I don’t care much for sportbikes. Whoa! Wait! Wait, let me clarify: I don’t dislike sportbikes, it’s my wrists and back that have the problem.
At times riding a sportbike is like mainlining unadulterated joy, a conduit to a higher plane of high-performance consciousness. Hunched over fuel tanks with achy wrists is acceptable while turning hot laps at the track, or street riding at a nine-tenths pace. But for all-day, long-range comfort? No thank you. The Inquisition could’ve probably wrangled a confession or two by simply threatening to “throw him on the Ducati 848 for 200 miles.” Maybe it’s not that bad, maybe, but most folks will confirm that racing replicas don’t make for ideal street mounts. Fortunately, there are more forgiving high-performance options out there.
We already sampled a slew of such motorcycles in our Road Sport Shootout earlier this year. Those bikes are notable for their upright riding positions and street-friendly powerplants. Now we’re taking a stab at the stripped down versions we designate as streetfighters. Purists can chafe at the streetfighter tag line, and that’s fine by us. Call ‘em super nakeds, or super standards, or bikes for folks who realize they ain’t 21 no more… Whatever they’re called, these streetfighters bring sporty performance in a more palatable ergonomic package. Here’s the cast of characters in Streetfighter Shootout V:
Let’s start with the newcomer: Honda’s CB1000R. It’s all-new for 2011, at least in the U.S. market. But the Hornet, as it’s known in Europe, has been around in its current form since the 2008 model year. Next up is the bike that really defined the streetfighter class, the Triumph Speed Triple. This year the folks at Hinkley refined their flagship ride with engine and chassis updates, as well as new styling lines. Kawasaki’s Z1000 also returns, the Big Z unchanged from its redesigned 2010 model and looking to nab its first ever Streetfigher Shootout win (it finished second in 2010 and 2007).
That leaves us with a pair of entries from Ducati. The Ducati Streetfighter had to come back and defend its 2010 crown. And the racy Duc will be hard to dethrone, enjoying Superbike performance from its 1098-derived L-Twin and chassis. The other Ducati in the mix is the Diavel. MotoUSA has taken to adding a wild card into our 2011 shootouts, as much to satisfy our own curiosity as stir up the pot. The Diavel’s had us scratching our head as to its true identity ever since it debuted, so we toss it in with these Streetfighters to see if it can hang.
This motorcycle quintet might not be proper race bikes, but they aren’t dumbed down either. These bikes are high-performance offerings in their own right. All but one in this 2011 Shootout cranks out 125 horsepower to the rear wheel. And with a couple nuanced differences in power delivery, the powerbands on all are robust, torque-rich from top to bottom.
The sporty engines are complemented by more than willing chassis. All five feature three-way adjustable inverted forks, with many offering the same out back, and at the very least adjustment for preload and rebound. Four of the five motorcycles feature single-sided swingarms and radial-mount brakes calipers up front are no longer stand-out components, they’re standard fare in this class.
Our shootout testing process follows the usual MotoUSA steps: Tank-full curb weights checked on our Intercomp scales. Rear wheel horsepower and torque measured on the in-house Dynojet 250i. Performance testing took place at Barona Drag Strip, to gather quarter-mile runs and 0-60 acceleration. Street testing was performed on the favored backroads surrounding our Southern Oregon headquarters. We also upped the value of the performance factor by running the bikes for a day at California’s Streets of Willow circuit as well.
Bikes are rated on our standard score sheet in a variety of objective and subjective categories. Final rankings are tabulated by awarding 10 points to the top ranking bike, followed by eight for second, seven for third, six for fourth and five for fifth. The varied opinions of our test riders in the shootout text, as well as the For My Money selections, supplement the score sheet judgments.
We rounded up the usual suspects for test riding duties. MotoUSA Pater Familias Ken Hutchison leads the way, the spirit of Hutch’s ‘80s-era mullet bristling in the wind as we flogged the five test bikes on street and track. Road Test Editor Adam Waheed, author of our last two Streetfighter Shootouts, lends his opinion, as does Off-road Editor, JC Hilderbrand, who offers a relevant, if dirty, take on the things. And we also call upon ringer Brian Steeves, who handles performance testing, as well as testing the stress factors of frame welds and fork seals with constant wheelies, stoppies and whatever you call them things that leave long, black streaks on the road… Also there’s me, the one who doesn’t care much for sportbikes.
Let the hair-splitting commence!