There are a lot of really fast motorcycles out there these days. Modern technology has made it possible to take bike performance to the next level, and we're not just talking about straight line speed either. Modern tire technology, fancy suspension set-ups, and programmable riding modes have made it possible, and easier, to go faster compared to what was possible just a few years ago.
But there are some bikes out there that people seem to believe are a lot faster than they actually are. Some plausible explanations for this could be; perhaps the bike has a really aggressive design? It's easy to believe that a bike is fast when it resembles those we see racing on TV every weekend. Or maybe a bike comes from a manufacturer that's known for making fast bikes? Never underestimate the power of racing heritage. Maybe it's just the sound? Or the paint? Or maybe it's just great marketing by the manufacturer combined with people's ignorance?
In all honesty, it doesn't really matter if a bike is fast or not. The only thing that matters is that people get out there and enjoy their ride. Whether they prefer to ride a fast bike slow or a slow bike fast is entirely up to them. But just for kicks, let's take a closer look at some bikes that many people seem to believe are fast, but in reality, they're not.
20 Evoke Urban S
The Urban S might look like the typical naked sport bike, and we know some of those bikes pack a serious punch, almost on par with a superbike - but easier and more comfortable to ride.
The Evoke Urban S is not one of those hyper-aggressive naked sportbikes though. First of all, it's electric. The acceleration is a rather sluggish 6 seconds from 0 to 60, which is on par with a sports car from the 1980s. Top speed is a laughable 81 mph, barely any quicker than a well-tuned 125cc scooter - which also happens to be both more fun and more practical for urban riding than the Evoke Urban S.
19 Kawasaki Ninja 300
The Kawasaki Ninja 300 replaced the legendary Ninja 250. It received a bump in displacement and a more modern design, and all of a sudden it looked like a true sportbike. In fact, the dimensions of the Ninja 300 are almost identical to those of the Ninja 636 - no wonder why people mistake it for being a 600.
Once the speed picks up out on the open road, it becomes glaringly obvious that the Ninja 300 has half the capacity and number of cylinders of a 600 though. The little 296cc engine just about manages to squeeze out 40 horses, which makes it capable of a top speed somewhere around 115 mph. Not exactly what we'd call a fast bike.
18 Yamaha R3
When it made its debut a few years ago, the Yamaha R3 quickly became a very popular model, and it's easy to see why. A smooth, quick-revving 321cc parallel twin-cylinder engine supported by a very capable chassis and wrapped in supersport-style bodywork while selling for under $5K was a sure recipe for swift sales off the showroom floor. It has been one of the company’s best sellers ever since.
While the R3 is an extremely economical bike to own, its performance certainly doesn't live up to its race inspired looks. If the rider wants to keep up with bigger bikes on a group ride, that means going flat out almost 100% of the time while the bigger boys are hardly making an effort.
17 Royal Enfield Continental GT
The Royal Enfield Continental GT is made to look like the Café Racers of the 1960s. Back in those days, people would make their Nortons and Triumphs lighter and squeeze out all the performance they could from the bike's engine. The important thing back then was to have a bike that was capable of doing "the ton" - or reach 100 mph.
100 mph isn't fast by today's standards, but it certainly was quick back then. So how does the Continental GT compare to the machines of yesteryear? Well, it's a brand new bike built to resemble an old bike, sadly, its performance has more in common with the old bikes. Top speed is 80 mph, so it won't even do the ton straight from the showroom floor.
16 Honda CBR500R
The new CBR500R is actually a refined, well balanced, and beautifully built bike. The paint and finish wouldn't look out of place on a top-of-the-line superbike. Most people would have no problems believing you if you told them it's a proper sportbike.
Who knew 47hp could be this much fun? That's right, the CBR500R produces less than 50 horsepower, and even though it has a bit more grunt now than previous models did it still can't be considered a fast bike. The handling is excellent though, the CBR is practically begging to be thrown into a corner while going all-out, making it capable of bringing a smile to the face of a more experienced rider - all while returning 60+ mpg.
15 Ducati Monster
Ducati's Monster range was introduced in 1993 with the air-cooled 904cc M900. From 1993 to 2000 the Monster family accounted for 42% of all Ducati's sales and helped steer Ducati through some troubled times to keep the Bologna company trading - it saved Ducati.
