You haven't ridden most of them yet, but we have the preview wrap-up here so that you'll know which one you want to ride first. This year we'll see the all-new BMW S1000RR, all-new Aprilia RSV4, all-new Yamaha R1, mostly-new Suzuki GSXR1000 and Ducati 1198, tweaked (in possibly a revolutionary way) Honda CBR1000RR, and the return of what many considered last year's Japan league champion (neck and neck with the CBR, of course), the Kawasaki ZX-10R. We also have all-new-only-a-little-while-ago options such as the Buell 1125R and KTM Rc8 1190. Political and economic horrors aside, the next few years seem to be full of glee for the sportbike consumer.
2009 Kawasaki ZX-10R
We'll start with the bike changing the least for '09, the ZX-10R from Kawasaki. Mechanical changes are minimal, but we do get new paint on an already fantastic bike.
The Kawasaki will be offered in several different new schemes worldwide, with the US getting the three-tone green/white/black look shown above, and Europe receiving the even cooler pure arctic look shown below:
Amazing how a little bit of fresh paint can turn the Kawi from a cross-eyed mantis into an arctic wolf.
2009 KTM RC8 1190
KTM releases sporadic and scarce information regarding the development and evolution of the 2009 RC8 1190. Like the '08 model, the '09 RC8 will be of limited-production and will race in World STK1000, but not in the premier World Superbike class in the same series. If nothing goes horribly wrong, KTM seems to be planning to offer larger numbers of the fully-tweaked bike in a couple of years, simultaneously moving up to compete in SBK.
Judging from shootouts between the 2008 RC8 and 2008 Ducati 1098, the RC8 looks at the very least promising for an infant competing in the highest class of motorcycling. It's said the Ducati has the better engine (both bikes sporting oversized twin-cylinder powerplants), which should be expected from such a long-time master of 4-strike v-twin superbike motors, but the opinions regarding which machine possesses the superior handling characteristics are surprisingly disputed.
French magazine Motorevue tested an earlier RC8 against a Yamaha R1 and preferred the handling of the KTM. However, we can't exactly trust the French source too much, on the account of the French government requiring that motorcycle motor output be limited to 100 horsepower (yes, seriously), which can affect the 'feel' of a machine to say the very least.
Cycle World compared the RC8 to a Suzuki GSXR750, which one may consider unfair when taking into account the cc and price difference, but the new-comer KTM hung in there despite another (reversed) advantage: The GSXR750 being one of the most well-developed sportbikes on the planet, even if smaller and cheaper than the orange beast.
Only further evolution will tell us whether the new Austrian bike is a very cool-looking fluke of sci-fi, or as much of a long-standing success as KTM's competitive off-road lineup.
2009 Buell 1125R
The Buell 1125R, an American-made machine powered by a powerful Austrian-designed v-twin Rotax motor, has been a major love/hate scenario for most critics. In America motorcycle tradition, the Buell is the weirdest bike here, unless you count the ultra-exotic, supercharged, and also American-made, Roehr 1250sc...
More street-oriented and less track-oriented than most of the other bikes featured, the Buell has still seen surprising success in v-twin and club competition around the world against the likes of Ducati's 1098, Aprilia's RSV1000R Mille, and Boxer-based beemers. Minor mechanical improvements for this year, such as redone throttle response and improved mileage are given new clothes, like this white/blue layout:
Don't like the looks? For 2009 Buell is releasing the 1125CR, a stripped down version of the 1125R which, to me, takes the bike from humiliatingly bulbous to hauntingly, wickedly attractive. It doesn't fit in this comparison as well as the 1125R, but it is a major aesthetic improvement. Now they just need to do something with that mismatched, overly round tail...:
2009 Honda CBR100RR 'Fireblade'
The 2009 Honda CBR1000RR (lots of photos and videos can be seen HERE) will return mostly unscathed from 2008, when many believed it to be the best Japanese literbike available, but with one major change: Anti-lock brakes.
Honda claims that the anti-lock brake systems of the past were built more around safety and ease of use, but that the new C-ABS system on the CBR lineup is made just as much for pure performance. Admittedly a highly skilled racer can out-brake the ABS system on a track, but many reports are steaming in praising the transparent, confidence-inducing feel of the system for everything from a breezy sunday ride, to high-speed canyon carving, to trackdays and riding in the wet.
The 'Fireblade' will also receive some new color options, like pearl blue, a dark metallic grey/black, and a GP Repsol graphics package.
