Hooniverse Asks: What's Japan's Greatest Performance Bike?

Those of you under 30 might not believe this but Japan once was the world’s most feared and envied economic superpower. Through various means the island nation once owned the television market, shamed the U.S. auto industry out of complacency, and became the world’s greatest maker of motorized two-wheel transportation. Not only that, but once established, the Japanese made some of the most amazing sport bikes the planet has ever seen too.
The genus may have gotten its inception in England and Europe, but by the ’70, it was the Japanese that were pumping out some of the best and most innovative sport bikes. So impactful were they that even today England’s Triumph bikes are made from parts sourced from Japan. Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki and Suzuki have all made a name for themselves as a major maker of major bikes, but which of their wares is the best? What do you think is Japan’s greatest performance bike?
Image: Motorcyle-USA


    1. Well, that certainly is the Godzilla of sport bikes, but I’m withholding judgment until it’s proven.

  1. Honda CBR600F4i/RR. Supercar performance with low cost of entry, and it’s a multi-time middleweight championship winner in racing trim.

    1. Never has so much fun been so reliably accessible to the masses.

    1. Certainly one of the most unique engines, too! The V4 had 4 pistons, but they were oval-shaped and had two rods and 8 valves each, making this a 32v pseudo-V8

    2. It’s not Japan’s greatest performance bike, just Japan’s greatest museum display. It only excels as a demonstration of engineering and manufacturing skill. The issue I have with it is that as a motorcycle, the production NR750 was a solution in search of a problem. All that oval piston technology was developed solely to skirt the FIM’s 4-cylinder limit; there was no logical justification for it to exist outside of GP racing. If the NR750 had been built as a V8, rather than a siamesed, ovalized four, perhaps it would have made more sense as a street bike. But even then, would it have done anything significantly better than a four?

      1. http://images.sodahead.com/profiles/0/0/3/0/4/7/4/4/1/I-Cant-Hear-Yoooou-88717299286.jpeg
        You make some very good arguments, but there are actual advantages to more cylinders, especially on a motorcycle. A short stroke is beneficial for high RPM, but there is a limit to how oversquare you can make a cylinder and still have it work. More, smaller, cylinders can have the same displacement with a shorter stroke. This allows them to rev higher with lower piston speeds, and fill the cylinders with lower valve lift, mitigating float at high RPM. That’s why 4 cylinders rev higher than V twins, and were given lower displacement limits in racing. The advantages decrease with increasing cylinder count, but there is still advantage to be gained by a V8 over a 4.

        1. For a similar reason, this is why we bemoan V6 engines in F1.
          They just can’t sing the same way their more-pistonly-endowed predecessors could.

        2. Yes, but four cylinder bikes are so widespread and sixes and eights are so rare because that’s the sweet spot between those advantages you mentioned and minimizing weight, size, and complexity, which are also important on a motorcycle.

          1. Again with the logic… we’re supposed to be talking about awesome wonderment here!

  2. On the low end of the spectrum, if greatness can be defined as the sporty bike that has given so many riders their start, we have the Kawasaki Ninja 250R/EX250:

    1. Normally seen sporting a lengthened swingarm, airbrushing, and neon.
      Oh, and a rider in shorts and a t-shirt with a mohawk’d helmet.

        1. Oh, I thought these were the ones we’d see blitzing the outer-city interstates late at night, doing wheelstands and such.

  3. And if we’re talking pure muscle, handling-be-damned, I get all hot and bothered by the Yammer VMAX’s 1700cc, 175hp V4, and long to see it or it’s like used in another LeMons entry (to compete with the V65-powered Z600).

  4. Not production in the least, but this mad scientist conjoined two CBX mills to make a CBX2000:

    1. I kind of miss the high end sound of the 1000 though. Not that it’s bad, but the 1000 sounds perfect.

  5. Honda introduced the CB77 Super Hawk to the US in the early 60’s and the term “motorcycle performance” was redefined.

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