With a clean sweep of our testers' total track scores and the quickest overall lap time, the GSX-R1000 ruled the on-track festivities. The Suzuki-all 160 horsepower of it-has the potential to be a handful on track, and it requires maximum commitment from the pilot. Ride with precision and finesse, and the Gixxer Thou' rewards with quick lap times and remarkable speed. Show even the slightest disrespect for that power, however, and in return it will quickly show you who's boss. "The damn thing is a workout to ride fast," Kunitsugu wrote. "But that doesn't mean it's a chore like some other bikes. The chassis, suspension and brakes are capable of handling the beefy engine."
Turning our attention away from outright steam, the Suzuki still holds its own against the less-powerful opposition. Steering is heavier and slower than the other bikes', but still surprisingly quick for the GSX-R's weight. The brakes lack the Ducati's feel and light effort but do a fine job of hauling the bike down from the speed it so easily attains. And the suspension is on par with the Ducati's upscale componentry. Overall, handling is a definite notch down from the lithe CBR, but there's no denying the GSX-R's horsepower. It does corrupt, absolutely.
While the GSX-R1000's dash...
While the GSX-R1000's dash is similar in concept to the Honda's, the execution is not quite as clean-although we've grown to appreciate the gear indicator. The mirrors are difficult to adjust and are set too narrow to be of much use. While we've experimented more with the engine mapping switch, our bike stays in mode A most of the time.
Again, not much to look at,...
Again, not much to look at, but the Suzuki's suspension and brakes are very effective at controlling the bike's excessive weight. The Bridgestone tires are BT-015 variants specific to the big GSX-R and cope well with the bike's power.
+ The Engine
+ The Chassis
- Seat gets hot from exhaust in traffic
- Seriously porky at 471 pounds wet
* Can your ego and riding skills handle it?
SUGGESTED SUSPENSION SETTINGS
FRONT Spring preload: 5 lines showing;Rebound damping: 5 clicks out fromfull stiff; Low-speed compressiondamping: 15 clicks out from full stiff;High-speed compression damping:2.5 turns out from full stiff;Ride height: 6mm fork tube showingabove triple clamp
REAR Spring preload: 8mm thread showing;Rebound damping: 15 clicks out fromfull stiff; Low-speed compressiondamping: 15 clicks out from full stiff;High-speed compression damping: 3turns out from full stiff
While the 1098S is clearly a more track-oriented bike than the GSX-R or CBR, in some respects it fared better on the street than at the track. Still, overall the bike is let down by the details, and it trails the four-cylinders by a wide margin. On the street the V-twin's loping power is a joy to use, with ample bottom-end and midrange easily accessed by throttle response that is better than we remember our standard 1098 having. The tendency to be caught between gears is much less noticeable than at the racetrack, with only slow-speed turns having the engine spinning busily in first or lugging in second. At higher speeds the motor's torque gives you a choice of gears. The ultra-powerful brakes offer good feedback for street use, steering is light and neutral and the race-spec standard Pirelli Supercorsa tires offer slightly more midcorner grip than the sport tires fitted to the Suzuki and Honda.
We had a tough time reading the Ducati's tachometer at the racetrack, but the geek came up with a quick fix. Surprisingly, it worked.
From there, the Ducati is simply not built for comfort or convenience. The mirrors are practically useless, the ergonomics have you feeling like a pretzel after less than 30 minutes in the saddle and even before that, the backs of your legs will be broiled medium-well on a warm day. Ironically, the 1098's V-twin mill is the smoothest of this trio at freeway speeds, a trait largely unnoticed through the shortcomings.
Honed to near-perfection in almost every characteristic important to a streetbike, the CBR drew high marks from our testers in almost every category. "The mirrors, seat and controls are all great," Trevitt noted, "and the engine is peppier than most literbikes' around town. It all makes the Honda a great bike to just plain ride." In the present company, the CBR's mill needs to be spun hard to keep pace down a canyon road, but it never protests. "You end up going just as fast with far less effort," Kunitsugu reported. The suspension is surprisingly plush given the level of control it provides over bumpy canyon roads, and again we made not a single adjustment to the CBR while we constantly messed with the Ducati and, to a lesser extent, the Suzuki.
As refined and capable as the Honda is, it does buzz more than the others on the freeway, and our testers felt the GSX-R to have slightly more comfortable ergonomics. And, just as on the racetrack, the Suzuki's power and power delivery scores tipped the balance in the GSX-R's favor. Whereas the GSX-R's dual-butterfly and dual-injector EFI provides a seamless off/on throttle transition, the CBR's single-butterfly, dual-injector setup is comparatively notchy-and again, more abrupt than we remember from our middleweight test.
"This bike defines speed," Kunitsugu wrote, "and it offers it up much easier than in years past. But in order to really make time in the canyons, you have to work hard, and the bike constantly reminds you to stay on top of things." The GSX-R topped the street categories with near-perfect ergonomics, incredible power and suspension that offers a nice compromise between comfort and control. It's not only the effortless way the Suzuki makes power and builds speed that makes it so much fun to ride, but also the way it accommodates a variety of styles. Whether you ride to maximize the power output or to maximize the benefits of the chassis, the Suzuki only cares that you use restraint with one or the other. Ride to the full capabilities of this bike and things can come undone-not to mention illegal-in a hurry.
As good as the GSX-R is, we can pick some nits. In slow traffic, heat rises from the underengine exhaust to cook your butt, and the brakes could be slightly more progressive. As well, while the excessive heft was not so noticeable at the track, it was definitely felt on the street. Suzuki has done an admirable job of masking the bike's weight ("It feels 30 pounds lighter than the scales show," Holst said), but you do feel it under acceleration and braking ("That still makes it 20 pounds heavier than the Honda," Trevitt countered). Interestingly, while both Trevitt and Kunitsugu scored the GSX-R higher than the CBR, they both picked the Honda as their favorite for street use, citing the ability to use more of its performance in a street setting-where the Suzuki is hamstrung 90 percent of the time.