"I can't believe how much Steve talks."
Some only want to own the fastest bike, others the flashiest. But me, I want the bike that makes me a better rider or simply makes riding the most fun. Whether we were up in the Malibu mountains or blasting around Buttonwillow Raceway, that bike was always Suzuki's stunning new GSX-R1000.
The CBR1000RR might be the most user-friendly, with its linear, easy-to-modulate powerband and predictable steering characteristics, but it lacks the final few percentage points of performance. Yamaha's freshly revised R1 certainly looks the business with its Stealth Fighter styling and high-tech ride-by-wire electronics, but in practice they'd be better off sticking with the KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) principle. I had high expectations for the new Ducati, only to be left disappointed on the street and track. The 1098 needs further development to smooth out the throttle response and sort the suspension rates and ergonomic package.
Like everyone, I love the powerful and predictable ZX-10R (at least after we ditched the odd-steering original-equipment tires at the track), but my final session at Buttonwillow only strengthened my appreciation for the Suzuki. I followed a Suzuki-mounted Mikolas for a handful of laps and, no matter how much earlier I got on the Kawasaki's throttle, the result was the same: Steve and the Suzuki stayed steadily ahead down the following straight. Damn, any bike that can make Mikolas look that good I gotta have for myself.
"Have you noticed how much Lance talks?"
I've been lucky enough to see motorcycles evolve over the years and remember, for example, when the all-new, cutting-edge Honda CBR900RR was the lightest, fastest and most desired sportbike on the scene in the 1993 premier issue of SR. The current literbikes are hands-down the definition of pure two-wheeled performance and, now available at your local dealer (mirrors included, so you can see Lance get smaller and smaller), this generation of 1000cc monsters is the prime example of supreme motorcycle technology. The big dog over the last couple of years has been the GSX-R1000, and the all-new Gixxer is still master of this class.Yamaha's redesigned four-valve R1 has made a valiant attempt to dethrone the Suzuki, and Ducati has entered this dog-fight with the most capable production V-twin to date. You'd never know that the Suzuki is the heaviest of the bunch (by 28 pounds!), and clicking through the gears you'd swear it's the lightest. But like a racing buddy of mine once said, it's not how much she weighs, it's how she puts the power to the ground. Comfort and confidence are must-haves on a 170-plus-horsepower machine, and the GSX-R rules! With the crosshairs on Suzuki's liter-class domination, its a safe bet that next year's comparo will be even closer, and a possible changing of the guard is already in the making.
Working for the competition: penalty, 3 issues.
Going into this test, a small part of me hoped that Suzuki would finally get toppled from its throne, just for variety's sake--I've been feeling like a broken record the past few years. Once again, though, Suzuki has found its way to the top. A big surprise to me was the way the GSX-R, at 471 pounds, handles its weight. At 28 pounds heavier than the lightest bike in the test, it turned quickly, felt light, accelerated like a rocket and stopped quickly. In fact, before we had the numbers I would have said it was one of the lightest. How do they do that? The off-throttle transition and fuel injection was flawless, with no hiccup at partial throttle. While some of the other bikes found their stride on either street or track, I was again surprised at how effortless the Suzuki was to ride on both, no rider adjustments needed.I'm not sure that I would use the GSX-R's engine-mapping selector much. Maybe I'd use C if it started to rain, but other than that, I'd stay on A and keep my throttle hand in check. The only thing I wanted more of was overall braking power. The GSX-R had very good feel, but when bike and rider can go so fast so quickly, I want to know I can slow down just as fast. So, like a broken record, I will say that the Suzuki is clearly numero uno. I guess there's always next year.
Made fun of Mikolas once too often.
For sure the GSX-R is the best-performing bike in this bunch--and a better bike than last year's model--but I'm not quite as enamored with the Suzuki this year as the rest of the crew is. As crazy as it sounds, I guess I was hoping for something, well...more. Or maybe I was too spoiled by the GSX-R project bike we built last year ("Giggle Machine," Mar. '07) that was insane fun to ride. Whatever the case, I wouldn't be rushing to the dealership to trade in an '05 or '06 GSX-R for the new model.The other detail that leaves me raving about the GSX-R less than my cohorts is that I rode the ZX-10R with a different front tire on the street. The transformation in the Kawasaki is considerable, enough that I think it may have changed the street scores and possibly the outcome of the test. With both bikes in stock trim the Suzuki is the clear winner, but for my money it'd be a ZX-10R and a set of tires.
"Can't we all just get along?"
With all due respect to Suzuki, I must admit I was really hoping for the new R1 or the Ducati 1098 to dethrone the latest GSX-R. It's been getting pretty monotonous for the past few years in literbike comparison tests--"And the winner is: the Suzuki GSX-R1000!"--and that domination has brought with it the usual cries of favoritism from brand loyalists and unbiased readers alike. Believe us, we'd like to see another brand take the top spot once in a while too, just to put a little variety into the mix. But the numbers and subjective opinions after testing are just too convincing.
Both the R1 and ZX-10R have superstrong motors that are a blast to play with, but the Yamaha's throttle response on the street is too much of a crapshoot, and the Kawasaki's rear suspension needs some work. The CBR1000RR's neutral behavior is always nice to deal with, but it still leaves me uninspired after riding it.I love the new 1098's engine, looks and sound, but the bar angle is too flat and the rear suspension too stiff, making it really hard work to get around the track.
Sigh. Oh well, I guess I'll just settle for the GSX-R1000...again. It's a bike that's so easy to go so fast on that it's almost like cheating.