The Monster looks and rides like an absolute hooligan, no matter which engine it has fitted in its trellis frame. That being said, they're not all fast though. In fact, most Monsters sold were not of the fast variety. One might argue that the only Monster that was truly fast was the S4RS version, which used a 130 hp 998cc superbike engine. The rest of the line-up was rather tame, ranging from the 51 horsepower M600 to the regular M900 that delivered around 70hp.
14 Kawasaki Ninja 650
The Ninja 650 might have gotten a lighter, more nimble chassis, a more flexible and friendly engine, and added versatility, but it is still budget-orientated - which is highlighted through the basic suspension.
But the bike's not fast. The 649cc parallel twin has proved hugely successful and popular – especially with Minitwins racers - but the best performance is when you keep it in the midrange. Top speed is 125 mph, which to some might sound fast-ish, but in the world of modern performance bikes, it really isn't. But hey, the Ninja 650 was never built to be a speed demon, Kawasaki makes other bikes that will take care of those with a need for speed.
13 Harley-Davidson Livewire
Harley-Davidson is arguably the most famous motorcycle brand in the world. They're also famous for the sound their bikes make. In fact, Harley knows the sound of their bikes is one of the biggest selling points, and thus they patented the chugging "potato-potato" noise coming from their bikes.
The Harley-Davidson Livewire doesn't have that famous Harley soundtrack. Because it is electric. The Livewire is Harley's attempt to build a bike for a different audience than their usual target market, but there are some things that will never change; Just like other Harleys, the Livewire is more expensive than the competition while offering less performance. The top speed of 93 mph is just not going to cut it for a modern bike.
12 KTM 690 Duke
The 690 Duke is an impressive package - everyone should have one of these bikes in their dream garage. It has a versatile, smooth and user-friendly motor that's light and free-revving, making the 690 Duke a fun and enjoyable bike to ride - perfect for darting up mountain roads or filtering between traffic on a city commute.
While the 690 Duke does have a punchy single cylinder SOHC four-stroke power plant that pulls like a train, it's not exactly what we'd call fast. Quick on twisty roads, yes, but in a straight line, it will soon fall behind the rest of the pack. This bike was built to be the ultimate hooligan bike, and that's how it should be ridden - it's all about smiles per gallon.
11 Suzuki SV
The Suzuki SV650 was a no-frills, straightforward middleweight V-twin all-rounder which came in two versions, half-faired and naked, but was usually modded with extra fairings or a belly pan. It was versatile, affordable, and super easy to ride - yet it was a hoot to act like a hooligan on or even race.
Seeing as they were so popular for track days and racing, the SV eventually became a hit in the Lightweight Class at the Isle of Man TT, no wonder people think the SV was quick. But it was all down to its very capable chassis, the stock SV 650 engine produced 72 horsepower, hardly something to write home about, which was transferred to the wheel via a 5-speed transmission.
10 Suzuki Katana 600
The original Suzuki Katana from the '80s is considered to be the grandfather of modern sport bikes. With its extraordinary lines and sleek design, the Suzuki Katana became a legend among motorcycle enthusiasts, and to this day it remains a popular bike with both old and young riders.
The later Katanas are nowhere near as popular as the original though. People believe they are fast because they have fairings and bear the name of a legend. The Katana 600 is a bulky and heavy machine, and its 4-cylinder engine is not powerful enough to make it an exciting ride when it comes to outright speed.
9 Brutus 2
The Brutus 2 looks big and muscular, and its battery pack is mounted to a trellis frame that gives off a certain Ducati vibe. Being electric also means tons of torque available from the very moment you twist that throttle, but the big and meaty 190 rear tire should be capable of transferring most of that power into forwarding the momentum.
While it certainly looks the part, the performance is actually a bit disappointing and doesn't live up to the hype. The Brutus 2 has a top speed of just 101 mph. If electric bikes are going to be the future of motorcycling, they better start performing like real bikes.
8 Lito Sora
The Lito Sora is one of the best electric motorcycles out there. It has an unconventional design and it's loaded with world-class features - amongst which an electric seat that can be adjusted to suit the rider's height and preferences. Of course, fancy features like that come with a price, and the Lito Sora just happens to be one of the most luxurious electric motorcycle brands. The base bike starts at a "mere" $70,000, but with all the options boxes checked, the price exceeds $100K.
What the Lito Sora doesn't have though is speed, which is more than a little disappointing considering the massive price tag. The 0 to 60 acceleration of around 4 seconds and a top speed of just 118mph just isn't going to cut it.
