The middleweight class of sportbikes is a sweet spot in the lineups of most manufacturers. Fast enough to rip off 10-second quarter-miles and 160-mph top speeds, the class is also cheap enough for most to get into and to afford financing. As such, it’s no surprise this category is the volume leader among sport motorcycles.
For 2006, the middleweight division has been infused with fresh new talent to tackle the reigning champ, Kawasaki’s 636cc ZX-6R. Making the biggest splash has been Yamaha’s radical new YZF-R6, but Suzuki’s GSX-R600 is also new from the ground up. Joining the fray unchanged is Honda’s trustworthy and competent CBR600RR.
And then there’s the category-busters from Europe. Ducati’s 749 makes its return to our Supersport Shootout after a one-year absence, this time in its higher-rated S guise as opposed to the cheaper “Dark” model we tested in 2004. The V-Twin 749 is legal in both AMA and World Supersport competition, so it clearly belongs in this group despite its 50% larger price tag.
But the bike with the most potential to shake things up is Triumph’s new Daytona 675 Triple. Splitting the displacement difference between the 600cc Fours and the 750cc Twin, the three-cylinder Trumpet adds a whole new dimension to the Supersport class. Although it isn’t yet legal in AMA or World Supersport competition, its $8999 price point and lofty performance level certainly makes it a formidable showroom challenger in this group, perhaps even putting a cat amongst the pigeons.
Our 2005 Shootout didn’t enjoy this level of diversity, as we stripped down the test to include only the four-cylinder Japanese rivals. That test confirmed the segment’s homogenous nature, as all the bikes weighed about the same and had similar power characteristics. Kawasaki’s ZX-6R was the only bike to step outside the box, as its 636cc motor made itself obvious on the spec chart and the dyno chart.
But now with the addition of the Triumph and Duc, plus the new variables of clean-sheet reworks of the Gixxer and R6, the results from this year’s shootout were impossible to predict. There were plenty of questions rolling out of our mouths before the test got underway.
Could the ZX retain its crown in the face of new competition? Would the racy Yamaha be a decent streetbike? Will the new GSX-R’s all-around goodness be enough to claim the title? Is the svelte Daytona the real deal? Could the 749’s grunt and stability overcome its porky weight? Is the “old” CBR a step behind?
The twisty backroads surrounding our Southern Oregon headquarters would give us ample opportunity to test the latest crop of Supersports.
To answer these questions, we put this sextet through our standard exhaustive regimen of testing. As usual, we’ve split our tests into separate Street and Track articles after a small but vocal faction told us they couldn’t care less about racetrack performance. Those who want to know if Bike A is two-tenths of a second quicker than Bike B around a racetrack will have to stay tuned for our upcoming track edition.
The test you’re now reading applies only to how these six unique bikes perform on the street. As usual, we’ll include dyno-number comparisons, the actual ready-to-ride weights, and acceleration testing data. This is in addition to pouring hundreds of gallons of fuel through the bikes in order to get accurate impressions from nine different testers. The bikes are then ranked according to how they performed in 15 categories.
Although each bike in this test has its own distinct personality, there are many commonalities. Amazingly, all six bikes recorded peak horsepower readings within 3.6 ponies, supporting the racing classification system that allows this trio of engine specifications to compete against each other on the track.
All have fully adjustable inverted forks and single shocks, aluminum swingarms, and (nearly) identical tire sizes. Compression ratios are all between 12.0:1 (CBR) and 12.9:1 (ZX), and fuel tanks are between 4.1 (Duc) and 4.8 gallons (CBR).
Excluding the Duc for the moment, all share a 41mm fork, radial-mount 4-piston front brake calipers, and wheelbases that fall within 54.2 and 54.8 inches. Among the three 599cc bikes, their engines share identical bore and stroke figures.
As the technological pursuit of greatness has advanced, so has the MSRPs. In 2004, the CBR600RR was the highest-priced 600 at $8699. In ’06, that’s the low end of this group (the Kawi). The new Gixxer retails for just $100 extra, while the CBR and Daytona are just $1 shy of the $9000 threshold. The Yamaha’s $9199 price tag looks good only in comparison with the swanky Duc. Our Raven R6 retails for $9299, and the yellow/black anniversary version hits the $9499 mark.