Best of the Best 2002: Motorcycles: Best Sportbikes

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Speeders Beware
With its stars-and-stripes motif, the Ducati 998S Bostrom has an undeniable American patriotic appeal, but the Italian bike is at its best when it’s a 150-mph red, white, and blue blur.

The 998S Bostrom, a replica model of the bike piloted on the World Superbike circuit by California racer Ben Bostrom, is not meant for long, casual cruising. Slip into some leathers, scrunch into a tight tuck, and make sure the helmet’s on securely. Experienced sportbike riders only, please—and leave your companion at home, because there’s only one seat on the 998S. “It’s designed for the superbike enthusiast,” says Joe Piazza, CEO of Ducati North America. “He wants something different, unique, and Italian. This bike is for the connoisseur, who identifies with the racing side of the business, but wants to be different and unique.”  

If you want comfort, look elsewhere. The 998S is about speed and power (and a little Italian flair, of course), and requires an expert hand to steer it through the twisties. A 998cc Testastretta engine powers the 412-pound bike, giving the Ducati 123 hp at 9,500 rpm, and 71.4 ft lbs of torque at 8,000 rpm.

Ducati built only 155 of the bikes (the number Bostrom wears on the World Superbike tour), and has already sold all of them. “I wish we could produce more,” says Piazza, adding that the company is planning to build similar racing replicas in the future.  

If you’re lucky, perhaps a current 998S owner would be willing to part with his or her machine. But approach with caution: This bike is not meant for everyone.

Ducati, www.ducati.com


Painless Ride
On many sportbikes, you lean forward, squeeze your legs against the machine, fold yourself into the tightest tuck possible, blast around the track, and afterward reach for the aspirin to dull the aches. “You’re ready for a chiropractor,” says Tom Plucinsky, general manager of BMW Motorcycles.  

Although the BMW R 1100 S is a sportbike, it’s a versatile racing-and-touring machine that won’t twist you into a pretzel, leaving you in need of traction after your ride. The 6-speed, 98-hp bike can reach 125 mph, making it a perfect machine for a flat stretch of highway or a day at the racetrack. You can also pack some bags on the luggage mounts, invite a companion, and enjoy a casual cruise in the country. Heated grips keep your hands warm, high handlebars allow for comfort, and the front suspension gives the bike a soft, easy ride. “It has ergonomics that allow it to be ridden all day long,” Plucinsky says. “It’s designed for a racetrack, but it’s versatile. You can also take it for a 300-mile trip.”  

Ultimately, however, speed is the primary characteristic of the R 1100 S. In Europe, the bikes compete in the Boxer Cup International, a popular single-marque series featuring 30 to 50 R 1100 S amateur and professional riders. BMW is considering an American version of the Boxer Cup, which could be your first opportunity to race competitively astride the R 1100 S.

BMW Motorcycles, www.bmwmotorcycles.com

Photo by Gerald Farber Photography
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