7 Honda CBR 650F
The CBR650F looks every bit like a proper sportbike. Except it really isn't, at least not if you compare it to the race replica 600cc bikes from a few years ago. Surprisingly, the CBR650F actually outsold the Honda Fireblade in the UK last year, so clearly there's a market for it.
The CBR650F could be said to be more of a sport tourer than a sportbike. Unlike the aforementioned race replicas, the ergonomics are comfortable rather than racy, and the engine that's hiding behind the fairings only produces around 80 horses - enough to get it from 0 to 60 in 3.5 seconds and on to a top speed of 132 mph - but a far cry from the 120 hp one would expect from a race replica 600.
6 Ducati 748
The Ducati 748 is nearly identical to the Ducati 916 but with a smaller engine and a narrower rear wheel - which makes it an incredible cornering machine. The design is one of the most beautiful and iconic in all of motorcycling history, and there are few, if any, bikes out there that can match the 748 regarding charisma, cachet and feel good factor.
So what's the bad news? You can get a more reliable motorcycle for less money. You can get a more practical motorcycle for less money. You can also get a much faster motorcycle for less money. Considering it's a 750cc sports motorcycle from Ducati, it’s not that fast - around 90 hp at the rear wheel is less than a Kawasaki Z750 offers.
5 Harley-Davidson Sportster 48
The Sportster 48 looks like a real muscle bike, and it kind of is... but at the same time, it's not. It's hard to label the 48 as it's not particularly comfortable, neither is it sporty, nor practical. If someone asks what's the purpose of the bike, the only real answer would be 'pure, unadulterated fun'.
The 48 is, as we already mentioned, part of the Harley-Davidson Sportster family. The first Sportster rolled off the line in 1957 and was built to compete with the foreign bikes of the time. Despite their name, Sportsters never were all that sporty - and that hasn't really changed with the 48. Its big 1200cc V-twin lump only makes 65 horsepower, considering it's not a light bike it's easy to understand why it's so slow.
4 Triumph Bonneville
Bonneville, the name immediately makes people think of the salt flats where the world's fastest machines come to break speed records. However, that's not really what the Triumph Bonneville is all about. The bike looks like it's packing some muscle, especially when painted black, but the bike is really more for cruising than for going fast.
The new models offer a refined and comfortable ride, packaged in a cool retro design and with a chassis that's more than capable of carving through the bends. But at the end of the day, the Bonneville is aimed at the grown-up rider who will appreciate a bike that offers a certain level of maturity... It still looks menacing with the right mods though.
3 Ducati 900SS
The Ducati 900SS is a real retro sports motorcycle that was already outdated when it was new. Those who want speed, practicality or reliability are better off looking elsewhere. What the 900SS does offer is loads of old school charm, a great twin cylinder sound track, stunning looks, and surprisingly good handling.
A lot of people have read Hunter S. Thompson's story 'Song of the Sausage Creature' which described his time with a Ducati 900SS, perhaps that's why so many think it's a fast bike? Because in reality it just isn't. The engine design is from the old Pantah, a Ducati creation from the very early '80s, and it only makes about 80 horsepower... which is a ridiculously low number for such a large displacement.
2 Buell XB9 Firebolt
Erik Buell deserves a lot of credit for taking what was basically a Harley-Davidson Sportster engine and building a true sports bike around it. The Firebolt was beautifully finished, in some ways more so than the core Harley-Davidson products.
But even after all the improvements and effort, the end result was only comparable with Ducati's Pantah-based 900 Supersport engine - hardly a shining example of 21st-century design or engineering. The Firebolt was neat-looking, unique and plenty charismatic, but functionally it was quite a few years behind the times. When it came to speed, the Firebolt was never a viable alternative to the Japan-based racing replicas, but for those who wanted a Harley that could handle in the twisties, it was pure perfection.
1 BMW HP2 Sport
BMW had the incredible idea of trying to make a twin-cylinder air-cooled Boxer engine that's based on a design from 1923 compete against modern superbikes. It was the fastest, sportiest and lightest Boxer-engined sportbike ever made, and it was ready for both road and track. Being a BMW, that engine was also mounted in a chassis that was basically designed for touring.
So was it fast? Loaded with performance parts and race solutions, it should be. Still, the world's fastest Boxer engine was 60 horses down on the factory ZX-10s and GSX-R1000s it was meant to race against. Conceived as a rival to the Ducati 1098R, the HP2 Sport sadly ended up as a competitor to the base Ducati instead. In other words; no, it wasn't fast.