Banging off 16,000 rpm rev limiters. Railing corners at knee-dragging lean angles. Top-shelf suspension and braking components reigning in the pleasing excess of wailing high-performance engines… This could be the scene of any club race or local trackday, but instead our seven-rider troop shoots up and down Palomar Mountain on the latest batch of middleweight racebikes. Avoiding gravel, road imperfections and the unexpected around every corner, we navigate a stretch of road notorious for its challenging terrain.
Designed for prowess in the world’s elite road racing series, the Supersport class sees most of its action on public roads. Enter Motorcycle USA and its seven-bike 2011 Supersport Street Shootout. Sportbikes don’t always stack
up the same on real-world roads as they do under controlled track conditions, where riders push machines to their very limits. That’s why MotoUSA tasks itself with running separate, street and track-specific, comparisons as part of our annual big-budget sportbike shootouts. And this 2011 Supersport Street edition is one of our biggest yet.
The Supersport class grew stagnant in recent years, as world-wide economic woes delayed once frantic biennial development cycles to the current system of undefined, sporadic refreshes. The result in the 600cc class is several models that have gone multiple years without significant changes. In fact, for last year’s Supersport Shootout we had to go in an all-new direction, asking OEMs to modify their existing 600s with aftermarket kit, as there were no major developments in the 2010 class. Thankfully, things have changed for 2011, with four updated models entering the fray.
Suzuki stands apart in the traditional 600cc field by delivering a completely redesigned GSX-R600. This new 2011 Gixxer comes in lighter on the scales and boasts higher-spec suspension and braking components. The remaining 600s are all quite familiar, each one sporting 599cc Inline Four engines – even the 67mm bore and 42.5mm stroke are identical. The remaining spec sheet variations are subtle, with the Big Four virtual clones at first glimpse. Of the three, the Kawasaki ZX-6R is arguably the favorite, as it defends a two-year winning streak in our Supersport comparison reviews. Physically unchanged for 2011, Kawi did manage one major improvement by slashing MSRP down to a now class-leading $9999. The Honda CBR600RR, a two-time comparison winner in its own right (2007 and 2008), has always rated high in street-specific scoring in the past, making it a strong contender as well. Meanwhile, the Yamaha YZF-R6 (also twice a winner in our nine years of Supersport comparison testing) brings a strong package to the table as well, even if it’s unchanged since 2009.
Those are the four conventional 600s, but 2011 sees three Supersport outliers in the Triumph Daytona 675R, Ducati 848 EVO and Suzuki GSX-R750. Cheaters! We can foresee the reader comments already… Relax, our Supersport comparisons have been rife with cheater entries over the years. It used to be Kawasaki was the perennial rule-fudger, skirting the 600cc limit with its 636 Supersport. This year we’ve got a trio of bikes eschewing displacement conformity.
The Triumph and Ducati justify displacement bumps by their respective three- and two-cylinder engine configurations. Both enjoy precedent as past shootout competitors, with their legitimacy further bolstered by acknowledgement in various racing series as valid Supersports. The Daytona 675 claimed top honors when it debuted in our 2006 SS comparisons (winning in both the Track and Street sections). This year Triumph returns with an up-spec R version, utilizing Ohlins suspension and Brembo monobloc brakes. As for Ducati, it delivers the 848 EVO, a higher-spec version of its base 848. Featuring more horsepower and uprated braking components, the Italians also hacked a full $1000 off the 848’s highest-in-class MSRP.
We won’t pretend the GSX-R750 is anything less than a full on cheater, but we include it in this year’s test nonetheless. Our Supersport Shootouts are about comparing bikes that consumers ride, not homologating to strict class limits. The GSX-R750 skirts between Supersport and full on Superbike, so we added it into the 2011 mix to sate our own curiosity, as much as anything else. Hey, at least we didn’t include the Buell 1125R like the AMA does in its mish-mashed Daytona SportBike class… Oh, we did that a couple years ago? Well, bottom line, we tossed in the Gixxer 750. Don’t worry, however, as the 750 doesn’t affect the scoring or final rankings, although we do show where it would have scored if counted – just to stir things up.
And now for what’s missing: The MV Agusta F3? Believe us, if we could’ve begged, borrowed or stolen one, it’d be in this comparison. But we have to wait, like the rest of the U.S., for that uber-sexy 675cc Triple to get its import papers in order.
As far as testing protocol goes, we followed our routine structure. Seven regulars from Motorcycle USA’s test rider pool deliver their opinion in 10 subjective categories. Rider skill level ranges from the relatively green, like our Video Editor Ray Gauger, to full on hooligan ringer Brian Steeves. Our routes comprised a variety of terrain, with freeway stints to gauge commuter competence, but mostly we stuck to winding backroads – like the aforementioned Palomar Mountain loop.
More objective data we gathered on the MotoUSA dyno and scales, measuring horsepower, torque and curb weights. Experienced Road Test Editor Adam Waheed conducts the performance testing, gathering quarter-mile and 0-60 acceleration, along with 60-0 braking numbers. We also record observed fuel efficiency and range, as well as measure exhaust sound. In total, there are 20 categories in which the bikes are ranked, earning points on a descending scale, with a one-point bonus for top ranking (10,8,7,6,5,4…). The bikes ranked, we add up the scoresheets and make our final declarations.
Now kickstand up, thumb the starter and feed out the clutch… Supersport Shootout IX is ready to roll!
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2011 Supersport Shootout IX Street
2011 Yamaha YZF-R6 Street Comparison
2011 Kawasaki ZX-6R Street Comparison
2011 Honda CBR600RR Street Comparison
2011 Ducati 848 EVO Street Comparison