Riding a motorcycle means something different to anyone that rides. Some ride to relax. Some ride because of the freedom it makes them feel. Some ride as a primary means of commuting.
However, there is that subset of riders that ride for the adrenaline. The riders that want to redline at 16,500 RPM, that want to have to buy replacement knee pucks for their one-piece leathers because it’s been worn down so much on the track. The ones that want to go super fast.
In this list, we’ve put together what we believe to be the top 10 supersport bikes of 2020, before the 2021 models and model refreshes come out. And this is despite our #2 bike actually being released closer to 2021, it is up for sale and has had media and private track days to test it out!
10: 2020 Honda CBR600RR
This is nothing against the superb Honda CBR600RR, it’s just that out of the 20 or 30 great new supersport motorcycles in 2020, someone had to come 10th.
The CBR600RR is a great introduction into the reason that more displacement isn’t always better. With a ridiculously gutsy 600cc inline-4, the little bike from Honda has become the standard bearer for what true sports riding is about. It leaps off the line, it controls beautifully through corners, and it has a really positive, confidence-inducing brake feel from both the front and back.
Add to that the many years that Honda raced in both World SBK and MotoGP when they had 600cc classes, and all that racing technology and knowledge is laser focused into a street legal bike that can ride as hard as you want, and keep begging for more.
9: 2020 Kawasaki Ninja 650
Much like the Honda above, no list would be complete without the supersport bike, the Kawasaki Ninja 650. What it is, is as close to a perfect midrange supersport bike as you can be.
Kawasaki has been racing bikes since the very first one rolled off their production line. Motocross, supermoto, rally, track, supersport, you name it, they’ve raced it. With its 650cc parallel-twin, it puts out a decent 67 BHP, the lowest specific output on this entire list. However, how it puts out all 67 of those Japanese horses is another thing entirely.
The Ninja 650 is a light bike. It’s also expertly engineered to be one of the most rider-friendly superbikes out there. With a firm twist of the right wrist, it will simply scream out of corners and send you howling down the road, with a wide grin plastered on your face under your helmet, and you’ll forget it has “only” 67 HP.
8: 2020 Suzuki GSX-R1000R
The 2020 Suzuki GSX-R1000R is quite possibly the best iteration of the legendary “Gixxer.” After years of refinement and testing, the bike is now a combination of excellent engineering, amazing styling, and some pretty unbelievable numbers.
Powered by a 999cc inline-four, the GSX-R1000R makes near-as-makes-no-difference 200 BHP. It is low, mean, with aggressive gearing and a riding position that could generously be called a sporty tuck.
What places it at only #8 on this list, however, is that this isn’t the easiest supersport to just swing a leg over and ride. The GSX-R1000R doesn’t have the second R for no reason. This is a race bike with indicators and a number plate. Respect it, and it will thrill you. Abuse it, and it will launch you into the nearest tree or gravel trap.
7: 2020 Ducati Panigale V2
Ducati brought out their flagship Panigale V4 bikes in 2020, but they also remembered to honor what came before. Before 2020, the Panigale was called just that, the Panigale. Now, with the V4 out, the Panigale has undergone a bit of a makeover.
Now called the 2020 Panigale V2, the bike retains the 955cc superquadro V-twin engine, but it is bumped to 155 BHP. It is slimmer, with a redesigned silhouette that emphasizes a forward tuck position. It is lighter by a few pounds.
What the Panigale V2 is, in essence, is Ducati focusing on what made the original Panigale such a roaring success. It’s also a bit more friendly than the firebreathing V4 line, which also makes it a perfect bike for someone looking to get a track bike that brings that Italian feel at an affordable price.
6: 2020 Kawasaki Ninja H2
The 2020 Kawasaki Ninja H2 is a beast of a bike, being derived from the deranged performance of the 400+ kph capable H2R. They both use the same 998cc supercharged inline-four, with the H2 dialed down about 100 HP to 228 BHP.
The H2 is a bike that you will hear both coming and going, with the scream of the screw-type supercharger preceding the ungodly roar of the exhaust as the bike sails by. It is, however, a bit of a heavier supersport than many on this list, due to the framework and reinforcement needed to be able to handle the supercharged torque of the engine.
This, however, does not make it slow. Not by a long shot. If you want to go fast and live at a higher altitude, this bike is your answer. Forced induction will always beat out naturally aspirated anywhere above 1,500 feet, so Colorado and Utah, Kawasaki sees you and understands!
