It feels more compact than I remember, with a narrower seat and gas tank. Our test bike’s color scheme is the Matte Silver Ice option. Sapphire Black is also available and both colors are understated, flying in the face of its many candy-colored rivals or even the garish colors offered on Speed Triples in the past, like Nuclear Red and Roulette Green. But it’s no sleeper. Huge Brembo brake calipers and Öhlins suspension are clear indicators of the power they’re tasked with harnessing.
Triumph completely redesigned the Speed Triple’s engine, starting with an increase in displacement (1,160cc, up from 1,050) and a race-bred oversquare piston configuration. A bigger bore and a shorter stroke result in a higher redline, now 11,150 rpm. A new ignition system with twin-tip spark plugs improves combustion, and a new air intake and free-flowing exhaust system help squeeze every available horse from the Hinkley hooligan. On Jett Tuning’s rear-wheel dyno, the Speed Triple grunted out 165.5 horsepower at 10,800 rpm and 87 lb-ft of torque at 8,500 rpm, figures that are much higher than the previous model.
Triumph’s engineers must have been busy because, despite the performance gains, the new engine weighs 15 pounds less than before and is Euro 5 compliant. Lighter moving parts have significantly reduced engine inertia, promising a very revvy engine. A lighter slip/assist clutch assembly has fewer plates but more friction per plate, and it’s linked to a new stacked 6-speed gearbox with an up/down quickshifter. An all-new cast-aluminum chassis is both stronger and lighter, further cutting the Speed Triple’s curb weight down to just 437 pounds.
Compared to the Speed Triple R we tested back in 2012, the 2021 RS makes 40 more horsepower and weighs 40 pounds less. Take a moment and let that sink in.
The only Speed Triple 1200 available for 2021 is the RS model, and with that designation comes premium equipment. Fully adjustable Öhlins suspension includes an NIX30 inverted fork and a TTX36 twin-tube rear shock. Braking at the front wheel is supplied by twin Brembo Stylema radial monoblock 4-piston calipers clamping 320mm discs, and at the rear, a single Brembo 2-piston caliper. Tires are grippy Metzeler Racetec RR tires with just a hint of rain sipes.
Brembo Stylema calipers, coupled with Metzler Racetec RR tires make for truly impressive stopping power.
After getting acquainted, I start to get a feel for the Speed Triple’s handling as I make my way out of the city. The ride is firm, as is the seat; not a stone, but not plush either. The quickshifter works beautifully, especially at the higher rev ranges, but I can’t find neutral to save my life. By the time I reach the back roads I feel acquainted enough to really open up the throttle as I exit a familiar, sweeping corner. Thump-in-the-chest acceleration follows as the engine spins up almost instantly. I know this road intimately, but suddenly it feels shorter and I’m up to the next corner before I know it. With a firm, progressive pull on the brake lever, the stopping power from the Stylema calipers feels like I just launched a parachute. I lose my flow through the corner because now I’m too slow.
A few miles later and I’m coming to grips with it. The Triumph is in Road mode and I see no reason to change that. The body position is spot-on for a naked, the sporty side of neutral, and despite the firm seat and significant bend at my knee, I’m not uncomfortable. The bars are wide but steering inputs are precise. Triumph has moved the footrests inboard slightly, and when I get confident enough to test the sticky Racetecs, I find plenty of grip and ground clearance.
Now that my brain is properly calibrated, I come to appreciate the phenomenal brakes. I can be heavy on the rear with no issues, and the front brakes are immediate without being snappy. There is barely a whiff of dive in the fork. Our test bike came straight from a track test, and the suspension was carved-from-granite stiff. We turned the clickers on the Öhlins NIX30 to remove nearly all of the compression and rebound damping, and the ride was much improved. Taut and responsive, though as a 160-pound rider I’d like to go softer still.
The Speed Triple is a breeze to ride, despite the race-bred engine. The performance is staggering, but not unwieldy. Thanks to the abundant torque it’s happy to tootle about in the higher gears. Throttle response is sharp but manageable, and when I’m a little heavy-handed, wheelie control kicks in and levels things out (you can turn it off and wheelie away if that’s your thing). The bike feels smaller than it is, and is eminently flickable, darting into corners on demand with eye-popping acceleration on exit. Sometimes the firm ride can be unsettling on less-than-perfect roads, but through a smooth series of corners it’s like magic.
The cockpit is nicely understated, and the dash is clear and readable in bright daylight and in the dark. Snazzy graphics add a bit of flare.
Triumph applied its standard minimalist approach to the cockpit. A low-reflection, 5-inch TFT display defaults to a view of the tach, gear position, and speed, and snazzy dash graphics rotate the default screen to the side when you access the menu. A new six-axis IMU sensor empowers a full suite of electronic rider aids, including multi-mode cornering ABS and traction control. There are five riding modes: Rain (power is restricted to 99 horsepower), Road, Sport, Track, and Custom. On the street, the Speed Triple is more than saucy enough in Road mode. All-round LED lights, backlit switchgear, keyless ignition, and cruise control are standard.
The Triumph Speed Triple 1200 RS exceeded my expectations. As I rode it more and more, I adapted to it, and I’d like to think it adapted to me. We got to know each other. I grew more confident in its handling and braking capabilities, which allowed me to explore more of its performance envelope. The mighty Triple rewarded me with one of the most thrilling riding experiences of my life. They say you should never meet your heroes, but in this case, there was no letdown. I still love the Speed Triple. And yes, it was worth the wait.
Since its debut in 2015, Yamaha’s MT-07 has been a popular choice thanks to its punchy parallel-twin, aggressive naked styling, and lightweight accessibility. It has proven to be just as adept as a first bike, a commuter, a track bike, a play bike — heck, throw luggage on it and it can be a sport-tourer.
Rider did a comparison test of the Kawasaki Ninja 650, Suzuki SV650, and Yamaha FZ-07 (the MT-07’s original moniker) back in 2016. The three bikes share the same defining attributes — simple, fun, and inexpensive. The FZ-07 came out on top, proving to be edgier and nimbler than its rivals, providing immediate response to throttle inputs and exceptionally agile handling.
To stay ahead of the competition, Yamaha tweaked the mix, focusing on styling and rider engagement while maintaining the core character at the heart of the model’s appeal. A key part of that appeal has always been its value for money, and in its class, only the Suzuki SV650 can match its price. Perhaps not surprisingly then, most of the updates for the 2021 model are subtle.
