Our gang of six was evaluated in 15 different categories to determine which machine would take this year’s title. For a closer look at the ratings.
We’re happy to report the influx of new players and the variety powerplants in the supersport class has resulted in members of a group that have distinct personalities. A sportbike shopper is greeted by six bikes that have their own characteristics that make them unique, so there’s a ride out there that fits the individual requirements of nearly anyone.
Keep in mind these scores are based on the criteria that concerns street riders. To see how these bikes were rated in 15 categories, click on our score cards. You can also find out what bike our test riders would pick, if it was their money on the line, on our For My Money page. Racers and trackday junkies will have to stay tuned for our upcoming track shootout. And if we didn’t choose your bike as the winner, it doesn’t mean we hate you or think you are stupid.
Ducati 749S (76.4%)
The Ducati both impresses and annoys. If your idea of a streetbike includes daily commutes and touring Nebraska, you’ll want to look elsewhere. But if you live somewhere near Angeles Crest Highway or the Blue Ridge Parkway (and are friendly with the local constabulary…) the 749 might be the most desirable bike of the lot.
V-Twin aficionados already understand a big part of the Duc’s appeal. Power not only comes on early, it also comes on in a creamy, flowing manner. Cary Grant would’ve liked this motor. And it handles in the same way, carving gracefully and sure-footed, as its race heritage whispers in your ear to pick up the throttle a little bit earlier, bend it in a little bit deeper. If your bank account doesn’t scoff at the price tag, you’ll create many happy memories on the 749S.
Yamaha YZF-R6 (80.2%)
Okay, this was a tough one for us. We’re deeply in lust with the R6’s gorgeous and daring appearance, and it pushes the envelope in terms of middleweight handling. But its top-end-only powerband cripples it in terms of street performance. Is this like kicking a supermodel out of bed for eating crackers?
Perhaps, but we stand by our score sheets. In the categories we’ve delineated for rating street performance, the racy R6 simply comes up short. It proves to be the least practical for use on public roads, especially in the company of competitors that are much more versatile. For those who don’t mind crumbs in their beds, you can expect the Yammie to climb up the rankings in the track edition of our Supersport Shootout.
Old reliable Honda does nothing wrong with its latest CBR600RR. It just lacks the pizzazz to crack into our top 3.
Honda CBR600RR (81.8%)
If this bike was a high-school student, he’d be the kid who stayed out of the back row in class, was a respected player on the volleyball team, and was a founding member of the model rocketry club. Then you read about him a few years out of college and find out he’s become the founder of a million-dollar company thanks to his integrity and execution.
What I’m trying to say (besides the fumes from my neighbor’s house are obviously having an effect) is that the CBR does nothing wrong. It’s faithful and trustworthy, and it’s the bike that riders of all skill levels can jump on and go the quickest without trying hard. This is a bike we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to a friend. The trusty old CBR finishing ahead of the flashy new R6 might be some solace to Honda for not making the podium, but you just know that the anticipated Version 2.0 of the double-R is going to shuffle up the rankings again next year.
Kawasaki ZX-6R (82.5%)
My, how quickly time marches on: Last year’s class champ gets cold-cocked into third place. In ’05, thanks to consistently high scores and a motor that outperformed the 599cc competition, it rose to the top of the pack. Its chassis had been calmed, and its styling was something to be proud of. The Zixxer is still all of those good things, but two new rivals have usurped its king-of-the-class status.
It remains as having the four-cylinder engine to beat, and its ergonomics are more accommodating than most others for street use. When considering a supersport, you might ask: Do you spend more time riding on the center of your tires or scuffing their outer edges? The ZX still does the former as well as anything in the class, but there are now others that perform better in the latter. In this fast-changing world of sportbikes, a consumer often becomes like a middle-aged man with newfound money, wanting to trade in the old girl for the fresh-faced trophy wife.
The GSX-R600 bested its Japanese rivals with a best motor of the true 600s, an accomodating riding position, and improved styling.
Suzuki GSX-R600 (84.6%)
The new Gixxer lands solidly in second place thanks to consistently strong scores. We are impressed by the sheer number of features it offers, and to do it for less money than four of its competitors is amazing. Its adjustable pegs are elsewhere found only on a bike (the Ducati) that costs 70% extra, and it stands apart by including a removable seat cowl as standard instead of charging extra. And who would’ve thought Suzuki would be the first in the class to cleanly integrate its front and rear turnsignals?
We believe the Gixxer has the best motor of the true 600s, and its handling abilities â€“ while not top-ranked â€“ are still admirable. It also has a riding position judged to be the most accommodating, exacting a less punishment when not chasing down buddies in the canyons â€“ you know, the vast majority of your riding. It’s also worth noting the GSX-R no longer looks like a raw racetrack refugee. The quality of its aluminum castings and its more complex bodywork shapes are a big step up for Suzuki, significantly increasing its pride of ownership factor. But more than that, the genial lil’ Gixxer encourages its rider to hop on and wring its neck.
Triumph Daytona 675 (85.9%)
The marketing campaigns for supersport contenders are largely based around race results and the bike’s ultimate track potential in magazine shootouts. As manufacturers have increased revs in the search for racetrack supremacy, street performance has suffered because of peakier powerbands and tall gearing.
The Daytona 675’s slender and distinctive styling played its part, but it’s the lovely Triple that pushed this British beauty over the edge and into the Shootout record books as our ’06 Street winner.
With the arrival of the Daytona 675, the supersport goal posts have now been moved. While the Japanese have been busy adding a few hundred extra revs to their tried and true inline-Fours, Triumph comes along with a delicious mold-breaking Triple that stomps all over its rivals without exceeding 13,300 rpm. This compact motor turns out to be a gem fitted inside a jewel, boasting a broad powerband that is the envy of the class. And let’s not forget the stirring howl that plays in concert with your right wrist and left toe, which is just another exclusive and highly desirable feature of the 675. It doesn’t hurt that the Daytona’s tightly cropped bodywork makes the bike look like something special, and its svelte feeling through the middle has to be felt to be believed. It’s also the lightest bike in the class.
Yes, the Trumpet comes out a clear winner on our score sheets, even if we wish its ergos were more accommodating and it had a slipper clutch. But had we included our subjective feelings, this contest would’ve been a bloodbath. The combination of a vastly superior street powertrain and the bike’s distinctive appearance proved to be irresistible for our testers.
Irresistible, you ask? Yep, just ask our head honcho, Becklin, who ponied up his own money and bought a graphite-colored Daytona for his personal use. Endorsements don’t get any stronger than that.
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Check out some of the “Specs.” 2006 SuperSport Street Test.