The FASTEST Motorcycles Of All Time!

Ayup everyone,

Well this is an attempt at a bit of a history lesson about the search for speed within the motorcycle industry. It tells the story of the motorcycles that stretched the speed barriers to become the fastest production motorcycles of their day.

I have chosen to concentrate on the last 100 years because that just worked out as the best place to start. There was one particular surprise for me too, and I hope there is at least one or two for you.

It is undoubtedly going to be a bit of an epic, and I will put timestamps in to help you find your way around or watch it in sections if that’s what you prefer.

It does highlight something that I have avoided in the past but as time goes on it has become increasingly hard. I have always tried to avoid putting the same bikes in multiple videos, but as several of the bikes here have been featured previously I cant help but mention them again in this context.

I often go into them in more detail in the various other videos. And I do talk about different aspects of the bikes so don’t forget to check out the other video’s on the channel.

The early years

Now I decided to look at the last 100 years because they do start with a big milestone, but I have to mention the bikes that led to that point briefly.

The Hildebrand and Wolfmuller parallel twin first built in 1894 was the first motorcycle to officially hold the title of fastest production motorcycle. It produced just 2 and a half Horsepower and could reach a top speed of around 28mph or 45kmh. It was fastest, primarily because it was the first, and it was here that the quest for speed began.

The New Werner Motocyclette followed in 1901, developed from an earlier 216cc single cylinder motorcycle. Capacity was gradually increased to 333cc to push the top speed up to 30mph or 48kmh by 1908.

In 1911 the FN Four 500cc inline 4 was released producing 4HP. It had a top speed of 40mph or 64kmh, but in 1912 the Scott 2 speed took over with a recorded top speed of 50mph or 80kmh.

1913 saw the release of the Williamson 1000cc flat twin which took the record to 55mph or 89kmp and then we got the Pope Model L in 1914. A 1000cc V Twin that produced 12HP for a 70mph or 110kmh top speed.

1916 saw a big jump and the Cyclone 1000cc V Twin produced 25HP and had a top speed of 85mph or 137kmh. Despite the efforts of companies like Excelsior, the Cyclone kept the title of the fastest production motorcycle for the next 9 years, until 1925

This is where today’s story really begins.

1925 saw the release of a bike that would forever change the world of motorcycles.

It began as all good motorcycle stories do, with a disagreement.

Brough Superior SS100

George Brough was a racer, he had worked in his fathers factory in Nottingham England since 1908 and Brough motorcycles were renowned for their quality. But George wanted to build a motorcycle that would take the quality of the Brough brand further, and add real race bike performance.

Originally powered by engines from J.A. Prestwich, every inch of the motorcycle was custom built for each customer, no 2 were ever exactly the same. It was in 1925 that the first J.A.P. engined Brough Superior SS100 broke the 100mph or 160kmh barrier, and every SS100 that was made was pre tested by George Brough to ensure it reached that quoted speed.

It was said that every SS100 was built at least twice. Once to assemble all the parts, then it was completely stripped for all the parts to be sent for painting and finishing, before a final Assembly and testing was done. If at any stage something did not come up to the exacting standards of the Nottingham man, they were sent back to the factory and the whole process started again.

Initially the engine produced 45HP, but by 1934 the 100mph top speed had been pushed up to 110mph or 180kmh and there was simply no other motorcycle that could compete when it came to outright speed.

The Brough Superior SS100 held the record for the fastest production bike for a whole 22 years, although I do have to give a special mention here to the 1936 Crocker V Twin. Producing 50HP it managed to equal the top speed of the SS100, and 1936 actually saw another contender make it a 3 way tie for the title.

Crocker V Twin

Crocker were new kids on the block and their 1000cc V Twin with a revolutionary hemispherical head design was carving its place in history in America. They were hand made in very small numbers but were built with that same philosophy of performance and quality that Brough Superior had become known for in the UK. The Crocker was very much the American Brough.

The other new contender would go on to become probably the most iconic motorcycle of all time.


Vincent had begun manufacturing in 1928, but in 1934 they began work on 2 new engines. A 500cc single, and a 1000cc V Twin. By 1936 their Vincent Class A Rapide had equalled the 110mph records of the Crocker and Brough, but Vincent wanted more.