The most striking change is in the new headlight cluster. Yamaha has standardized the styling across the MT range, and just like the MT-09 we tested recently, the MT-07 is fitted with full LED lights arranged in what Yamaha calls a “signature Y-shape icon,” which I found to be insect-like and split the opinion of the Rider staff. The “Y” motif is carried over to the rear LED also. Overall, the MT-07 is a great-looking bike. The stance looks more aggressive than it feels, and the new bodywork provides just enough edge without being silly.
New flared intakes add some muscle to the look, while sleek LED turnsignals bring a touch of class and are a vast improvement over the old lollipop design. Aesthetics aside, the new light cluster is a practical improvement. At night, the low beam provides a good spread of useable light. The high beam is bright and well defined but lacked width when the road became windy. There is no TFT for the new model, but the revised LCD dash is now color inverted. The dark screen with white characters is stylish and easy to read in bright daylight and at night, and Yamaha has fixed the mounting angle issues from previous models.
The newly tapered handlebars are over an inch wider and positioned slightly higher than before, which opens up the ergonomics slightly. The wide bars, which work flawlessly at low speeds, felt slightly cumbersome when carving through my favorite canyon. The new setup takes nothing away from the MT-07’s exceptional agility and responsiveness, allowing for precisely picked lines through corners and a tight turning radius. The low seat height and curb weight, which at 31.7 inches and just over 400 pounds respectively, are among the lowest in class, make for a thoroughly approachable motorcycle, especially for shorter riders.
There is a narrow stretch of winding road not far from my home that is so good that I often stop and re-ride it a few times. On the MT-07 it was a blast, and I was impressed with how easy it was to get a U-turn done. My brother, who lives in the U.K., is taking his motorcycle test on a restricted MT-07. It’s a favorite with schools offering the A2 test, and no doubt its low-speed maneuverability and forgiving nature are key factors behind that.
I’m 6 feet, 2 inches tall, and when I took our MT-07 for a full day’s ride, spending a solid eight hours in the saddle, I found it had a comfortable and commanding riding position, with room to slide back on the seat just a little and get into a more aggressive attitude in the twisties. The pegs are high enough to make it a plausible carver but require considerable knee bend for taller riders like me, which felt cramped after a while. Nonetheless, I wouldn’t change much. The pegs give enough clearance to really take advantage of the strong performance offered by that punchy twin.
The MT’s 689cc parallel-twin has been tweaked to be Euro 5 compliant without compromising performance. We took it down to Jett Tuning for dyno testing, and output remains similar to the outgoing model: 68 horsepower and 46.5 lb-ft of torque at the rear wheel. Part of what makes the MT-07 so much fun is its bias towards maximizing instantaneous torque. The motor provides all the thrill the combustion forces working below can exert but with none of the hairiness. Throttle response is strong without being too snappy. A new air-intake duct ensures smooth fueling and acceleration when rolling on and off the power, and the engine’s 270-degree firing cadence generates a nice strum when you get the revs over 5,000. It also has a little bit of crackle and pop as you come off the gas, always a crowd pleaser.
Riding the MT-07 up my favorite canyon, 25 glorious miles, few of which are straight, gave me an opportunity to get the new Michelin Road 5 tires warmed up and carry some speed into the corners. The characteristics of these tires suit the bike well. Designed as an all-rounder, the Road 5 has four-season credentials in its center tread, where deep grooves dissipate water, but at the tire’s shoulder, only called into use when riding spiritedly in the dry, a softer compound of sticky rubber without tread sipes provides additional grip.
In this environment, the MT-07’s twin is happiest in the 5,000-7,000 rpm range, optimizing throttle response and engine braking. Thanks to the short wheelbase and low weight, flicking it from side to side is effortless, and the handling intuitive. After only a few miles it felt like I’d been riding this thing for years and I found myself in that wonderful riding zone, where your inputs are entirely in tune with the motorcycle and the feedback you get through the bars, pegs, and seat is clear and predictable. All that remains is the asphalt, the braking points, the exits, and the exhilarating forces working through your body, now a part of the bike. I didn’t want to stop, fearing even a brief pause might break the magic.
One of the key reasons behind the MT-07’s popularity as an all-rounder is its ability to be just as forgiving to new riders as it is thrilling for riders with years of experience. The gearbox is somewhat notchy and requires more effort than some of its class rivals, but the clutch has a wide take-up zone and takes all the sweat out of pulling away from stops. The strong low-end torque even allows you to pull off in 2nd gear without embarrassing yourself with a stall.
ABS is standard and Yamaha has made the front brake discs 14mm larger, which provided adequate stopping power but with a softer lever than premium brakes. The 41mm nonadjustable KYB fork remains unchanged, and the rear monoshock is adjustable for preload and rebound. The MT-07 was fighting above its weight when I took my wife on a pillion ride through the canyons. Handling and braking were up to the task, but the narrow rear seat and lack of grab rails ensure this will not be the first choice for riders looking for a good two-up bike.
The MT-07’s past success has been dependent upon its nearly universal accessibility. The magic lies in maintaining these aspects while still being exciting, practical, comfortable, and visually appealing. Riders familiar with the older models will not be disappointed. Nothing has been compromised where it matters. The updated styling represents a bold modern design and visually sets it apart from its rivals.
What hasn’t changed is the MT-07’s ability to repeatedly take you back to that feeling you had the very first time you stepped off a bike with pedals and pulled away on a bike with pegs, when exertion was replaced with effortless thrust. It makes me grin just thinking about it. The MT-07 remains an excellent value while still offering riders of all skills, sizes, and needs the most important thing of all — pure, unadulterated fun.
We test the third-generation 2022 Suzuki Hayabusa, a 1,340cc, 188-horsepower sportbike received its first major update since 2008.
Compared to the previous model, peak horsepower and torque are lower — 188 horsepower at 9,700 rpm (down from 194) and 111 lb-ft at 7,000 rpm (down from 114) — but there are sizable gains in the heart of the rev range. Suzuki claims the new Hayabusa goes 0-60 mph in 3.2 seconds, a couple of tenths faster than its predecessor.
The Hayabusa has updated styling, new instrumentation, and a new IMU-based electronics package called the Suzuki Intelligent Ride System. Six riding modes (three presets, three customizable) adjust power, engine braking, traction control, and quickshifter mode. SIRS also includes linked cornering ABS, a speed limiter, launch control, slope-descent control, hill-hold control, and cruise control.
We tested the 2022 Suzuki Hayabusa for two days on the street and on the track in Utah. It’s insanely fast, makes a ton of velvety smooth power at all times, and handles well for a 582-pound sportbike. Check it out in our video review:
Rewind the clock to 1999. We were approaching the end of the millennium, and it felt like the science-fiction future was just around the corner. The carefree among us were ready to party like Prince, while worrywarts feared a Y2K-induced doomsday for the world’s computers.
