Drag site icon to your taskbar to pin site. Learn More

2009 Superbike Smackdown VI Track

Monday, May 18, 2009
2009 Superbike Smackdown Track
Time for the big boys to come and play! (From left) Ducati 1198, Kawasaki ZX-10R, Honda CBR1000RR, Suzuki GSX-R1000, Yamaha YZF-R1.
Battle of the Kings

How much horsepower is really necessary? When is enough, enough? Superbikes have been getting faster and faster each year, making it hard not to ponder this question quite often. But the days of more bhp every year could be changing. We saw it in our supersport shootout. A couple of the machines lost a good deal of power from last year due to complying with new government regulations. Will the same be seen here in the current crop of Superbikes? And is it a bad thing? We sure think so!

Having too much horsepower is like having too much money or too hot of a girlfriend – it may be hard to deal with, but it’s always worth it.

In the automotive world the times they are a changin’, so to speak. Due to reduced carbon footprint mandates and in an aid to improve mpg, horsepower is on the decline nearly as fast as sales are. And it would appear the same may be on the horizon for motorcycles, though in our two-wheeled world the big concern is sound, not smog. Say it ain’t so! But while this has caught a few manufacturers unprepared, luckily for us the ones who were on top of development for their ’09-and-beyond machines have found a way to muffle noise and still make more power.

So, the question remains: How fast are they? And which is fastest? Thus, we assembled the Big-Four Japanese and one wicked Italian for a Shootout at the Thunderhill Corral to find out who the last bike standing would be. All showed up guns-a-blazin’ with full-factory support at the technical and fast T-Hill, which proved to be an ideal circuit for our liter-bike shootout. We call it NorCal’s hidden treasure.
Videos Our Sponsor
2009 Superbike Smackdown
Click to view video
To see, hear and feel all of the liter-class beasts in action be sure to check out the Superbike Smackdown video.

To put all of these extremely capable rockets to the test, we assembled a talented and experienced team of riders, ranging in ability from pro to expert trackday rider. Three-time AMA 250cc GP Champion Chuck Sorenson returned, joining myself and fellow staffers Adam Waheed and Ken Hutchison. Rounding out the crew was local AFM Formula Pacific fast-guy and owner of Pacific Track Time Michael Earnest, who knows Thunderhill like he knows his own bathroom, and is quite quick there.

Due to the size and sheer complexity, for this Mega Shootout we opted to split the track and street shootouts in to separate portions. One of the major reasons being that we once again stepped up our game, fitting each of the machines with the latest and greatest data acquisition systems from Kinelogix for our track test, which brought back more data than NASA could comprehend. But once deciphered, we ended up with loads of awesome and extremely interesting hard facts to back up our claims. We also added a trip back out to HPCC for yet more data, this time in the form of quarter-mile, top speed and acceleration testing. Not to mention weights, dyno numbers and so on. Just try not to let your head explode with all the info…

2009 Superbike Smackdown Track
Play nice now, boys! Yeah, right....
The Contenders

From the East comes the Big-Four Japanese: Honda CBR1000RR, Kawasaki ZX-10R, Suzuki GSX-R1000 and Yamaha YZF-R1, while from Europe we see Ducati’s 1198. Why no KTM RC8, Aprilia RSV1000 and BMW S1000RR, you might ask? Neither the Aprilia nor BMW will be available in the States until next year (expect them in Superbike Smackdown VII) and KTM, well, it seems they are too scared to come play with the big boys.

As for what’s new in ’09, that would fall in the hands of Suzuki, Yamaha and Ducati. Suzuki’s GSX-R1000 is all-new from the ground up for the first time since its inception in ’01, featuring Showa’s new Big Piston Fork. Yamaha drops on us an R1 which is said to be a direct decedent of Valentino Rossi’s M1 MotoGP steed, with a crossplane crank that makes it sound like nothing else of this world – except Rossi’s M1, that is. As for Ducati, its new machine looks nearly identical to the previous model with the exception of slightly different nomenclature on the bodywork – ‘1098’ now reads ‘1198’. But this simple difference means it gets an additional 100cc, enough to put the horsepower numbers right in the mix with all the rest. As for the Honda and Kawasaki, well, considering they went 1-2 last year, it’s hard to argue they needed much changing. That’s three of the five which are massively updated or totally all-new to go up against the top two contenders from last year. We couldn’t have written a better script if we tried.