It was in 1949, 22 years after the 110mph record was set at Pendine by the Brough Superior SS100 and 15 years of engine development later, that the Vincent Black Shadow and race tuned Black Lightning were officially launched. The Shadow would reach a top speed of 125mph, breaking the 200kph barrier, and the Black Lightning was even faster.

To list its many technical innovations would be endless. Cantilever rear suspension gave a torsional strength to the rear end that meant it was both lighter and stronger than anything built previously, a revolutionary hydraulic girder front fork set up transformed front end suspension too.

They also pioneered the use of the engine as a stressed member of the chassis to loose even more weight.

The 1000cc V Twin of the Vincent produced 70HP and the Black Lightning could hit a top speed of 150mph or 260kph.

Now let us think about that for a moment. Imagine if next year, instead of a 200mph Superbike, someone came out and said oh I have built one that does 300mph? Can you imagine the shock in the press that would cause?

I can’t stress how much of a leap this was, as the bikes that followed would find out.

Despite the company closing in 1955, the record of the Vincent Black lightening would stand for the next 35 years.

Because of the closure of the Vincent factory, we entered a period I will call the great reset.

The Great Reset

With the Vincent no longer in production a new race began with some new contenders.

Technically in 1956 the BSA Gold Star Clubman became the fastest production motorcycle, even though it would only equal the 110mph top speed set by the Brough almost 30 years before.

Some would argue that the early Harley Sportster even held the crown shortly, as did the BSA Rocket 3, but these two entries are mired in controversy.

1969 gave us the Honda CB750, which probably had more right to be crowned the fastest in that period, but it had its thunder stolen.

Kawasaki H1 Mach 3

The CB750 had an arch nemesis. That was the Kawasaki H1 Mach 3, an all new 500cc air cooled, 2 stroke triple. Kawasaki beat Honda to market as well as beating them on speed.

This was a motorcycle in its rawest form. Light, powerful, noisy, smelly and above all fast. It had many flaws and was known for its ability to throw any unsuspecting rider off at the slightest twitch of the throttle, but the buyers loved it, and it has become a cult motorcycle in the years since.

The Honda and Kawasaki both had top speeds claimed to be around the 125mph or 201kmh mark, but the Kawasaki was just faster in the real world.

This did equal the top speed of the Vincent Black Shadow in its non tuned state, but it would still be many years before the Vincent Black Lightning’s record was Broken.

Kawasaki Z1

1972 gave us another icon. The Kawasaki Z1 arrived, producing over 80HP from its 900cc, air cooled, double overhead camshaft, inline 4 engine. It was capable of 132mph or 212kph and set a new standard for its day.

The Z900 was the brainchild of the great Ken Inamura. A designer and engineer whose name should always be remembered. Its smooth lines and meticulous design has stood the test of time better than most and it is one of the most sought after motorcycles of the modern era.

By the mid 70’s the Italians were coming. Ducati made their mark first in 1975 with the 80HP V Twin 900SS. It was less powerful than the Kawasaki, but it was lighter, and in theory at least could just about outrun the Z1, with a top speed of 135mph or 217kmh.

This is another motorcycle that is immediately recognisable even in silhouette. Its aggressive stance and race like riding position made it the bike that adorned the walls of every teenage wannabee racer.

Exotic and out of reach for most, it came with a price tag that would always mean it was a rare sight on the roads, but it will always be remembered as one of the truly great sports bikes of its day.

Laverda Jota

Next, in 1976, came the mighty Laverda Jota. The Jota was the complete antithesis of the Ducati 900SS.

It was big and brutish with more power than any other bike of its day. I talk more about it in the best sounding 4 strokes video.

The 1000cc triple engine was a beast and produced over 90HP to give the Jota a top speed of 140mph or 225kmh and this was pushed up to 145mph or 235kph by 1981.

The later engines used a new 120 degree crank design and the rough edges evident in the earlier models had been ironed out. For some, this makes the later 120 engines the one to go for, for others, the early 180 degree engines will always be the weapon of choice.

The Laverda Jota would retain its crown for the next 8 years until in 1984 we finally got a motorcycle that could challenge the Vincent Black Lightnings all time record again.