That’s the same year that Suzuki introduced a big, bulbous sportbike called the GSX1300R. Appended to its alphanumeric model designation was an unfamiliar name — Hayabusa — the Japanese word for the peregrine falcon, a bird renowned for its ability to exceed 200 mph. Was Suzuki’s 173-horsepower bird of prey capable of the same feat?
The top-speed wars of the late ’90s, with the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-11 defeated by the Honda CBR1100XX Blackbird, and the Blackbird defeated by the Hayabusa, caught the attention of European bureaucrats. To avoid regulation or an outright ban on powerful sportbikes, motorcycle manufacturers voluntarily agreed to a top-speed limit of 186 mph (300 kph).
With its slippery bodywork and long wheelbase, the big ’Busa wasn’t designed for roadracing. But that didn’t stop us — back in the day I was part of a team that raced two Hayabusas in a WERA 24-hour endurance event at Willow Springs. Meanwhile, it was the hottest bike on the dragstrips.
Fast forward two decades, and I’m riding the third-generation Hayabusa on the track at Utah Motorsports Campus, pushing the limit to the point of being uncomfortable. Was I tempting fate?
Near the end of UMC’s long front straight, my speed approaches 175 mph. Pop up out of the bubble, get on the binders, set up for Turn 1. Adrenaline is flowing, everything’s happening really fast. Is it possible to have a blast and shit yourself at the same time?
Yes, yes it is.
Suzuki’s design brief for the new Hayabusa was “The Refined Beast.” In other words, make the bike better without reinventing the wheel. The Hayabusa’s last major update was back in 2008, when it got a larger engine, a new frame, and other upgrades. Architecture and displacement of the 1,340cc inline four haven’t unchanged, but the engine was thoroughly revised to meet Euro 5 and deliver more low- and midrange power.
Compared to the previous model, peak horsepower and torque are lower — 188 horsepower at 9,700 rpm (down from 194) and 111 lb-ft at 7,000 rpm (down from 114) — but there are sizable gains in the heart of the rev range. Suzuki claims the new Hayabusa goes 0-60 mph in 3.2 seconds, a couple of tenths faster than its predecessor.
Most of the engine’s internals were lightened, strengthened, or refined — cylinder head, valve springs, pistons and piston pins, connecting rods, and crankshaft. Less internal friction helps the engine run quieter and smoother, and critical components are now more durable. Cam profiles were revised to reduce valve lift overlap, redesigned dual injectors for the throttle bodies improve combustion, and revised intake ducts increase pressure flowing into the higher-capacity airbox. A revised radiator improves cooling and a new exhaust system saves 4.5 pounds.
Wrapped in panels of wind-tunnel-tested aerodynamic bodywork and weighing 582 pounds, the Hayabusa is a big bike, almost intimidating at first. With its swooping lines and aggressive curves, it looks as fast as it goes. A 50/50 weight distribution and a low center of gravity help the Hayabusa feel agile. The tight, sporty rider triangle and 31.5-inch seat height suit my 5-foot, 9-inch frame. I was able to move around the cockpit freely and use the controls easily.
Suzuki hosted a two-day launch, and we spent the first day plying canyon roads in the Wasatch Mountains east of Salt Lake City. On the road, the ’Busa was in its element and exhibited confident, stable handling. Negotiating tight sections required some effort, but I had no problem picking a line, turning in, and making midcorner adjustments as needed. The fully adjustable KYB suspension provided a comfortable, compliant ride, and it just floated over rough pavement.
Throttle response was spot-on, with no hesitation or flat spots, and there’s a ridiculous amount of velvety-smooth power available at all times. All it took was a small amount of throttle to make the scenery blur, and gear choice was irrelevant. On the freeway, the Hayabusa never felt stressed, there was a ton of roll-on power for quick passes, and the new cruise control was really well sorted.
On a bike this big and fast, strong brakes are essential, and the new Brembo Stylema front calipers and 10mm-larger 320mm rotors did an excellent job of slowing the beast down. The new linked ABS system, which distributes braking force between the front and rear, worked well on the street. Trail braking into corners, I could feel the system engage the rear brake to settle the chassis.
As expected, the new Hayabusa gets a full IMU-based electronics package called the Suzuki Intelligent Ride System. Six riding modes (three presets, three customizable) adjust power, engine braking, traction control, and quickshifter mode. SIRS also includes linked cornering ABS, a speed limiter, launch control, slope-descent control, hill-hold control, and cruise control. Everything is adjusted via buttons on the switch clusters, with menus and info displayed on the TFT display centered between the analog speedo and tach.
For both street and track riding, the electronic riding aids allowed me to tailor the Hayabusa’s performance and behavior to the conditions. On public roads, I selected mode B (Basic), which softened throttle response but still allowed full power and put traction control and anti-lift (LF) control in the middle of the range. Mode C (Comfort) reduces power and maximizes TC and LF intervention. On the track, I opted for Mode A (Active), which provides more aggressive throttle response, max power, and minimal intervention. Suzuki’s linked ABS, which uses the IMU to adjust intervention based on lean angle, can’t be turned off. It was helpful on the street, but I found it to be somewhat of a hindrance on the track.
A closed course is the only suitable place to explore the Hayabusa’s limits. There’s more than enough power, so the challenge comes with managing chassis dynamics. There’s no getting around the ’Busa’s size and weight, but its stout twin-spar aluminum frame communicates the desired feel and feedback for attacking corners at a sane pace. As my laps accumulated, my speed and comfort level both increased.
The bike was well-balanced and responsive to inputs, allowing me to confidently throw it from side to side to the point of scraping the peg feelers and the exhaust. After a few sessions we made some suspension adjustments — less rebound, more compression — that reduced the Hayabusa’s tendency to pitch front to back on corner exits. Then it really came alive, making corner entry and exit much more predictable.
New Bridgestone Battlax Hypersport S22 tires provided good grip, and the limits of their adhesion were kept in check by the lean-angle-sensitive traction control. Late in the day when the bike was sorted, I was having a great time. I had found my rhythm, and the TC light was flashing out of every corner while I was leaving black marks in my wake. The onboard computer tracks all sorts of cool data — max lean angle, braking pressure front and rear, rates of acceleration and deceleration, etc. — which made for some fun bench racing between sessions.
All in all, the new Hayabusa is an impressive bike. Looks fast, goes fast, and has all the modern bells and whistles. Maybe it’s time to repeat the comparison test we did back in 2008, when we strapped tank bags and tail bags to a Hayabusa and Kawasaki Ninja ZX-14R and hit the road for a couple days of hypersport touring.
