The new GSX-R's 998.6cc mill is very close in overall power spread to the Kawasaki, with more on top to boot. Its only disadvantage is that fluffy throttle response below 5000 rpm, but anywhere above that the Suzuki can match the mighty ZX-10R stride-for-stride. The Kawasaki just seems to have a slightly crisper connection between the throttle and the rear tire (we should note here that the Dunlop D218s on the ZX-10R and Yamaha R1 showed much more wear than the Bridgestone BT014-equipped GSX-R and CBR); its throttle response is a tad more immediate, yet without the Suzuki's quick-revving tendency that requires an even more deft throttle hand to keep the bike reigned in through tighter sections.
|Test Notes Kawasaki ZX-10R|
|Monster motor, anytime, anywhere|
Still the class lightweight
Agile chassis, good brakes
|Overly stiff spring and damping rates|
Please ditch the LCD tach
Requires muscle to steer at speed
|Probably the best engine for the street rider|
The GSX-R definitely has the upper hand in the chassis department, however. It steers quicker and easier than the Kawasaki, and the bike just has a more compact feel than the 10R. While the brakes are a fairly even match, the Suzuki's suspension rates are more palatable with average-weight riders at the speeds you would normally see on public pavement; the Kawasaki's spring rates are very stiff, translating into a harsher ride over rough pavement that compromises stability and traction. It was an extremely close call, but all our testers eventually put the Suzuki at the top of their lists.
After replacing the stock tires with Pirelli's newest DOT race tire-the Supercorsa Pro (see sidebar page 42)-we headed out to Buttonwillow Raceway in Central California to let these literbikes cut loose in an environment more suited to their capabilities. As with the 600 comparison last issue, we were surprised at just how close these bikes are in overall performance, despite their distinctly different characteristics. This was graphically demonstrated by how tightly grouped the top three bikes were, with the lap times covered by 0.3 seconds!
|Suggested Suspension Settings|
|FRONT: Preload: 5 lines showing.Rebound damping: 4 clicks out from full stiff.Compression damping: 7 clicks out from full stiff. Ride height: Set fork tubes flush with triple clamp.|
|REAR: Preload: 14mm thread showing.Rebound damping: 1.5 turns out from full stiff. Compression damping: 3.5 turns out from full stiff.|
It was in this more open setting that the Honda's disadvantages were simply too glaring to overcome. The biggest problem was the CBR's excessive heft seriously working against it under braking, with the brakes quickly overheating after several laps and the lever turning to mush. Bleeding the system failed to cure the problem. The Honda also proved to be a handful flicking from side to side at speed, requiring a lot of physical effort to pull the bike up from full lean. And despite the high corner speeds afforded by the chassis and suspension, the sluggish-revving engine simply lacks the top-end acceleration of the other literbikes. Nonetheless, the CBR recorded a very respectable 1:09.31 lap time.
The wide-open surroundings of the racetrack suit the Yamaha's character far more than the confines of street pavement. Finally allowed to stretch its legs, the R1's top-heavy powerband was much easier to access, making use of the quick-revving engine and close-ratio gearbox to gobble up pavement in huge chunks. Scrubbing off that intense velocity is easily dealt with, as the monoblock/radial-mount brakes provide fantastic power and feedback. The Yamaha's precise, nimble chassis permits you to place the bike anywhere in a corner with a confidence-inspiring feel when leaned over. That agility was a slight liability accelerating hard out of bumpy corners, however; the same front-end flightiness we experienced in the canyons tended to upset the chassis, and trying to adjust the suspension to get more weight on the front only worked so far before it began adversely affecting cornering manners.
Much of this can be attributed to the R1's somewhat soft spring and damping rates. We had to crank in quite a bit of rear preload and compression damping before we were able to keep squat during hard acceleration under control, and the shock still had too much rebound damping on its lightest setting. Still, these are problems only aggressive track day riders or racers will encounter; the average riding population will be perfectly happy with the stock setup, which was good enough to card a 1:08.36 lap time.