Honda VF1000R

1984 began with the release of the Honda VF1000R. A race bred V4 1000cc Superbike with gear driven cams, the VF1000R had been built for speed and was a road going race bike from the ground up. 122 raging horses would drag the sleek fully faired VF1000R to a top speed of 150mph or 240kmh finally equalling the long standing record of the Vincent.

The introduction of full racing style fairings onto road bikes was a masterstroke in many ways. As well as making the bikes cut through the air faster, and making higher speeds attainable, they were a billboard to hang the name of the brand in a way that had only ever been seen on the track before.

The reign of the the VF1000R would be short lived though. Later in 1984 we saw the birth of another legend. The Kawasaki GPZ900R or as it became known, the first of a great line of Kawasaki Ninja’s.

Kawasaki GPZ900R

Kawasaki had been pushing the power of their big fours ever since the original Z1 and by 1984c, the now liquid cooled 900cc powerplant had 16 valves and would push out around 115HP.

It finally broke the 150mph barrier, just, with a top speed of 151mph or 243kph. By 1996 this was pushed up even higher, to 158mph to finally break the 250kph barrier.

The GPZ900R was another motorcycle filled with innovations from the racing world but the package was more balanced and rideable than the bikes that had come before it. Handling was superb for such a big bike and it set a new standard the other would have to follow.

The arms race between the big 4 Japanese manufacturers was now stepping up to a whole new level.

Suzuki GSXR1000

1986 saw the release of the Suzuki GSXR1100, a bike that became known as the Slabside. Suzuki’s new 1050cc inline 4 engine pushed power up to 125HP and gave the GSXR a top speed of 160mph or 257kmh and this was another bike that would go on to seal its place in the motorcycle hall of fame.

The GSXR750 had been a winner for Suzuki and it made complete sense to put the bigger bore 1100 engine into a similar package. The frame was strengthened and the oil assisted air cooling system tested to its limits and beyond before release. A dual pressure oil system meant cooled oil was pumped at high pressure direct to the crank bearings, and this engine design proved one of the longest lasting ideas of the modern era.

Every manufacturer was searching for more power and now, aerodynamics would begin to play an ever more important role as the unbridled power of these bikes tried to punch a hole through the air faster than their rivals.

The 1987 Honda CBR1000F tried to push the barrier up again and produced over 130HP, but with a top speed of just 154mph it couldn’t quite out-drag the GSXR.

Then came the Yamaha FZR1000 Genesis, producing 135HP, It could keep up with the GSXR but again never quite outran it. Until you reached the corners that is.

The FZR Genesis somehow managed to package the handling of a 750 into the 1000cc bike and this is what the Genesis would be remembered so fondly for. It was just more forgiving than any of its rivals.

1988, saw Kawasaki take the crown again.

Kawasaki ZX10 Tomcat

The ZX10R Tomcat was a missile. Producing the same 135HP as the FZR Genesis, the Tomcat was just faster through the air. It had a recognised top speed of 165Mph or 266kph and a reputation for brutal power delivery.

The Tomcat wasn’t as much a new design as a development of the earlier Ninja 900R, but it pushed the barrier up again.

This is an underrated motorcycle that can still be found at bargain prices on the 2nd hand market. It doesn’t yet hold the cult status of many of the other bikes here.

If you are in the market for a budget classic, there are some Tomcats out there for silly money and if you are patient you might find a beautifully cared for gem of a motorcycle that has to become more collectible in the future.

Yamaha FZR1000 EXUP

Yamaha fought back, they had poured every ounce of R&D money they could into the FZR Genesis project and in 1989 we saw an all new flagship.

The Yamaha FZR 1000 EXUP took the frame and tech from the OW01 Superbike and a newly updated version of the Genesis engine and worked their magic to bring us the sweetest handling Hyper-sports bike that had ever graced our roads.

The EXUP as it affectionately became known, had a variable baffle in the exhaust which gave it incredibly usable midrange power without sacrificing the top end speed on the engine.

The new engine pushed power up to 145HP and the EXUP would reach speeds of 167mph or 269kph, but again, it was the handling of this all powerful machine that set it apart from the rest.