2022 Suzuki Hayabusa Specs
Base Price: $18,599 Website:suzukicycles.com Engine Type: Liquid-cooled, transverse in-line four, DOHC w/ 4 valves per cyl. Displacement: 1,340cc Bore x Stroke: 81.0 x 65.0mm Horsepower: 187.8 hp @ 9,700 rpm (claimed, at the crank) Torque: 110.6 lb-ft @ 7,000 rpm (claimed, at the crank) Transmission: 6-speed, cable-actuated assist-and-slipper wet clutch Final Drive: O-ring chain Wheelbase: 58.3 in. Rake/Trail: 23 degrees/3.5 in. Seat Height: 31.5 in. Wet Weight: 582 lbs. Fuel Capacity: 5.3 gals.
Introduced for 2019, the Speed Twin offers engine performance and handling comparable to the Thruxton café racer but with an upright riding position, less weight, and a lower price. For 2022, the Speed Twin’s updated “High Power” version of Triumph’s liquid-cooled, 1,200cc parallel-twin makes 98.6 horsepower at 7,250 rpm and 83 lb-ft of torque at 4,250 rpm (claimed, at the crank). Wet weight is 476 pounds, and pricing starts at $12,500.
Compared to the previous Speed Twin’s engine, the updated powerplant now meets Euro 5 emissions standards and offers more peak horsepower, more midrange horsepower and torque, a lower torque peak, and 17% less inertia for better response. Power is sent to the rear wheel through a 6-speed transmission, a torque-assist clutch, and chain final drive.
To improve handling, the Speed Twin gets a higher-spec Marzocchi USD cartridge fork, Brembo M50 monoblock calipers, lighter cast aluminum 12-spoke wheels, and Metzeler Racetec RR tires.
Three riding modes — Sport, Road, and Rain — have been revised, and they adjust throttle response and intervention from the switchable traction control. Other standard equipment includes ABS, LED lighting with a DRL, an underseat USB charging port, and an ignition immobilizer. Sorry folks, still no cruise control.
The Speed Twin’s styling has been refreshed with new brushed stainless-steel upswept silencers, new anodized headlight and mudguard mounts, and new tank graphics.
The 2022 Triumph Speed Twin is available in Red Hopper, Matte Storm Grey, and Jet Black, and it will be in dealerships in August.
2022 Triumph Speed Twin Specs
Base Price: $12,500 Website:triumphmotorcycles.com Engine Type: Liquid-cooled, transverse parallel twin, SOHC w/ 4 valves per cyl. Displacement: 1,200cc Bore x Stroke: 97.6 x 80mm Horsepower: 98.6 @ 7,250 rpm (claimed, at the crank) Torque: 83 lb-ft @ 4,250 rpm (claimed, at the crank) Fuel Delivery: Electronic fuel injection & throttle-by-wire Transmission: 6-speed, cable-actuated torque-assist wet clutch Final Drive: O-ring chain Frame: Tubular steel w/ aluminum cradles, cast aluminum swingarm Wheelbase: 55.6 in. Rake/Trail: 22.3 degrees/3.6 in. Seat Height: 31.9 in. Suspension, Front: 43mm USD fork, no adj., 4.7 in. travel Rear: Dual shocks, adj. for spring preload, 4.7 in. travel Brakes, Front: Dual 320mm discs w/ radial-mount opposed 4-piston monoblock calipers & ABS Rear: Single 220mm disc w/ 2-piston floating caliper & ABS Wheels, Front: Cast aluminum, 3.5 x 17 in. Rear: Cast aluminum, 5.0 x 17 in. Tires, Front: 120/70-ZR17 Rear: 160/60-ZR17 Wet Weight: 476 lbs. Fuel Capacity: 3.8 gals. Fuel Consumption: 41.8 mpg (EPA)
What’s a rider to do if they want a supersport bike, but they don’t have the funds for a true race replica like the Yamaha YZF-R6 ($12,199) or YZF-R1 ($17,399)? Some will buy used, but doing so confidently can be a challenge, and financing may not be an option if buying from a private seller.
Yamaha’s solution is to take a proven platform — in this case, the MT-07 naked bike — and adapt it to supersport duty. Then price it within reach at $8,999.
Since the new middleweight supersport will be part of the R-series family and slot between the YZF-R3 and YZF-R1 (there’s no YZF-R6 for 2021, and the 2022 model has yet to be announced), it’s only natural to call the new bike YZF-R7. Those with a long memory may recall the 1999 YZF-R7 (aka OW-02), a 500-unit race homologation special built to compete in World Superbike. That sort of unobtainium machine is exactly what Yamaha wanted to avoid with the MT-07-based R7.
To create the YZF-R7, Yamaha made key changes to the MT-07 platform, such as new bodywork and revisions to the chassis. The 689cc CP2 parallel-twin, which has a crossplane-style 270-degree crankshaft and an uneven firing order, is a versatile motor also found in Yamaha’s Ténéré 700 adventure bike and MT-07 flat-track racer. It has usable power but not so much that it will overwhelm new or less experienced riders. For the R7, Yamaha fitted an assist-and-slipper assist clutch and a optional quick shifter, and a gearing change adds a little more acceleration and thrill into the mix.
Chassis-wise the R7 features a steeper rake (23.7 degrees vs. 24.8), slightly less trail and a shorter wheelbase (54.9 inches vs. 55.1) than the MT-07. A revised radiator improves cooling and accommodates a new fully adjustable 41mm inverted KYB fork with spring rates similar to those on the R6. The R7 also uses a smaller, lighter (by 2.4 pounds) battery like the R6. Wider triple clamps accommodate four-piston brake calipers, and offset is now 37mm compared to 40mm on the MT-07. At the rear, revised shock linkage raises rear ride height, and a new KYB shock offers adjustable spring preload and rebound damping. A rigid-mount aluminum center brace is bolted to the steel frame at the swingarm pivot for increased torsional rigidity.
With a seat that’s higher than the MT-07’s (32.9 inches vs. 31.7), clip-on handlebars, and a rider triangle inspired by the R6, the riding position is aggressive without being extreme. Compared to the MT-07, changes to the chassis and ergonomics enhance the handling capabilities of the R7, and overall it’s a comfortable, nimble motorcycle. Fresh bodywork wrapped around a compact engine and chassis make the bike every narrow and aerodynamic, like a cross between the R6 and R1, and it very much looks the part.
