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2013 Middleweight Supersport Shootout X Street Conclusion

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Splitting hairs... that really is what these shootouts come down to. The fact that the poor Yamaha R6 brings up the rear in our 2013 Supersport Street scoring proves how competitive the class is, as it's a fantastic bike. The Italian exotica from Ducati and MV Agusta both suffered in the rankings, but for different reasons. The track-biased 848 is too uncomfortable compared to the Japanese mounts, while the promising F3 is simply unrefined at this point in its development. In contrast to the F3, Honda's CBR600RR and Suzuki GSX-R600 are incredibly refined and technically sound - but are unable to claim top honors on the street. The GSX-R600 in particular suffers for letting the refurbished Supersports pass it in the rankings, as the little Gixxer tumbles from first to fourth - all those ahead of it bikes that were revamped for the 2013 model year. The Kawasaki and Triumph stand apart from the class - with the consensus of our testing troop focusing in on these as the bikes to beat. On the scorecard the Daytona just edges the Ninja, based primarily on its Inline Triple's performance and personality.

All eight bikes in our test deliver thrilling performance for the street. Each rider had their favorites, but what bike would they buy if it was their money on the line? Below is our test rider listings and their For My Money Pick:

Bart Madson; 6’1” / 205 lbs; Years Riding: Eight; Occupation: MotoUSA Scribbler
Triumph Daytona 675R

The Triumphs quickshifter aids acceleration. Upshifts are as easy as a light dab of the shift lever.

When it comes to shelling out the cash, I'd buck up and find the extra cash for Triumph's Daytona 675R ($13,499). I’d be content with any of the Japanese bikes, and the R6, while finishing last, is a magnificent sportbike – and a bargain at $10,990. But the Daytona delivers in every department. Even the ergonomics and comfort felt improved from the previous model. Brakes and suspension live up to their R-spec designation, and the slim, taut chassis is so responsive and maneuverable. The Triumph is a treat to ride, and I haven’t even lavished praise yet for its playful Triple.

Still, I have to admit that the Triumph’s Triple gets outdone by the MV in terms of character and sound… Same goes for the styling. Of the doppelganger Triples I find the F3 more stylish and engaging. But the MV was just too temperamental with its fly-by-wire, which almost spit me off once when it caught me off-guard. It also overheated 30 minutes into our ride… which made me wonder what else is going to break – and how expensive it would be to fix! The fact that I’m spending so much time explaining why I couldn’t pick the MV, shows how alluring it is. Fortunately, the Triumph is a better bike, and less expensive.
The Suzukis gearbox feels of good quality but didnt shift quite as slickly as the Honda  Kawasaki or Yamaha.

Adam Waheed; 6’ / 181 lbs; Years Riding: 18; Occupation: MotoUSA Road Test Editor
Suzuki GSX-R750

This year's decision is harder than ever. I really like what Triumph's done with the new Daytona. It stayed true to its roots and the 2013 version feels similar to the original only it is a little sharper in terms of acceleration and handling performance, plus it is a whole lot more comfortable and it looks much more modern. Even though it looks similar to the Kawasaki, I like the Triumph's more rounded edges and I think it looks about as good as the MV. The craftsmanship has also been elevated and it is now comparable to that of the Japanese bikes, which is saying a lot. Even better is that the price is still plenty reasonable and in the ball park of the rest of the bikes. But it's hard to ignore the exceptional value Suzuki brings to the table with the GSX-R750. Its $1300 less expensive than the Triumph and serves up more performance, plus it's more comfortable too. If I could somehow get a smoking deal on a '13 Daytona I could be lured over to the British side, but dollar for dollar my money would be on the GSX-R750, no question.

The 636-powered Ninja has much wider powerband giving the rider more flexibility in terms of gear selection through turns.
Brian Steeves; 5'10” / 165 lbs; Years Riding: 14 years; Occupation: Land, Air, and Sea, I try and shred all three
Kawasaki ZX-6R

What does it take to be the best performing middleweight sportbike in the year 2013? That's the magic question seven bikes this year strive to answer. Ten years ago you'd need to be a refined machine with effortless handling, a useable torque curve that compliments the chassis, and mates power to the tires in a smooth sequence between throttle and braking. As daunting of a task that alone is, todays engineering geniuses seem to continue to pull rabbits out of a hat we didn't think could exist. The field of motorcycle development is on course to deliver us Tron bikes next week it seems.

For the time being, a sword wielding Ninja lays claim to the spoils in 2013. Seamless corner entry on the brakes, combined with predictable apex aim, and exiting power makes this bike a dream to ride. Fit and finish is excellent, from seating position to well-placed controls makes for a great fit for me. The electronics package on the ZX6R is informative without being clustered. A solid bike that elevated the middleweight bar to a new high, Kawasaki will have the rest of the manufacturers scrambling for refinement and more cc's in the future. And this is a beautiful thing… I can't wait for 2014!
Next to the MV  the Triumphs three-cylinder engine offers the most amount of thrill and excitement when the throttle is twisted.

