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The Best Track Motorcycles For Closed-Circuit Riding

Best Track Only Motorcycles 0 Hero
Photo: KTM RC 8C

Piloting a state-of-the-art supercar on a closed course is one of the most fun and exhilarating activities that one can experience, however, automobiles with these performance capabilities come at a price that only an elite and affluent few can afford. Motorcycles, on the other hand, are markedly more accessible, with a lower barrier to entry and cheaper running costs — all while maintaining the ability to go toe-to-toe with some of the world’s most advanced hypercars.

And while there are plenty of road-legal superbikes and Supersports that make for great track day machines, ultimately nothing compares to a purpose-built, ready-made race model straight from the factory. And it’s this group of two-wheeled track weapons that we’ll be exploring today in this guide to the best track-only motorcycles currently in production. In addition to counting down our picks for the best closed-course bikes, we’ll also be delving into what exactly a track-only model is, as well as what factors to take into account when shopping for one.

The Best Track Motorcycles Breakdown

Closed-Course Machines

What Is A Track-Only Motorcycle?

As the moniker would suggest, track-only bikes are non-street-legal motorcycles that are engineered specifically for use on a closed course track. As such, these machines — which represent the pinnacle of performance on two-wheels — are devoid of typical road-going bits like license plates, indicators, mirrors, and lighting, and their standard suites of bodywork are replaced by race-spec fairings with monoposto (i.e. single passenger) seating setups and no cutouts to accommodate headlights. Not needing to conform to regular road-going laws, track-only motorcycles tend to come straight from the factory with a host of race-spec equipment such as (non-street-legal) high-performance full race exhaust systems paired with new ECUs.

Often directly derived straight from manufacturers’ factory race programs, these bikes feature super high-end (and super-tight) track-focused suspension and GP-spec braking hardware, and more often than not feature massaged engines with upgraded internals. There are also other minor differences that distinguish track-only bikes from their road-going counterparts such as the former’s coming safety-wired for racing, as well as sporting smaller elements such as front and rear spools for track stands, and race-spec items replacing a bike’s standard display and switchgear arrangement. And, not only do track-only motorcycles almost always meet regulations for closed-course circuit and race use, but many of them come preloaded with software and hardware for later reviewing metrics and data from your time out on the track.

Two-Wheeled Track Weapons

The Main Factors To Consider When Buying A Track Bike

Though there is some overlap, buying a track-only motorcycle is a very different process than purchasing a regular road-going bike. To help simplify this admittedly complex segment, we’ve broken down the eight most crucial areas to take into account before deciding on your final purchase.

Engine: As the heart of the motorcycle, the engine is of extreme importance. When reviewing this area, you’ll want to consider an engine’s displacement (i.e. size), type/layout, and power output, as well as possible finer points like cooling system and cam setup, just to name a few. Unsurprisingly, due to the track-only nature of these machines, many of the mills found in these models are extremely potent and often possess technology or features that have been derived from factory race programs. It’s also worth looking into an engine’s internal components, as these are often up-specced and frequently include race-grade items.

Bodywork: The easiest way to identify a track-only motorcycle is its bodywork. Unlike street-legal models that sport turn signals, license plates, passenger elements, and cutouts in their fairings to accommodate headlights and the like, track-only machines lack these elements and are designed to be as aerodynamic and lightweight as possible. In an effort to save on weight without compromising a model’s drag coefficient, many track-only motorcycles come outfitted with lightweight carbon fiber bodywork.

Frame: To the uninitiated, a motorcycle’s frame might not seem all that important, however, this couldn’t be further from the truth, as a bike’s chassis plays a monumental role in a given machine’s handling characteristics and stability. When looking into this area, you’ll want to explore the frame type and the material(s) used to construct it, as well as the material used to craft the subframe and swing arm. Typically utilizing the engine as a stressed member, the frames on track-only models vary from everything from trellis and space frames to single-piece monocoques. Some of the more elite offerings in this category even boast frames made entirely from carbon fiber.

Running Gear: Another factor that plays a pivotal role in a track-only bike’s performance is its running gear. This includes componentry such as the suspension and brakes, as well as the wheels and other pieces of unsprung mass. Again, more often than not, these items are plucked straight from factory race team bikes and typically represent some of the best components that money can buy.

Adjustability: For a track-only motorcycle to be properly piloted to anywhere near its full potential, it needs to be set up for and precisely fit its rider, which is where adjustability comes into play. Many bikes will offer adjustable clip-ons (i.e. handlebars) and multi-way adjustable rear-sets, though some of the most advanced machines boast adjustable frames that can be fine-tuned to perfectly fit a rider’s size and riding style, as well as the circuit. A properly fitting bike will also make exhibiting correct body positioning markedly easier.

Rider Aids: With today’s literbikes putting down more than 200hp — often at the rear wheel — today’s high-performance motorcycles offer insane amounts of horsepower and torque. So much so, in fact, that manufacturers have had to develop complex electronic rider aids and assists to help keep the bike’s immense and evergrowing power in check — and to keep the things from constantly looping the second riders crack the throttle — in the form of traction control, wheelie control, slide control, engine braking control, rear-wheel lift mitigation, and launch control, just to name a few. These systems are often adjustable and can be custom programmed.

Weight: Lotus founder Colin Chapman famously said “simplify and add lightness” when describing the philosophy behind his vehicles’ development, and this principle remains largely intact to this day — with track-only motorcycles being no exception. Built to go around a race track as fast as possible, track-only bikes are stripped of all non-essential elements in a bid to yield the lightest and most potent machines possible. As a result, many of today’s finest track-only motorcycles boast incredibly svelte curb weights and remarkable power-to-weight ratios, making this an area well worth looking into.

Race & Track Bits: Track-only motorcycles also tend to come outfitted with a variety of common upgrades that you’d see on production road-going bikes-turned-track weapons. This includes elements such as engine crash covers, lever guards, billet caps, and swing-arm spools for track stands, just to name a few.

Aftermarket Availability: Track-only motorcycles save buyers the trouble of having to modify an existing production model and turn it into a track-ready machine. And while some models in this segment already come fitted with some of the finest components on the planet, others still offer room for improvement and can be upgraded with aftermarket parts. However, the rarer and more exotic a given model is, the harder it will be to find aftermarket parts, as well as replacement spares that you’ll no doubt eventually need.

Race-Grade Runners

The Best Track-Only Motorcycles

Now that you’re up to speed on what a track-only bike is and what factors to consider when shopping for one, let’s dive into our picks for the dozen best track-only and race motorcycles currently on the market.

Ohvale GP2

Ohvale GP2
Photo: Ohvale
Why It Made The Cut
  • A high-performance mini moto racer that’s a fantastic training tool for adults — as well as an extremely fun time on the kart track.

Best Mini Bike: Founded by Valerio Da Lio, Ohvale is a boutique Italian firm that produces high-performance minibikes for use on small technical circuits and kart tracks. Utilized as a training tool by some of the world’s top MotoGP and WSBK riders, the company’s GP-2 model is 5″ taller, 4.3″ wider, and 5.5″ longer than its GP-0 predecessor, allowing it to better accommodate fully-grown adult riders. Powered by a Japanese-made Daytona 190 engine mated to a four-speed manual gearbox, the GP-2 is brimming with surprisingly high-end componentry including an aluminum swing-arm, fully adjustable suspension, and a trick Arrow exhaust system.

Engine: Air-Cooled 187.2cc Single-Cylinder
Power: 20HP
Top Speed: 80+MPH
Weight: 156LBS
Origin: Italy
MSRP: $6,749

Honda NSF250R

Honda NSF250R
Photo: Honda
Why It Made The Cut
  • A super-capable quarter-liter race bike that’s been used to achieve countless race wins and championship titles.