It’s always fun to go to a track you’ve never seen before, and it’s even better on a bike you never ridden before. Yamaha hosted the R7 launch at Atlanta Motorsports Park, a tight, hilly track with a few fast sections thrown in to make things interesting. We needed several laps to familiarize ourselves with the layout, especially with the blind corners and elevation changes. The R7’s easygoing nature was a boon for navigating the unfamiliar territory — never threatening or overwhelming, which is the point. Accessible for any level of rider.
As I rounded the track on my first few outings, I was impressed with how well the R7 worked. The riding position felt a bit high at first, but within a few laps it felt spot-on. I was able to tuck in behind the windscreen and still crawl around the cockpit easily. The R6-like front-end was excellent when entering the corners, and the chassis held steady with only a slight pitching out of the rear wheel on entry. I bottomed out a few times hitting some serious bumps, but the R7’s KTB fork took the beating in stride. That split-second thought of “Oh no!” was replaced with a “Wow, this thing is very forgiving.” Fast or slow it felt solid with exceptional feel, and the slipper clutch proved invaluable when down shifting at speed.
The new Brembo radial front master cylinder combined with Advics radial-mount 4-piston calipers and 298mm rotors allowed for some serious braking force. Out back, a Brembo master cylinder controls a Nissin caliper and a 245mm rotor. Too bad the ABS cannot be turned off. Even though ABS interference was minimal, under extreme braking I encountered more of a freewheeling sensation than I’d prefer. When I did overcook a corner, the user-friendly nature of the R7 allowed me to reel it back in.
In terms of steering, I thought the narrow position of the clip-ons might be a issue with leverage, but I was wrong. The R7 turns on dime and was effortless to maneuver in slow and fast sections of the track. Every time I pushed, it reacted like a proper sportbike. Transitioning back and forth at speed was relatively easy as the narrow chassis responds very well to input with minimal force. There are limitations, however. Even with the beefed-up chassis, the R7 felt challenged at race pace. The frame started to twist up when leaned over hard on the gas through long corners, resulting in a slight decrease in stability. The front-end started to chatter a bit off throttle mid-corner as the pace increased.
Still, none of this hampered the fun and the R7 always felt predictable. The 689cc CP2 twin was a blast on the track. I wrung its neck all day and never felt worn out. Throttle response was smooth and efficient, so I never had to worry about upsetting the chassis. The initial hit down low is good with some usable torque, but it flattens out at the upper end of the rev range. Just grab a gear via the quickshifter and you’ll have plenty more to play with.
A new LCD high-contrast instrument panel provides all the pertinent info, and the bar-graph tachometer and gear indicator, which I watch most, are easy to read. What I loved about the dash and switchgear was the lack of details and buttons for electronic riding aids. No need to fuss about which button does what. Just get on with it, and that’s exactly what we did all day long.
The 2022 Yamaha YZF-R7 is a supersport bike for the masses. More performance than an R3, but more accessible than an R1 on all fronts. The R7 could be the perfect bike for someone who wants to sharpen their skills on back roads or try their hand at club racing. Less money spent on the bike means more money available for tires — and a sticky set will last a lot longer! Yamaha has done a fine job producing a motorcycle that’s the perfect blend of accessibility and capability.
2022 Yamaha YZF-R7 Specs
Base Price: $8,999 Price as Tested: $9,199 (quickshifter) Website:yamahamotorsports.com Engine Type: Liquid-cooled, transverse parallel-twin, DOHC w/ 4 valves per cyl. Displacement: 689cc Bore x Stroke: 80.0 x 68.6mm Transmission: 6-speed, cable-actuated assist-and-slipper wet clutch Final Drive: O-ring chain Wheelbase: 54.9 in. Rake/Trail: 23.4 degrees/3.5 in. Seat Height: 32.9 in. Wet Weight: 414 lbs. (claimed) Fuel Capacity: 3.4 gals.
Over the years Ducati has produced several iconic motorcycles which have withstood the test of time. Many enthusiasts credit Ducati’s 916 as the one that stands above the rest in it’s revolutionary design and styling. But there’s another Ducati that has made its own mark in similar fashion — the Monster — which established the “naked bike” style.
Unveiled at the Cologne show in 1992, designer Miguel Galluzzi said, “All you need is: a saddle, tank, engine, two wheels and handlebars.” Though designated the M900, it became known by its nickname, “Monster.” Like Frankenstein’s monster, the M900 stitched together the steel trellis frame from the 851 Superbike, the air-cooled, 904cc L-twin from the Supersport Desmodue, a “bison-back” gas tank, a low handlebar and a round headlight.
Over nearly three decades of production and more than 350,000 units sold, the Ducati Monster has seen multiple evolutions in terms of styling and technology, and it has been offered in a range of displacements, from 600cc to 1,200cc. The commitment made by Ducati to enhance and keep the Monster relevant is evident from the latest version of this iconic motorcycle, which brings together a Superbike-inspired chassis, a road-going engine and the latest in electronic riding aids.
It’s fitting that the 2021 Ducati Monster was launched in San Francisco because the bike has been a huge hit among urban enthusiasts. The design brief for the latest version was to deliver the best of both worlds — to be “more thrilling for experienced riders” as well as “more accessible for new riders.” The new 2021 Monster maintains the model’s signature minimalist styling and aggressive attitude while delivering increased power, comfort, and maneuverability. Couple this with a new, comprehensive electronics package, and the latest generation is likely to ensure the Ducati Monster remains as popular as ever.
First impressions of the 2021 Ducati Monster can be deceiving. Sure it looks like a Monster with its bison-back tank and round headlight, but there’s something missing. The classic steel trellis frame has been replaced with a new Panigale-style aluminum upper section frame that saves 9.9 pounds and uses the engine as a structural member of the chassis. They didn’t stop there. Updates including a new swingarm and fiberglass-reinforced polymer subframe shave off 10 pounds, and the Testastretta engine and lighter wheels save another 10 pounds. All this tinkering, Ducati says, has reduced the Monster’s curb weight to a lean 414 pounds, a full 40 pounds less than last year’s model.
Firing up the Monster produced a familiar sound that resonated in my ears. Powering the Monster is a version of the liquid-cooled, 937cc Testastretta 11-degree L-twin also found in the Hypermotard, Multistrada 950 and SuperSport 950. Claimed output is 111 horsepower at 9,250 rpm (up 2 from the Monster 821) and 69 lb-ft at 6,500 rpm (up 1.5). Updates to the engine include new cylinder heads, pistons and rods, intake and exhaust system, geardrum, stick coils, alternator and belt covers. A new clutch has 20% lighter pull, and an up/down quickshifter is standard. The new Monster has a 9,000-mile oil service interval and an 18,000-mile desmodromic valve service interval.
The Monster’s new electronics package includes three fully customizable riding modes (Sport, Touring and Urban), IMU-based cornering ABS, cornering traction control, as well as wheelie and launch control. Starting off in Urban mode, which reduces engine output to 75 horsepower, the softer throttle response and increased level of intervention for ABS and TC make the Monster highly manageable. The tamed throttle response is sufficient enough to get the job done when negotiating lane changes or avoiding sketchy situations, but after a few miles of exploring the busy streets of San Francisco, Urban mode felt too corked up and I was eager for more.
Tapping a button on the left switch cluster allowed me to sample Touring and Sport modes, both of which offer full power, more direct throttle response and less electronic intervention, with Sport mode being the most aggressive. An up/down toggle scrolls through the various settings within each mode; just push the button, close the throttle and the change takes effect. Changes to default settings can only be done while stopped. Everything is displayed on a new 4.3-inch, high-resolution TFT instrument panel.
As our test ride continued, I came to appreciate the Monster’s agreeable riding position and agile handling. The Panigale-style frame, new bodywork and a new seat make the Monster narrower between the legs. Height of the stock seat is 32.3 inches, but the accessory low seat ($160) reduces seat height to 31.5 inches and the low seat plus the accessory low suspension kit ($300) reduces seat height further to 30.5 inches. Ducati also changed the bar/seat/peg configuration, with the handlebar moved 2.6 inches closer to the rider and the footpegs moved back 1.4 inches and down 0.4 inch compared to the Monster 821. Not only are the ergonomics more comfortable, but a 7% tighter steering angle reduces the turning radius by 3.75 feet, simplifying U-turns and slow-speed maneuvering.
Riding around town, the Monster hits all the marks, but how will the changes translate out in the twisties, while giving it the berries? On the handling front, Ducati kept it simple. Suspension is made by KYB, with a non-adjustable 43mm USD fork with 5.1 inches of travel and a preload-adjustable rear shock with 5.5 inches of travel. The basic setup worked quite well, with good bump compliance and exceptional midcorner stability. Compared to the Monster 821, the wheelbase is slightly shorter thanks to a tighter rake (24 degrees, down 0.3) but trail is unchanged at 3.7 inches. Revised chassis geometry, less weight and a narrower 180/55 rear tire make for a more maneuverable platform. While lighter wheels, reduced unsprung weight, and grippy Pirelli Diablo Rosso III tires combined to give a planted feeling during quick transitions.
The highway separating me and the new Monster from the sublimely twisty roads of the Santa Cruz Mountains, south of San Francisco, provided an opportunity to feel out its cruising abilities, and in 6th gear, at around 75 to 80 mph at 5,500 rpm, there was plenty of roll-on power in reserve. As soon as I exited the highway, and headed into the mountains, I really started to flog it. I thought for sure the suspension would give it up, but the Monster handled pretty much everything I threw at it. Tight switchbacks, long sweepers, decreasing-radius corners, uneven pavement and even those mystery bumps hidden in the shade of redwoods were all kept in check. The effort Ducati put into designing a more compact, agile, and friendlier riding position has really paid off. Transitioning back and forth was fairly easy in the fast stuff, but needed some increased effort in the tighter sections. The front-end feel at corner entry and mid-corner was reasonably good, allowing me to feel the road adjust to the conditions with confidence.
The Monster also has good front-to-rear balance and minimizes weight transfer on exits. I did some experimenting with the TC and ABS settings to gauge their effects at full tilt. There is definitely some intervention in the upper ranges of the 8-level TC, especially when traction is questionable. I found that peculiar sensation like a rev limiter kicking in several times on hard corner exits. In the lower levels of the TC the Monster’s response is more measured and precise. You’ll feel like a real pro, barely noticing that it’s working.
Braking wise, the Monster is equipped with Brembo’s latest M4.32 monoblock front calipers and 320mm rotors, along with a Brembo radial master cylinder. Together they offered a superb braking feel with plenty of stopping power. The ABS is well sorted and even though I’m not usually a fan, it stepped in to save the day a few times.
Everybody sampled the 4-level wheelie control and launch control at nearly every stop light. Where it counted for me was on low-speed corner exits. In Level 4 it’s very apparent as the motor starts to cut out in order to keep the front wheel on the ground. Level 1 and 2 seemed most agreeable with minimal intervention. The good thing is the wheelie control can be independently adjusted from the other control systems or turned off. Ducati’s quickshifter worked well in both up and down directions, adding to the fun, but felt clunky at lower speeds.
Overall, the 2021 Ducati Monster performed exceptionally well. It’s the friendliest Monster yet and should satisfy a wide range of riders (and abilities) attracted not only to its performance and style, but also its accessibility. The many updates ensure that Monster legacy will be carried forward by this worthy successor.
The Monster comes in three color options: Ducati Red ($11,895), Aviator Gray (+$200) and Dark Stealth (+$200). And the Monster+ ($12,095) adds a flyscreen and passenger seat cover. An extensive range of accessories allow you to personalize the Monster, from a Termignoni racing exhaust to an EPA/CARB-compliant slip-on, tank cover kits and more.
2021 Ducati Monster Specs
Base Price: $11,895 Price as Tested: $12,095 (Monster+ w/ flyscreen, passenger seat cover) Website:ducati.com Engine Type: Liquid-cooled, transverse 90-degree V-twin, DOHC w/ 4 valves per cyl. Displacement: 937cc Bore x Stroke: 94.0 x 67.5mm Horsepower: 111 hp @ 9,250 rpm Torque: 69 lb-ft @ 6,500 rpm Transmission: 6-speed, hydraulically actuated wet clutch Final Drive: Chain Wheelbase: 58.0 in. Rake/Trail: 24 degrees/3.7 in. Seat Height: 32.3 in. Wet Weight: 414 lbs. (claimed) Fuel Capacity: 3.7 gals.
When Yamaha launched the MT-07 for 2015, it was hoping to build on the success of its MT-09, a rowdy sport standard powered by an 847cc in-line triple with a crossplane crankshaft that was introduced the previous year.
The smaller, more affordable MT-07 had an all-new liquid-cooled, 689cc parallel-twin with a crossplane-style 270-degree crankshaft and an uneven firing order, giving it a lively feel and good low-end torque. That 689cc CP2 engine proved to be a versatile platform that not only powers flat-track race bikes but also Yamaha’s Ténéré 700 adventure bike.
Now it will power a new fully-faired sportbike, the 2022 Yamaha YZF-R7. Although the R7 takes its name from the 1999 YZF-R7 (aka OW-02), a 500-unit race homologation special built to compete in World Superbike and other series, the new R7 is built for mass consumption. Its MSRP is $8,999.
