What is a super bike?

Ever since the bicycle was invented in 1817, man has been fascinated by movement on two wheels. The thrill and the convenience it offered was extraordinary. This lead to a push in innovation and the world got its first “cycle with a motor” — motorcycle in 1867! But that was only a steam powered motorcycle. But true to the nature of man, we kept toiling till we got our first internal combustion motorcycle in 1885 (it was the Germans and they have kept up with that! ). Man has kept up ever since, pushing the boundaries of what is possible to finally give us the most advanced version of a motorcycle – the super bike!

A super bike is a high performance motorcycle with a relatively higher engine capacity. While there is no universal definition of a super bike, most motorcycles are called super bikes based on engine capacity and performance. Typically, motorcycles in the 600cc engine capacity range and above qualify as super bikes. It is typical of most enthusiasts to term 1000cc motorbikes as super bikes.

Note: the general use of the term super bike is not to be confused with the use of the WorldSBK’s (World Superbike Championship Racing) definition of a super bike, which is very specific and has known to have undergone changes over time.

Super bike features and characteristics

Engine (the heart of a super bike)

Super bike engines are relatively larger. Duh! More engine more to play with!
They can start anywhere around the 600cc (cubic centimeter) mark like the Honda CBR600RR and can even go upto ~1440cc, like in the case of the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-14 .
Most super bikes are usually in the 1000cc displacement range as enthusiasts would put it. Some of the popular super bikes in the 1000c range are as below:

Super bikeEngine Capacity
Kawasaki NINJA® ZX™-10R998cc
Yamaha YZF-R1998cc
Ducati Panigale V4 R998cc
Suzuki GSX-R1000998cc
Aprilla RSV4 RF999cc
Honda CBR-1000RR998cc
BMW S1000R999cc

What is also important to note is that a lot of super bikes have 4-cylinder engines. Inline-four cylinders to be precise are a staple of the super bike industry. Super bikes may also be built around three cylinder engines such as the Triumph Daytona and the Street Triple. KTM interestingly has been using a two cylinder engine for its naked super bike the Duke 1290. But it is the inline four cylinder that is the most common and synonymous with super bikes.

Speed and acceleration (super bikes are fast!)

Super bikes are known to be fast. With such high performing engines it comes as no surprise that they can go fast — really fast! But it’s not just about the top speed, it’s also how quickly can one get to those high speeds and which is what acceleration is all about. For newbies with little or experience with performance motorcycles, it is super important that they are very careful when first starting out with a super bike. In my experience, it would be best to first own a less powerful motorcycle before buying a super bike. Some amount of riding experience on an entry-level performance motorbike would be ideal. One such motorbike that comes to my mind is the Duke 390.
For super bikes, the tremendous power available on tap can be very enticing and tempting. The important thing is to remember that if you ride well and with care, you might ride for long 😂! Get what I am saying?! Responsible is the word my friend!

Check out this video of the Kawasaki H2R, which has been ridden to 400km/h — a pinnacle of top speed! A point to note here though is whether such a super bike is street legal or not! Well, in this case it is not!

Costs: One-time, accessories and recurring (owning a super bike is a comittment)

Owning and maintaining a super bike simply put is an expensive affair in general. Buying a super bike (brand new) is a usually heavy on the pocket. And that’s only the beginning! You need to think about the safety gear — the helmet, the riding jacket and pants, riding boots, riding gloves, frame sliders to name a few. The costs can quickly add up and they do! Trust me, I have been there. Additionally, there are recurring costs for maintenance such as mandatory service, replacing tires and other parts as necessary. Even riding gear will require replacement based on your level of usage. You may also have to factor in ad-hoc costs. What if you tipped your super bike over and damaged the throttle or brake lever or even worse the clutch assembly?

And then there is gas/fuel! Super bikes can go through fuel like crap through goose!
So keep in mind that you aren’t necessarily incurring a one-time purchase cost but rather an ongoing investment.

Weight and riding posture (riding a super bike is demanding)

Super bikes in general are heavier than your average motorbike. For first time riders the weight can be quite intimidating. Before my Kawasaki z900 (208 kg or 458 lb), I had been riding a Duke 390 (163 kg or 359 lb). When I got my z900, I was very mindful of the significant uptick in weight. Manually turning the z900 when moving it around in the garage or in parking with the engine cut off was a completely different level of activity as compared with moving the Duke 390 around (And I haven’t even talked about the turning radius yet!). Dropping a heavier motorbike is almost always less forgiving than a lighter one. Repairs to damaged parts on your super bike can be very expensive and time-consuming as well. So please be careful!
Also, what a first-time rider or newbie might have to get accustomed to is the riding posture. While touring and naked super bikes might be relatively less challenging, fully-faired track inspired RR (race replicas) can be very demanding. For example, riding the Kawasaki ZX10R requires a lot more commitment in posture and also is more physically demanding than riding the Kawasaki z900 for example. In fact all of the super bikes in the table above have very committed riding postures. If you have never ridden a fully faired motorcycle before, you’re definitely going to feel it! Riding in a committed position for long periods will deliver your back, arms, wrists and neck with a solid beating! You might have to start working out in a gym to build up core strength 💪if you get serious about riding a lot. I am not kidding on that one! 😂

Safety

With the thrill and excitement of a super bike comes great responsibility. I know when I first got my z900, the thrill of the super smooth inline 4 engine and the deceptively powerful response of the throttle had me intoxicated. To be honest, I had a couple of close calls where my sense of adventure and the desire to seek thrills completely clouded my judgement. I also know that this happens with lots of first time/new riders. They are just not used to this level of power and performance and when they experience it, they don’t know when to stop. I am no different. I went through it all. So here’s what I decided for myself. And perhaps there is a takeaway or two from these:

  • No racing in the streets 🥴
  • Always ride with safety gear
  • Don’t intimidate other riders with revs and high-speed flybys
  • Ride with other responsible riders
  • Don’t ride drunk 😵

That’s it folks for this one.
Until, next time, ride hard but ride safe.