It was pretty obvious during our canyon testing that subjective opinions would play a major role in how each tester ranked the bikes. There simply is no way to get anywhere near the edge of the performance envelope of these literbikes on public roads; at speeds that would have smaller machines wrung out, these four open-classers basically loaf along, wondering when you'll start to give them the whip.
|Test Notes Yamaha YZF-R1|
|Strong, quick-revving engine|
Agile, narrow chassis
Best brakes in a superb class
|Slightly soft spring rates|
Radiates a lot of engine heat
Needs a bit more midrange
|A bit more torque and stiffer springs and the outcome might be different|
It was a bit surprising to find some of our testers ranked the Yamaha at the back end of the group in the canyons. Although nearly everyone enjoyed the R1's superb chassis feel during hard cornering, as well as its excellent brakes (the best in this test, and all the bikes in this comparo have outstanding brakes) and fairly supple suspension action, a few were put off by the engine's need for more rpm to get the same thrust as the others, especially when approaching the flat spot in the powerband at 7500 rpm. Get caught anywhere near that spot on the tach when the throttles are opened and the Yamaha definitely loses ground to the others.
The R1's top-heavy powerband also contributes to a bit of flightiness with the front end under acceleration once the powerful five-valve mill starts to spool up. Although the Yamaha is equipped with a steering damper, its "speed sensitive" bypass valve allows a brief wag of the bars before it quells the disturbance. We'd prefer a little more damping, as that quick tank-slapper is too unnerving to ignore during spirited riding.
|Suggested Suspension Settings|
|FRONT: Preload: 4 lines showing. Rebound damping: 11 clicks out from full stiff. Compression damping: 12 clicks out from full stiff. Ride height: Set fork tubes flush with triple clamp.|
|REAR: Preload: Position 7 from full soft. Rebound damping: 26 clicks out from full stiff. Compression damping: 9 clicks out from full stiff.|
There's no getting past the Honda's excess heft in comparison to the others. Even though it's only about 20 pounds heavier, it feels like much more when you're really flinging the bike through tight switchbacks or braking hard from high speeds for a slow second-gear corner. And yet some of our testers were willing to overlook that fault because the CBR's rock-solid chassis and well-chosen damping/spring rates instill enough confidence in corners to fully utilize the engine. Like its 600cc sibling, the big CBR's user-friendly nature quickly endears itself to all who ride it.
The Honda's comparatively soft power delivery helps in that regard. One reason testers found they were able to use more of the CBR's power is because its slower-revving character requires using more throttle (and often more rpm) to get the same drives off corners as the others. This muted response, coupled with the Honda's comparatively long wheelbase (55.6 inches, the longest of the literbikes), means you're not constantly fighting unwanted wheelies while accelerating out of a bend. When you have a powerplant with an immense spread of responsive power available any time at literally any rpm, you have a nice advantage. Stuff that engine into an agile yet stable chassis and you have a big advantage. The ZX-10R almost doesn't care where you are in the powerband; all you have to do is twist the throttle and you seemingly get the same amount of acceleration whether torquing through the midrange or screaming toward top-end.