With no YZF-R6 in Yamaha’s lineup for 2021 and its fate for 2022 uncertain, the new R7 will fit into Yamaha’s supersport R-Series between the entry-level YZF-R3 and the top-of-the-line YZF-R1 and R1M.
Yamaha’s CP2 engine is a compact, versatile powerplant. Forged aluminum pistons with direct-plated cylinders integrated with the crankcase are light, strong and able to withstand high temperatures and high rpm. An optimized secondary gear ratio is said to provide an exhilarating ride and a sporty feel, and a 6-speed transmission is mated to an assist-and-slipper clutch.
The new YZF-R7 has an all-new chassis, with a narrow, high-strength steel frame that has aluminum center braces near the swingarm pivot for added torsional rigidity. Compared to the MT-07, the R7 has a shorter wheelbase (54.9 inches vs. 55.1) and less rake (23.4 degrees vs. 24.5; trail is the same at 3.7 inches), which should give it even sharper handling. Claimed wet weight, however, is slightly heavier at 414 pounds vs. 406 on the MT-07, even though the R7 has less fuel capacity (3.4 gals. vs. 3.7).
Up front, the YZF-R7 has a fully adjustable KYB 41mm USD fork that’s mounted to the steering tube via a forged aluminum lower triple clamp and a gravity-cast aluminum upper triple clamp. Out back, a linked-type Monocross shock is adjustable for spring preload and rebound damping. The shock is mounted horizontally, bolted directly to the crankcase to reduce weight and keep mass centralized. Suspension travel is 5.1 inches front and rear.
Dual radial-mount 4-piston front brake calipers squeeze 298mm discs, and a Brembo radial master cylinder should provide good feel at the lever. A single rear caliper squeezes a 245mm rotor. The YZF-R7 has 17-inch cast wheels shod with Bridgestone Battlax Hypersport S22 tires (120/70-ZR17 front, 180/55-ZR17 rear).
To enhance its sporty feel, the YZF-R7 has a racing-inspired cockpit that Yamaha says has a comfortable and confidence-inspiring riding position. Seat material and foam from the YZF-R1 and new low-profile fuel tank covers with deep knee pockets are designed to provide freedom of movement as well as a planted feel when leaned over or braking. Clip-on handlebars allow for an aggressive riding position, especially when tucked in behind the windscreen.
An LCD instrument panel has a high-contrast negative display, and new handlebar switches make it easy to scroll through the meter’s various functions. The R7 features Yamaha’s R-Series M-shaped intake duct and twin-eye front design, and LED lighting is used all around.
The 2022 Yamaha YZF-R7 will be available in Team Yamaha Blue and Performance Black for $8,999. It will be in dealerships in June.
We’re getting a first ride on the new R7 soon, so stay tuned for our review.
2022 Yamaha YZF-R7 Specs Base Price: $8,999 Website: yamahamotorsports.com Engine Type: Liquid-cooled, transverse parallel twin, DOHC w/ 4 valves per cyl. Bore x Stroke: 80.0 x 68.6mm Displacement: 689cc Transmission: 6-speed, cable-actuated assist-and-slipper wet clutch Final Drive: Chain Wheelbase: 54.9 in. Rake/Trail: 23.4 degrees/3.5 in. Seat Height: 31.7 in. Wet Weight: 414 lbs. (claimed) Fuel Capacity: 3.4 gals.
Aprilia’s RSV4 is a bike that, like a fine wine, only gets better with age. Racing has always been a driving factor in the design of Aprilia’s sportbikes. The RSV4 was introduced for 2009 to compete in World Superbike, and Max Biaggi stood atop the podium nine times that season and won the championship in 2010. Four years later, the RSV4 was ridden to another WSBK championship by Sylvain Guintoli.
With racing in its DNA, it’s only natural that advancements made on the track influence design and engineering of models ridden by the general public, from advanced electronics to downforce-producing bodywork. The Aprilia RSV4 and RSV4 Factory underwent a ground-up redesign for 2021, giving us an opportunity to see how this racy red Italian wine tastes a decade on.
It’s been a few years since I through a leg over a RSV4, so I was interested to see how the folks back in Noale, Italy, improved an already great motorcycle. And what better place to stretch its legs than the legendary WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, California, home of the famous Corkscrew. Laguna Seca has a long history of Superbike racing, plus it’s a favorite track for many of us. If only the fog weren’t so cold and damp, conditions would have been perfect.
Before we get to how the bikes work, let’s take a look at what’s new. Last year, Aprilia’s two RSV4 models had engines with different displacements, with the FIM-homologated RSV4 1100 RR boasting 1,000cc (and a claimed 201 horsepower) and the RSV4 1100 Factory living up to its name with 1,077cc (and 217 horsepower). Aprilia simplified things for 2021, equipping the RSV4 and RSV4 Factory with the same 1,099cc, 65-degree V-4 engine — with an extra 22cc of displacement courtesy of a slightly longer 53.3mm stroke, up from 52.3 — that Aprilia says still cranks out an eye-watering 217 horsepower at 13,000 rpm and 92 lb-ft of torque at 10,500 rpm, even while meeting strict Euro 5 emissions regulations.
The V-4 architecture allows the engine to be narrow while still offering the power-producing benefit of four cylinders. To keep the engine as light as possible, the crankshaft was made lighter and the external housings, oil sump and cylinder head covers are made of magnesium. To keep the engine as compact as possible, the cam chain drives the intake camshaft and a gear on the intake camshaft drives the exhaust camshaft. To maximize the engine’s rigidity, the crankcase is a monoblock design with integrated aluminum cylinder liners. And to minimize vibration, a countershaft cancels out engine imbalances. A new Magneti Marelli ECU 11MP allows more complex algorithms to be processed at a faster speed, and a new exhaust system not only satisfies Euro 5 but is lighter than its predecessor.
With well over 200 horsepower on tap, electronics allow the riding experience on the RSV4s to be tailored the rider’s skill level and preferences. Guided by a Bosch 6-axis IMU, the APRC (Aprilia Performance Ride Control) suite does crazy fast calculations to optimize the bike’s dynamic behavior while offering a wide range of adjustability. Fifth-generation APRC includes: ATC (Aprilia Traction Control, 8 levels adjustable on the fly), AWC (Aprilia Wheelie Control, 5 levels adjustable on the fly), AEM (Aprilia Engine Map, 3 to choose from), AEB (Aprilia Engine Brake, a new feature with 3 levels that take lean angle into account), ALC (Aprilia Launch Control, 3 settings for track use), AQS (Aprilia Quick Shift), APL (Aprilia Pit Limiter) and ACC (Aprilia Cruise Control). Everything comes together with the six riding modes, with three for the street (Street, Sport and customizable User) and three for the track (Race and customizable Track 1 and Track 2).
