Action shot of a black Suzuki Hayabusa

A deep dive into the Gentleman’s Agreement–the reason your sport bike is capped at 299 kph

Motorcycles, especially sportbikes, are the fastest ever. 200 horsepower is the new standard, the electronics are smartest ever, and the most unusual materials ever used to keep weight down. But what hasn’t changed in 23 years is its top speed. No matter what poison you use, a standard sport bike, even a supercharged Kawasaki Ninja H2, can reach top speeds of 299 km/h (186 mph). This isn’t slow at all (not recommended on public roads), but if you’ve ever wondered why your speedometer is stuck at ‘186’, you’re in the right place. That’s exactly what we want to make clear here, and first take a trip to the past to see how the motorcycle got to a distance approaching the magical 300 km/h mark.

The 1990 Kawasaki ZZR1100 Set The Pace

Studio shot of blue Kawasaki ZX-10R

The 1990s was a special time for many reasons: great music, evolving fashion, and TV shows that still had a sense of humor, but no one expected it to be a turning point in the world of motorcycles. bottom. Because at the end of the 1980s Kawasaki introduced the first motorcycle with a ram air intake, the ZZR1100 (or Ninja ZX-11). But the highlight was his 1,052cc in-line four-cylinder engine, which reached 283 km/h (175 mph), earning him the title of ‘Fastest Production Motorcycle in the World’. Little did anyone know, however, that this would lay the groundwork for the popular Japan Speed ​​Wars that followed.

Let the speed war begin

Static studio shot of the 2007 Suzuki Hayabusa

The Ninja ZX-11 survived more than five years unscathed, and the answer came from Honda in 1996. The Tokyo-based manufacturer has unveiled his CBR1100XX Super Blackbird, named after the world’s fastest jet, the Lockheed Martin SR-71. The name was borne out by his 4-cylinder engine that developed 164 horsepower and had a top speed of 287 km / 1,137 cc. h (179 mph) is enabled. Also, the Blackbird had a much sharper design than the dull Ninja.

Meanwhile, Japanese bike maker Suzuki quietly waited for things to calm down and shook the world in 1999 with the Hayabusa GSX-R1300. The name “Hayabusa” made Suzuki’s intentions even clearer, as it was not only the fastest bird on earth…you guessed it, it was applied to the peregrine falcon that hunts blackbirds. The Hayabusa has hidden beneath its bulbous aerodynamic body his 1,299 cc in-line four-cylinder engine that produces 173 horsepower. The factory accelerated Busa to 312 km/h (194 mph), beating all previous records (and competitors’) by a mile.

It was an astonishing feat, but rumors suggested that Kawasaki might make a comeback with a new hyperbike and lead the Suzuki parade. Dubbed the Ninja ZX-12R, it would be the first bike to break the 200-mile mark, but just before Kawasaki made its official announcement, Japan’s speed war took an unexpected turn.

The Gentleman’s Agreement

The Kawasaki ZX-12R was once the fastest motorcycle in the world

While the idea of ​​a 200 mph sport bike sparkled the eyes of bikers, politicians around the world, and especially in Europe (pronounced Karen), were expressing concern about these “death machines.” After all, what if these sport bikes lead to bloodshed? Streets with 200 mph street races? Reasonable or not, this quickly became a major concern, with rumors circulating of a ban on the import of high performance bikes. The final nail in the coffin was when BMW officials sided with politicians to force major bikes to comply with speed limits that electronically limit all sports bikes to 185 mph (196 mph). It was time to convince the manufacturers (Ducati, Suzuki, Kawasaki, Honda). ). That’s what we bikers know as a gentlemen’s agreement.

There’s no concrete evidence to back this up, but the much-touted Ninja ZX-12R makes 190 horsepower in ram air effect (17 horsepower more than the Hayabusa), and strangely reaches a top speed of 186 mph. bottom. Similarly, unlike last year’s model, the Suzuki Hayabusa MY2000 stopped accelerating at 186 mph, confirming that the Gentlemen’s Agreement was indeed in effect. But ironically, the first motorcycles to break the pact came from the same continent that proposed the pact in the first place.

The MV Agusta F4 Broke The Gentleman’s Agreement

The ‘312’ suffix denotes the top speed of MV Agusta F4

Yes you read it correctly. In 2007, MV Agusta took the motorcycle world by storm with his F4 312, whose name ended with the top speed tested. Then it was BMW, also a European manufacturer, who proposed the deal. The company presented its first serious superbike, the S 1000 RR, for the 2009 model year, with a top speed of 303 km/h. As far as the Japanese are concerned, even after 23 years, commercial motorcycles have not broken the gentlemen’s agreement.

Does The Gentleman’s Agreement Make Sense?

Kawasaki Ninja H2 in silver/grey/green, facing right

Well, yes, no. 300 km/h is still fast enough for a street bike and far from safe on public roads. In other words, it takes away the whole point of a speed limiter. And with sportbike horsepower on the rise, it won’t be long before bike makers bother the bears too much to tempt horsepower bans. With a horsepower limit set at just 276 ponies, he is somewhat like the Japanese automaker before 2005.