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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We lowered the footpegs on the Suzuki for a bit more legroom, preferring that on both the street and track. Even in the lower position, as shown here, the seat/peg distance is just as tight as the other bikes. The Honda has the most upright riding position, while most of our testers thought the Triumph's ergo were the least friendly; the Kawasaki's strike a nice compromise.
Note how the R6 (blue line) has a thrust advantage in the upper midrange portion of its powerband, especially in second gear. This allowed it to really charge off the corners at the Streets of Willow. Note also how the Triumph’s torque allows it to get a jump, but then the quicker-revving four-cylinders soon surpass it from the midrange to top-end rpm.
The Suzuki’s midrange and light weight puts the hurt on the others in the 60-80 mph roll-ons, although its top-end deficit shows in the 80-100 mph numbers. Despite its torque advantage, the Triumph’s comparatively slow-revving triple gets eaten up in the 80-100 mph roll-on by all but the R6.
The Kawasaki’s strong, quick-revving engine gets the jump on everyone off the line and carries that advantage down the rest of the strip. The Triumph’s tall first gear and relatively slow-revving three allows the GSX-R’s strong midrange to out-accelerate the more powerful Triumph.
Triumph has a surplus of power at all portions of its powerband compared to the others, but at the track, its shorter spread relative to the four-cylinders enforces more shifting per lap. The Suzuki’s excellent partial-throttle response and midrange acceleration can’t be graphically displayed on a dyno chart.
The year 2010 was not a good year for the middleweight sportbike class. With the world economic crisis in full swing, the major motorcycle manufacturers were forced to circle the wagons and dig in to weather out the financial storm resulting from a precipitous drop in overall sales. Sportbike R&D; eats up a good portion of a manufacturer’s financial capital, so for most the throttles were rolled back for the time being in order to save money—meaning no new middleweight models in 2010. Because of this, we decided to forego our annual 600 comparison test.
But 2011 has brought renewed optimism, and a couple of manufacturers decided to cut loose with new models. Sport Rider’s associate editor and resident FNG Bradley Adams sampled both the all-new Suzuki GSX-R600 (“Don’t Call It a Comeback”, June 2011) and the new Triumph Daytona 675R (“R is for Ready”, July 2011), both of which pack some serious performance that would be sure to upset the middleweight apple cart.
Thus, we decided to renew our middleweight comparison test this year, and included the new Suzuki and Triumph into the test with the winner of our 2009 comparison—the Kawasaki ZX-6R—plus the always capable Honda CBR600RR and Yamaha YZF-R6, with the latter three returning basically unchanged from 2009 (well, according to the manufacturers, at least—we would soon discover a significant performance increase in one contestant; more on that later). To assist our intrepid testing crew of Adams and El Jefe, we drafted in previous SR guest testers Eric Nugent and John Reeves, with Corey Neuer helping with our track testing and Kento’s former boss Kevin Smith lending a hand with the street portion of the test. For the racetrack portion, we spent a day carving around Willow Springs’ 13-turn, 1.8-mile Streets of Willow road course, with our Racepak G2X data logging equipment recording each bike’s (and Bradley’s) performance. Then a long day starting with a commute through city traffic before running around in the canyons helped us analyze each bike’s manners on public pavement.
As usual, our testers evaluated each bike in 10 categories of performance in both track and street venues, with the scores averaged for street, track, and overall ratings.
Honda: 83 points
** While there’s no denying that the CBR600RR is a fantastic bike that can easily keep pace with the others, with a group this closely matched, any weaknesses become glaring issues when you try to go quicker. The Honda did well subjectively, with testers’ comments citing its agile handling and good midrange acceleration (Bradley even picked it as his favorite on the track, despite ranking two other bikes higher in his numerical ratings) as major assets, in addition to superb front-end feedback entering corners. But when it came to objective numerical evaluations where comparisons to the other bikes came into the picture, the CBR’s stock dropped significantly. Main items on the racetrack complaint list were a lack of top-end power (backed up by our dyno results), lack of slipper clutch causing some chattering issues entering some of the Streets course’s tighter bends, and ground clearance issues with the footpegs under our heavier testers. Brakes are more than adequate, but in a class now peppered with Brembo or monobloc calipers, the Honda’s ratings in this category dropped quite a bit. A bike that hasn’t changed since its 2007 revamp, the Honda is beginning to show its age in a class that punishes sitting still.
