Here’s a compilation of liter bikes, past and present, who’s presence would grace any bikers shed.
Before we look at them though, what constitutes as a liter bike?
What is a Liter bike? A liter class bike is a high performance sport or naked bike with an engine displacement close to 1,000 cc. 1000 cubic centimetres (CC) of volume is the equivalent to 1 liter, hence the term ‘liter bike.’
It’s rare for an engine to be exactly 1,000 cc (61 cubic inch) so it shouldn’t be taken literally. The Yamaha YZF-R1 for example, has a 998cc displacement so a liter wouldn’t quite fit into those 4 cylinders.
We still call the R1 a liter bike though because of its performance – give it a handful and it’ll reach 100 mph faster than a cat at its own christening.
An Indian Scout Bobber on the other hand does have a 1,000 cc engine but it isn’t considered one of the liter class bikes because it’s an exercise in style rather than performance.
Another way to look at it is that the Indian Scout Bobber would make an ideal first ‘big’ bike where as the R1 is just too fast and powerful and is only suitable for an experienced rider.
Anything designed for performance with an engine size somewhere between 900cc and 1100cc could be rightly called a liter bike.
Modern Liter Bikes
Kawasaki ZX-10R Ninja Super Sport
Probably the best example of a modern liter bike, the 180 mph Kawasaki ZX-10R is track proven at the FIM World Superbike Championship.
Northern Irishman Jonathan Rea has rode the Ninja to the WSB title in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 – the first man ever to win six consecutive titles.
Price starts at $16,399 but if you want the quicker limited edition Ninja ZX-10RR homologated race track weapon, it’ll set you back a cool $28,999
Check our guide to buying a used Ninja ZX-10R
The Yamaha R1 has been with us since 1998 and upon its release had the best power-weight ratio of any motorcycle at the time.
Since returning to racing in 2015 the R1 has had success in the World Superbike championship, Suzuka endurance races, the British and American Superbike Championships and the FIM Endurance Championships.
John McGuinness won the Senior TT at the Isle of Man races back in 2005.
The current YZF-R1 model will touch 182 mph, can do 0-60 in 2.64 seconds and 0-100 in 5.12 seconds.
Prices for the new R1 start from $17,599 or check out our guide to buying used cheap sport bikes to find yourself an R1 for around $5k
Ducati Streetfighter V2
Of course not all liter bikes are fully faired supersports machines, there are their naked counterparts to consider.
The all new Streetfighter V2 is absolutely one of those naked bikes; running through its fuel and engine oil is the Panigale V2 DNA, so high levels of performance is there without question.
The engine is the latest 955cc Superquadro, derived from Ducati’s famous Desmo engine and it pushes out 153 horsepower, while the bike only weighs in at 178kg.
It provides a comfortable riding package with the ultimate Ducati sportiness that you would come to expect, including the famous Joker grin from the front headlight and bodywork.
Prices for the Streetfighter V2 start at $16,995.
2022 marks 30 years of the Honda Fireblade and frankly it is an institution in its own right, in 1992 the first CBR900RR was launched but it would take until 1996 when production racing was brought back into the Isle of Man TT schedule, for the Fireblade to really make an impact.
In that year 7 of the top 10 race finishers were riding Fireblades.
In the decade that followed the Honda would take 20 TT victories home largely with John Mcguinness at the helm.
In WSBK the Fireblade had 22 wins making it Honda’s most successful bike of all time, pre-pandemic the Blade was also leading the board with the FIM Endurance races, so it is likely Honda will be hoping to return to take the title next year on this count.
Prices for the CBR1000RR-R SP start from $28,500, which is street legal, but offers everything you need to be the best on the track. A less race ready but still impressive CBR1000RR starts from $16,499.
Suzuki GSX R 1000
If following in the footsteps of your favourite racers is the way you want to go then there is really only one option for you and that is the Suzuki GSX-R1000.
In 2018 Suzuki hit the landmark of their 200th AMA Superbike win, achieved in the 42 years that MotoAmerica/AMA Superbikes have existed; and it was done on the iconic Gixxer.
The Suzuki GSX-R1000 has proven itself time and time again in MotoAmerica, Australian Superbikes, MotoGP and in the Isle of Man TT.
The production version has all the race derived features that make for a fantastic liter bike experience, it will have you holding on for your life.
The standard GSX-R1000 starts from $15,799, but if you are looking to pay a little extra for something special, then $17,999 will get you a 100th Anniversary Edition, built to celebrate Suzuki’s 60th year in racing.
BMW can’t be ignored with their offering to the liter class bike, while they may not have such a legacy as the Japanese with race wins or indeed the Italians.
The German-engineered S1000RR is a visually stunning, modern supersport that isn’t shy of podiums in Europe and Asia.