2009 Yamaha YZF-R1
The '09 R1 (more) is an all-new machine internally and externally. Wonky-eyed headlights deep-set within intakes were received with skepticism and even disappointment from some fans of the R1's traditional protruding lights, which over time had become the bike's visual signature. Power comes courtesy of a cross-plane MotoGP-derived 4-cylinder, which, in early brief tests, is getting rave reviews. Corner-exit power has left some testers I've spoken with breathless and I can say from hearing one roar that the sound shakes the usual "lack of passion" Japanese motorcycles are often accused of. Not since the original R1 have I been so curious about a new Yamaha.
The R1 will be available in several colors, but check out my personal favorite, a Gothic blend of flat/gloss blacks cloaking a blood-red frame:
2009 Suzuki GSX-R1000
Sportbikeblog was one of the first blogs on the internet to break out leaked photos of the new Suzuki GSX-R1000 (at, the time, nearly half of this website's total hits came during the day we revealed the bike before anyone else!).
The '09 Gixxer (see full specs and many photos and new paint schemes HERE) won't have as many obvious changes as the R1, but it has still been redone from the ground up compared to last year's model. Previously Suzuki, in terms of pure performance, was arguably the heavyweight champion of the Japanese 1000cc world. The much-needed '09 version comes at a time when Suzuki has been gradually losing ground in head-to-head comparos to the other factories, and when Yamaha's new R1 could be the nail in the coffin. Evolutionary rather than revolutionary seems to be the name of the game...
2009 BMW S100RR
The BMW S100RR (more) is one of the most exciting sportbike releases in recent memory.
Even if it alone were being unveiled, there would be a ton of buzz for '09, and yet we have not only it, but Ducati's new 1198, the return of Aprilia to superbike competition, the all new R1, Honda race-bred ABS, a new gixxer, and even more PLUS the previously unmentioned 600 class? For some people, the BMW may even be lost in the shuffle.
The BMW abandons most of the experienced German factory's innovative/experimental suspension and engine layouts in preference of a more conventional superbike, complete with an inline-four liter-sized powerplant and advanced traction control. Early testing by both the BMW and Aprilia World Superbike teams has shown them to be competitive machines right off the bat in one of the world's most contested and densely-populated motorcycle championships. That means the bike is at best, a major and permanent player, and at worst, no joke.
2009 Aprilia RSV4
Joining the legendary and incredibly timeless yet technologically now somewhat outdated RSV1000R v-twin (formerly piloted with great success in World Superbike competition, especially by Troy Corser, now a BMW man), The RSV4 (more photos, videos, and information here and here) is a truly radical step for Aprilia.
Claimed to be even lighter than the featherweight Honda CBR1000RR, the RSV4 runs on a screaming, exotic Italian V-4 engine with an abrasive, post-apocalyptic snarl which makes even the roar of the new R1 and classic bark of the Ducati 1098/1198 family pale in comparison.
I'm cold on the face of the machine. The RSV1000 was a classic, Aprilia from rubber to glass. The RSV4 is more subtle and as I've dared to say before; a bit too Japanese-looking up front. Alas, like many Japanese bikes themselves, the Aprilia is all about performance. Light weight, high power, and if you believe the man who will race the RSV4 in 2009 in the world championships, the notorious Roman Max Biaggi, it also feels as much like a MotoGP bike as a conventional Superbike in basic form...
2009 Ducati 1198
Nothing with "superbike" in the title would be complete without a Ducati. Ducati has been a staple in European motorcycling and global road-racing for decades now, and became a culture of its own with the evolution of the 996, 998, and 999. The 999 is one of my favorite motorcycles of all time for various reasons, however not everyone agrees. Some saw the 999 as Ducati's failure to capture the essence of the 996/998, and as a response Ducati came up with the 1098 as the next generation. The 996 influence is obvious; the angry narrowed eyes and pure Ducati profile reveal the father of the rounder-cheeked 1098, as does it's voice. The handling, while delicately tailored to Ducatista tastes, can turn with any nimble eastern rival.
The 1198 (several Ducati 1198 videos) is an evolution of the 1098, visually similar with even more power (some who have ridden the 1098 will surely ask, "Is that even necessary?"). The 1198 will be available in a base model, a higher-end components 1198S model, and the returning 1098R model, essentially a factory superbike honoring Troy Bayliss.