5: 2020 Aprilia RSV4 RR
Now we’re getting into the serious stuff. Aprilia is one of those manufacturers that makes no bones about the fact that most of their street supersport bikes are, in fact, racing bikes with a different ECU tune, wing mirrors, and indicators.
The RSV4 RR is the ultimate expression of this, as the bike even shares the base name of the RSV4 Factory Works SBK bike. It is powered by a 999cc V4 engine that produces a screaming 201 BHP.
It’s when you get the RSV4 RR on the track, however, that you feel that racing DNA. It wants to lift the front wheel coming down the straight. It barely dives when you brake hard. It grips like a monster in the corners and slingshots you out of them at warp speed. It’s an approachable bike as well, happy to go at four-tenths as it is at ten-tenths.
4: 2020 BMW S1000RR
The 2020 BMW S1000RR is one of the finest European bikes you will find in the supersport category. Being typically German, it is built extremely well, is beautiful to ride, and has that undertone of “I can handle much more than you’re asking me to” when you give the throttle a little blip.
Powered by a 998cc inline-four that is precision made with millimetric perfection, it produces 205 BHP and enough torque to reverse the spin of the Earth. It also handles beautifully, telling the rider through all his or her contact points exactly what the bike is doing at all times.
It is the base bike that the mental HP4 track bike is based on, and if that doesn’t tell you how great the S1000RR is, nothing will. It is the ultimate expression of German perfection on two wheels. No ifs, ands, or buts.
3: 2020 Yamaha YZF-R1
For the longest time, the R1 was the undisputed perfect supersport bike. The 2020 Yamaha YZF-R1 continues that tradition by being the third best bike on this list, only beat out by two extremely special bikes. We’re expecting the 2021 R1 to become the #1 again in response, and that is nothing if not exciting.
As it is, the R1 is powered by a 998cc crossplane crank inline-four, that produces 198 BHP. Where the R1 has always, until now, held the crown was in its approachability. The R1 almost literally talks to you. Many new R1 riders, when switching from their previous bikes, comment on the nearly telepathic response that the R1 has.
This is helped by years of Yamaha racing experience shaping how the suspension and ECU are set up. It is compliant on the road, but show the R1 a track or a corner, and it is almost tugging at the leash in anticipation. Lean it in, and feel how the suspension and tires tell you what’s going on, the engine buzzing through the frame to let you know if you need more throttle, and the bike itself saying “come on, more lean in the next corner!”
Put simply, it’s intoxicating when let loose on its natural playground, the race track.
2: 2021 Honda CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SP
The 2021 Honda CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SP, apart from being one hell of a mouthful, is also one of the most hotly anticipated supersports in a generation. The reason is that this bike is the culmination of years of engineering and design efforts to bring the legendary RC213V racing bike to the common man.
While not yet released in the USA, it is currently on sale in Japan and India, and is approaching release in the UK. Powered by a 999cc inline-four, it produces 215 BHP. Where the excitement comes from is in the form of its engineering.
The CBR1000RR-R is one of the most aerodynamically stable bikes that Honda has ever produced. A massive front air intake feeds the hungry cylinders, while passthrough vents on the fairings deflect air up and around the riders’ legs, providing a virtual air shield that lets wind simply slip by.
Combined with active Ohlins suspension and racing-grade Brembo ABS braking, if any bike deserved to continue on the legendary Fireblade name, this is the beast to do so.
1: 2020 Ducati Panigale V4S
Our best bike of the year couldn’t be anything other than the 2020 Ducati Panigale V4S. The new flagship from the Italian marque is perfect in almost every way. The looks stir the emotions. The feel of that V4 rumbling away below you stirs the heart. The roar of its exhaust stirs the soul. And the handling stirs the supersports brain.
The beating heart of this bike is a 1,103 cc Desmosedici Stradale 90° V4, capable of 215 BHP at 13,000 RPM. That is paired with active suspension by Ohlins that adjusts to rider inputs via a super-intelligent throttle-by-wire system and accelerometers that track the bike along six axes.
The handling is positive and reinforcing, letting you lean into a corner with confidence that the bike will do what you want it to. The braking is race-grade, and the bike has two brains controlling the engine with one, and the braking/throttle/suspension with the other.
But something that the Italians do, every single time that a new bike is released, is perfect the supersports form. There isn’t a single bad line or angle on the V4S. Even the winglets, which help keep the front of the bike down at speed, are a work of art. It is the expression of the supersport ideal, mixed with beauty, that wins our hearts for 2020.