With top dog Honda outshining the rest by a good margin last year and coming in this year with its head held high (our street shootout has been out for the past week and once again the trusty CBR1000RR dominated), could the newbie crew step up and take away the crown? It’s time to take off the footpeg feelers, bolt on race tires and let the red mist descend to see who is the King of the racetrack.

Welcome to the 2009 MotoUSA Superbike Smackdown!

2009 Yamaha YZF-R1 Smackdown Track Test
Big thanks to everyone who helped put on such a major undertaking!
Shout Outs…
To make sure we give love where it’s due, here are a list of the supporters and integral personnel that allowed the biggest and best Liter-class shootout of all-time to happen:

It’s no easy or cheap task to supply tires for our shootout, but the Italian rubber company stepped up with its Diablo SC (Super Corsa) race tire and came through with flying colors . As always, the Pirelli SC rubber was praised across the board and held up to the abuse our 1000s could throw their way without problem.

CT Racing
Providing trackside tire support was the always hard-working Chris Maguire of CT Racing, who worked his butt off to make sure all the bikes had fresh rubber right on time. Also, owner Corey Neuer is a talented motocross and road racer himself, so when the guy gives tire advice, we listen. If you want Pirelli’s on the West Coast there’s only one place we would even think to buy them: CT Racing.

Making sure we had ample on-board footage for this many machines in the time we had was no easy task, but if it were not for GoPro’s wide angle Hero it would have been impossible. They worked flawlessly and produced some awesome footage. Be sure to check out the videos!

Kinelogix Data Acquisition
Owner Kamal Amer fitted our test bikes with his latest data acquisition systems, providing enough information to launch a space ship. The good part is that their new Race Bike Data System is easy to use and proved to be extremely useful for putting hard numbers with the our seat-of-the-pants findings. Be sure to check them out!

Thunderhill Raceway
T-Hill once again went above and beyond the call of duty to fit us in, making sure our day at the track was smooth and flawless. Not to mention how amazing the track and its surroundings really are. If you haven’t been to the ‘Hill, you must go. It’s the hidden racing treasure of Northern California, no doubt.

The OEMs
Big thanks to Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, Yamaha and Ducati for providing support and doing a great job at it while not getting in the way of our intensive testing schedule.

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.
Scoring Breakdown
Keeping it real and making sure the scoring is dead-on
Both the objective performance numbers and subjective rider opinions are all scored equally. We used our hybrid Formula-1 based scoring system to judge each and every category, with 10 points for first, eight for second, seven for third, six for fourth, and five for fifth with all categories equally scored. Points are then totaled and positions determined.
2009 Superbike Smackdown Superpole

2009 Superbike Smackdown Bike Weight

Login or sign up to comment.

sandmacker -old fart  November 6, 2010 04:50 AM
From my perspective , I'm a 54 yr old fart who scratches out the back roads . I'm probably one of many who would like to be super quick , but in all reality will never be . Does it stop me from trying ; Hell no , but , as one of the countless 000's who fill their nappies when the speedo creeps over 200 k's , ride 200 > 300 kms a weekend , the gixer is the one I give the nod to . Comfort , stability , the grunt down low , and the ease of riding it without sacrificing it's ability to deliver on the big stage make me look better lol . The Honda is the other bike I'd seriously look at . In reality , the lot are awesome bikes , but I get the impression the gixer is the one you can live with as a daily hack , and then do the occasional track meet without sacrificing much in either department. Current king of the Isle of man ? . The gixer. Now that is a race that gives a bike a reputation . And to be honest ; how many of us don't slap on a race exhaust and power commander ? and that would change the goal posts once again
heston john -honda repsol  September 11, 2010 03:54 PM
honda rule all the way. thats why i bought one. plus its sexy and it dose not give any troble. so any one who see this please buy a honda u would not wast your money.lolololo
ducatilover698 -powar  March 26, 2010 05:04 PM
I still think ducati better and the yahmaha sucks ducati's somke
Luis Cyfer -Comparison  November 16, 2009 06:45 AM
I saw track test of the 2005 bikes 2005 Suzy,412lbs,152hp,75tor,2009 460lbs,155hp,74tor. Kaw, 405 151 76 2009 459 156 72 Hon, 436 145 75 2009 447 149 76 Yha, 421 145 69 2009 470 146 73 Duc, 422 133 76 2009 448 150 86 The only bike to make a difference is the Duc,why to by the others?
Supra -Some info abt USA r1 vs Euro ones.  November 13, 2009 09:09 PM
The R1 as it turns out in the US is limited below 8000 RPMs by the Fly By Wire throttle. It does not use secondary flies, but uses the fly by wire throttle instead.