Adey Bennett (Adeysworld); 6'3" 190-ish lbs; Years Riding: Nine years; Occupation: Professional Badass
Triumph Daytona 675R

If I had 14K burning a hole in my pocket, I'd have to scoop the Triumph Daytona 675R. It embodies everything I would want in a supersport machine. Useable power, nimble, great looks and comes with factory bling that makes it race ready.

Massimo Bruzzi; 5’6 / 145 lbs; Years Riding: Almost 20 years; Occupation: General Contractor
Kawasaki ZX-6R

I don’t think she is the best looking bike, but from the rider point of view she has everything you need to enjoy a good ride wherever you feel like going. Downtown for a coffee, Ortega Highway (http://www.motorcycle-usa.com/1/4624/RGR/Ortega-Highway.aspx)for some curves and/or Fontana for some track time. Equipped with top of the line features and good price for everything you get.

The Suzuki GSX-R600 always appealed to me, I love the tail section and the aggressive look. The performance, agility and now, the sound, are the qualities for which I always wanted her to be in my garage as my second bike. Plus, she fits me pretty well. But now she has a really good opponent in the bike above. I don’t think I would need the 750 (you can invest the $600 difference on a good exhaust) and the price is pretty much the same as the Kawi.
The Ducati was the heaviest bike of the group and it certainly felt that way in turns with it requiring considerable more steering effort.

Nathon Verdugo; 6’ / 170 lbs; Years Riding: Been riding since I was 3. Been riding sportbikes for past six years; Occupation: Troy Lee Designs Employee
Ducati 848 EVO SE or Honda CBR600RR

If money wasn’t an object, my pick would be the Ducati 848 EVO. I’m a sucker for aesthetics. Even though I should probably date the girl that comes from a good family and likes to cook and clean, you are way more likely to catch me with the temperamental super model that’s most likely going to break my heart and my bank...

If I had to be fiscally responsible, I’d get the Honda CBR600. This bike wasn’t the fastest but in my opinion it was the most user friendly and second-best looking – at least the all-red version is, not the red, white, and blue one we tested.

Aside from the Yamaha the Ninja has the most racy ergonomics. Its also got a taller seat as compared to the Suzukis and Honda.
Jason Abbott; 5'11 / 190 lbs; Years Riding: 25 years MX / five years street; Occupation: Mechanic / MX test rider
Kawasaki ZX-6R

If I were to spend my own money on one of the bikes we rode it would have to be the Kawasaki ZX-6R. Out of all the bikes I felt the Kawi had the best throttle response and a mid-range power delivery that definitely had some get up and go! Also the Kawi felt like it was the most consistent from side-to-side and had the most grip through the corners which was very confidence inspiring. For someone who doesn't ride sportbikes on a regular basis the Kawi was the easiest to get used to. The cockpit felt the most comfortable for my build and it didn't have a stinkbug feel to it.


2013 Supersport Shootout Photo Gallery
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View Slideshow
Recent Sportbike Comparison Reviews
2015 Entry-Level Sportbike Shootout
We gather the field of entry-level sportbikes for a show-down to see which machine is best in the segment.
2014 Heavyweight Supersport Road Shootout
After fighting for fast laps at the circuit, we pit the Ducati 899 Panigale, MV Agusta F3 800, and Suzuki GSX-R750 against one another, on the road.
2014 Light-Heavyweight Supersport Shootout
The wait is over: Ducati’s 899 Panigale lines up against the MV Agusta F3 800, Suzuki’s GSX-R750, and last year’s Middleweight Shootout winner, Kawasaki’s Ninja ZX-6R.
2013 Supersport Horsepower & Torque

