Another year, another batch of brand-new candy-colored Superbikes. This year Motorcycle USA presents separate track and street evaluations for your liter-class sportbike pleasure.
More than anything riding a contemporary liter-class sportbike is an exercise in restraint. Whether it be keeping yourself from using all 150-odd rear-wheel horsepower at every given opportunity, or controlling the desire to wheelie past every other vehicle you see on the road, if you wish to live a long prosperous life aboard a sportbike you simply must show restraint.
And for 2009, the ability to control one’s self while at the controls of new 1000cc superbikes
becomes more difficult than ever when the usual suspects from Ducati, Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki and Yamaha are at your disposal. Two of them, the 2009 Yamaha YZF-R1 and 2009 Suzuki GSX-R1000 are all-new and feature significantly upgraded engines and chassis wrapped in new bodywork.
The 2009 Ducati 1198 looks the same but received a boost in displacement as a direct result of the Ducati Corse World Superbike homologation effort. Then there’s the returning Superbike Smackdown-champion Honda CBR1000RR, which offers an innovative anti-lock braking system as a factory option for ’09 but is otherwise unchanged. As is last-year’s runner-up, the potent 2009 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R.
For this Superbike Smackdown liter-class comparison Motorcycle USA brings back our old school-approach by separating the vastly different environments of street and racetrack. Our track test took place at one of California’s most underrated racing circuits, Thunderhill Raceway, in Willows, California. Executive Editor Steve Atlas has his hands full crunching performance numbers and deciphering our test rider’s scribbles to determine the winner in outright performance around the racetrack.
$60,000-plus worth of machinery. But which one is right for you? Follow along and let's find out.
So that leaves us to evaluate what the majority of sportbike motorcycle riders actually do with these superbikes – ride them on the streets. Since we were already in Northern California for our racetrack test at T-Hill, we headed to Redding to ride some of NorCal’s long stretches of curvy and often untraveled roads. Enjoying a heavy dose of unseasonably warm spring weather along the way, our route stretched between Highways 299 and 36 with a few adventures along the backroads connecting those two main thoroughfares. The tarmac was twisty, the cops nowhere to be found and the speed limits, well, let’s just not go there right now…
We followed that weekend of canyon carving by bringing them back down to Southern California for a few weeks of daily commuting to get a better feel for what they’re like to live with day-in and day-out. So without further ado, let’s take a look at what this year’s Superbikes have to offer.