RIDING DIFFERENT BIKES. RACING SOME
We’ve talked about some mind-blowing superbikes before. Think of the KTM RC 8C, the Ducati Superleggera and the Aprilia RSV4 XTrenta. We’ve surely all heard about those brands before. But have you heard of Crighton before? And their out-of-this-world sport bike, the Crighton CR700W?
Let’s point one thing out immediately. The Crighton CR700W is not for the masses. Never meant to be, as well. This handmade motorcycle is a unique piece of art and rotary-engined. It redefines power to weight ratios in a manner that almost puts a MotoGP bike to shame. Almost.. Oh and it spits flames out of the exhaust, at almost every turn.
The wonderful world of the Crighton CR700W. It is an extreme world. A very limited edition, ultra exclusive and very track-only world. As a group of track enthusiast, we say; “Is there a better world?!” One thing is for certain. Since you can only enter this world if you write a cheque for at least 95.000 British pounds (or a bit over 100.000 euros), this world will remain a dream world for most.
Crighton might be a new name for you, but you probably have heard of the name and brand Norton. The Norton motorcycle brand lost a part of its charm in the early 1980s. Norton used to be focused on building rotary-engined motorcycles. Especially high performance racers. But they shifted that focus towards road legal workaday motorcycles.
One man in particular tried to restore Norton’s good name and bring back their high performance racing machinery. That man is Brian Crighton.
Brian Crighton is a former British 50cc champion and thrived to combine his experience as a racer with his skills for engine tuning to design and develop legendary machines in the shape of rotary-engined Norton race bikes.
Besides being a successful racer, Brian Crighton also was a service engineer at Norton. Later on, he was promoted to the Reseach & Development team. That’s where he discovered the potential of their 588cc air-cooled rotary engine. And got determined to prove it.
He managed to increase the power from 85 hp to 120 hp. He wasn’t able to convince his employers of its potential yet, so he decided to take his prototype to MIRA. MIRA is a testing facility for high performance vehicles. He managed to clock 170 mph with his prototype. Apparently his employers had a need for speed, because suddenly they were convinced of his work and within weeks his race bike was ready.
From 1989 until 1994, the Norton racing machines – the RC588 and the RCW588 – dominated the local British championships. They were that good. A bit too good, maybe. Race regulators ended up banning the rotary engine from the championship scene, which brought an end to a magnificent era.
But Brian never quit believing in the power and magnificence of the rotary engine. So in 2009, he partnered up with Rotron Power Ltd. A company that designs and manufactures rotary engines for the aerospace industry. This partnership eventually led to a next generation 700cc twin-rotor rotary engine, which was built into the all-new CR700W.
The Crighton CR700W is a high-quality racing machine which combines its unique rotary engine with highly advanced engineering and technology. Since reliability is one of the main criteria in the aerospace industry, you can imagine it is not just a high performance race bike, but also one you can trust.
What’s interesting as well, is that the rotary engine of the CR700W is a ‘stand-alone’ engine like you find in most older motorcycles. Let’s clarify that for a bit. With most modern day superbikes, the engine and the chassis almost seem to form as one. The chassis almost becomes part of the engine. With the Crighton, the design and building process was a bit different. Both the engine and the chassis were designed separately, so both can deliver the best performance possible. The chassis is one part of the bike and the rotary engine fits in perfectly from underneath the bike.
Engine: Fuel-injected twin-rotor 690cc engine
Power: 220 hp (164 kW) @ 10.500 rpm and 142 Nm @ 9.500 rpm
Seat height: 810 mm / 31.9 inches
Fuel tank: 24 litres / 6.34 gal
Dry weight: 129.5 kg / 285.5 lbs
Top speed: 188.35 mph / 303.12 kph
Since it is such a special motorcycle, only 25 units were made. All hand-built and to Brian Crighton’s original brief. It’s unknown whether the little company will make more of them in the future. But for now, only 25 lucky birds will own one.
Okay, that sounds a bit harsh. But in case you think those 220 hp on not even 130 kg of dry weight don’t belong on track, but is better off on the roads, then that can be arranged.
To us, it kind of sounds like a death wish. And honestly, I don’t think the Crighton should be ridden on the roads at all. There is just no room for all that violence. Sure, you would turn heads everywhere you’d go. But it is made to be ridden fast. Like hella fast.
But if you would really want a road-registered version, then it can be arranged. Just think about it. Twice. Thrice. Or just sleep on it for a whole month. As long as it takes to make a sensible decision. Better said; the only right decision..
I wished I could tell you how the Crighton actually rides. But sadly, I can’t. Like as for so many, the only CR700W I will ride is the one in my dreams. But with a dry weight of only 129.5 kg, is must be so lightweight and nimble to throw around a race track. Add 220 hp to that feathery light weight and you get a true missile. Not like an ‘ordinary track missile’, but like NASA level. Which must give the bike some quirky riding characteristics. And it will definitely not be for the faint-hearted.
And like every enthusiastic track rider knows; it’s not a matter of ‘if you crash’ but a matter of ‘when you crash’. Because you will crash someday. Things like that are basically inevitable when you push your limits. And just image crashing the CR700W. That would be flipping expensive. You could probably buy a brand new S1000RR for the same amount of money you’d pay to repair the damage.
Maybe you are one of those cool-headed riders who can just turn off that switch and not think about it. But we ladies often struggle with that. I know I would.
Another thing of note; if you buy the Crighton CR700W’s basic model, you don’t get any electronics like traction control and all that. In case you didn’t do the math already; with a power-to-weight ratio like the one of the CR700W, a bike has to be respected when ridden. You can’t go all crazy on a bike like this, unless you know exactly what you are doing. And have some experience in the books on similar bikes. Let’s say, proper superbikes.
If you do have some money to spare after you reserved that first 100.000 euros for the basic model, you can upgrade it by adding Öhlins FGR 250 / TTX GP suspension, an electric starter motor, traction control, a quick shifter and an autoblipper.
Planning on actually racing it, instead of putting it up for display in your living room? Then it is also possible to order a spare engine with it, a starter unit and even a training day at Crighton’s own facilities.
Is there another bike out there that could match the performance of the Crighton CR700W? Well, not really, if we’re honest. Some come close to the power-to-weight ratio, but non of them have the extraordinary rotary engine the CR700W has.
But if we had to name two rivals of the Crighton CR700W, then they would be the Ducati Superleggera and the Honda RC213V-S. To put it all in perspective; you’d pay 90.000 British pounds for the Ducati and get 224 bhp on a dry weight of only 159 kg. And you’d have to write a cheque of 180.000 British pounds for the Honda, to get 212 bhp on 160 kg.
Both superbikes are mind-blowing all by themselves. But if you’ve got that much money to spend.. then we would know what would be in our garage. And it would start with a C..
The Crighton CR700W is a race bike that hardly belongs in our world. It’s just a different breed. With 220 bhp and only 130 kg it could shoot you right into space. Motorcycles like these are not for the faint-hearted. Or for any novice track rider. It demands respect when ridden. Especially since the basic model comes without any electronics.
The rotary engine is what makes this bike truly stand out from the rest. All that horsepower is impressive, but the technique that hides inside this proper race bike is what is truly mind-blowing. And the story behind it, and its creator, is what makes it unique. And if that’s not enough ‘uniqueness’ for you already, then keep in mind there are only 25 of them.