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It’s an age old debate between motorcycle fans and sports car fans: Which vehicle type is faster? The truth is that the world’s fastest cars are a touch faster than the world’s fastest motorcycles–in multiple metrics. But I’d argue that in multiple common scenarios, motorcycles end up winning.

First off, this is a perennial question on all manner of message boards. And most commentators make a good point: comparing sports cars and motorcycles is apples to oranges. They are different tools for different jobs. But is there any way you could you say one is faster?

When it comes to all-out speed the official motorcycle land speed record, set in 2010, was 376 mph. But two wheeled vehicles are not especially stable at extremely high speeds. Just keeping the rider’s body from turning into a wing and not flying off the bike is difficult. So you won’t be surprised to hear that the overall land speed record is set by a jet car: 763 mph. The fastest wheel-driven vehicle is still a car that ran up to 458 mph.

So what about a bike you can buy? The fastest production motorcycle is the Kawasaki Ninja H2R which clocked in at 249 mph. Compare that with the Bugatti Chiron Super Sport which claims the world record for the world’s fastest street legal production car: 304 mph. When it comes to high-end production vehicles, cars are still a bit faster than motorcycles.

Red motorcycle superbike crossing a finish line during a race.
Motorcycle race | AvigatorPhotographer via iStockPhoto

But even race cars are a tad faster than motorcycles. Formula 1 cars and Moto GP superbikes run some of the same tracks, so you can compare track times. Because those Formula 1 cars create so much downforce, they can corner quicker than the bikes. Formula 1 lap times are often 20 seconds faster than the Moto GP times.

But the truth is that most cars aren’t Formula 1 racers, or even Bugatti hypercars. An entry-level sport bike is quicker around a corner than 99% of the cars on the road. So if you’re looking to have some fun on the twisties, and your budget is finite, I’d say a motorcycle is an excellent choice.

In day-to-day driving, a motorcycle can go places a car can’t. For example, in some states a motorcyclists can split lanes instead of waiting in traffic. In even more states they can “filter up” to the front of a row of cars waiting for a stoplight. That could make the same drive quicker in a budget motorcycle than the world’s fastest Bugatti.

What’s fascinating is that for much of automotive history, even the quickest sports cars couldn’t beat the power-to-weight ratio of a motorcycle. So motorcycles were usually faster. This is one reason that police forces pioneered motorcycle officers.

If you are shopping for a fun vehicle, motorcycle or sports car probably comes down to preference. An average bike or entry-level sports car, with a regular driver, isn’t going to mean you are instantly faster. Again, they are just different tools for different jobs.

Next, see the world’s fastest Kawasaki Ninja drag race against some of the world’s fastest cars–and other vehicles–in the video below: