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Alan Dowds

Professional Motorcycle Expert

Best Affordable Sportbikes & Affordable Motorcycles

Sportsbikes are the most incredible performance vehicles you can buy to use on the road today. With up to 200bhp in a race-ready chassis weighing under 400 pounds, they offer mind-blowing acceleration and speed, with amazing rideability and drive.

Super-powerful brakes and wide, sticky race tires give phenomenal stopping power, massive lean angles, and tenacious grip under acceleration. The whole package is then wrapped up in stylish, aerodynamic bodywork and shipped to the owner, often for less than $10,000.

Sportsbike engines broadly fall into two categories – inline-fours, and V-twins. The ‘Big Four’ Japanese manufactures; Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha, and Kawasaki, make four-cylinder powerplants in 1,000 and 600cc capacities. Exotic Italian firm MV Agusta also builds inline-four engines. The other major Italian manufacturers – Ducati and Aprilia – produce V-twin engines in capacities from 850-1200cc. There are also three-cylinder sportsbike engines – UK firm Triumph and the Italian company Benelli make inline-three motors that combine the strong, torquey character of a twin cylinder engine and the top-end power of a four.

We’ve listed five of the best sports machines below – but there are a couple of notable machines which just missed the top five spot. Honda’s CBR1000RR Fireblade makes a fine road bike, with its civilised, sophisticated ride and seductive performance. On the other hand, Kawasaki’s ZX-10R is a machine for committed riders only: its lunatic performance and switchblade-sharp handling require nerves of steel to get the most from.

The best affordable sportbikes also offer incredible performance for a lot of fun on the road. Choose these affordable motorcycles at the best price for riding around town or trekking across the nation this summer.

Best Sportbikes by Alan Dowds

The Best You Can Get

  • Suzuki GSX-R1000 K7

    Alan says: Since it was first launched in 2000, Suzuki’s GSX-R1000 has been the ultimate in Japanese, 1,000cc sportsbikes. Based on the legendary GSX-R750, the GSX-R1000 houses a super-grunty, compact engine with exquisite power delivery in a chassis which is at home on a race track as on the highway. The engine is simply incredible – with a huge wave of torque from idle all the way through the midrange, with a screaming, 180bhp top-end rush. The front suspension is a fully-adjustable upside-down Kayaba fork, with a fully-adjustable monoshock controlling the rear wheel. Dual front disc brakes are clamped by radially-mounted four-piston calipers, and an electronically-controlled steering damper increases steering stability.

    But perhaps the GSX-R’s strongest suit is how easy it is to ride. When you just need to get to work in the morning, or are looking to cover a few hundred miles in an easy day, the big Suzuki can be a docile pussycat – smooth, easy power and relaxed handling. But when you turn up the wick, it’s got the claws of a tiger.

    • 999cc inline-four DOHC, 16-valve liquid-cooled engine
    • Dual throttle-valve fuel injection, twin injectors per cylinder
    • 180bhp
    • 378lb dry mass
    • 186mph top speed (limited)
  • Yamaha YZF-R1

    Alan says: Yamaha’s R1 is the bike which launched the current modern era in full-bore superbikes. Launched in 1998, it was the result of a design process which concentrated as much on reducing mass and size as it did on ultimate horsepower. Honda’s CBR900RR FireBlade had begun this trend in 1992, but the R1 took it a whole step further. With physical dimensions close to that of many 600cc machines of the time, matched to a 998cc engine producing almost 150bhp, the original R1 offered almost 1bhp for every two pounds of mass – a hitherto unheard of power-to-weight ratio.

    Over a decade of development, the R1 has evolved into the current, super-high-tech 2007 version. Yamaha engineers concentrated on making the R1 even more manageable, yet still producing class-leading power and handling. The engine has an innovative variable intake system, which uses an electric motor to adjust the inlet tract length according to engine revs, as well as a high-tech fly-by-wire throttle. This system gives a broader spread of torque, as well as reducing emissions. The chassis is largely conventional, with fully-adjustable suspension and radial-mount front brake calipers, and a stiff cast aluminum twin-spar frame design.

    • 998cc inline-four DOHC, 16-valve liquid-cooled engine
    • Electronic fuel injection, with variable intake geometry
    • 180bhp
    • 390lb dry mass
    • 186mph top speed (limited)
  • MV Agusta F4 1000R

    Alan says: MV Agusta is one of the most evocative names in Italian motorcycle design. The firm dominated Grand Prix racing throughout the 1960s and early 1970s, before financial problems closed the firm down. Resurrected by Italian firm Cagiva in the early 1990s, Agusta released the 750cc F4 – a super-high-performance sportsbike, designed by Massimo Tamburini. Tamburini had designed the iconic Ducati 916, and the F4 received the same plaudits for its beautiful styling.

    Its 750cc engine lacked ultimate performance though, so it was no surprise when MV released a 1,000cc version in 2005. The F4’s inline-four engine was originally developed in conjunction with Ferrari, and was installed in a frame combining steel trellis sections and cast magnesium/aluminum plates. The front forks were super-stiff, wide, 50mm Marzocchi units, with Nissin brakes giving supreme control and braking. A single-sided rear singing arm was heavier than an equivalent dual-sided arm, but looked incredible. Special limited-edition ‘Oro’ versions of the F4 used exotic lightweight magnesium castings for its swingarm and frame pivot plates, to further reduce mass.