** + Agile handling
+ Linear powerband
– Could use more power
– Needs slipper clutch
x Still a great bike but perhaps in need of an update
**Suggested Suspension Settings
** Front: Spring preload—10 turns out from full stiff; rebound damping—2 turns out from full stiff; compression damping—2 turns out from full stiff
Rear: Spring preload—position 6 of 9; rebound damping—2 turns out from full stiff; compression damping—8 clicks out from full stiff
**Triumph: 84 points
** Hmm…so how does the bike that turns the quickest lap time end up fourth in the racetrack rankings? The easy way out would be to simply designate the Daytona 675R as the winner, but the fact of the matter is that while the Triumph has the performance potential to turn the quickest lap times, it requires a good amount of skill to extract that speed. Yes, there’s no doubt that the 675R’s engine is the strongest, and its Öhlins suspension has superior action to the rest of this group. Its Brembo monobloc calipers and twin 308mm discs offer unrivaled stopping power, and the triple-cylinder’s slim, quick-steering chassis provides excellent feedback when leaned over.
But that suspension and chassis require precise setup, and the Triumph demands riding that is sharp enough to keep it in the razor-edge-thin envelope of stability. Get too anxious with the Brembos, and their response and power can upset the chassis; be a little sloppy with your cornering technique, and bumps can instantly cause enough instability to wobble you off your intended line. The engine’s narrower rpm range compared to the revvy four-cylinder machines also enforces more shifting per lap. Make no mistake, on the racetrack the 675R definitely delivers the goods; just make sure you’ve got enough to pay the bill.
Triumph Daytona 675R
** + Seriously strong engine, monster brakes
+ Sharp chassis, latest Öhlins suspension
– Nervous and touchy handling over bumps
– Reverse-contrast LCD panel completely useless
x Rewards precise chassis dial-in and riding—just don’t get sloppy
**Suggested Suspension Settings
Front: Spring preload—3.5 turns out from full stiff; rebound damping—8 clicks out from full stiff; compression damping—12 clicks out from full stiff
Rear: Spring preload—6mm thread showing above locking preload collar; rebound damping—8 clicks out from full stiff; compression damping—8 clicks out from full stiff
Suzuki: 84.5 points
Heavily revised for 2011, the GSX-R600 certainly looked to make an impact on the class this year. And for the most part it did, with testers’ subjective comments peppered with numerous positives often associated with the Suzuki: “…by far the easiest to get acquainted with…much improved midrange power,” said Adams. “Easily the quickest steering of the bunch, with tons of feedback when leaned over,” chimed in El Jefe. Most everyone preferred the slightly softer response and linearity of the Suzuki’s OEM-spec Brembos versus the hyper-responsive off-the-shelf units on the Triumph, and the Showa Big Piston Fork garnered plenty of praise. The Suzuki’s chassis feel when cornering was a definite favorite among our testers.
However, every single tester also mentioned the GSX-R’s apparent Achilles Heel at the racetrack: a distinct lack of top-end acceleration compared to the others. This is reflected in the Suzuki’s lowest trap speed on the back straight, as well as its slower numbers in many of the Streets’ section times. Had we tested at a racetrack with a faster layout, it’s a good possibility the Suzuki’s times would have suffered even more.
It’s obvious that in modified form the GSX-R has what it takes (one need only watch the AMA Daytona SportBike races). And despite that lack of top-end, everyone ranked the Suzuki highly, both subjectively and in the numerical rankings.
