The Honda's Bazzaz setup, adjustable on track using the bar-mounted trim switch, made experimentation easier. Kunitsugu: "There was quite a difference between clicks of the adjustment knob (which I thought should be slightly larger); even one click from the baseline made a huge difference." Just as on the Ducati, too much TC slowed the Honda around the track, and the Boss settled on a sensitivity level of 4 during his hot laps. Trevitt noted that varying the traction-control settings affected the Honda's off/on throttle response. "Position 4 was just right for me. It softens the initial throttle hit and feels the quickest-it's very smooth on corner exits and gives me lots of confidence. The lower settings make the power more abrupt, and the front end gets flighty."
Turning to each bike's handling characteristics, our riders were somewhat divided on performance. Flyweight Kunitsugu felt the Ducati's Ohlins suspension was too harsh for bumpy Buttonwillow and the awkward bar angle made controlling the 1098R's power difficult: "The harshness upsets the chassis when accelerating over bumps, and with the R model's monster torque it quickly gets the chassis all wound up and forces you to hold off a bit to get things back under control. As with the standard 1098, the bar angle is too wide and flat, causing some unintended steering inputs under acceleration if you aren't careful." In contrast, heavier and taller Holst coped with the 1098R better. "The Ducati requires a bit more steering effort and muscle to transition from side to side, but I prefer its superior feedback and stability to the flightier Honda," he wrote. "The CBR is quick and light-handling but doesn't feel planted and lacks the feedback and stability that I want to feel confident when pushing hard." Again, the CBR edged the 1098R on the scorecards with slightly higher ratings in the suspension, ergonomics, and chassis and handling categories.
The 1098R benefits tremendously from the addition of a slipper clutch, and-as is typical of the R's upgrades-it works flawlessly. The slipper clutch is definitely necessary with the engine's lighter flywheel and internals and makes the bike less susceptible to the chatter of the standard model on corner entries. Both bikes' transmissions shift like the proverbial buttah, although the Honda benefits tremendously from the Bazzaz quickshifter that allows silky-smooth upshifts. Some of our riders felt the pressure switch was too sensitive and found themselves making unintentional shifts occasionally; others more used to such setups had no problems. You may cry foul that we fitted a quickshifter to the Honda, but others would argue that at $40,000 the Ducati should be equipped as standard with one, and given the bike's intentions it's an obvious oversight. Still, the ratings sheets give the nod to the Ducati in the transmission category.
Just as with the standard 1098's huge 330mm binders, the R model's front brakes can be grabby at the track and require some finesse, especially when you're moving about on the bike and trying to modulate the lever at the same time. There's no question about their strength, however, and just one finger is required for more than enough stopping power. Our testers were divided on the Honda's Tokicos, with some noting excellent power and response, others citing a spongy lever and less-than-optimum feedback over a series of laps. Chalk up another category win for the 1098R, according to our testers' scores.