Faster than the proverbial bullet. Lighter than most 600s. Able to leap other bikes' dyno curves in a single bound. Honda's all-new CBR1000RR is its most superlative superbike yet. Not only did the Alpha-RR dominate the performance portion of our "Class of '08" sportbike shootout (posting the quickest quarter-mile time, the fastest lap at the Streets of Willow and amazing dyno numbers in the middle revs), but it also ruled on more subjective aspects of the test. Its effortless handling and overall ease-of-use are absolutely contrary to a machine with such devastating speed. How did Big Red do it? Relentless weight reduction (even the instrument glass was scrutinized), fanatical attention to mass centralization and plenty of good old-fashioned internal-combustion hot-rodding result in a giant step forward in literbike performance--and 2008's Sportbike of the Year.
This is the kind of downsizing we can get behind! Ducati's middleweight 848 maintains the same arresting aesthetics and capable chassis as the race-winning 1098 Superbike, but with a smaller, revvier, 849cc V-twin and lower price. Lighter and more accessible than its (occasionally) overwhelming big brother, the 848 is hard to beat on the street.
BEST ADVENTURE BIKE
BMW R1200GS ADVENTURE
Once again, BMW's R1200GS Adventure is the only reason you need to chase the sunset across a half-dozen continents--Antarctica may be a bit chilly--on any sort of road or no road at all. There are faster sportbikes, more comfortable touring mounts and easier ways to get across town, but nobody builds a better ride for taking the long way. Strap on the gear, cue up the GPS and go. Then BMW upped the ante for '08 with more power, electronic suspension adjustment and a nifty traction-control system that makes putting all that power down on some shale-strewn fire road a whole lot easier at the end of an 18-hour day. You'll pay $16,350 for the privilege, $1040 for the ESA and another $365 for the TC. With the optional saddlebags, tax, license and maybe a GPS receiver on the handlebars, you're on the wrong side of $20,000. Cheap? No. The best? No doubt.
A conventional 45mm fork and chain final-drive make the 798cc parallel-twin a lighter, more intuitive off-road adventurer than its iconic Boxer brethren, especially in the dirt. At $10,520, the base price undercuts a standard R1200GS by more than $4000; enough to pay for some tasty options or a quick trip to Peru.