That hardworking IMU also provides input for the Bosch 9.1 MP cornering ABS, which ensures maximum safety on the road and exceptional performance on the track. Co-developed between Aprilia and Bosch, it offers three levels of intervention and works in conjunction with Aprilia RLM (Rear Lift Mitigation) to keep the rear tire on the ground during hard braking.
We’re not done yet.
Whereas the standard RSV4 features fully adjustable Sachs suspension, the RSV4 Factory is equipped with Öhlins Smart EC 2.0 semi-active suspension, with a 43mm NIX upside-down fork, a TTX rear shock and an electronic steering damper. An array of sensors and servo motors adjust compression and rebound damping automatically as you ride, adapting to changing conditions. There are two modes — semi-active and manual — and three suspension maps for each mode, and Öhlins’ OBTi (Objective Based Tuning Interface) simplifies pushbutton adjustments. Both RSV4 models are perfectly capable of delivering effective feel and control in any situation, but the standard RSV4 requires manual changes while the Factory’s setup can be changed on the fly with the touch of a button (preload must be manually adjusted on both models).
Perhaps it goes without saying that the RSV4 is smarter than I am. I’ve done a lot of racing over the years, including the Isle of Man TT, back when control was all in the wrist and I had to rely on my own brain rather than the motorcycle’s to keep me out of trouble. But things can and do go wrong from time to time, and I have come to appreciate not only the helping hand but also the convenience and customization that modern electronics provide.
Because most changes can be made on the fly, I was able to try out various setups without having to return to the paddock. Pressing a button on the right cluster below the kill switch changes the riding mode, while a four-button setup on the left makes adjustments within each mode. A lever on the bottom of the left cluster adjusts traction control, and a switch on the top of the left cluster adjusts both cruise control and wheelie control. There wasn’t much cruising going on at Laguna Seca, but there were plenty of wheelies that needed to be tamed! And a new 5-inch full-color TFT display, which offers Road and Track screens, provides an easy-to-read mission control.
Aprilia revised the RSV4’s chassis and bodywork as well. To optimize strength, rigidity and feedback, the twin-beam aluminum frame uses both cast and pressed-and-welded elements. The cast aluminum swingarm has a new lower reinforcing brace for added stiffness and uses three welded sections instead of seven, reducing unsprung weight by 1.3 pounds. Unique among production sportbikes is the degree of adjustment possible with the RSV4’s chassis, including engine position, headstock angle, swingarm pivot and rear ride height. Chassis geometry has been tweaked slightly to improve handling, and to keep mass centralized mass, most of the RSV4’s fuel is carried under the rider’s seat.
Inspired by the Aprilia RS 660, the new RSV4 is more aerodynamic, with revised bodywork, a larger windscreen and new winglets built into the double-wall fairing that provide more wind protection for the rider, more downforce and a 7% increase in airbox pressure. Revisions to the lower cowling help improve cornering agility and reduce cross wind buffeting. A new fuel tank provides more support during braking and cornering and has a deeper chin perch for getting behind the windscreen when fully tucked in. Seat height was reduced by 9mm and the footpegs were lowered by 10mm, yet cornering clearance increased by 1.5 degrees on both sides thanks to narrower pegs. All this adds up to a more comfortable cockpit, especially for someone my size (5 feet, 10 inches).
The RSV4 has always been a looker, and the new bodywork only enhances its go-fast, form-follows-function stance. The front lighting application is what really stuck out to me. New DRL light rails that run under and up the sides of the LED cat-eye headlights really make it pop, and cornering lights add visibility during nighttime riding. And the exhaust muffler looks the business. The Factory is available in either Lava Red or Aprilia Black (shown), while the standard RSV4 comes in Dark Losail. The Factory also rolls on light, strong, five-spoke forged and machined aluminum wheels rather the three-spoke cast aluminum wheels on the standard model.
After a few laps on the RSV4 Factory I realized this bike is seriously fast. The smooth nature and low growling sound of the V-4 were deceptive, making me think I was going slower than I actually was. With 80% of peak torque available in the midrange, you don’t have to rev the engine into the stratosphere to get a strong pull out of corners. And it continues to pull even harder as the revs pick up heading down the straight to the next corner. The new Brembo Stylema monoblock radial front calipers paired with 330mm rotors were perfectly capable of slowing things down. Front brake action was superb, allowing me to modulate the needed pressure to control corner entry with plenty of feel and braking power.
I started the day in Race mode, which had a rather abrupt throttle response, but switching to Street mode smoothed things right out. As the day progressed, I ended up back in the Race and Track modes because, once I found my groove, it’s never fast enough, right? Unlike the Track modes, the three road-going modes tame power delivery for everyday riding, like commuting (don’t forget the cruise control!) or riding through town on your way to the good stuff, with the APRC electronics on standby in the background.
In terms of handling, the RSV4 and RSV4 Factory are perfectly suited to a challenging track like Laguna Seca. The RSV4 has always offered positive feedback to the rider, and the latest iteration is even better, allowing me to attack corners with complete confidence. Leaned over in the middle of a corner, the bike felt planted and told me exactly what was going on. Under hard braking the RSV4 never got out of shape, and with three levels of engine braking I could explore how much to let the rear step out.
I managed to get the RSV4 out of shape a few times on hard exits, especially coming out of Turn 2. The bike started to lift the front and I could feel the rear starting to let go, but before things went pear-shaped the wheelie control and traction control kicked in and kept me from ending the day early. The quickshifter with auto-blip downshifting is almost like cheating; just move your foot and the shift is made up or down with no clutch and no hesitation (it’s adjustable too).
Although the RSV4 Factory performed exceptionally, I struggled with the bike squatting on hard corner exits. Since the day got off to a late start due to a foggy and damp morning, we lost some valuable track time. The bike I was on seemed a little out of balance front to rear, but more preload at the rear remedied the problem. Fine-tuning is part of the process when you’re trying to squeeze every bit of performance out of a race-ready sportbike.
For conoisseurs, Aprilia’s latest RSV4 and RSV4 Factory offer robust, full-bodied vintages suitable for different budgets and tastes. The standard RSV4 has an MSRP of $18,999, whereas the RSV4 Factory has an MSRP of $25,999, with the extra lira paying for the Öhlins Smart EC 2.0 semi-active suspension and primo forged wheels. Enjoy responsibly.