Suzuki GSX-R1000: 87.0 points
It may have originally seemed like Suzuki took the easy way out with its modest update of the 2012 GSX-R1000, but when you have a bike that continuously performs as well as the big Gixxer, extensive changes aren’t necessarily needed. Yes, the Suzuki is a bit boring and outdated in terms of its looks and design, but as a package, the ’12 model performs as a front-runner should. The bike’s Showa suspension feels much more refined than the Honda’s (Suzuki has had a few more years to get the BPF fork dialed in, mind you), and the Gixxer feels more composed through the entrance and middle of a corner.
Small changes have led to...
Small changes have led to a GSX-R gauge cluster that’s different, but very much the same. While outdated, the GSX-R’s instrumentation is well laid out and easy to read.
Power isn’t anything to write home about, but the Suzuki has just enough of it through the middle of the rev range to allow decent drives off the corner, with enough top-end steam to provide respectable straight-line speeds. In addition, accessing that power is easier than on the Honda thanks to the Suzuki’s near-seamless off/on throttle transition. Where the Suzuki does suffer is in the brake department; Brembo or not, the GSX-R1000’s calipers simply don’t make the grade. Not only do these binders require more effort, they also provide an underwhelming initial bite and very little feedback through the lever. While we’d still appreciate a cosmetic redesign, we simply can’t argue with the Suzuki’s overall performance.
+ Well-developed suspension
+ Great ergos for street
– Bottom-end and midrange power lacking
– High-effort brakes
x Typical Suzuki, need we say more?
Suggested Suspension Settings
Front: Spring preload — 4 turns in from full soft; rebound damping — 4 turns out from full stiff; compression damping — 5 turns out from full stiff; ride height — 0mm showing above top triple clamp
Rear: Spring preload — 5mm thread showing; rebound damping — 2.75 turns out from full stiff; high-speed compression damping — 3 turns out from full stiff; low-speed compression damping — 2.25 turns out from full stiff
Aprilia RSV4 R: 90.5 points
When we last tested the RSV4 R in our literbike comparison (“Europe Invades”, June 2010), the Aprilia was let down by a flat-spot-ridden powerband and somewhat coarse-feeling suspension. It was a bit of surprise that neither of those two complaints surfaced with the 2012 APRC version.
The Aprilia’s surplus of character is what bumped it to a solid third place finish in our subjective scoring, but that’s not to discredit other aspects about the bike. The engine is a standout, plain and simple, with great torque and plenty of midrange power to drive off the exit of a corner. Wide clip-ons help negate the bike’s 462-pound heft (the Aprilia is the second-heaviest bike of the group, outdone only by the Yamaha) and allow you to flick the R through a transition with relative ease, all things considered. Flawless electronics enable you to put the power down in a controllable manner without all the excitement of the brute BMW, and the Aprilia’s well-damped front end promotes quicker corner entries — although not all testers were enamored with the bike’s relatively high-effort brakes.
A black tachometer background...
A black tachometer background and unintuitive digital display combine to make the Aprilia instruments a bit frustrating. The mirrors’ short stalks make it difficult to see what’s behind you as well.
The RSV4 R’s admittedly cramped ergonomics were never bothersome for too-tall Bradley, who actually felt the package promoted an aggressive riding style through transitions. Kento was almost equally convinced, adding, “Lose about 25-30 pounds, add a little more top-end, and you’ve got a winner.” Until then, Aprilia will have to settle with a respectable third-place finish in our track testing.
Aprilia RSV4 R
+ Great midrange power
+ Flawless electronics
– Ultra-tall first gear
– Needs to lose weight
x Has the most character of any bike in this test
Suggested Suspension Settings
Front: Spring preload — 6 turns in from full soft; rebound damping — 9 clicks out from full stiff; compression damping — 5 clicks out from full stiff; ride height — 4mm showing above top triple clamp
Rear: Spring preload — 10mm thread showing; rebound damping — 9 clicks out from full stiff; compression damping — 1 turn out from full stiff
BMW S 1000 RR: 94.0 points
With so many small revisions made to the BMW this year, it was presumed the mighty S 1000 RR would once again rule the literbike class in 2012. But while the 9.3mm-shorter wheelbase and 2.5mm-shorter offset helped the BMW tip into the corner quicker, the Bavarian beast feels like more work through transitions. As expected, the RR’s engine out-performed the competition come time to stand the bike up, but at a track like Chuckwalla, where straights are few and far between, the BMW’s upper hand is significantly reduced.
