Last week we brought you our first five ‘bikes to ride before you hang up your helmet.’ So, to complete our list, here are five bikes, from Suzuki to Yamaha, that we think every true rider needs to experience at least once.
Big bike so beloved of big blokes, the Suzuki GSX1400R (aka Hayabusa), has held the distinction of being the world’s fastest production bike since its introduction in 1999.
Originally capable of breaking the 300kph barrier, the Hayabusa has been restricted to ‘just’ 299kph (186mph) since 2001, when the Japanese manufacturers signed a gentleman’s agreement following political pressure.
The aerodynamic styling
It ain’t that pretty and at 240kg it’s a bit of a big old bus, but it’s a comfy enough sports tourer with an engine that just has to be experienced.
Suzuki updated the model for 2013, adding ABS for the first time, but ride an early one and the look and experience is more or less the same.
The Hayabusa comes from another age, an age of decadence where the Japanese manufacturers annually usurped each other by fractions each year. Try one while you can. They won’t make them like this for much longer.
Alternatives: Honda CBR1100XX Super Blackbird, Kawasaki ZZR1100 and ZX-14R all do more or less the same job. In many ways they are better and prettier bikes, but lack the Suzuki’s Top Trumps figures.
Triumph Bonneville T120
No, not the emancipated Thai-built modern bikes (though they do make mighty fine runarounds) but the classic T120, the 70s superbike that defines the term ‘proper motorbike’. Back in the day this was the one to have, but ride a Bonnie today and you’ll understand just why the British industry went under. It’ll leak oil and rattle itself to bits, but park it up and enjoy endless tales from blokes who used to have one back in the day. Just make sure you’ve got a full set of Whitworth spanners and a mate with a van who doesn’t mind picking you up from the hard shoulder of the M1.
Alternatives: A period Norton Commando gives the same experience, while Italophiles might prefer the sportier Ducati 900SS or Moto Guzzi Le Mans. If you want the looks but not the hassle (and don’t care about excitement), try the modern day T100.
Triumph Rocket III
Bonkers, that’s what Triumph’s Rocket III is. Back in the early 2000s, Triumph had an idea to take on the lucrative American market. What started out as an idea to deliver an alternative to Harley in the cruiser market turned into a crazy 2.3-litre in-line triple.
At a time when big bikes like the Hayabusa were all the rage, the big Trumpet was a massive sales success. The little Hinckley company was swamped with orders. A waiting list of six months emerged for new orders and many new owners even went on to sell their Rockets on straight away at above list price.
Triumph went to town on the ‘biggest is best’ line, going, ahem, big on the fact that the Rocket’s 101.6mm bore was the same as Dodge Viper. It was, still is, and probably always will be, the world’s largest capacity volume production machine.
When the euphoria died down, what was left was a unique motorcycle with never-ending torque and a presence unmatched anywhere. It ain’t much of a handler (although it does go around corners far better than a 320kg cruiser ought to). But it’s still an amazing machine that deserves its place on this list more than any other bike.
In 2010, Triumph updated it with the Roadster version. This is our choice, with ABS brakes, a little more power and a more conventional riding position.
Alternatives: There’s no real direct comparison. But the Rocket III owner might also be into bikes. Like the Harley-Davidson V-Rod, Ducati Diavel. Or a big hyper sports bike like the Hayabusa or Super Blackbird.
Riding a modern Japanese litre bike should be on anyone’s ‘to-do’ list, but just which one? Honda’s FireBlade invented the class in the early 1990s, but it was this bike that really defined it upon launch in 1998.
With its outstanding packaging, enormous power (150bhp) and light (for a 1000) weight. The R1 set the blueprint for the superbikes we see racing today. The R1’s reign was short, as Suzuki’s GSX-R1000 quickly moved the class on. They started adecade-longg arms race (the Kawasaki ZX-10R being commonly regarded as the current best in class). But the early model R1s mark a defined point in the development of the modern superbike. Providing a riding experience that is still special today and representing a bona fide future classic.
Alternatives: Honda FireBlade, Kawasaki ZX-10R, Suzuki GSX-R1000. Take your pick, they’re all based upon the same philosophy of less weight, more power and more bling. Be careful out there!
So, that’s our top 10 of the bikes you just must ride. Honourable mentions have to go to some of the bikes we’ve missed out. Especially the Honda FireBlade (groundbreaking), RC30 (too exclusive), Triumph Daytona 675 (the finest British bike ever) and Yamaha RD350LC (sorry). We’ll find an excuse to write about you one day!