Our annual “Class of” comparisons have taken many different shapes, depending on what’s trending in the marketplace. We’ve directly compared bikes of various displacements, different engine configurations, all Japanese bikes, all European bikes, even a mix of the two. For 2013, we decided on a different direction, gathering the ultimate, money-no-object exotic superbikes. Call these the One-Percenter rides.
These are the ultimate sporting motor-cycles, forming the pointy tip of the two-wheeled performance pyramid. While the other 99 percent of sportbikes strive to achieve some pragmatic balance of high-speed proficiency and value, these bikes target pure performance no matter what the cost. And make no mistake—these are not cheap bikes. Three ring in at $25,000 or more, with Ducati’s 1199 Panigale R topping the list at a wallet-spindling $29,995. That’s almost twice the price of the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R ABS, the most expensive Japanese sportbike on the market.
This year’s appearance of the aforementioned Panigale R—the racing homologation version of Ducati’s radical 1199 superbike—was one of the machines that inspired our “What price?” theme. That bike, in all its titanium, magnesium, and carbon fiber glory, along with BMW’s limited edition HP4 and MV Agusta’s equally exotic F4RR, made this comparison seem inevitable. Add our two-time “Class of” winning Aprilia RSV4 Factory—now with standard ABS—plus last year’s Japanese “Class of” winner, the Kawasaki ZX-10R, along with the exotic-by-Austrian-birth KTM RC8R, and we’ve assembled an eclectic group of elite machines.
But hypoxic price tags aren’t all that make these bikes interesting. Payments to match a well-equipped automobile also buy you the most advanced technology ever attached to a pair of handlebars. Virtually all of these bikes (except the KTM) offer variable power modes, traction control, and ABS. Quickshifters are commonplace, and so are“intelligent” steering dampers running their own dedicated ECU. Two bikes—Ducati and MV Agusta—utilize Öhlins electronically adjustable suspension—while the BMW features Dynamic Damping Control with electromagnetic valves that automatically alter suspension adjustment on the fly. These bikes are bleeding edge.
As in past years, we subjected these six tech-obsessed over-achievers to four days of intense street and circuit scrutiny. We tackled everything from bumper-to-bumper city traffic on a 90-degree morning in Palm Desert to the commuter-clogged 405 to wide-open backroads in the San Bernardino National Forest. Then we torched 18 sets of Bridgestone R10 race tires at our adopted high-speed home, Chuckwalla Valley Raceway in Desert Center, CA, gathering lap times and other pertinent performance data. Read on to find out just how well the One-Percenters ride.