Envision accelerating from a standstill to 60 mph in under three seconds, slicing through traffic like you’re behind the stick of an F-16, and achieving a top speed so high that we couldn’t find a road long enough to uncover just how fast these machines are. This is the essence of Superbikes—the fastest, most agile production motorcycles known to man. Sportbikes engineered by the stopwatch but sold for duty on the open road. And this year Motorcycle USA has eight of them for its 2010 Superbike Smackdown VII Street Shootout.
Similarly to what we’ve done in years past, we’re bringing you two separate comparisons to better delve into the nuances of each bike as operated in your preferred theater of operations. While the 2010 Superbike Smackdown VII Track shootout revolves around lap times around the racetrack, that lingo doesn’t mean squat for us street guys.
Because on the streets it’s all about which bike looks best, sounds the meanest, rockets away from the stop light the quickest, hawks the longest wheelie, and pulls the hottest chicks. Meanwhile it still manages to deliver some degree of comfort and day-to-day practicality—not an easy task for any motorcycle. That’s why we’re here to sort out fact from fiction and to discover which of these eight masterpieces you absolutely won’t be able to live without.
Headlining this year’s shootout is the defacto standard in the class: the Honda CBR1000RR. In its current iteration, the reigning champ has won two years in a row confirming that it has the ideal combination of speed, agility, and comfort. Despite sporting minimal updates for ’10 the tried-and-true Honda is a proven winner and is the benchmark to beat.
After finishing second in the 2009 Superbike Smackdown VI Street comparison, Suzuki is making another appearance as a ’09 model. Due to inventory surpluses it decided not to import any 2010 street bikes into the US, hence the reason we are testing an ‘09 machine. Not a big deal though, as aside from color, the internationally available twenty-ten Gixxer 1000 is unchanged and will be competing with a favorable advantage in terms of price.
Our next contestant is Team Green’s Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R. Of all the Japanese bikes available this year, the ZX-10R sports the most mechanical and cosmetic updates. Will this be the boost needed for it to finally grab the No. 1 spot?
Last year Yamaha shook up the Inline-Four literbike world with its distinctive YZF-R1 and its crossplane crankshaft. By incorporating a unique engine firing order like the one used on the Fiat Yamaha MotoGP squad’s YZR-M1s, the R1 separated itself from the competition and gave riders a fresh option. Aside from the new color combos, the R1 is unchanged in 2010.
This year Europe is represented by not one, not two, but four motorcycles! Italian marque, Ducati, brought out its premium L-Twin powered 1198S Corse Special Edition Superbike. It’s dressed up in new livery with an aluminum fuel tank and is packaged with Ducati’s Race Kit consisting of a new ECU, slip-on Termignoni mufflers, and a rear stand.
This leaves us with the three newcomers to our Superbike Smackdown comparisons. First up is Italy’s second challenger in the form of Aprilia’s stunning RSV4R. Released as an all-new model for 2010, this machine is the only one in the group to feature a V-Four engine configuration. It’s based off the upscale RSV4 Factory but priced more reasonably due to its less expensive chassis componentry and engine’s fixed intake trumpets. We were immediately impressed with it during our First Ride, but will it be able to go head-to-head with the opposition?
Austrian motorcycle manufacturer KTM has long been known for its fabulous dirt bikes but with the release of its RC8R, KTM finally has achieved true Superbike levels of sportbike performance. Like the Ducati the KTM features a big twin-cylinder engine and steel frame hidden beneath sleek radar-reflecting bodywork.
Last but not least is German motorsports giant BMW and its fully kitted S1000RR. Like its four Japanese competitors the Beemer sports an Inline-Four engine with a conventional firing order and an extremely competitive price tag. In the superbike world BMW had yet to establish itself as a performance leader. Can the all-new S1000RR change all that?
To find out we assembled a diverse range of test riders—some big and tall and some short and small before hitting the streets of Southern California. Our route led us down many types of road surfaces that a sportbike enthusiast might encounter, from the concrete five-lane wide dredges of the 405 Freeway to rollercoaster-like twists and turns just north of Ojai. Additional time was spent slicing through town to learn what these machines are like to ride in the everyday world.
Each motorcycle was then rated based on objective performance criteria including: engine horsepower, torque, curb weight, quarter-mile acceleration, zero-to-60 mph acceleration, braking performance, MPG/Range, and MSRP. Bikes were also scored with subjective categories ranked solely on rider opinion including engine performance and character, drivetrain, handling/suspension, brakes, ergonomics, instrumentation/electronics, overall comfort, appearance, and preference. Points were then assessed based on a hybrid Formula One points scale with 10 points for first, eight for second, seven for third, six for fourth, etc, etc. with all categories scored equally. Points are then totaled giving us the bike’s finishing position and this year’s King of the Superbikes.
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