Ducati 1098 vs. Honda CBR1000RR vs. Kawasaki ZX-10R vs. Suzuki GSX-R1000 vs. Yamaha YZF-R1
THE SUBWAY SYSTEM IN LONDON COVERS HUNDREDS OF MILES OF TRACK AND
ferries almost 3 million people about town every day. It's by far the easiest way to get around the huge metropolis and is a major part of that city's culture. Affectionately known as the underground or the tube, some of the stations date back more than 100 years. Because the system is constantly in a state of flux, the trains don't often line up perfectly with the station platform, leading to a sometimes significant gap that must be traversed to enter or exit a car. Constant warnings, by sign and by loudspeaker, warn passengers to "mind the gap."
Suzuki engineers no doubt faced a dilemma when it came time to update the already incredible GSX-R1000. With a nice collection of literbike comparison-test wins, national Superbike championships and even a World Superbike title to its credit, the old model comfortably outpaced its rivals in many arenas. But as emissions standards tighten dramatically with every iteration, all manufacturers face the definite possibility that a new model, being progressively strangled by these requirements, may not perform as well as the old. While the GSX-R1000 has won our last two literbike showdowns, the '07 model is chal lenged by not only stiff competition from the other two new models in the group, but also the very real danger that it could fall into the clutches of the two carryover models. We can just imagine the Suzuki bosses hovering over the engineers as they toiled on the new GSX-R, urging them not only to make the new bike superior to the old, but also to mind the gap the old model had over its competitors.
Captain Kunitsugu previewed the updated GSX-R in our last issue ("Triple the Fun," June '07), and we've already put the new Yamaha YZF-R1 through its paces in a full road test ("Running Out of Compromises," Mar. '07). New to the scene is the Ducati 1098, which the Italian company insists is on par with the Japanese literbikes, thanks to its displacement advantage as well as its complete makeover for this year. Lieutenant Trevitt sampled the 1098 at Kyalami earlier this year ("1098," Mar. '07) and agreed with Ducati that the new bike could easily run with the established literbikes. Returning from last year's literbike showdown are the Honda CBR1000RR and the Kawasaki ZX-10R. Both put in strong performances last year, and it wouldn't take much of a stumble on the part of the new bikes for a surprise comeback performance from either of these two. As well, Kawasaki has been known to subtly tweak its carryover models without releasing details, and such tweakage could potentially put the ZX-10R on top.
Our first glimpse of the uphill challenge that companies face to meet Uncle Sam's requirements came when we put each bike on the scales. Full of fuel, the new GSX-R scales in at a whopping 471 pounds, 27 pounds more than the old model (double the increase claimed by Suzuki) and 34 pounds heavier than the original, '01 version. Is this progress? Another surprise came from the Ducati: While V-twins are traditionally heavier than an equivalent-displacement four-cylinder, the 1098 is the lightest of this group at 443 pounds--17 pounds lighter than the last 999 we tested. Interestingly, the GSX-R carries just 50.5 percent of its weight on the front wheel, while the other four-cylinders all have a bias of more than 51.4 percent toward the front. A similar trend was noted in our last issue's middleweight comparison test, with the porky-but-sweet-handling ZX-6R having less front-end bias than the other bikes.We assembled the usual wrecking crew for this test, with Kunitsugu and Trevitt joined by guest testers Lance Holst, Steve Mikolas and Jim O'Connor. Our street loop consisted of everything from first-gear goat trails to open sweepers, with some freeway and city riding thrown in for good measure. We also spent a day at Buttonwillow Raceway, evaluating the racetrack performance of each bike with sticky DOT race tires fitted. Each rider graded each bike on 10 characteristics for both the street and track portions, with the average scores for each venue listed as a percentage in the following text. The final scores, averaging both street and track performance, are shown in the SR Ratings chart.