Apex predators | Bag a used superbike bargain and enjoy genuine racing pedigree on the road

World Superbike has quite literally defined and directed the course of litre-class sportsbikes for the last 20 years with the leading brands developing ever-more potent, extreme and sophisticated machines in a bid to win production-based racing’s premier crown.

Some, of course, have been hugely successful, while others have still proved attractive and desirable for their combination of performance, style and ability.

So, which are great used buys today and what should you look out for?

And don’t forget, you can check out our pick of the best naked motorbikes.

Potent, electronics-laden rocket redefined the class

Aprilia RSV4 MCN Best Buy

Spec: 180bhp / 998cc / 810mm seat height / 203kg kerb weight

Compact, potent, bristling with electronics and utterly focused, Aprilia’s RSV4 and R are the more affordable versions of the all singing, all-dancing RSV4 Factory which won the WSB crown for Max Biaggi in 2012 then again in the hands of Sylvain Guintoli in 2014. The V4 was basically the same, without some of the Factory’s advanced electronics, and the chassis parts were slightly lower spec, but it’s still a beautifully balanced technology-packed Italian missile. It’s monstrously fast, gives you loads of confidence in the corners, has superb ride quality, looks great and sounds even better.

Aprilia RSV4 used buying advice

● There was an issue with conrods (outside supplier) on very early bikes, so if it’s a 2010 model make sure that it’s been checked.
● Top ends are quite noisy but listen carefully for cam chain rattles. Some rocker covers are known to weep a bit of oil.
● Be wary of warning lights on the dash because aftermarket alarms and removing the exhaust valve can throw up CAN-bus errors.

2007-2011 Ducati 1098 – £7,300 – £9,000

The beauty that returned Ducati to WSB-winning form

Ducati 1098 Panigale

Spec: 160bhp / 1099cc / 820mm seat height / 179kg kerb weight

After the mixed response to the 999 (despite winning three WSB crowns) Ducati returned to form in 2007 with the single-sided swing armed Blood red, stunning to look at and absolutely pure in its purpose, Ducati had finally built a sportsbike that could run with the best. In 2008 it was joined by the race-trim, homologation-special 1098 R which won the WSB crown with Troy Bayliss first time out. For 2009 the 1098 was replaced by the enlarged 1198 and Carlos Checa won the crown again in 2011.

Ducati 1098 used buying advice

● Check the service schedule has been followed (especially valve clearances and cam belts).
● Ignition and fuel pump relays cause trouble but are a cheap fix.
● Early bikes collect water in the swingarm, which rusts the lower shock mount. Also make sure the rear wheel adjuster isn’t seized.

2009-2014 Yamaha YZF-R1 – £5,500 – £12,200

The ‘Crossplane’ crank R1 with a pure Rossi soundtrack…

Yamaha YZF-R1

Spec: 179bhp / 998cc / 835mm seat height / 206kg kerb weight

The first ‘crossplane’ crank R1 arrived in 2009, gaining cult status for its novel, reconfigured inline four. The irregular firing order helped it spin-up like a two-stroke and grunt out of corners like a V-twin, while giving superb feel through the rear tyre. Best of all, it sounds just like Rossi’s M1. It won WSB for Ben Spies first time out, but its reign was cut short by the arrival of the S1000RR and RSV4. An update in 2012 improved things and that model remains arguably the best road R1.

Yamaha YZF-R1 used buying advice

● The R1’s cat sits by your heel and cooks it in summer, fit a de-cat link pipe to reduce the build-up of heat, and get the ECU remapped to suit.
● Don’t pay any extra for the Anniversary paint.
● Other than being wary of the 24,000-mile valve clearance service, they’re a solid used buy.

2011-2015 Kawasaki ZX-10R – £6,000 – £8,500

The bike that took Jonathan Rea to the summit of WSB

Kawasaki ZX-10R

Spec: 197bhp / 1099cc / 820mm seat height / 179kg kerb weight

The first of the Japanese bikes to really take the fight to the all conquering BMW S1000RR in 2009 and delivered a superb blend of handling, braking, usable power and decent suspension and, at 198kg fully gassed, had the better power to weight ratio and wasn’t as intense to ride as the BMW. It all added up to a brilliant, accessible track bike and one which quickly evolved into the dominant WSB machine, winning seven crowns between 2013 and 2021.

Kawasaki ZX-10R used buying advice

● In 2013 Kawasaki added an Öhlins Mechatronic (electronically variable) steering damper to the
Ninja, which is worth having.
● The gear linkage can become sloppy, potentially causing damage to the gearbox.
● The finish isn’t great on early examples, so be wary of excessive corrosion on well used bikes.

2009-2011 BMW S1000RR – £7,000 – £8,500

German powerhouse that upset the superbike status quo


Spec: 190bhp / 999cc / 820mm seat height / 204kg kerb weight

The German company’s first venture into modern superbike territory shared similar technology to its rivals in the form of dohc, 16-valves, stacked gearbox and so on but revolutionised the category with a monster 190bhp, impressive fuel injection and cutting-edge electronics. But even though brilliant on the road, the RR never quite succeeded in WSB. A 2012 update was a big leap forward thanks to a host of small, but important mods.

BMW S1000RR used buying advice

● The original RR’s gearbox is weak (third gear usually goes) so avoid bikes used regularly on track.
● Valve clearances need checking at 18,000 miles, which is a bill of over £500 so look at the service history carefully.
● A handful of RRs were sold without the electronics package, avoid these… or pay less!