2013 Supersport Shootout Weights
2013 Supersport Shootout MPG

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Miffy   April 10, 2014 06:50 AM
MEant to say 400-700 for a 600cc but there is no edit.
Miffy   April 10, 2014 06:43 AM
People forget litre bikes have crazy insurance prices in some countries, here in the UK a 600c is £400-700 for me to insure and I struggle to even find insurance on a litre bike, when I do it is £1500+. You only keep your no claims for 2 years as well, having sold my bike a year ago and just using a Bicycle 100% of the time, if I decided to get a Motorbike again, I'd be paying crazy money for Insurance.
wellreally   November 6, 2013 04:08 PM
but BUT the big problem with a CBR500 especially a Ninja 300 is that riding them to 90% of their limits is like riding a Gixxer 1k to 50% of its limit. Unless you're talking about raw lean-angle, which again is crazy to ride to the limit on the street. I'm not going to ride a Gixxer 1k to 175mph on the street. I'm not going to corner a Ninja 300 at 50deg lean-angle on the street, either. But a series of eigth-mile drags and twisty roads at 85% of a Gixxer 1ks' performance-limit? Sure I'm all over that. A bike with a 16-sec quarter-mile? I wouldn't even want to bother with it. 65mpg might appeal on a long ride, on a flat road or a sedate city or coastal ride, on a gorgeous day, but that's about the limit of its appeal to me. I wouldn't ride a bike that slow in rush-hour traffic if you paid me.
wellreally   November 6, 2013 04:00 PM
...now, surely there are some ultra-tight twisty canyon roads where an R6 would be better than an R1, I can name some even on the East Coast, but I wouldn't want to ride anywhere near the limit on either one, on such a road. And even then again it would be debatable whether the 10th tenth of handling advantage of an R6 over an R1 is worth the shorter gearing, loss of midrange and the need to shift more often on such roads. Vs say just sticking the R1 in first gear and riding it like that all day long. Sure on the other hand 1st gear combined with the low-RPM stuttering of the R1 might be a problem. Fne, give me a Gixxer 1K or zx10R instead. Sure, maybe a zx-14 definitely a Busa would be a nightmare on such roads. I doubt that would be as much of a problem with a S1000RR. The best literbikes are going to be right there in the turns with a great 600, and then leave them the moment the road gets straight. The big question is are you good enough to take the bike, any such bike, to its limits on such roads and survive. But if you had any sense you would recognize that it would just be insane to take even a good 600 to its limits on the street, not to mention a good literbike and THAT is where a bike like a CBR500 (not to mention a Ninja 300) really shines. A third of the price, much lower insurance...and you can still wreck it if you want to.
wellreally   November 6, 2013 03:50 PM
Anyway you can probably match the handling of an average to poor handling 600 with a good literbike (say an FJ6R with a Gixxer 1k with softer springs and higher bars) and have a clear power advantage, but you're not going to match a Gixxer 600, R6 or ZX6R with the average literbike. Those bikes are just too damm good, their only shortcomings are the lack of low-end torque on the R6, the poor low-end throttle-response of the ZX6R and the limited top-end speed of all three. A Gixxer 1k, R1 or ZX-10R could handle almost as well and run faster but they are not going to *dust* them. You really want to dust a good 600 then you need a bike that handles almost as well and has about twice the power with reasonably-close gearing to the 600. Not too much longer, but not too short either. Long enough to give it an advantage in top speed but not so long as to hide all the extra power except in top gear at redline. The thing is that to me the extra power and longer gearing of a literbike is far more useful than the ultra-quick handling of a good 600 especially considering the relative lack of low and midrange power of some 600s. And frankly a bike like a Gixer 1k or ZX10R just is not bad-handling. Those two bikes are plenty fast enough handling-wise, more than powerful enough up and down the rev-range...just great all-around streetbikes. Not to mention that they are not even that much more expensive than their 600 supersport relatives. I don't really like the R1 stock below 4k but above that there is nothing wrong with it compared to an R6...it's got much-longer legs and the handling is rock-solid. I will take one of those over the corresponding 600 supersport any day of the week.
wellreally   November 6, 2013 03:35 PM
But certainly you could do a comparison-test involving a mixture of standard, "sport" and "supersport" 600s and literbikes and you'd see some riders slathering over the power of the literbikes and some over the efficiency and handling of the 600s. The literbikes will always be handicapped with wider and heavier engines, rims and tires, the beefier and heavier transmission, clutch and chassis, and the fact that they are designed to be stable at higher speeds than a 600 can reach. But if you want to see 600-class handling in a literbike it's out there and you can always put narrow rims and tires (not to mention higher bars and softer springs) on one. The CBR1k is maybe 30lbs heavier than a Ninja 300, bone stock, probably about the same as the Ninja 636. The wheels and tires alone probably make most of the difference in handling, and the CBR1k has an electronically-controlled steering-damper. The high bore to stroke ratio 4-cylinder liter engine is probably more than twice as wide as the long-stroke twin in a Ninja 636 though and that's going to make a big difference in responsiveness. I've ridden the CBR1K myself, it feels like a pot-bellied pig compared to most ofther bikes, but it's designed that way, with a "mass centralization" philosophy.
wellreally   November 6, 2013 03:19 PM