Best 250 Class: First released in 2012 as the successor to HRC’s RS125R two-stroke racer, the NSF250R is the result of decades of competition experience, weighing just 185lbs while still being capable of nearly 150mph speeds. Manufactured by the Honda Racing Corporation, the NSF250R is an excellent track-day choice for both novice riders and seasoned racers alike, offering genuine high-performance capabilities while still plenty forgiving and offering a decent margin for error. Over the last decade, this Japanese-made motorcycle model has also been used to achieve five Moto-3 championship titles.

Engine: Liquid-Cooled 249.3cc Single-Cylinder
Power: 47.6HP & 20.65FT-LBS
Top Speed: 149MPH
Weight: 185LBS
Origin: Japan
MSRP: $10,250

Husqvarna FS 450

Husqvarna FS 450
Photo: Husqvarna
Why It Made The Cut
  • An insanely-fun and incredibly nimble factory-built circuit-only supermoto based on a modified 450 class dirt bike.

Best Supermoto: Another incredibly capable two-wheeler built for tearing up the kart track, Husqvarna’s FS 450 is a turnkey supermoto race bike with remarkable performance capabilities and razor-sharp handling right out of the box. Essentially a dirt bike that’s been modified exclusively for use on the tarmac, this closed-course hooligan machine comes loaded with high-end componentry including WP XACT suspension front and aft, a Pankl Racing Systems five-speed gearbox, top-shelf brakes and a hydraulic clutch from Brembo, CNC machined triple clamps, ProTaper bars, a carbon fiber composite subframe, and spoked Alpina wheels shod in Bridgestone racing slicks.

Engine: Liquid-Cooled 449.9 cc Single-Cylinder
Power: 63HP & 33FT-LBS
Top Speed: 80+MPH
Weight: 227LBS
Origin: Sweden
MSRP: $11,999

Yamaha YZF-R6 Race

Yamaha R6 Race
Photo: Yamaha
Why It Made The Cut
  • A track-only variant of a class-leading motorcycle that’s been further improved via a series of components from the GYTR parts bin.

Best 600 Class: Out of all the 600cc supersport models, Yamaha’s YZF-R6 is unequivocally the best and most capable track weapon — as evidenced by its growing number of WSSP championship titles. Interestingly, aside from a full bodywork redesign in 2017 and the addition of electronic rider aids, the R6 has gone almost entirely unchanged since 2006, encapsulating the ethos of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Recognizing the model’s popularity as a track day bike, the Tuning Fork Company has recently debuted a race-ready track-only-spec of the R6, complete with numerous upgrades and tweaks including a safety-wired harness, a magnesium subframe, an R1 43mm USD fork and brakes, mirror block-off plates, and a full race exhaust paired with a matching ECU.

Engine: Liquid-Cooled 599cc Inline-Four
Power: 116.8HP & 45.5FT-LBS
Top Speed: 165+MPH
Weight: 418.8LBS
Origin: Japan
MSRP: $12,699

Aprilia RSV4 1100 Stock2 APX Race

Aprilia RSV4 1100 Stock2 APX Race
Photo: Aprilia
Why It Made The Cut
  • A lightweight, race-spec version of an already immensely-capable flagship superbike that’s been upgraded by Aprilia’s MotoGP race techs.

Best Superbike Class: The Aprilia RSV4 1100 Stock2 APX Race starts at as the marque’s already immensely capable flagship superbike before being bestowed with a host of lightweight race-spec components that are all installed by the same individuals that build and service Aprilia’s MotoGP and WSBK machines. Upgrades on this V-4-powered superbike include Ohlins suspension front and rear, Brembo brakes, completely machined aluminum five-arm split spoke wheels, an adjustable triple, and a specially tuned APX ECU that unlocks 217hp. The price of this machine also includes direct access to the Italian firm’s factory tac technicians, who are incredibly knowledge and helpful — assuming on race weekends when they’re literally servicing Aprilia’s factory MotoGP and WSBK racers. 

Engine: Liquid-Cooled 1,099cc V-4
Power: 217HP
Top Speed: N/A
Weight: 313LBs
Origin: Italy
MSRP: $30,370


Photo: KTM
Why It Made The Cut
  • A MotoGP-inspired, 890-based, fully-faired supersport that was developed in collaboration with Krämer.