In recent years the BMW has taken wins at the International Road Racing Championship, French Superbike Championship, BSB and AMA as well as in Malaysia.
After 10 years in development and revisions made since the first generation, the current S1000RR produces a huge 205 horsepower and 113 Nm of torque.
Prices start from $16,995 but if you want the best of the best you could be looking at $19,245.
At the very edge of what you would deem a liter bike, the Yamaha XSR900 brings something a little classier, refined, to the genre as a naked roadster, but trust me it is backed by performance figures.
Yamaha have fitted a 890cc, three-cylinder engine into their renowned Deltabox frame and have styled it for a timeless finish.
105 horsepower and 88 Nm of torque is produced, to have you catapulted around the backroads. The light, compact frame is strong and rigid, handling as a result is sharp, precise, and cornering a dream.
Low and mid-range torque gives you plenty of usable real world power but the top end isn’t sacrificed too much with a top speed of around 150mph.
Around $9,999 will get you one of these for your garage.
In 2009 Aprilia replaced the V-twin RSV1000R with the RSV4.
On the track the model was an instant hit, putting its rivals to shame. Throughout 2010, 2012 and 2014 the RSV4 would take home WSBK titles.
By 2015 it was making well over 200 horsepower and had a refined chassis, made stronger to cope with the amount of power produced.
In 2019 the RSV4 saw a new 1100 model launched that continues today, making 217 horsepower.
The RSV4 is a great option for those who want a race winning and developed model but for whatever reason don’t fancy a Ducati Panigale.
For a base model prices start at $18,999 and for the Factory 1100 you can pay $25,999.
Kawasaki H2 R
The H2 R features Kawasaki’s 998cc, four-cylinder, supercharged engine.
Technically it is a liter bike, if you ignore the Supercharged part of the equation, regardless it has to be worthy of the list.
The first most important note is that the H2 R is a closed course only motorcycle, it is purely for the track and that’s probably for the best as it isn’t a bike that should be unleashed on public roads.
The second essential bit of information is that it has a MSRP of $56,500.
This thing is freaking insane, and produces 169 Nm of torque, 300 horsepower and has a top speed of 240mph.
Whoever thought it was a good idea to produce such a beast, must not be quite right. With that said anyone who dares to try and tame the beast is also missing a few screws.
There is however, a H2 for the street and it now comes as a H2 Carbon also.
Still with a 998cc supercharged engine, the H2 has just been tuned to be somewhat milder for street riding. Not by much mind.
Prices for the standard H2 start at $30,500 and the H2 Carbon $34,000.
Ducati Panigale V4
When Ducati released the Panigale V4, it was the first large production street bike to be fitted with a V4 engine.
There is no question that the V4 design is derived directly from Ducati’s racing prowess, in particular the 2015 MotoGP race engine.
However, Ducati have done what they can to offer an engine that is race focused and capable all the while being durable enough for a street bike.
There are different models of the Panigale V4 available: V4, V4S, V4SP and the V4R. There’s also a Streetfighter version for those who think they can hang on to 210 ponies with no wind protection!
Prices start from $23,295 and go to $40,000 for the V4R.
The Streetfighter V4 produces 210 horsepower whereas the V4R makes 234 horsepower.
The V4R uses the WSBK homologated version of the V4 engine, it is currently the most powerful, street-legal production motorcycle.
As a result I would suggest it is the absolute ultimate liter bike.
Classic Litre Bikes
If you are in the market for a liter bike you might want to consider one of these stunning machines. Not only do they come with a history, you will find when it comes time to sell on you will at the very least get your money back. You might even make money if you manage to keep it shiny side up.
MV Agusta F4 1000 AGO
MV’s F4 1000 is an absolute icon, there is no question that this is perhaps the most classic liter bike of all time.
There are several variations of the MV Agusta F4 1000 and they are all collectible but the AGO version is probably the most sought after.
The 1,000 cc engine makes a claimed 166 horsepower with a top speed of 180mph.
Despite the extravagance of the model, it is smooth across the rev range to ride, easy to get along with and doesn’t fight you to increase your speed, but is more than willing when you are ready.
Handling is fantastic both in the straights and bends, the only limit being the rider’s courage.
Giacomo Agostini has the most recorded wins in all of motorcycling history, with over half of those achieved with MV Agusta. As a result the first 300 sold were called the F4 1000 AGO to honour his feat.
Each came with an Agostini certificate and 18K gold plate displaying the model number.
Triumph Speed Triple
In 2005 Triumph switched out the original Speed Triple 955cc engine for a 1050cc engine and an all new faster naked liter bike took over proceedings.
All of a sudden the Speed Triple was producing figures like 131 horsepower and 105 Nm of torque.
It was the ultimate naked performance bike, with loads of torque and a top speed of 154mph. The bike could do the standing quarter mile in 11.8 seconds.