Year by year the boundaries were pushed and the bikes were being designed with one purpose, to be the fastest. Each year brought a new challenger

In 1990, we got the successor to the Tomcat.

Kawasaki ZZR1100

Not to be outdone by the EXUP, Kawasaki had bored out and retuned the Tomcat engine and mounted it in a bigger longer chassis built for high speed stability to produce the ZZR1100.

Although in many ways set up more as a touring bike, the new ZZR1100 produced the same 145HP as the EXUP but somehow managed to squeeze an extra few mph from that power.

Top speed was in the range of 170mph or 275kmh although at times it was clocked faster. Over the next few years it reigned supreme and its top speed was gradually pushed up to 175Mph or 280kmh before our next contender came along.


Honda CBR1100XX Super Blackbird

It was 1996 when that happened, and the bike was the now fabled Honda CBR1100XX Super Blackbird.

Honda’s new 1100cc inline 4 produced a then staggering power of over 160HP. They had also worked harder than ever on the aerodynamics. They took the crown with a new record breaking top speed of 180mph or 290kmh.

They were pushing to break the 300kmh barrier but couldn’t quite get there in standard trim. However, this was a bike few people had the guts to ride flat out.

The Blackbird is another iconic bike, and the engine a masterpiece, with that typical Honda reliability as well as ultimate performance. Somehow, they also managed to wrap this bike up in a package that delivered comfort at speed in a way none of its predecessors had been able too.

Speed, comfort and reliability is a hard package to deliver, but Honda managed it so well with the CBR1100XX Super Blackbird that it raised the bar again for the rest.

3 years after the birth of the Honda CBR1100XX Super Blackbird, another beast was unleashed on the motorcycle world.

Suzuki GSXR1300 Hayabusa

This motorcycle was a predator, sent by Suzuki to hunt down the Honda and wrench the crown from the head of the Blackbird.

It was 1999 and I guess Suzuki wanted to end the century with a bang. It had been back in 1986 when they had last won the race to produce the fastest production motorcycle. Now, with a new 1300cc inline 4 engine to power it, they unleashed the Hayabusa, onto the world.

You can literally see the lines of the peregrine Falcon it is named after, mirrored in the shapes of the bodywork of the Hayabusa, and it was a bold statement by Suzuki.

This was a motorcycle where the term unbridled power seemed almost like an understatement. 173HP propelled this Titan of a motorcycle up to a maximum speed of around 190mph which finally broke the 300kph barrier once and for all.

That first Hayabusa was only made for a year, An agreement was made whereby none of the big manufacturers would release any more motorcycles capable of reaching a speed in excess of 186mph.

But something you may not know and I certainly didn’t, is that it didn’t actually end there.


Kawasaki ZX12R

In 2000, Kawasaki released the ZX12R, not to be confused with the ZX12C or ZZR1200 which were also incredible bikes. The ZX12R was the mutant child their incredible ZX10R Superbike and the equally astounding ZX12C.

It produced almost 180HP and for the very first year was also unrestricted, it was capable of 194mph or 312kph. I will be honest and say this is a motorcycle I knew nothing about. I had never even heard of it, so it is a great example of the fact we all have something to learn.

It is an unsung hero beside the Hayabusa, but that doesn’t alter the fact that it did break the record of the Hayabusa before they were both restricted.

It was built using a unique monocoque chassis and the front of the chassis fed the air from the nose through a filter mounted within the monocoque, force feeding it to the bank of carbs. This increased the efficiency of the Kawasaki Ram Air system and took performance to new levels.

From 2001 onwards, as with the later Hayabusa’s, it would be restricted to 186mph, but for that one year it was the fastest motorcycle of all.

It was the precursor to the ZX1400, which I have to mention, but the ZX1400 despite the many improvements, would always be restricted and its full potential only released by owners after purchase, so as a production motorcycle it just doesn’t quite make the cut.

The Gentlemens Agreement

It took an Italian to tear up that gentleman’s agreement.

That man was Claudio Castiglioni.

MV Agusta F4

With the expertise of master designer Massimo Tamburini and the what was left of the Cagiva Research and development department, they built the MV Agusta F4.

