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2003 Ducati 749 Comparison

Thursday, July 24, 2003
Ducati 749 in action.
The Ducati 749 takes to the track like a duck to water, offering confidence-inpiring stability and feedback.
And speaking of heavy weights and underseat exhaust systems, we decided to throw the Ducati 749 into the mix, seeing as it's legal to compete against 600s in most supersport racing series. At 452 lbs. (tank empty), it's the most mass-ive of the quintet, 34 lbs. up over even the lardy CBR. 'Course, it's got a bigger motor and, being a Twin, is naturally heavier anyway. Heavy, too, is the 749's cost of entry; at $13,495, we're talking Dom Perignon not Baby Duck. Hey, at least we didn't test the $14,795 "S" version, with tricker suspension and adjustable seat and footpegs, like we did in Spain late last year.

The rebel of the bunch, appropriately dressed in black, is the all-new Kawasaki ZX-6R, scaling in at just 389 tank-empty pounds. While other manufacturers say an inverted fork is too expensive or overly stiff for the 600 class, Kawi bolted one on anyway. Same for the radial-mount Tokico front calipers, another first for a 600 and something that can otherwise only be found on Aprilia's pricey Mille R and Suzuki's monster Gixxer 1000.

2003 Supersport Shootout
The CBR just edged out the ZX-6R for peak power on the White Brothers Dyno, but the Honda lags behind until 11,000 rpm.
Most rebellious of all is the Green Team's blasphemous move to stuff 636cc of power in a "600." When your Kawi dealer asks you if you'd like one R or two, take our advice and have just one. The 599cc ZX-6RR does come with trick bits like an adjustable swingarm pivot and slipper clutch for its $8399 price tag, but it ain't got an engine like the $7999 ZX-6R. Those extra cubes really make themselves obvious, generating more hp and torque than the rest. If you don't believe us, just ask roadracer Tommy Hayden how he used his little ZX to beat a field of GSX-R750s at the horsepower-eating Daytona Speedway last spring.

Slipping in under the radar is Yamaha's R6, looking little changed from last year. No inverted this or underseat that, and its engine, although fitted with fuel injection this year, seems similarly spec'd to the old bike. Well, Yamaha says 90% of the motor is new this year, so don't jump to conclusions. Perhaps the most impressive changed bits on the R6
2003 Ducati 749 Highs & Lows
Highs
  • Legendary racing heritage.
  • Unparalleled fit and finish of components.
  • Smooth V-twin motor.
Lows
  • Your bank account after purchase.
  • Inhospitable on the street.
  • Heat from underseat exhaust worse than the CBR.
are its new frame and swingarm. Using a new Controlled-Fill die-casting process, the two components not only look slick as Mobil 1-covered glass, but they are also lighter and stronger. At 388 lbs., about a dozen pounds have been lopped off the R6, making it the lightest in the group by a single pound. By using high pressure in the aluminum molds, the metal can be made thinner and will have less air bubbles we'll see a lot more of this technology in the future.

There's also the brand new Triumph Daytona to theorectically throw in the mix, but you'll have to make do with this individual road report because the British company couldn't supply us with a test bike in time.

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