Up to 6000 RPMs, you only get 60% throttle, even if you have the twist grip 100% open.

From 6000-8000 you get 80% throttle,

From 8000-12000 you get 100% throttle

From 12000-redline at 13,750 you get 80% throttle.

All these are on top of the air intake and exhaust restriction for 09 r1 for the US spec. Looks like the test is done using US spec bikes which may answer why the lack in power
KM -You sound like a magazine reading newbie idiot that has never been on a 1000cc bike before  November 5, 2009 10:27 AM
You are baiting yourself out when you call a 1000cc bike "slow" sounds like you never been on one before, No 1000cc brand bike whether it's kawi,suzuki,honda or yamaha is considered "slow" remember these bikes are built 20 light years beyond your skill level little boy, so stop talking outta your azz unless you are valentino Rossi, ben spies, maladin or hayden, stoner, bayliss or haga you do NOT qualify to give feedback on how a bike performs so what you say has no credibility. That is the truth.
Jerry -KM i think you are on crack  October 27, 2009 12:12 PM
The r1's are dominating the world, they can't be too bad of a bike if they are kicking the gixxers 1k,cbr1000rr,zx-10r's azzes all over the world, let's see not only did they win the world superbike champion, they won the British superbike championship and the Dutch superbike championship, so what's your excuse now? what happend to the gixxer1k,cbr1000rr, zx10r? i don't seeing them any significant championships especially the so called cbr1000rr as the best open class bike this year my azz
KM -Super Bike shootout  October 12, 2009 06:29 AM
Jerry you are right yamaha has been on a winning streak this year but it not the bike; they are spending millions on the best riders to make it win. I have a friend with a 09 R1 and it seems the same as the 08, 07, and 06 Slow and heavy; if you are a true race fan really watch the races in World Super Bike and see how hard "Ben" is having to ride just to win on a yamaha. I think M-USA hit the nail on the head, the dino and speed traps don't lie; the rest of the world is pissed saying M-USA must be wrong or they made a mistake in the test.
Jerry -The R1 is the new leader  September 8, 2009 05:48 PM
Honda, Suzuki, Kawasaki better come up with a liter bike that can keep up with the R1, the R1 is the bike to beat this year, want proof? just ask every true racer, its bike of the year, won many awards and shootouts, but most important at the highest level of racing World superbike champion to be the R1, suzuki, honda and kawasaki are getting their azzes kicked all over the world by yamaha , not only the r1 but the R6 as well. and motogp champion, and josh hayes recent success in AMA superbike.

