There’s nothing quite like a good sportbike to get the blood rushing. Sure, any motorcycle can be fun to ride—where there’s a will, there’s a way—but there's just something about a performance-oriented bike that heightens the thrill of the ride.
The segment continues to thrive as more models are joining the family in 2021 while some staples receive key upgrades to make them more competitive than ever. Meet the new sportbike class of 2021.
Aprilia’s been doing some serious legwork in recent months. After the all-new RS 660’s launch in the U.S., and the introduction of its “naked” counterpart, the Tuono 660, the company followed up with its updated duo of flagships—the RSV4 and Tuono V4. On the fully-faired end of the spectrum, the top-shelf RS received some significant upgrades.
While it did receive a facelift inspired by the smaller RS, the V4’s most important upgrade happened under the bodywork. For 2021, the engine’s displacement increases from 1,077cc to 1,099cc and now produces 217 horsepower, up from 201 (for the base model).
The bike also gets an upgraded menu of tech features, including a new Marelli ECU and a six-axis IMU, multi-level engine brake control, six riding modes, a larger TFT display, and cornering lights.
Bimota made a lot of waves in the fall of 2019. Within the span of a few weeks, the brand reappeared on the market (thanks to a partnership with Kawasaki) and introduced one of the most talked-about bikes of the year: the new Tesi H2.
It didn't take long for rumors of a second bike to surface and for Bimota to confirm that a retro-racer was going to follow the hyper-modern Tesi. The Italian firm has since shared pictures and videos of its new bike dubbed KB4 with the promise of a launch in April, 2021.
We don’t know much about the upcoming bike other than, while the Tesi H2 uses the same powertrain as the Kawasaki Ninja H2, the KB is instead going to use the Ninja 1000’s engine. This would allow the company to offer a more entry-level option to the Tesi (or as entry-level as 1,000cc get). In Ninja form, the engine makes 138 horsepower and 82 lb-ft of torque.
We also learned in an Instagram post that, unlike the Tesi’s quirky front swingarm suspension setting, the KB4 gets a classic fork and shock setup with a single, Öhlins spring at the back.
BMW M 1000 RR
When BMW trademarked a trio of M-branded bikes back in September, 2019, we knew it could only mean one thing: the House of Munich was bringing its M badge to its motorcycle lineup and (seemingly) had a few high-po bikes in the works.
While we have yet to find out whether anything will come from the M 1300 GS and M 1000 XR trademarks, the third model became a reality in September, 2020. BMW introduced the new M 1000 RR as the S 1000 RR’s top-spec version.
The company tweaked the engine to wring more power out of it. In its M form, the inline-four is tweaked to churn out 212 horsepower at 14,500rpm—up from the “base” S that produces 205 horsepower at 13,000rpm—and 83 lb-ft of torque at 11,000rpm.
The M receives a slew of lightweight components including lighter pistons, Pankl titanium connecting rods, an Akrapovič exhaust system, and 17-inch carbon wheels that help drop the weight down an additional 11 pounds. The bike’s geometry and aerodynamics were also optimized for the track.
Ducati SuperSport 950
Though we tend to associate Ducati with expensive (unless we’re talking about the Scrambler lineup), the flaming red brand does offer a more affordable entry-level point into its sportbike lineup. We don’t hear from the Ducati SuperSport nearly enough despite the fact that it makes the dream of owning a Duc more accessible for those who don't have the $20k to spare for a Pani.
For 2021, Ducati refreshed the Super’s design and gave it a more Panigale-inspired look. Everything from the headlamps to the side gills were borrowed from one of the sexiest sportbikes on the market which makes the 950 even more attractive. Also new this year is the Bosch 6-axis inertial measurement unit paired with three riding modes, cornering ABS, traction control, and wheelie control.
Though the 937cc Testastretta twin was updated to Euro 5 standards, the power figures remain unchanged at 110 horsepower and 69 lb-ft of torque.
Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R and 10RR
On November 23, 2020, Kawasaki unveiled the new generation Ninja ZX-10R and 10RR. Changes to the 2021 model-year went beyond the simple Euro 5-update. In fact, Team Green overhauled the 998cc inline-four engine with electronically-actuated valves, new gear ratios, and an air-cooled oil-cooler resulting in meatier performance and cleaner emissions.
Under the redesigned body panels that give the new ZX an even more aggressive look and improved aerodynamics, Kawasaki optimized the frame’s geometry further to improve its handling. Thanks to a taller windscreen, forward clip-ons, a revised saddle shape, and higher-set foot pegs, the ergos are now sportier than ever.
In addition to the physical changes, the ZX also features a host of electronics including cruise control, seven riding modes (four of which are customizable), launch control, and Rideology App compatibility.
As for the ZX-10RR, it received similar updates with revised camshafts, new intake and exhaust valve springs, and titanium connecting rods and pistons, which help increase the RR’s rev limit.
KTM RC 390
This is one we know is in the works but that we have yet to get a confirmation for. The KTM RC 390 has been selling in the U.S. for close to six years now and has yet to receive any significant updates. It looks like 2021 or 2022 could be it as the test mule of what looks like a redesigned baby RC was spotted by in the summer of 2020.
It’s unclear whether the new bike will get any mechanical change—though we can assume it will, as it has yet to get its Euro 5 upgrade—however, we can see from the spy shots that the design is going to change. The new fairing is expected to receive the KTM treatment with a headlight design reminiscent of the members in the naked and adventure family, but merged into a single unit rather than two.
It looks like the fairing could also integrate aerodynamic appendages in the form of air curtains. Considering the 2021 model-year has yet to be added to KTM’s site, we could either suppose the updates is going to come soon for 2021 or that Team Orange is going to skip 2021 and introduce a 2022 later in the year.
Suzuki GSXR-1300RR Hayabusa
After the Hayabusa was pulled from Suzuki’s European lineup in 2018, rumors that the aging Falcon would be discontinued altogether were quick to make the rounds. The company attempted to put the rumors to rest by confirming that the Hayabusa was here to say in the U.S., but we know that would be short-lived. Either the iconic falcon was going to disappear or it was going to be reborn.
Suzuki kept its word and kept the ‘Busa around for two more years before introducing a brand-new generation and re-entering Europe. In addition to a fresh, more aggressive look, the bike received a number of mechanical tweaks to improve its performance. Though on paper, the bike lost a few ponies, down to 188 hp from 194, Suzuki claims that the bike is more responsive and offers better acceleration than the outgoing model.
The team also took a few weight-saving measures including a new subframe and exhaust system as well as lighter engine components, resulting in a modest four-pound drop.
The bike also gets a 10-mode motion track control system, anti-lift control system, engine brake control, active speed limiter, launch control, low RPM assist, cruise control, as well as slope and hill control.