In typical Milanese style, EICMA, Italy's biggest motorcycle show, was all about being on trend. And that trend was power. The Italian marques had all brought their own one-man rockets, making the whole event a little more forte and a little less for casual riders.
We’re more than happy to chase the trend. While Italian sport bikes have never lacked for power, these new, big-bore V-twins are pushing things into a whole new realm. To understand the magnitude of these little-big engines, you have to look at weight-to-power rations, not just output.
Let’s take the Porsche 911 as an example. In “S” guise, the 3,100 pound (quite light for a car) 911 makes 400 horsepower, meaning that each horse is responsible for moving eight pounds of coupe. In contrast, the Ducati Panigale makes only half the power that the Porsche does, around 200, but weighs in at 420 pounds. The result? Each of the cycle’s horses is tasked with moving only two pounds of bike, making it obscenely fast—under three seconds to sixty, if you can hold on to the handlebars.
Here are our favorite new Italian monsters.
Aprilia RSV4 RR
Don’t be fooled by the pretty way “Aprilia” rolls off the tongue, the company is competent and ruthless. The marque swept the World Superbike Championship just days before the release of this new RSV4. Building off the design of its victorious racing bikes, Aprilia lightened and enlarged its V-4, ending up with a 1,000cc bike with over 200 horsepower. To help put down this power through only one driven wheel, Aprilia included a host of electronic aids: adjustable threshold traction control, wheelie control, launch control, and ABS. For further ease of use, the RSV4 can connect to a rider’s smartphone and share information about engine heat, oil, and tire wear. Additionally, Aprilia is offering a racing graphics pack, higher-end Öhlins suspension parts, and forged aluminum wheels, so you can do victory laps on the street.
Ducati 1299 Panigale
The Papa of Italian sport bikes is not content to rest on its bounteous laurels. Ducati’sPanigale, a recent and riotous addition to its line-up, is getting an overhaul. The classic Ducati V-Twin was bored out to a stocky 116mm diameter though keeps its stratospheric 10,000 RPM redline. Like the Aprilia, output is estimated comfortably over 200 horsepower, with the Ducati having the added bonus of over 100 foot-pounds of torque. Those opting for the “S” trim will enjoy one of the motorcycle world’s first semi-active suspensions (again, Öhlins). While Ducati’s are a lot of flash, they’re also a lot of fight.
Unlike Aprilia and Ducati, Energica is a young upstart with a crackling electric motor. The Eva is simply an evolution of the company’s Ego sport bike. And when we say “simply,” we mean it: The Eva is a street-fighter, stripped of the Ego’s bodywork and stylistic affectations. The handlebar is tubular and the glitzy one-piece alloys are traded for some classic spokes. For $34,000, Energica will sell you a motorcyle without any of the guttural wails Italian bikes are known for, yet with 143 foot-pounds of torque and a 150 top speed, the Eva will be so far ahead that few will be around to comment.
Moto Guzzi Eldorado
It’s been over forty years since Moto Guzzi’s original Eldorado debuted, but, somehow, Guzzi’s standard drivetrain is still around, and still relevant. Just like its forefather, this era’s Eldorado is moved by a 90-degree V-twin engine that’s transversely mounted and drives the rear wheel via a shaft. For driveability’s sake, there have been some updates: traction control and variable throttle-mapping tame the V-twin’s hefty output when needed. To match the old school innards, the Eldorado comes with meticulous pin-striping, chromed knee panels and spoke-wheels with whitewall tires. The Eldorado is elderly, but it’s not going softly.