MVNAZ -What....no luv for the MV?  June 9, 2009 08:39 PM
Where is the MV Agusta 312RR 1078? Why was this left out of the comparo? Didn't it tear up the competition in Jerez at one of the bike smackdowns two years ago?
cboyd -videos  June 2, 2009 04:59 PM
These videos are quite amateur. I'm looking forward to seeing more from these guys http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hr5vTPXOUIQ
Vince -info for Adam - R1 May 22, 2009 08:13 PM  May 29, 2009 12:11 AM
Adam asked: "Now serious what is the difference between USA R1 and European R1 ? Are they really so different ? Answer: the USA R1 mufflers have smaller diameter inlets to make the bike quieter. The difference is 6 hp. The USA bike is quite chocked up.
Shaswata Panja -Video Production Quality has improved by leaps and Bounds  May 28, 2009 09:30 AM
The videos look awesome...May be next year you guys will be rivalling Top Gear in terms of production quality...Did you test the ABS CBR in this comparo?
Sture Bergdahl -Superbike Smackdown  May 28, 2009 05:45 AM
Saw that kawasaki sponsored the video on first page in test. Have not read the test therefore. I have never owned a bike with any of the brands in test. /Sture
ricky -godfrey  May 24, 2009 04:32 PM
ok you had a point but then i thought about it for like a couple of mins, and realized that they were runing 08 gsx-r. a bike that needed no testing, no nothing. they just ran what they had last year and the years before. so yes it has only won 1 race but it also is a brand new bike. and has won 1 more race than any other bike in superbike class, in like the last 4 years. (not sure on that but i know iam not far off)including that monster looking honda and the praying mantis kawi. oh yea on more thing josh and ben are in 3rd and 4th. tommy is in second, and the only reason he is there is cause he was using the 08, up until like 2 races ago. and on to wsbk tom sykes is runing 7th as a rookie not bad if u ask me. (but i doubt if u did your homework before your replyed) with a brand new bike give credit when credit is due. and yes it is only ben who now fell to 3rd, and tom runing the yamaha. so i guess 2 bike in the top 10 sucks huh while considering both riders are rookies and brand new bikes. godfrey you just got owned lol (friendly debate iam just warming up)
DRMANIA -EGO WARS  May 23, 2009 11:57 AM
It's only IMO, but I think that a motorcycle magazine testers should keep it a little more professional(not to say modest...), whether on the tests or in the talk backs, and even if it's only for humor. "I'm in down" sounds to me more like a part of the "Biker Boyz 3- Down To The Spools" script, and even though seems far away from it, has an impact on some of readers which can lead to a not so pleasant results(I work in the industry and see it on a daily base). It's sad, but the fact is most of these amazing machines will lay rubber only on public roads, where this attitude is translated to allot of tears. Keep up the great work Rangers!
Adam -R1  May 22, 2009 08:13 PM
Now serious what is the difference between USA R1 and European R1 ? Are they really so different ?
Godfrey -Re: Ricky - Truthful  May 22, 2009 07:49 PM
Yes, MCN is crap. And yeah, take out the Ben Spies factor in WSBK, and the new R1 is not that impressive to me. Same goes in the AMA. With the exemption of the Infineon round, the R1 had been consistently beaten by the other non-Mladin Susukis and others.
Ricky -Kudos to Suzuki and Kawasaki  May 22, 2009 01:10 PM
Given the recognizable talent of the MCUSA testers for this shootout, it speaks volumes about how good the new K9 is. One reason I never let go of my K5 was that it had the engine of a 10R without the fear factor as well as more street friendly. Nice writeup guys! Appreciate you including the suspension settings
Steve Atlas -RE: Ricky - prove it  May 22, 2009 10:28 AM
We've got MCN covered. Trust me. They are good guys and we're friends with several of their staffers, but we'll take them on anytime, anywhere... :) Also, ClarkJW - we'll be at Laguna. Stop by and let me know where we're going to race and what bike I'm riding so I can get ready... :)
ep -steve-in-boots  May 22, 2009 07:19 AM
aww, look at 'is wee little boots!
Ricky -prove it  May 21, 2009 02:04 PM
oh yea one more thing you think, mcn is full of crap i say same bike same tracks shootout between you guys let put up or shut up. and i think that would make for one hell of a video cant wait.
Ricky -Truthful  May 21, 2009 01:28 PM
Mcn Full of crap come on guys. the R1 has 6 extra ponies between the us and eur bikes. i think they did an ok job these bikes are so close that even if they are full of it a different track could produce differnt winners. And you know the old saying win on sunday sell on monday (something like that). yamaha has been wining alot the really only time they dont when is when ben hit the ground u can't agrue with results. even in ama the yamaha has been the only bike to win beside the gixxer and i chalk that up to mat being a great rider. so u want to know the best bike look at the races they give a more realist results and are not bias to any bike your shootout is great to watch so is mcn but i dont take any of yall serious ben, haga, biaggi are my testers along with wsbk. i would say ama but mat is a man among boys as much as i love hayes bostrom and hacking they cant hang with mat on a round for round bases
Sean -Your videos  May 20, 2009 11:51 PM