    The latest 2008 version of the F4 has expanded its capacity to 1,078cc, and the ‘1078RR 312’ has a claimed top speed of 312kph – 193.88mph.

    • 1,078cc inline-four DOHC, 16-radial-valve liquid-cooled engine
    • Electronic fuel injection
    • 190bhp
    • 422lb dry mass
    • 193mph top speed
  • Ducati 1098R

    Alan says: Based in Bologna, Italy, Ducati is the most successful non-Japanese sportsbike builder, and has won twelve World Superbike championships, as well as the 2007 MotoGP championship. Its current flagship range is the V-twin Superbike, comprising the 1098 and 848 models. The 1098 superbike first appeared in 2006, powered by a 1,098cc water-cooled V-twin engine with Ducati’s trademark desmodromic (‘desmo’) valves. Desmo valve engines use a camshaft to positively close the inlet and exhaust valves as well as open them, giving better control of the valves at high engine speeds.

    Built to replace the rather unpopular 999 superbike, the 1098 harked back to Ducati’s earlier superbike range, the 916-996-998 series. So the 1098 has similar styling to the 916, including twin underseat exhausts, dual horizontal headlights and a single-sided rear swinging arm.

    The 1098R appeared in late 2007, and is a much higher specification model. In fact, it is produced merely as a ‘homologation’ model, to permit 1098 to race in production-based Superbike championships worldwide. It has a larger, 1,198cc engine and makes an incredible 180bhp. The chassis is also much more advanced, with forged aluminum wheels, Brembo brakes and Ohlins race suspension.

    • 1,198cc 90° V-twin, DOHC, 8 desmodromic-valve liquid-cooled engine
    • Electronic fuel injection, with dual injectors per cylinder and elliptical throttle bodies
    • 180bhp
    • 363lb dry mass
    • 186mph top speed
  • Triumph 675 Daytona

    Alan says: Although it has ‘only’ a 675cc engine, Triumph’s Daytona punches well above its weight, and is one of the most satisfying sportsbikes currently produced. Built in England by Triumph of Hinckley, Leicestershire, the 675 uses the firm’s trademark three-cylinder engine layout. This triple cylinder design gives a good balance between the high-rpm, high-horsepower engine output of a four-cylinder motor and the low-revving, high-torque delivery of a twin-cylinder engine. Compared with the conventional inline-four 600cc machines of the supersports class, the 675 has a more punchy, instant power delivery. This gives much stronger drive out of corners, and sharp, crisp acceleration.

    It’s not just the engine that makes the 675 such an exciting motorcycle. The chassis is finely-balanced, lightweight and stiff, with a cast aluminum frame and swingarm. Suspension and brakes are suited to road or track use, and the little Triumph has neutral, accurate handling, helped by sticky Pirelli race tires.

    Finally, the 675 wears a full fairing with sleek, stylish lines. Dual headlights, an underseat exhaust system and a large ram-air scoop give a purposeful, classic look, completing the picture of an incredible performance motorcycle.

    • 675cc inline-triple, DOHC, 12-valve liquid-cooled engine
    • Electronic fuel injection
    • 125bhp
    • 363lb dry mass
    • 165mph top speed

You will be happy with any of these

  • Suzuki GSX-R750

    Alan says: The 750cc category used to be a massive class, with almost every manufacturer offering a 3/4 litre sportsbike. But changes in capacity rules for racing have reduced the popularity of 750s, and Suzuki’s GSX-R is the only 750 currently available.

    Which is surprising, because in many ways, it offers the best of both worlds – almost as much peak power as a full-bore 1000cc machine, and the fine handling and unintimidating nature of a 600.

    The inline-four engine has more torque than a 600, which allows more relaxed progress on the road, yet has a more controllable peak power output – around 150bhp – that can be less ‘scary’ for less experienced riders! Sophisticated fuel injection uses a computerised secondary throttle valve to smooth out the power delivery, while titanium engine valves allow sustained high-rpm operation. The exhaust system is tucked underneath the engine to keep mass low and centralised, and contains a catalytic converter to reduce emissions.

    The GSX-R750 is virtually identical to the firm’s GSX-R600, and this smaller capacity machine offers similar performance at an even lower price.

    • 749cc inline-four DOHC, 16-valve liquid-cooled engine
    • Dual throttle-valve fuel injection, twin injectors per cylinder
    • 150bhp
    • 363lb dry mass
    • 180mph top speed
  • Honda CBR600RR

    Alan says: Honda’s CBR600 is the archetypal 600cc sportsbike. Since it first appeared in 1987, it has epitomised the middleweight supersports category, although with a typically Honda twist. Its specification doesn’t surprise or astound in any way. Indeed, it could almost be described as a bit dull: an inline-four engine with 16-valves, fuel injection, and double overhead cams lives in a cast aluminum twin-spar frame, with fully adjustable upside-down front forks and rear monoshock.

