The History of the Sport Bike

The history of the sport bike doesn’t go back that long, and there are those who have lived it from its beginning days to the present. But for all sports bike enthusiasts, here’s a brief guide to the history and evolution of the sports bike from the Ducati to the Yamaha.

What is a Sport Bike? A sport bike, also known as a sport motorcycle and sometimes called a sports bike, is a motorcycle that is built for roads and asphalt concrete racetracks, and which prioritizes speed and handling over comfort, fuel economy and storage. Many sport bikes have fairings and windscreen to improve aerodynamics. To be considered a sport bike, a motorcycle must be mass produced and for sale to the public, as opposed to highly specialized custom racing bikes. There are three main classes of sport bike:
  • Lightweight
  • Middleweight
  • Superbike
This article will focus on superbikes, today sometimes called hypersport or hyperbike, as these are the ones most often used in today’s racing.
What Was the Original Sport Bike?

In original motorcycle races, there were no real sport bikes. Instead, motorcyclists sacrificed brakes, gears and sometimes throttles to get the best performance on bicycle tracks. By WWII, motorcycles were built that could exceed 100 mph. After the war, the British company, Brough Superior, created a bike called the Vincent that could exceed 125 mph, while their racing version, Black Lightning could achieve 150 mph. Harley Davidson soon got into the game to compete with the British bikes, but it wasn’t until 1969 when we see the first true sport bike with the Honda CB750. 

Honda’s CB750 was set apart from the rest by an advanced 4-cylinder engine, combined with one of the most affordable prices on the market in comparison with the British bikes. Despite being so much cheaper, the bike could achieve speeds of up to 120 mph and were valued for the comfort of the upright riding position, a feature that was soon adapted by what was dubbed the “Universal Japanese Motorcycle.”

In 1973, Ducati had seriously entered the game with their desmodronic V-twins, the 750 SuperSport. The basic design of this bike continues to be used today by successful racers, although the advantages of the V-twin versus the in-line 4 engines is hotly contested. 

motorcycle rider

What Was the First Modern Sport Bike
The Honda CB759 and Ducati 750 SuperSport were the precursors to today’s sport bike. The first modern day sport bike was unveiled to the world in 1984 when Kawasaki released the GPZ900R, “Ninja.” This bike was differentiated from those that came before it because by moving the output shaft to the side of the engine it featured a much narrower engine block. Other features of Kawasaki’s original sport bike included a water-cooled DOHC motor which could generate 113 horsepower. The bike was the first in mass production that could achieve a speed over 150 mph.

The Next Big Development
The 80’s saw a lot of bikes follow in Kawasaki’s footsteps. However, by creating bikes that were designed for specific kinds of races, the size and power were limited. That changed in 1999 when Suzuki released the Hayabusa. With its 1300cc engine, the bike could achieve untold potential in comparison to anything else, getting up to 193 mph. Due to safety concerns, the company installed a governor on the bike that limited it to that speed.

Today there are many manufacturers making today’s most coveted sport bikes. One brand to watch is BMW which has posted consistently great reviews with each year’s new releases. Find out more information about the history of sports bikes and how you can insure them through Rider Insurance today!

Plymouth Rock Assurance is a marketing name used by a group of separate companies that write and manage property and casualty insurance in multiple states. Motorcycle insurance in New Jersey and Pennsylvania is underwritten by Rider Insurance Company. Each company is financially responsible only for its own insurance products. Actual coverage is subject to the language of the policies as issued by each separate company.