Despite the BMW engineers’ efforts to refine the RR’s traction control intervention levels, the RR’s electronics can be more of a hindrance than a help. If you get even a small wheelie coming off a corner, the wheelie control aggressively intervenes (now in Slick mode as well), abruptly cutting power and then reapplying it, causing the front end to pogo; hello, whiplash. Also, BMW revised the S 1000 RR’s engine braking characteristics, allowing the bike to freewheel into corners much more aggressively, a trait that many test riders found difficult to get accustomed to. Put simply, the BMW’s electronics are outshined by the Kawasaki’s, Aprilia’s and Ducati’s.
BMW’s new-for-2012 analog...
BMW’s new-for-2012 analog tachometer is easier to read at a glance, and the S 1000 RR’s digital display is well laid out and easy to navigate when switching modes.
The BMW was also knocked for its overly aggressive brakes and German-firm chassis, which provides less feedback mid-corner. With some modulation, it’s possible to keep the BMW in check both on the gas and on the brakes, but you really do have to be on top of the RR to go quick.
BMW S 1000 RR
+ Unimaginable power
+ Well-balanced ergos for track and street
– New electronics and suspension settings
– Overly stiff chassis
x Still a great bike, just we’ve found some chinks in its armor
Suggested Suspension Settings
Front: Spring preload — 4 lines showing on adjuster; rebound damping — position 10 of 10; compression damping — position 3 of 10; ride height — 9mm showing above top triple clamp
Rear: Spring preload — 10mm thread showing; rebound damping — position 3 of 10; high-speed compression damping — position 3 of 10; low-speed compression damping — position 2 of 10
Kawasaki ZX-10R: 95.0 points
Each of the seven aforementioned bikes is new in one way or another, yet it was the unchanged, one-year-old Kawasaki ZX-10R that ranked highest on our subjective score sheets and likewise posted the fastest lap times at the track. To put it simply, the ZX-10R is hard to knock in any one category.
Compared to the second-ranked BMW, the Kawasaki is much more manageable in terms of its power delivery. Tall gearing is a bit of a hindrance out of tighter corners, but the Kawi gets with the program once it’s rolling, easily keeping the BMW in check down the straights. The 10R’s traction control system is much more refined than the BMW’s as well, and the brakes require less modulation when grabbed aggressively. The price-point Tokico calipers aren’t Ducati Brembo good, granted, but they provide adequate power through the pull and a high level of feedback, with only a slightly stiffer actuation.
Kawasaki’s LED bar tachometer...
Kawasaki’s LED bar tachometer and clip-on position weren’t revered by all test riders. The ZX-10R’s mirrors are the widest of the bunch and provide an unobtrusive view of the competition.
Like the Honda, the Kawasaki feels like an extremely refined package, but it’s noticeably better-damped front and rear. Suspension action is very linear through the stroke, and grip from the rear tire is superb from the middle of the corner out. The 10R provides like confidence getting into the corner, and quite frankly, sets the bar for how an OE bike should feel at the track in terms of handling and overall performance.
+ Most linear handling
+ Great traction control system, good rear tire grip
– Semi-awkward riding position for street
– Overly tall gearing
x Simply no denying the Kawi’s performance capabilities
Suggested Suspension Settings
Front: Spring preload — 5 turns in from full soft; rebound damping — 4 turns out from full stiff; compression damping — 3.5 turns out from full stiff; ride height — 0mm showing above top triple clamp
Rear: Spring preload — 8mm thread showing; rebound damping — 2 turns out from full stiff; high-speed compression damping — .5 turn out from full stiff; low-speed compression damping — .5 turn out from full stiff