|SR RATINGS ||DUCATI 1098S ||HONDA CBR600RR ||SUZUKI GSX-R1000 |
|Fun to ride ||8.6 ||9.5 ||9.4 |
|Quality ||9.1 ||9.4 ||9.3 |
|Instruments & controls ||8.6 ||9.6 ||9.3 |
|Ergonomics ||8.0 ||9.3 ||9.4 |
|Chassis and handling ||8.6 ||9.7 ||9.5 |
|Suspension ||8.6 ||9.3 ||9.4 |
|Brakes ||9.6 ||9.3 ||9.1 |
|Transmission ||9.1 ||9.1 ||9.2 |
|Engine power ||9.2 ||8.8 ||10.0 |
|Engine power delivery ||9.0 ||9.1 ||9.7 |
|Total ||88.4 ||93.1 ||94.3 |
The Final Scores
By the numbers, it's the GSX-R1000 that wins Bike of the Year. But our testers had some interesting comments about the scores, and each made his pick with a caveat. "I would buy the Suzuki, because there is superior performance if your skill level is up to it," Kunitsugu wrote. Ego plays a big part in picking a manly literbike instead of a "little" 600 as well: "The Honda comes close as a track-day bike due to its user-friendly performance envelope," Holst concluded in his notes. "However, I realize that my ego won't let me give up the Suzuki's horsepower advantage. So street or track, I choose Big Blue." Finally, price has to be a consideration: With the Ducati more than twice the cost of the Honda-and the Suzuki in between-your pocketbook may be the deciding factor.
In terms of overall performance, the GSX-R is a devastatingly effective street or track tool when the rider applies the right mix of skill and restraint, and that performance is well worth the effort required to exactly balance the two.
"Dear Mom: Please send my teddy bear. I scared myself riding the GSX-R1000."
Bike of the year is our version of the Super Bowl, and this best-of-the-best test lived up to its billing. I was pleased what an improvement the Ducati 1098S was over the previous standard version. No doubt part of it was due to the S's upgraded suspension, but perhaps equally important was Trevitt having time to continue in the same direction improving setup. The difference made it BOTY-worthy, but even then the Duck trailed the Suzuki and the Honda in virtually every quantifiable category -and that's not even factoring in price.
In many ways, the CBR600RR is the most fun bike here to ride. It's nimble agility and user-friendly power builds your confidence and lets you feel like you're able to truly wring out its maximum performance. My friend Troy says he loves a screamer because it makes him feel like a real man; in the Honda's case it applies to motorcycles as well. It's one of the most personally satisfying bikes you'll ever ride. The Suzuki, however, is absolutely addicting. Yeah, it's so scary-fast (even for jaded testers like Kent) that you're humbled by how seldom you can open it past half throttle, yet it's also remarkably smooth and comfortable. Even on the track, it's so shockingly quick that I couldn't help but think of the famous line Jeff Karr used to describe the V-Max: "I saw Jesus so many times that I began using him as a brake marker." Amen.
Isn't scared by the GSX-R because he already has his teddy bear.
I tried, really I did. If there was any way for the Suzuki to not win Bike of the Year, I would have found it. But short of sabotaging the bike or stuffing the ballot box, there was no way the Ducati or Honda could topple the mighty GSX-R1000. The Suzuki is just too powerful and works too well.
There is no question the GSX-R is the most capable bike here and a worthy BOTY champ, but it's not my pick for a couple of reasons. One, I don't have the restraint necessary to own something this powerful-for sure I'd be constantly getting in trouble both on the street and at the track. And two, I find it frustrating to ride a bike that requires so much to use so little of its potential.
On the other hand, the Honda gives me more of a sense of accomplishment from riding it closer to the limits of the bike's and my own capabilities. The CBR extracts the maximum skill of its rider, just as the rider can better use his skill to exploit the potential of the CBR. It's a symbiotic relationship that makes you a better, faster rider, and that, to me, is what's important.
Contemplating the number of letters he'll get if the GSX-R wins yet again.
Letter to Suzuki: Please sit on your laurels for once and let someone else have a go at Bike of the Year. That way, we won't have to put up with the inane letters accusing us of favoritism or being on your payroll. And it really is getting a little boring after the BOTY test has been completed: "And the winner is...the Suzuki GSX-R1000!"
In all seriousness, I was hoping that the Ducati or the Honda could really give the latest GSX-R a run for its money. I wasn't very confident the 1098S was going to get the job done, and my fears were well-founded; while it might harass the Suzuki on the track, its street manners are severely compromised in typical Ducati fashion.
But the CBR represented the best chance yet for dethronement, and it did come awfully close. While it obviously doesn't have the outright power of the GSX-R1000, the Honda packs enough performance in a well-sorted package to nearly negate its speed disadvantage. Probably more important, however, is that the CBR's user-friendly nature allows a much wider range of riders to approach the upper reaches of its performance, and that is an educational advantage that almost outweighs the Suzuki's staggering potential. Almost.