** + Midrange-strong engine, great brakes
+ Quickest steering in the group
– Lacking top-end acceleration
– Lethargic below 4500 rpm
x Just some top-end horsepower short of near-perfection
**Suggested Suspension Settings
** Front: Spring preload—9 turns out from full stiff; rebound damping—4 turns out from full stiff; compression damping—4.5 turns out from full stiff
Rear: Spring preload—10mm thread showing above locking preload collar; rebound damping—2.5 turns out from full stiff; compression damping—1.75 turns out from full stiff
Kawasaki: 86 points
The undisputed winner of our last middleweight comparison back in 2009, the ZX-6R returns basically unchanged from that edition. With its beefy engine boasting a smooth yet stout power curve that comes up just 1.5 horsepower shy of the Triumph’s class-topping peak, the Kawasaki certainly wasn’t lacking in the speed department. “A healthy amount of midrange and top-end power…many upshifts up the front straight at the Streets of Willow were cause for the front wheel to loft into the air,” remarked Adams about the ZX-6R’s powerplant. The Kawasaki’s chassis is certainly capable of putting that power to good use around the track as well, with the stable chassis and Showa BPF offering up loads of feedback and confidence entering corners, and the Nissin brakes providing power and feel that rival the Brembos on the Triumph and Suzuki.
Unlike the 2009 comparo though, it wasn’t all sake and cherry blossoms with the ZX-6R. A nagging issue we encountered this time around was a slight chattering in the front end when coming off the brakes entering fast corners that we couldn’t tune out with suspension adjustments. This robbed confidence at a crucial portion of the track (the fast parts are where the greatest amount of time is made or lost).
** + Strong engine, stable chassis
+ Superb brakes
– A little overweight
– Steering a bit heavy
x A solid performer still capable of winning with a little more refinement
**Suggested Suspension Settings
Front: Spring preload—11 turns out from full stiff; rebound damping—3.5 turns out from full stiff; compression damping—4 turns out from full stiff Rear: Spring preload—11mm thread showing above locking preload collar; rebound damping—10 clicks out from full stiff; high-speed compression damping—1.5 turns out from full stiff; low-speed compression damping—1 turn out from full stiff
Yamaha: 87 points
Well now…from bringing up the rear in the track portion of our 2009 comparison to the head of the class two years later, with no major changes according to Yamaha. How can that be? Sure, the R6 still comes with a scalpel-sharp-steering chassis that feels like it could run rings around the others in the corners. The quick-revving, high-rpm engine’s character is perfectly suited to the on-the-limit environment of the racetrack, with well-chosen gear ratios allowing you to keep the four-cylinder mill on the boil, and a slipper clutch that allows banzai corner entries and machine-gun downshifts without complaint.
The main reason for the Yamaha’s reversal of fortune at the racetrack is a significant power increase courtesy of new camshaft profiles. While our 2009 test unit barely managed to wheeze out 102.1 horsepower, our 2011 R6 pumped out an eye-opening 107.2 horsepower. And it’s not just at the top; the 2011 model’s power curve sits well above the 2009 unit at nearly all points on the rpm scale. This translates to far better drives off the corners, despite the same flat spot at 11,500-12,500 rpm that stunts drives off corners, and brakes that—while not bad—couldn’t match the rest of the middleweight binders in this comparison.
The other is second-gear acceleration. Look at the thrust chart, and you’ll note that especially in second gear, the R6 towers above the others in the upper-midrange portion of the chart. The Streets of Willow course has a good number of second gear corners, and this rewards the Yamaha’s strength in that area.
** + Supremely agile chassis
+ Beefy, quick-revving engine
– Now the heaviest 600
– Lumpy powerband
x New camshafts for 2011 makes a world of difference
**Suggested Suspension Settings
Front: Spring preload—2 lines showing; rebound damping—17 clicks out from full stiff; high-speed compression damping—1.75 turns out from full stiff; low-speed compression damping—5 clicks out from full stiff; ride height—10mm fork tube showing above triple clamp
Rear: Spring preload—position 4 from full soft; rebound damping—5 clicks out from full stiff; high-speed compression damping—3 turns out from full stiff; low-speed compression damping—13 clicks out from full stiff
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
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
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
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
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.
G2X Data Acquisition
With Bradley once again riding for official lap times, we kept an eye on each bike’s (and Bradley’s) progress using our Racepak G2X data acquisition system. The GPS-based Racepak is capable of monitoring speed and acceleration forces, and can even show differences in cornering lines between the bikes. The map shown here includes segment times for some of the Streets of Willow’s more technical sections, as well as each bike’s relative location at several points on the course. The graph plots speed over the course of each bike’s best lap.
