2014 Heavyweight Supersport Road Shootout

MotorcycleUSA Staff | February 24, 2014

Sportbike manufacturers forever brag about the performance of their machines and how each component was engineered with racing in mind. And while that’s important to many, the reality is most motorcyclists spend time racking up mileage on the street, not the track. That’s why MotoUSA continues to offer two sides of every story in our performance sportbike shootouts. Now that we’ve calculated the grid winner, it’s time to find out which bike performs best during work week commutes and weekend shred-a-thons in the Heavyweight Supersport Road Shootout.

While other brands spend time reconfiguring the size of their engines, Suzuki knows it’s got a solid foundation with its GSX-R750 ($12,299). Since its inception three decades ago in 1985, the Gixxer remains powered by a 749cc Inline Four engine that’s designed to offer more torque and acceleration than a 600cc supersport without the brute one-wheel in the sky force of an open class sportbike.

Over the years the GSX-R’s architecture has carefully evolved with water cooling, fuel injection and other modern tuning tricks. In its current configuration the twin-spar frame equipped Suzuki is the veteran in this class, having received its last batch of mechanical updates three years ago. While it offers two different engine maps, it is still missing the more contemporary electronic countermeasures found on some class rival including traction control and a quickshifter. So to even the playing field, we retrofitted a set-up from Bazzaz Performance. The Z-FI TC box ($849.95) adds a rate-of-change traction control (non-wheel speed sensor enabled), quickshifter, and the ability to alter the fuel and ignition mapping. But will this aftermarket goodie help the mighty Gixxer run with the newer bikes?

Ducati enters this test with an all-new weapon in the form of its 899 Panigale ($14,995). Based off the top-of-the-line 1199 Panigale, this smaller Twin features a highly oversquare and rev-happy 898cc V-Twin engine that also serves as an integral part of the chassis. The 899 is a significant departure from its clunky steel-framed predecessor, the 848 EVO. Despite the minimal differences between it and its hard-edged Superbike brother, Ducati is eager to proclaim that the 899 was designed with the street rider in mind. And we have to agree after our initial riding impression, conducted in the rain at Imola, where we experienced first-hand its useful array of electronics, including ABS, electronic brake control, eight-way adjustable traction control (wheel speed sensor-equipped), quickshifter, and three different engine power modes. But how will it function compared to the other two machines in this contest?

MV Agusta is keen to grab a chunk of the heavyweight sportbike sales with its F3 800 ($15,798). Based off last year’s all-new F3 triple-cylinder platform, as the classification suggests, the 800 is powered by a 798cc Inline Three. It’s harnessed in MV’s equally innovative frame that neatly integrates both steel and aluminum pieces. Like the Ducati, the MV comes from the factory with an integrated electronics package that includes eight-way adjustable traction control (rate of change), quickshifter, and the ability to tune various parameters of the engine and throttle. The package proved a winner during the track portion of this test but will its success transfer onto public roads?

Light-Heavyweight Supersport Shootout
 Suzukis classic GSX-R750 lines up against a new breed of heavyweights which include Ducatis 899 Panigale  and MV Agustas F3 800. And because it was the winner of our middleweight shootout last year we included the 636-powered Ninja by Kawasaki just to see how it would fare.
If you can’t tell by looking at them, things move pretty fast in the world of sportbikes. From the technology that propels these bullet bikes through the air, to the ever-evolving engine size and class structure, bigger, lighter, faster rules. And for 2014 this segment is further scrambled by two new entries: Ducat’s 899 Panigale and MV Agusta’s F3 800. Together with the venerable Suzuki GSX-R750 and revamped Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R we’ve got the ingredients for this year’s inaugural Light-Heavyweight Supersport Shootout.

To find out, I spent a few days commuting back and forth to the office on each bike. We also put an eight-hour shift at one of our favorite stretches of windy, freshly paved asphalt just north of Los Angeles. Joining us on that ride were overseas colleagues Chris Northover from Superbike magazine along with his British pals, Simon and Llewelyn Pavey, who were also in town soaking up some California sunshine. We also did our usual gamut of performance tests to get some tangible numbers to support, or for that matter, refute, what we felt behind the handlebar.

Although it doesn’t fit in this class, for reference, we wished to see how the Supersport Shootout Street X winner, Triumph’s Daytona 675R would fare against these heavyweights. Unfortunately we didn’t get our hands on one in time. Lastly, if you’ve read last month’s Heavyweight Supersport Track test you might be wondering where the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R is hiding? Since it finished runner-up to the Daytona last year, it wasn’t invited to play with the big boys in this competition. So let’s dig in and learn which of these three motorcycles perform best on the open road.

MotorcycleUSA Staff