We gathered the Big Four’s latest batch of literbikes – Honda CBR1000RR, Kawasaki ZX-10R, Suzuki GSX-R1000, and Yamaha R1 – and put them through the motions on the track and street to deliver our judgment in this year’s Smackdown.
You’ve heard the names before: Suzuki GSX-R1000, Yamaha R1, Honda CBR1000RR and Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R. You’ve seen them at race tracks around the world, on television or maybe even in person. They have passed you on the freeway or the back straight at a trackday, usually on one wheel but occasionally on two. The howl of their motor is intoxicating and the allure of their legendary power-to-weight ratio is hard to resist. They are called the open class sportbike and it’s important to give them the respect they demand or you might not walk away.
That’s where we come in. MotorcycleUSA.com’s Superbike Smackdown IV is here and we did the dirty work for you. If all goes as planned, this bike review should shed some light on both the inherent technological goodness and inescapable performance decadence that literbikes exemplify. These 150-horsepower brutes are enjoyable to ride, though newbies and small animals alike tremble at the mention of their name while others like yourselves are drawn to them like a bug to the light. The prospect of wringing one of these bikes out on a favorite back road is too much to resist and because they are designed for maximum racetrack performance, they’re the closest thing any of us mortals will ever get to riding a true Superbike or MotoGP machine. Unfortunately, the majority of riders will never even scrape a peg-feeler on the street, unless it’s that regrettable moment just before low-siding into the ditch and that really is a shame.
Engineers labor for years, paring away grams of unnecessary material from every single chassis component as they eek another couple horsepower out of the lightest, most compact engine designs in history, so it’s only right that we give them a proper flogging on the track as well as the street. In the previous three Smackowns we used trackdays for testing and received some grief from the readers and OEMs for not using a controlled environment to conduct our evaluations. Honestly, we agreed with everyone. This time around we’re stepping up our game and bringing in not one, but three guest testriders who helped us push the bikes harder and farther than we ever have before.
The wrecking crew for SSIV embodies the same impudent attitude which makes these open classers simultaneously the most misunderstood and most coveted sportbikes on the market. Headlining our entourage is two-time AMA Superstock champion “Top” Jimmy Moore, with AFM road-racing championship contender and owner of Pacific Track Time Michael Earnest along with US Stunt Riders’ front man Brian “BS” Steeves rounding out our crew of specialists. This trio of pros joined your two favorite MCUSA Joes, Duke “Big Daddy” Danger and your’s truly for a week of apex-strafing, brake pad-baking urban lawlessness and seriously felonious canyon-carving misconduct as we immersed ourselves in clutch roasting debauchery that will forever be known as Superbike Smackdown IV.
This quintet of riders put a quartet of liter bikes to task on two different race tracks and unleashed their fury on a variety of unsuspecting roads in search of the answer to the most significant question of this riding season: Which of these unruly beasts is the superlative Japanese superbike on the market today?
To get a feel for the new literbikes’ track capabilities, we turned laps with the superbike quartet on two different tracks, Buttonwillow and California Speedway.
The first track action took place at the famed Buttonwillow Raceway (check out track map here), for the second consecutive year, with Racers Edge Performance tire service on hand to keep fresh Michelin Pilot Power Race rubber on our test units. OEM buns were spooned on for our street ride, which took place on two separate roads. Highway 58 outside of Buttonwillow, California, afforded an opportunity to avoid the city sprawl, while a run up Malibu Canyon gave us a mid-week taste of the Santa Monica Mountains with only one real poseur struttin’ his stuff for us at the Rock Store. Then we spun a few more laps during a Fastrack track day at California Speedway just to make sure we didn’t miss anything important.
Now let’s check out the Tale of the Tape for these heavyweight bruisers, the hard numbers and inescapable truths that are the root of the open-class equation. So, grab a handful of throttle and hurry over to Page Two for the details.
Providing the rock n’ roll beat to our Superbike Smackdown symphony is the L.A.-based trio Mother Superior – a versatile band who have collaborated with artists from all across the musical spectrum, from Henry Rollins to Emmy Lou Harris. Our video collaboration might not rank up there with teaming with Grammy-winning artists, but make sure to check out the vids and then visit the band at www.mother-superior.com for updates, music, and merchandise. When you’ve had enough of that, you can stop by their Itunes store, then go to their MYspace and let them know what you really think.