Even though we are constantly amazed at how closely matched the middleweights are on the racetrack, this year’s class is the tightest we’ve encountered yet: Less than a quarter second separates the fastest (the Triumph) from the slowest (the Suzuki) lap time at the Streets of Willow, or about the time it would take for the five bikes to cross the start/finish line nose-to-tail. The segment times for the tricky turns 1 and 2 show part of the story. The Triumph carries more speed through turn 1 and cuts a tighter line through turn 2 than the other bikes, partially thanks to the R model’s solid front fork and potent Brembo brakes. In this section alone the Triumph gains .3 seconds on the other bikes, which all make it through within .05 seconds of each other. From there until the final turns on the track, the segment times for all five bikes are virtually identical. Note, however, the segment times for the turn 10-12 portion of the lap—here the Triumph gives back that .3 seconds and even more to some of the bikes. The data shows Bradley entering turn 10 with quite a head of steam compared with the others, but this time he can’t make the corner and runs wide—enough so that it’s obvious to see on the track mapping software (not shown here). The Triumph and Bradley recover just enough time in the last segments to edge the Yamaha and Kawasaki for quickest lap time.
The sector times for all five bikes are almost identical through the turn 4 to turn 8 esses section, even though speeds vary considerably. It’s worth noting here that the speed graph shows just one part of the equation, the other part being distance. If one bike is able to carve a tighter line than another, it can go slower through the section but make it through in less time by virtue of simply not traveling as far. That looks to be the case with the ZX-6R, which posts the slowest average speed through this section (which is noticeable on the speed graph) yet one of the quicker segment times. The lithe Kawasaki likewise posts the quickest segment time for the second set of esses on the track, turns 10 through 12.
The top speeds reached on the back straight show the Kawasaki as fastest, and this is consistent with other data over the course of the lap. The ZX-6R shows higher acceleration numbers exiting most corners than the other bikes and it keeps that advantage down the straights. The Honda and Yamaha show similar acceleration values exiting many corners, but whereas the Honda backs that up with the second-highest trap speed the Yamaha does not appear to accelerate as well in the higher gears. Most corners on the Streets of Willow are taken in second gear, working to the R6’s advantage, but the story may be different at a faster track.
While the Triumph does show high braking forces entering turn 2 (where it gained time) and turn 10 (where it lost time), it’s the lightweight Honda that logged consistently harder braking into most turns. The Honda and Yamaha show slightly higher combinations of cornering and braking forces—better trail braking—than the other bikes entering most turns, although again the Triumph data shows the highest absolute trail-braking numbers during Bradley’s banzai entry into turn 2.
Bridgestone R10 DOT Racing Tire
In order to keep our contestants on an even playing field at the Streets of Willow, we spooned on a set of Bridgestone’s new R10 DOT race tire to each bike. Replacing the three-year-old BT-003, the R10 utilizes technology gained from the company’s now-extensive MotoGP experience.
The R10’s tread grooves have varying angles of cut (instead of just a straight vertical groove, the outer portions of the tread siping have flatter cuts of varying angle and width). As expected, the R10’s land/sea ratio is obviously even more biased toward a slick than the BT-003. The R10s use one less belt in their tread construction (omitting the rayon ply in front, and the aramid ply in the rear), along with new profiles and compounds that allow more flexibility in varying weather conditions. In fact, instead of the previous three compounds, now only two compounds (Type 3 medium and Type 2 hard) are offered.
We found the R10s to warm up quickly on a 70-degree Fahrenheit day (we didn’t use tire warmers), with superb edge grip that is definitely superior to the old BT-003. Steering habits were cat-quick, yet with a neutral feel that—combined with the outstanding feedback from both front and rear—encouraged pushing the limits both into and out of corners. Stability under braking was excellent, and they had a nice, squirmy feel when starting to break loose under power, and slides were very predictable. Overall wear rates were moderate at the Streets, with the tires looking fairly worn at the end of the day; but overall durability was very good, with traction only falling off towards the end of the day.