Best Mid-Sized: Taking inspiration from the Ready To Race brand’s RC16 MotoGP bikes, KTM’s RC-8C is a spare-no-expense track-only machine based on the brand’s 890 Duke R model. Developed in collaboration with Krämer, the now-second-generation RC-8C features a 25CrMo4 steel tubular frame paired with WP APEX PRO suspension front and aft, Dymag forged wheels shod in Pirelli SC1 racing slicks, Brembo Stylema Monobloc calipers, GP-style switchgear, a dedicated racing exhaust with an Akrapovič titanium muffler, RC16-style carbon fiber bodywork with MotoGP-style aerodynamic winglets, a 5” TFT AIM MXS 1.2 RACE display and data logger, and titanium hardware throughout. Each of the 200 units produced also comes with a host of spare parts.

Engine: Liquid-Cooled 889cc Parallel-Twin
Power: 135HP & 72.3FT-LBS
Top Speed: 174MPH
Weight: 313LBS
Origin: Austria
MSRP: $39,599

Krämer GP2-890RR

Kramer GP2 890RR
Photo: Krämer
Why It Made The Cut
  • A razor-sharp KTM-powered track weapon that’s been engineered from the ground up specifically for racing & closed-course riding.

Best Overall Pick: Krämer is a boutique brand that trades in purpose-built, handmade track bikes that are constructed around existing engines from KTM. The company’s latest, greatest, and most high-performance model to date is the Krämer GP2-890RR. Limited to only 125 units worldwide, this supersport race bike has been engineered from the ground up for track use rather than being a modified road-going production bike. Constructed around a Chromoly steel-trellis frame, the GP2-890RR features WP APEX PRO suspension front and rear, forged aluminum Dymag wheels, carbon and Kevlar-reinforced fiberglass bodywork, an AiM MXS 1.3 Race GPS display with data logger, and a full suite of rider aids including nine-level traction control, a pit-lane speed-limiter, ride-by-wire throttle, and adjustable wheelie control. Weighing just 313lbs in ready-to-race condition, the bike is powered by a 138-hp 889cc twin with a six-speed gearbox and a PASC slipper clutch.

Engine: Liquid-Cooled 889cc Parallel-Twin
Power: 138HP & 74FT-LBS
Top Speed: N/A
Weight: 313LBs
Origin: Germany
MSRP: $39,995

Kawasaki Ninja H2R

Kawasaki Ninja H2R
Photo: Kawasaki
Why It Made The Cut
  • A factory-supercharged, 310-hp track-only liter-bike with an ultra-aggressive aero-equipped suite of bodywork & performance capabilities that can put most modern hypercars to shame.

Best Open Class: Appropriately referred to by Kawasaki as a “Hypersport,” the H2R is an objectively bonkers, carbon-bodied (and winglet-equipped) supercharged liter-sized superbike that’s capable of 240mph top speeds, and a power output of 121.5ft-lbs of torque and 310hp — which is roughly the same output as a 1989 M5, despite weighing 7.75-times less! than the 3.682lb BMW. On top of a radical bodywork design, the supercharged H2R — which is basically the two-wheeled equivalent to a hypercar — also features an array of rider aids to keep its unparalleled amounts of power in check. And, while it admittedly doesn’t come cheap, there really is nothing else on the road (or track rather) quite like the mighty H2R.

Engine: Supercharged Liquid-Cooled 998cc Inline-Four
Power: 310HP & 121.5FT-LBS
Top Speed: 236MPH
Weight: 476.3LBS
Origin: Japan
MSRP: $57,500

The Fastest Motorcycles You Can Buy Off The Lot

Fastest Motorcycles 01 Hero
Photo: Kawasaki Ninja H2R

If a hair-raising top speed is the main factor that you’re concerned with, then be sure to hurry over to our guide to the fastest motorcycles currently available for a look at the quickest two-wheelers with the highest top speeds.