Although it got several major updates the 1050 cc engine remained at its heart until 2021 when the new 1200 RS Speed Triple was released.
Fundamentally the older 1050 Speed Triples have proved themselves to be essentially bulletproof and around $4,000-$5,000 will pick you up an early one in decent condition. A low mileage 2020 will set you back around $15,000
The Ducati 998 is a visual experience, a motorcycle that needs to be seen to be appreciated, and the performance completely backs up this feat of engineering and design.
It is the last of the Ducati 916 series first created by Massimo Tamburini and marked the turning point for Ducati before they shifted direction with Pierre Terblanche taking over with the 999.
The 998 featured an all new Testastretta engine only previously seen on the racing 996R with only 500 produced to race.
In WSB the Ducati 996 R variant won races in 2001, 2002 and 2003; the bike also won 6 races in the 2001 Superbike World Championships.
The 998 had this very same engine and was prepared for the public, with 123 horsepower or 139 horsepower for the 998R model later on.
Ergonomically the 998 was a race bike thoroughbred and while Japanese manufacturers were tailoring their liter bikes to street riders, Ducati made no such effort, and kept the racing aesthetic.
Several models of the 998 would be produced including limited editions models; prices today start from around $6,000 and go on to exceed $10,000.
Honda produced the RC51 (aka the VTR1000 and RVT1000) as direct competition for Ducati’s V-twin race bikes. Honda were tired of being outsmarted by the Italians and wanted to start taking home some victories.
It was considered so good at its job the Honda RC51 quickly earned the nickname ‘The Duck Hunter” by its American riders.
The 999cc V-twin was produced between 2000 and 2006, with the first models being designated SP1, and the 2006-06 models SP2.
During the first year of the model’s launch, Colin Edwards won the World Superbike Championship and again in 2002.
In 2001 Wim Motors won the Endurance FIM World Championship using a RC51.
For many in Europe, it was the Joey Dunlop win in the 2000 TT Formula 1 race that made the RC51 the legend it is today. At 48 he was considered too old to have a chance with a big liter bike yet he won the 6 lap race, beating Michael Rutter on his Yamaha R1.
Joey added a 250cc class win and a 125cc class win to finish the meeting with a hat trick. He considered his 24th TT win on the RC51 his most satisfying.
The SP2 RC51 versions had a top speed of 168mph with 133 horsepower backing it up.
Prices for these iconic classic liter bikes tend to be around $6,000 but they are getting harder to find in good riding condition.
Aprilia produced the RSV1000R between 2004 to 2010 when the RSV4 replaced the V-twin liter bike.
There was the base bike, and a Factory racer that came with Ohlins Racing suspension, forged aluminium wheels and carbon fibre parts.
There was also the RSV1000R Nera that came with carbon body panels, magnesium wheels, full titanium exhaust and it produced 139 horsepower while only wearing 178kg. Only 200 of these were produced.
The model was extremely aggressive and a true supersport built for experts, yet it was also built to be comfortable compared to its competitors, walking a fine line between straight up racer and road bike.
Prices today come up at around $6,500, which is simply a bargain for the amount of bike that you get.
The story goes that it only took Bimota one year to plan, design and produce the DB7 which was quite the task and the end result was pretty spectacular.
The 1098 Ducati motor was the world’s most powerful twin-cylinder production engine therefore the 160 horsepower produced made the Bimota DB7 very fast indeed.
Few Bimota Db7’s were produced compared to the likes of the Ducati 1098 and therefore they are hard to find now with high asking prices from around $18,000.
They were however, exceptionally built, hand-crafted with quality materials. If you have the money, you can find one and think you deserve an Italian superbike (let’s face it, who doesn’t) then go for it.
Liter Bike FAQ
Are Liter Bikes Practical?
Something like the Yamaha XSR900 is built for road use and an experienced rider will find it great fun whether commuting around town, out in the canyons for a Sunday morning blast or on a closed circuit for a track day.
The top bikes in the liter class though tend to be legal WSB race bikes sold for homologation purposes. They don’t come into their own until the needle hits 9,000 rpm.
In experienced hands they can be great on the open roads and are obviously the ideal track day bike but for general riding they’re overkill.
Is a Liter Class Bike a Good First Motorcycle?
A high performance liter bike is something you work up to as you gain rider experience. Liter class motorcycles are inappropriate as a first big bike due to their power, acceleration and top speed. It takes skill and experience to keep them in a straight line when given a handful.
There are motorcycles that have 1,000cc and bigger engines that do make good first ‘big’ bikes such as one of the novice friendly Harley Davidsons, practically any of the modern Bobber bikes or one of the many popular new retro motorcycles available.
These types of motorcycle, while they can be heavy, are easy to handle due to the low seat height and the engines provide their grunt at the low to midrange, ideal for commuting and overtaking.