At press time, the current lineup is comprised of a 120/70ZR-17 in Type 3 (medium) compound, and two rear sizes (180/55ZR-17 and 190/55ZR-17) in both Type 3 (medium, which we used) and Type 2 (hard) compounds. Bridgestone reps feel confident these will handle nearly all conditions without a problem.
The Bridgestone Battlax Racing R10 will only be available through select race tire vendors, and in North America only. Log onto www.bridgestonemotorcycletires.com for more info.
|Specifications||Honda CBR600RR||Kawasaki ZX-6R||Suzuki GSX-R600||Triumph Daytona 675R||Yamaha YZF-R6|
|MSRP||$11,199||$9999||$11,599||$11,999||$10,690 (Team Yamaha Blue/White, Raven),** $10,890** (Candy Red/Raven)|
|Type||Liquid-cooled, transverse DOHC inline four||Liquid-cooled, transverse DOHC inline four||Liquid-cooled, transverse DOHC inline four||Liquid-cooled, transverse DOHC inline three||Liquid-cooled, transverse DOHC inline four|
|Bore x stroke||67 x 42.5mm||67 x 42.5mm||67 x 42.5mm||74.0 x 52.3mm||67 x 42.5mm|
|Induction||PGM-DSFI with 2 injectors/cyl., 40mm throttle bodies||Keihin EFI with 2 injectors/cyl., 38mm throttle bodies||SDTV EFI with 2 injectors/cyl., 40mm throttle bodies||EFI with single injector/cyl., 44mm throttle bodies||EFI w/YCC-T, YCC-I, 2 injectors/cyl., 41mm throttle bodies|
|Front suspension||41mm inverted cartridge fork, 4.7 in. travel||41mm inverted cartridge fork, 4.7 in. travel||41mm inverted cartridge fork, 4.7 in. travel||Öhlins NIX30 43mm inverted cartridge fork, 4.3 in. travel||41mm inverted cartridge fork, 4.7 in. travel|
|Rear suspension||Single shock absorber, 5.1 in. travel||Single shock absorber, 5.2 in. travel||Single shock absorber, 5.1 in. travel||Öhlins TTX36 shock absorber, 5.3 in. travel||Single shock absorber, 4.7 in. travel|
|Front tire||120/70ZR-17 Bridgestone Battlax BT-015F F||120/70ZR-17 Bridgestone Battlax BT-016F L||120/70ZR-17 Bridgestone Battlax BT-016F M||120/70ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP||120/70ZR-17 Dunlop Qualifier PT-M|
|Rear tire||180/55ZR-17 Bridgestone Battlax BT-015R E||180/55ZR-17 Bridgestone Battlax BT-016R L||180/55ZR-17 Bridgestone Battlax BT-016R M||180/55ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP||180/55ZR-17 Dunlop Qualifier PT-M|
|Rake/trail||23.7 deg./3.8 in. (98mm)||24.0 deg./4.0 in. (103mm)||23.5 deg./3.8 in. (97mm)||23.5 deg./3.4 in (87mm)||24.0 deg./3.8 in. (97mm)|
|Wheelbase||53.8 in. (1367mm)||55.1 in. (1400mm)||54.5 in. (1385mm)||54.8 in. (1392mm)||54.3 in. (1380mm)|
|Weight||412 lbs. (187 kg) wet; 382 lbs. (174 kg) dry||424 lbs. (193 kg) wet; 397 lbs. (180 kg) dry||417 lbs. (189 kg) wet; 390 lbs. (177 kg) dry||420 lbs. (191 kg) wet; 392 lbs. (178 kg) dry||425 lbs. (193 kg) wet; 398 lbs. (181 kg) dry|
|Fuel consumption||40 – 45 mpg43 mpg avg||38 – 47 mpg44 mpg avg||49 – 44 mpg42 mpg avg||35 – 42 mpg39 mpg avg||37 – 43 mpg41 mpg avg|
|Honda CBR600RR||Kawasaki ZX-6R||Suzuki GSX-R600||Triumph Daytona 675R||Yamaha YZF-R6|
|Fun to Ride||8||8.3||8.6||8.6||8.3|
|Instruments and Controls||8.5||8.5||8.9||6.8||8.5|
|Chassis and Handling||8.3||8.4||9||8.6||8.9|
|Engine Power Delivery||8.8||8.5||8.5||9||8|
Finding the bike that works best at the track as well as on the street is a challenge. The bike I liked best on the track was the Yamaha R6. The power delivery and handling seem to be best suited for track performance. As usual when you excel in one arena you tend to give up in another. The Triumph Daytona 675R I felt performed the best at the track as well as the street. The engine pulls strong from bottom to top with smooth predictable delivery, and suspension is handled by Öhlins front and rear. This gave the Triumph a very performance-inspired feel both on and off the track. Another goodie I liked was the electronic shift that helps keep the chassis balance in check under hard clutchless upshifting. Along with all the upgrades are a few carbon fiber goodies that give the Triumph great curb appeal.