...like many literbikes, not like "a" literbike. Think about it a bit and see if you can think of a very-good reason to have to remove the fairing (at least a lower-fairing) to perform an oil-change. The Ninja 636, all Kawis really, are just designed with a different philosophy than the CBR1k not to mention most Hondas and I would guess that the CBR500 is Honda's attempt to better the Ninja 636 in an overall sense. It's really hard to bet against a bike that provides 90% of the performance at 75% of the cost for the bike alone and half the insurance-cost, while otherwise providing a quality, good-looking bike. It's clearly a winning formula at least for one-up riding, low-weight riding on mostly-flat roads at moderate speeds, in the same way that it's hard to intelligently and maturely justify the purchase of a C7 Stingray for the road. Unless you have $75k burning a hole in your pocket, never need a backseat and you want to make a real impression.
RENDELL   August 30, 2013 06:45 PM
I researched all the bikes on here for months and I test drove most of them. I am a Honda man but... I bought the Kawasaki 636 Ninja. I did 1200 miles on it thus far. It is my 10th motorcycle (I'm 40). The 636 is the best 600 in many ways. It is sublimely smooth, perfect throttle response, very powerful yet controllable brakes, fierce acceleration, and simply slices and carves through corners! Unlike most of its peers, it has torque and plenty of power starting at 2000 RPM. The handling of the bike is what stole my heart. It is beautiful in the flesh (I bought the black and green) and pictures do not do it justice! My only complaints are: No steering damper and a fuel gauge would be nice since it was designed more for the street. I rode it on the famous Palomar Mountain and the 636 Ninja performed flawlessly. The 636 Ninja is exceptionally SMOOTH like a 1000cc motorcycle. You don't have to remove the fairing to perform an oil change which is tribute to its intelligent design. Minus the torque, I like it better in every way than my 2008 CBR1000RR. This 636 Ninja will only make the competition better. I can't wait to see the 2014/5 Yamahas, GSXRs, etc.!
neo1piv014   August 19, 2013 09:34 AM
@600ccs - I wouldn't try to equate 50% score to 50% price simply because the raw scores are all so close. Those extra 40 points may translate to 2lbs extra weight, 0.1 second slower lap time, etc. If it were half as fast, twice as heavy, etc, then I would say that the 50% price should be the case. Looking at how close most of the scores are on almost all of the supersport/superbike shootouts, I'd be willing to bet that individual lap times on the same bike by different reviewers could be farther separated than the final times between the different bikes (if that makes any sense at all).
JeezLouise   August 10, 2013 12:03 PM
"Value" is a dangerous question when it comes to evaluating new motorcycles. Because you always get a better value with a used bike. The basic assumption that every online reviewer makes is that those truly seeking good value will use their reviews when considering the purchase of a used item.
600ccsOfRawPower   July 14, 2013 07:01 PM
" The R6 may finish last in this test – but it’s a fantastic bike and arguably the best value. " ah, "value". But no: the 636 and the Daytona are better bikes, based on the final score. By almost 50%! So if one were to measure "value" they would have a 50% price-cushion as well. Hm, I wonder if that works the other way around? How good would a bike have to be that costs a third as much as the winner, to be a better value overall? Proportionally a third as good, so if it scores 40 or better, that's a win on two counts. And just how hard would it be to rack-up forty points in this scoring system?
MCUSA Bart   July 5, 2013 08:38 AM
Carbon, first off thanks for the kudos. I can't speak directly for Adam, who's out right now. But generally craftsmanship and fit and finish we are referring to the overall build quality and components. It's hard to put an exact description on it - but things like the quality of switchgear, levers and handlebars. Does the bodywork fit together well, or poorly? Is there an overabundance of cheap plastic? Is the paint well done? Many bikes are quite good in this regard now and getting better, but some are better than others... Sometimes you get a bike that is 95% excellent, but then there's some huge blunder, like the winscreen is wobbly or the switchgear feels super cheap. You are right though, that it's quite subjective.
Carbon   July 4, 2013 04:59 PM
Can you explain what you mean? As you say: "The craftsmanship has also been elevated and it is now comparable to that of the Japanese bikes...". "Fit" and "finish" is no doubt very subjective. But I'm curious what you use as a guide to determine if a bike is "polished", or not. I've been riding sport bikes for 16 years and have always owned Japanese I-4's. A big reason being that the bikes are tight with everything working in harmony. The CBR's and such have always been bullet-proof reliable. But the more trips down to the dealer, and these tests I read...the European bikes look like they can walk the walk, without leaving me stranded on the side of the road. When you put miles on a new model bike, what do you look for in terms of craftsmanship and precision? I'm really leaning toward the KTM RC8R and Triumph 675R. But that word you mention, "craftsmanship", really has me suspicious when compared with the R1's and ZX-10's of my past and present. Awesome site. Keep it up!
CS23   July 4, 2013 01:16 PM
RENDELL get it! I just sold my 848 for one,(yes I know some people think I'm crazy), but the 636 is an incredible supersport, power everywhere and handles so much better than my 848 did.
RENDELL   July 3, 2013 10:22 PM
Awesome! I have been waiting for this. I was approved to buy a 636. I'm researching it to make sure it is the bike I want and so far everything I read makes me think it is worthy! Thank you for this comparison, it is the best I've read.