I wax lyrical about the MV Agusta F4 in the 12 Breathtaking Italian Motorcycles video, so I won’t subject you to more here. but the MV Agusta F4 312 really was a masterpiece.

Producing over 180HP, the F4 was light and streamlined as well as being a contender for the best looking motorcycle ever built. It would reach 193mph or 311kmh so for now the ZX12R still reigned supreme, and the future of unrestricted motorcycles now lay in the hands of the customers.

With a few obvious exceptions all future models would arrive restricted.

The 2 most obvious exceptions are very different bikes.

Kawasaki H2R

The first, the Kawasaki H2R, is a bike that we all know now. The unrestricted track use only cousin of the Supercharged H2.

The Kawasaki H2R will produce over 320HP and reach speeds of 250mph or 400kmh.

This might not be the same jump in speed that the Vincent Black Lightning was from the rest of the market but it is the closest we have got since. It has no real rivals when it comes to outright top speed.

The H2R is a living legend and has featured in previous videos, but it is testament to the amazing engineering prowess at Kawasaki Heavy Industries.

Ducati Panigale R V Twin

Another bike I have to mention is the V Twin Ducati Panigale R which in certain factory specials produces 200HP. With a full race tune they will reach 202mph or 325kmh.

They could be ordered from the factory in race prepped form, but they were not really a full production bikes. But they do need mentioning.

There were various models including the now legendary 2014 Superleggera, a 155Kg stripped down race bike with a magnesium frame, swingarm and wheels. But only 500 of these machines were ever built and even back in 2014 they had a price tag of £54,000.

Now, the Panigale package has now moved on again and here I want to give a mention to CrashTestGoat and the GOATARMY. I know some of you will be watching.

My subscribers know I have been looking at bringing real bikers who are also creators together and Crash Test Goat is the latest channel to join the fold. If you like extreme speed. And general bike chat, He does a live podcast every evening and has all my respect for mentioning the channel when he used some of our video clips.

That is the way it should be. He needed no prompting. Go check the channel out. I will link it in the description.

Ducati Panigale V4R and Others

The new Panigale V4 was at the forefront of the latest reset, and despite them all being sold only in restricted form, the present band of Superbikes are a breed apart.

Going forward 200HP became the norm. Bikes like the ZX10R, BMW S1000RR and M1000, Panigale V4, Aprilia RSV4, GSXR’s and CBRR’s all have a place, but the restrictions make any real comparisons beyond who wins on the track impossible.

The world of fast bikes is now a complicated one, ruled by electronic trickery.

Unlike the Superbikes of old, they are all well beyond the skills of most of us now.

I do talk about the other newer Superbikes and more in the 2nd of the Dangerous Bikes videos linked at the end, but without fettling, they are all kept closer to that gentleman’s agreement made so many years ago.

Race tune kits are available for them all, just as with the Panigale R, but that would be a whole other can of worms to open.

A final motorcycle to mention

Lastly, I will mention the Lightning 218. An electric motorcycle that few will have seen or ridden, but with a design speed of 218mph and a recorded top speed of 216mph.

The company does seem to be under a lot of scrutiny and there is some controversy over how many Lightning motorcycles have ever been built and delivered. Personally, I am yet to see one or hear from an actual customer outside of vague social media posts and forum comments.

It is as far as I am aware, still the fastest street legal production motorcycle available, if you can get one.

That achievement can’t be underestimated, but as I have said before, the electric motorcycle phenomenon is not my area of expertise, and few if any of us will ever have seen or ridden one. If any of you have, I would love to hear about your experiences, so do leave a comment and I will answer as soon as I can.

The Fastest Production Bike Of All

Suffice to say, and I know this will upset a few Hayabusa owners, depending on your viewpoint, the unsung hero of this video and supreme champion of speed in the world of production bikes is actually the Kawasaki ZX12R.

Or you could say the Kawasaki H2R are the fastest production motorcycles you can buy, but as the H2R is technically track only use in most markets, it is, as always debatable.

This is a list that is about the history of the quest for speed with motorcycles powered by internal combustion engines, so I will let someone else take the list into what will inevitably be a new era where electric motorcycles vie for that top spot as the fastest production motorcycle..

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