What a tough shootout…I think I need a Pepsi. It’s like asking a guy “Would you rather go out with Beyoncé or Rihanna?” Could you really go wrong with either? Umm…no. But you’re made to choose, and while it’s a tough choice—I chose the Suzuki GSX-R600. She wasn’t my top pick of the track, but her street savvy made the choice easier. The Yamaha, Kawasaki and Triumph scored a few more points at the track, but not enough to offset the great ride the Suzuki was on the street. With the loss of weight and the addition of the Brembos, the GSX-R’s legendary chassis makes for a great combination of a confidence-inspiring and all around fabulous ride. If the majority of your riding is on the street with stints to your local track for the day, the GSX-R is calling your name! Boy, I hope that Beyoncé likes Taco Bell…
Sometimes the best impression a motorcycle can make is no impression. When it’s working with you on a winding road, doing exactly what you expect and never interrupting your focus, a really great bike can practically disappear beneath you. You are just riding the road. Two bikes here could disappear beneath me: the Suzuki and the Triumph. I found them completely intuitive, natural and user friendly. The others were fun, but something always intruded. The Kawasaki’s throttle take-up got my attention, the Honda (though the comfort king) felt a trifle vague, and the Yamaha lacked the compliance (in tires, suspension or both) to feel stuck down on unsmooth pavement. Between the GSX-R and the 675R, I give the nod, by a hair, to the British triple’s lusty, thrusty engine and impossibly narrow packaging. So okay, it was leaving an impression. But one that never came between me and the road.
If the 2011 Triumph 675R and Suzuki GSX-R600 proved anything this year, it’s that it’s time for the other manufacturers to get to work. Not to say that the Honda, Kawasaki or Yamaha are bad motorcycles, but in the company of the Triumph and Suzuki, they feel a bit outdated and less refined. Especially compared to the polished Daytona 675R, which admittedly does take some time to get used to, but is undeniably quick on the track. On the street it’s surprisingly enjoyable too, especially when the roads turn tighter and you can employ its nimble steering and quick-shifter unit. Of the group though, the Suzuki seems like the best mix of track performance and street comfort, and there are almost too many good things to list about the bike; the GSX-R steers the lightest, has great midrange, a crisp throttle response, strong brakes and suspension that provides great confidence and feedback. And it has the most comfortable ergonomics of the group to boot. That is why, despite being slightly down on top-end power, the Suzuki is my choice as 600cc king for 2011.
The addition of the latest Öhlins NIX fork and TTX36 shock to the Triumph has aided its racetrack handling considerably, even though the Showa components on the standard model aren’t that bad. But while the Brembo monoblocs also add another dimension to the Daytona 675R’s performance envelope, I still found the Triumph’s handling to be a little sketchy when pushed. The R6 railed at the Streets by virtue of its sudden unexplained five-horsepower gain, but its lack of midrange still puts me off on public pavement. The Kawasaki’s superb engine and stable chassis still rank high in my book, and I’d have to take a serious look at the ZX-6R if I wanted a canyon and track day bike. But the new GSX-R600’s lithe handling, quick-revving midrange-strong engine and wonderfully communicative chassis won me over this year. And I’m sure the top-end deficit can be easily solved with some supersport-style modifications.