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Crotch Rockets: A Brief History & Overview

by Max D.

The sun has set. Interstate traffic has died down, leaving only a handful of lonely tractor trailers and late-night drivers on the road. The streetlamps keep time as you pass them by, shining light through the driver’s side window every two-and-a-half seconds.

Suddenly, from seemingly nowhere, you hear the sound of a dozen roaring engines revving up from behind you. You look in your rearview mirror to see headlights, like stars, dancing across the road. Within seconds, fifteen or more motorcycles BRAAAP past you like wolves chasing a bleeding rabbit.

Before you can blink, they’re gone – disappeared into the night.

You’ve just encountered a feral pack of crotch rockets in their native habitat. What are crotch rockets? Where did they come from? Lastly, what are some of the most popular modern-day species?

Discover answers to all those questions and more right now.

What is a Crotch Rocket?

According to that bastion of intellectual integrity and scholarship known as Urban Dictionary, crotch rockets (also called sports bikes) are “a specific type of motorcycle, typically distinguished by its aerodynamic ‘hunched-over’ seating position and high power to weight ratio. Often favoured by stunters, who choose the bikes because they are light and easy to perform tricks (such as wheelies and stoppies) on.”

In other words, they’re really fast, aerodynamic motorcycles that encourage riders to lean forward. When I say really fast, I mean really fast. There are bikes out there that can go 0-60 mph in less than three seconds. Many of them can reach speeds up to and in excess of 200 mph.

That’s the reason people call them crotch rockets. Riding one is like strapping a NASA rocket between your legs and counting down from 10.

Where did the Crotch Rocket Come From?

Crotch rockets have come a long way since the mid-1980s. Not only have they gotten faster and more compact, they’ve also taken advantage of the latest engineering advances. The crotch rocket motorcycles coming off the lines today would make the original sports bikes look more like bicycles. We’ve all got start somewhere. So, where’d the crotch rocket start?

Kawasaki GPZ900R

Most crotch rocket motorcycle experts agree that the Kawasaki GPZ900R is the father (or grandfather, depending on who you ask) of the modern-day sport bike. First released in 1984, this was a bike that took Kawasaki six years to perfect and release. When they did, it became the fastest motorcycle in the world. By moving the compact engine further down on the frame, it would set the stage for further refinements that would eventually lead to the entire Kawasaki Ninja line.

Over the past thirty years or so, a couple dozen different models were released under the Ninja line, including single-, two-, and four-cylinder models.

While numerous models are worth recognizing (including the highly competitive Ninja ZX-6R), we’d like to highlight the newest in the Ninja line: The H2R model.

Kawasaki Ninja H2R

This crotch rocket motorcycle is in a class all its own. First released in 2015, it’s the culmination of everything that Kawasaki had done prior. Not only is it sleek and sexy, it holds several speed records. Its makers claim that it can reach up to (and perhaps a little over) 240 mph. In short, it’s the kind of bike that you’d either have to be crazy or fearless to ride. And that makes it the perfect crotch rocket.

Honda CBR1100XX

While Kawasaki created the crotch rocket, they haven’t been the only companies to refine or produce them. Honda noticed what Kawasaki was doing and proceeded to create their own sports bikes, including the well-known CBR900RR. It wasn’t until the mid-1990s, when Honda created the CBR1100XX that they were able to unseat Kawasaki’s Ninja ZX-11 as the fastest production motorcycle. The CBR1100XX Super Blackbird’s large displacement engine propelled it to the front of the pack and made Honda into a genuine crotch rocket powerhouse.

Suzuki Hayabusa

Honda wasn’t Kawasaki’s only competition. Suzuki has also released a number of models over the years. None has been so beloved as the Hayabusa. In Japanese the word Hayabusa refers to the peregrine falcon, one of the fastest birds in the world – and a predator of blackbirds (yea, the name was a not-so-subtle dig at Honda’s Super Blackbird). Just like its namesake, the Hayabusa was able to overtake the Honda Super Blackbird and claim the title of fastest standard production bike of the 20th century.

Ducati 916

Based on what we’ve seen so far, you might get the faulty impression that crotch rockets are a uniquely Japanese vehicle. Plenty of European companies have produced sports bikes as well. Few have been as beloved as Ducati’s 916, a slick and influential crotch rocket from the early 1990s. During its heyday, it even included the most powerful two-cylinder engine – making it an incredible choice for anyone who wanted to blow the doors off the competition and look good doing it.

While these have been some of the most influential crotch rocket motorcycles to ever be produced, they only scratch the surface. Dozens of other amazing, influential bikes could be mentioned, from the Yamaha YZF-R1 to the BMW S1000RR.

No matter your style or budget, there’s a crotch rocket out there just waiting for you. Just be sure to hold on tight when you hit the gas. Always look for the blue and red flashing lights.

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