Nice job guys. You coulda used some slow-mo and a smoke machine when you all turned and walked to the bikes a la Reservoir Dogs though. Thunder Hill looks pretty sweet, worth the drive from LA, huh?
ClarkJW -You're crazy! I'd race you for track fees and tires!  May 20, 2009 02:33 PM
I'd race you for track fees and tires! No way I'd put my bike up! You and the crew gonna be at Laguna in July?
Steve Atlas -RE: ClarkJW - Nice write up, but I wanna race you Atlas  May 20, 2009 01:01 PM
That's a good looking Buell my friend. I like that. As for the race, I'm in down. Let's do it. You put the title for that bad boy on the line?
ClarkJW -Nice write up, but I wanna race you Atlas  May 20, 2009 11:14 AM
Steve, you'd be amazed at what a properly tuned Buell can do! http://www.ilmberger-carbon.de/DSC07160.jpg http://www.ohiosportbike.com/phpBB3/index.php I've even got the stock pipe! 140 RWHP and 80ft/lbs weighing under 440
Hutch -Power Ranger Update  May 20, 2009 09:39 AM
I did a little Wiki research on our Power Ranger status Misst-tar, because I’m a nerd at heart and knew we could read something into it: Here’s the deal from left to right: Black Ranger: (Chuckie) normally a ‘Special’ Ranger sent to help the main team: Exactly the case here. White Ranger: (Heed) can be either male or female and is a member of the core Ranger team that likes to play with its sword: Again, spot-on. Blue Ranger: (Steve-O) is generally the smart male of the group but recently Light Blue has been the color of choice for female Rangers. Generally they use wind as their element of choice and are the witty members of the team: He’s fiesty & full of hot air so again, spot-on. Red Ranger: (Mike E.) is usually the leader of a team and wields the most powerful weapon, usually a sword but likes blasters too: He blasted at the test and as far as the sword goes…ask his chick, Pink Ranger. Back to the darker Blue Ranger: (Hutch) originally a serious team member, lately the male Blue Ranger has been relegated to the position of comic relief: Yes, I have. I’d venture to say that Miss-tar was right: We are Ranger-like and we've been sent here to save you from the following the competition to your doom! Read our story and be happy or face the wrath of the Light Blue Ranger!
John R -Good on ya Steve  May 20, 2009 08:59 AM
Nice write up. Long way from the CRA and GS500s
Spdzlla -curious - New r1  May 20, 2009 04:37 AM
No,no,Hungarian version is better:-)
Godfrey -MCN  May 19, 2009 09:55 PM
MCN is the only one that put the R1 first so far in all the literbike comparison tests. I've always thought MCN is "full of crap" and a rubbish publication and them being the only one putting the R1 first in their tests makes my opinion of them even worst. To me they are very bias. I wouldn't trust their opinion on anything motorcycle-wise.
Godfrey -RE: Justin - poor riders  May 19, 2009 09:46 PM
For completely bone-stock motorcycles, they are lapping pretty fast to me.
curious -New r1  May 19, 2009 07:45 PM
I just watched the MCN review of the r1 and they said it was better than the Honda. I know that you guys have the US version and that MCN has the European version. SO I wanted to know exactly what are the differences and if the US r1 can be modified to run as well as its European brother.
Steve Atlas -RE: ZX7Ramsay - Suit....  May 19, 2009 03:45 PM
Sorry bud, it's a 1-off custom from Alpinestars. They don't make anything like it. They do make a Race Replica high-end suit which is the similar build-wise, but not the design. One of the perks of the job...
ZX7Ramsay -Suit....  May 19, 2009 11:49 AM
I just want to know where you got your suit steve because I honestly need one just like it.
will parker -smackdown  May 19, 2009 10:59 AM
Wow, MCN took them to the track a few months ago and i believe the Yamaha was first, Honda third and Suzuki 2.5 seconds a lap off the pace!..is this just indicative of the differences at different track, riders skill, etc?
Steve Atlas -RE: Justin - poor riders  May 19, 2009 09:46 AM
I don't doubt they are doing 1:55s on racebikes, they should be. In fact, if they were any good they would be going much faster than that. But they sure aren't doing it on bone-stock street bikes. So anytime you want to come out and race myself on a stock street bike be my guest. Just remember to bring your check book, because when you crash trying to keep up you're going to have to pay for the damages.
Rich Bell -Smackdown  May 19, 2009 09:36 AM
Thanks for the best Smackdown yet. You boys did a great job.
Hutchy -Poor riders...  May 19, 2009 08:06 AM
Justin, Justin, Justin... Do you go to the movies and yell at the hot chick who's about to go into the dark, scary room while watching Friday the 13th - "Don't go in there!" - because it doesnt change anything, she's still going in. Vorhees is waiting and she will get hacked up. It's the way of the world, Justin. Hot babes get killed in horror flicks.
Justin -poor riders  May 19, 2009 02:53 AM
Ummm...You guys are slow. Weekend club racers are running 1:55 on thunderhill.... Maybe you should leave the testing to people who can actually ride.
Dustin -Give us real track numbers  May 18, 2009 12:53 PM
Lets face it guys. these bikes power always get screwed by goverment regulations and restrictive exhausts. It would be nice if you guys could tested these bikes with full exhaust systems with a tuned power commander map. After all how many track riders dont put on a full exhaust to extract the full potential of the bike.
Miss-tar -Power  May 18, 2009 11:34 AM