Yamaha’s Soqi fork worked...
Yamaha’s Soqi fork worked well at the track; dual compression adjustments are a plus. Monobloc Sumitomo calipers worked better than before, probably due to pad change.
Yamaha: 82 points
The same attributes that put the R6 at the top of the heap on the racetrack conspired against it on the street. While obviously not a terrible motorcycle to ride when you’re not diving into a corner at 120 mph with your hair on fire, the Yamaha simply had too many gripes against it when stacked up against its competition at a slower pace. The engine’s peaky and lumpy powerband demands more rpm than usual for decent corner exit drives, and only accentuates the annoying 11,500 rpm flat spot. The resultant wailing exhaust note from the high rpm is almost a moving law enforcement beacon at times, and while midrange power is much improved, the R6 still requires deft clutch work and a good amount of rpm to leave a stoplight with any authority. Braking characteristics were definitely better than the wooden-feeling binders of the past, but they still required more effort and lacked the crisp feel of the others in this comparison.
The Yamaha’s ergos weren’t as punishing as the Triumph’s on the street, but they were still more aggressive than the rest. We also didn’t get along too well with the Japanese-made OEM-spec Dunlop Sportmax Qualifier tires. Their grip was good for the most part, but when pushed they began to break loose alarmingly.
Honda: 83 points
While the CBR’s brakes are...
While the CBR’s brakes are excellent, they’re not quite up to the spec of the top brakes in this comparison. Front suspension provides superb feedback and wheel control.
We’re used to always seeing the CBR at or near the top of the street rankings, so it’s a bit of a shock to have the Honda occupying fourth spot behind three other bikes. The 600RR still has that typical Honda polish and refinement in nearly every aspect, offering the most hospitable ergos along with controls boasting crisp and smooth actuation. Smooth could also be used to describe the 599cc four-cylinder engine that provides a linear powerband from bottom to top, with enough performance to satisfy experts while remaining friendly enough for the less-skilled. Likewise, handling is sharp without cutting you if you make a mistake, and the suspension handles both canyon and superslab with equal aplomb.
But simply being good in all areas isn’t enough anymore; a bike needs to be great in many aspects with competition this close. The Honda’s power simply lacked the jump of the Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Triumph off the corners, and its brakes likewise were a little dull in comparison to the rest of this group. And as with the Yamaha, the OEM-spec tires weren’t up to the capabilities of the rubber on the top three bikes (in fact, American Honda inadvertently installed an OEM Dunlop on the front and an OEM Bridgestone on the rear of our test unit).
Kawasaki: 84 points
The Kawasaki’s Showa Big Piston...
The Kawasaki’s Showa Big Piston Fork demonstrated excellent chassis control, especially under braking, although we encountered a slight chatter issue at the track. Brakes are on par with the Brembos on the GSX-R and Triumph.
Despite being toppled off its 2009 throne by a couple of spots, the ZX-6R still has plenty going for it when ridden in the less-frantic confines of public tarmac. Its strong, quick-revving engine is easily a match for even the class-leading Triumph in the faster sections, with brakes that many testers found preferable to the somewhat touchy Brembo monoblocs on the Daytona 675R. While not the sharpest steering chassis in the bunch, the Kawasaki’s handling manners were still cat-quick (aided by the Bridgestone BT-016 tires) while offering stability that few could match. Ergos were a nice compromise between racetrack aggressive and street comfort, with the most functional mirrors to boot.
That said, the ZX-6R couldn’t quite match the Triumph or Suzuki’s agility in the tighter sections, with more effort required to accomplish fast transitions. Getting back on the throttle between 4500 and 7000 rpm in a corner resulted in some abrupt response if you weren’t careful, and a couple of our testers felt engine response wasn’t quite as lively as before. And although undergoing a weight loss program when this latest generation was introduced in 2009, in this company the Kawasaki is now one of the heaviest bikes in the group.
Triumph: 88 points
Öhlins NIX fork on the Triumph...
Öhlins NIX fork on the Triumph is expectedly the best in this group; one fork leg controls rebound and the other compression. Monobloc Brembo brakes offered astounding power, but slightly touchy response if you weren’t careful.
In our last comparison, the standard Daytona 675 did surprisingly well in the street rankings, despite very aggressive ergos and an underseat exhaust that tended to radiate some heat onto the rider’s thighs in traffic. With the addition of the latest Öhlins suspension components into the mix, handling manners are markedly improved from the standard edition (which wasn’t bad to begin with); the 675R seemed to be able to hold a tighter line with greater ease, and bigger bumps were absorbed with nary a whimper. The three-cylinder pumps out its usual blend of stomping midrange torque and screaming top-end that makes short work of any twisty bit of pavement, accompanied by a throaty exhaust note that seduced many of our testers. And provided you were careful with your application, the Brembo monobloc calipers provided unmatched stopping power to bleed off all that speed.
The same complaints about sore wrists and butt after a day’s ride still ring true with the 675R, as the racy ergonomics are basically identical to the standard Daytona. But one major gripe that all testers had with the 675R was the LCD panel on the dash; the background is curiously reversed, with the background dark and the digits light. This made distinguishing the digital speedometer (nevermind any of the smaller info) virtually impossible at a glance in bright daylight.
Suzuki: 89.5 points
Showa Big Piston Fork on the...
Showa Big Piston Fork on the GSX-R performed superbly, providing outstanding wheel and chassis control. The Suzuki’s Brembos were mostly preferred over the Triumph’s monoblocs.
The Suzuki’s lack of top-end punch compared to the others might have been a liability at the racetrack, but with the less-aggressive environment of the street negating that issue, all of the GSX-R’s other strengths become even greater performance assets. Don’t be deceived by the dyno chart; the Suzuki’s midrange response at part-throttle is more than a match for the Triumph, even though it doesn’t look like it on paper. This is because the GSX-R picks up rpm much quicker than the comparatively slow-revving 675R, and its lack of heft (the Suzuki is the second lightest of the group at 417 pounds wet) allows it to zip through the twisty bits with surprising speed. The Suzuki’s chassis is the most agile of the group, with the least effort needed at the bars to initiate any type of turn or steering correction; all of our testers raved at the GSX-R’s newfound nimble handling to go along with its comfortable and communicative feel. Wheel and chassis control from the Showa BPF and rear shock was excellent, soaking up everything from big hits to small bumps while still providing impressive feedback when leaned over.
There simply wasn’t much to gripe about with the Suzuki on the street. Yes, it could definitely use more top-end, but at that point you’re probably going too fast for the street anyway. The GSX-R was also surprisingly lethargic below 4500 rpm—but again, a modern 600 rarely dips below that point.