    But it’s the way Honda has refined this rather vanilla design to the point of perfection that makes it so good. The latest 2007 version of the bike is incredibly light – at 155kg dry mass, it’s by far the lightest machine in the 600cc class, giving it an extra edge in performance and handling. That edge makes it a winner on the racetrack too: the CBR600RR has won the last six World Supersport championships – that’s every year since the RR version was launched. An incredible record for an incredible machine – and one that you can buy for around £7,000.

    • 599cc inline-four DOHC, 16-valve liquid-cooled engine
    • Electronic fuel injection, twin injectors per cylinder
    • 118bhp
    • 341lb dry mass
    • 165mph top speed
  • Kawasaki ZX-6R Ninja

    Alan says: Kawasaki basically invented the modern 600cc sportsbike, with its GPZ600R of 1984. That was the first middleweight sportster to use an advanced water-cooled, 16-valve engine in a fully-faired chassis, and Kawasaki has been an incredibly strong contender in that class right up to the present day.

    The firm’s current 600 supersport bike is the ZX-6R, and it boasts a high-tech spec list, both in the engine department, and in its track-ready chassis. The engine was totally redesigned for 2007, to be more compact, while making even higher peak power. It features a ‘slipper clutch’ to reduce instability under fierce braking on track, and the fuel injection system has eight injectors, to give perfect carburation at all revs. The Ninja’s brakes use special ‘petal’ shaped discs, which are lighter, yet also run cooler, while retaining incredible stopping power. The fully-adjustable front and rear suspension and stiff aluminum frame are as good as anything in the class, and the whole package is wrapped in super-slippy aerodynamic bodywork.

    One criticism of the ZX-6R is its rather high first gear. Designed for track performance, it means the bike can top 80mph in first, and it can make fast getaways a tricky affair.

    • 599cc inline-four DOHC, 16-valve liquid-cooled engine
    • Dual-valve fuel injection, twin injectors per cylinder
    • 125bhp
    • 367lb dry mass
    • 165mph top speed
  • Aprilia RSV Mille

    Alan says: Aprilia is often overlooked in favour of its more fashionable Italian competitor – Ducati. But that’s a mistake riders make at their peril – because Aprilia’s V-twin superbike range can offer similar performance, at a lower price. Best known for smaller-capacity machines before the RSV Mille was launched in 1998, Aprilia then roared straight into the big bike class with a vengeance – and has stayed there ever since.

    The RSV’s 60° V-twin engine allowed a more compact package than Ducati’s 90° engine, while an aluminum beam frame gave a solid foundation to the chassis, made all the sharper by sophisticated sports suspension and top-spec Brembo brakes. Later models of RSV added even more power and better handling, while special ‘R’ and ‘Factory’ versions offered world-class Ohlins suspension packages and lightweight racing wheels as well as higher engine outputs.

    The current RSV is an incredibly well-developed machine, although it lags behind the Ducati 1098 in outright performance. But it’s not the perfect machine for every rider. The layout of the engine and frame makes the RSV’s seat rather tall, which can dissuade shorter riders. This also gives a rather top-heavy feeling to the handling, which can be disconcerting for new riders, although many more experienced riders rave about the RSV’s handling, especially on track.

    • 998cc 60° V-twin, DOHC 8-valve liquid-cooled engine
    • Electronic fuel injection
    • 143bhp
    • 416lb dry mass
    • 175mph top speed
  • Yamaha YZF-R6

    Alan says: The original 600cc sportsbike class was intended as an ‘everyman’ class to suit all riders. A CBR600 from the 1980s could be used for two-up touring and commuting, as well as leisure-based sport riding. But motorcycling itself has become more of a leisure pursuit, and performance has become more important than practicality – so the 600 class has moved further towards the racetrack.

    And Yamaha’s R6 is the most extreme example of this. One look at its tiny dimensions, vestigial passenger seat and radical riding position tells you this is no practical all-rounder. Rather, it’s been designed to go around a racetrack as quickly as possible. The latest 2008 version has a super-compact engine crammed with technology to boost power, including a computer-controlled ‘fly-by-wire’ throttle, and variable intake geometry – both firsts for the class. This high-output powerplant is mounted in a small, stiff cast aluminum frame, then wrapped in angular, aerodynamic bodywork with a large ram-air intake between the headlights. The suspension has a profusion of adjustment options, while the radial-mount front brake calipers provide supreme stopping power.

    Indeed, the only real complaint against the R6 is its focus – ridden anywhere except the racetrack, the R6’s extreme nature can make it a chore. But when you’re in the mood, on your favorite circuit, the R6 is hard to beat.

    • 599cc inline-four DOHC, 16-valve liquid-cooled engine
    • Electronic fuel injection, variable intake geometry, fly-by-wire throttle
    • 135bhp
    • 365lb dry mass
    • 165mph top speed

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When you're searching for the best affordable sportsbikes, don't sacrifice quality for cost. With our help, you'll find affordable motorcycles that offer the highest performance. Always the best price, these sport motorbikes feature super-powerful brakes and wide, and sticky tires that give tremendous stopping power, massive lean angles and tenacious grip under acceleration.