But last place for the Ninja isn't fair you say. Yeah, well it's a mean, unfair, competitive world out there, just watch Discovery Channel sometime.
Oh how times have changed for the ZX-10R
. The once mighty monster of the group has had a good run and continues to prove it is an excellent choice for everything but a platform at the highest level of competitive racing. The development cycle has managed to tame the bike to a certain extent, but the changes did not win the hearts of our test riders this time around. There's no doubt that it feels like the fastest bike here but the Ninja lacks a few key elements on the track including the brakes and this makes it a real workout to ride it fast.
On the street that motor makes up for a number of deficiencies which it couldn't on the track. Unfortunately, when you are splitting hairs like we are here, there has to be a winner and a loser. Although it doesn't look like it fared well in either street or track, the fact is it barely loses out to the GSX-R on the street. The top three could easily be ranked differently depending on who was riding and where. The Ninja's not a bad bike by any means, it's just that the competition is so good.
The tech-forward Yamaha R1 is at home on the track, but in real-world street conditions it lags behind.
The amount of technology that has been poured into the R1 is staggering but as we witnessed first hand, sometimes too much technology can be difficult to dial in on the first try. This is exactly what happened to the 2007 YZF-R1
. While it left us with a good impression after its time on the track, the Yamaha came in last by a landslide on the street. Thanks to a solid chassis, compliant suspension, amazing brakes, and impressive top-end hit it managed to all but conceal its Achilles heel when the revs were spun past nine grand at the track.
However, on the street this was not the case and the anemic mid-range, third-heaviest weight and disappointing throttle lag forced it into the role of cellar dweller and ultimately held it out of contention for the overall title. There is potential lurking beneath all the gadgets and gizmos, just look at the success in World Superbike for proof. Yamaha will overcome this glitch in the Matrix and come back with a vengeance with a well-sorted superbike that will do more than just turn heads because of its good looks.
The CBR1000RR's practicality and versatility almost took top honors in our Smackdown. It did win over three of our test riders when it came time to choose what mount they would pick if it was their money on the line.
Look no further than the CBR's success this season in World Superbike for proof that what journalists feel about a bike in stock form doesn't mean it can't kick ass in race trim. The CBR1000RR
dominated the 2006 Isle of Man, Suzuka 8-Hour and the British Superbike title as well. The showing at IOM had three of the top four finishers in the Senior TT on Fireblades and that is a testament to this platform's potential. Proof again that it's important to consider more than just peak power and new technology when choosing an open-class motorcycle.
The CBR1000RR earned For My Money accolades from three members of our test sample, verifying its place as a contender in Superbike Smackdown IV. Sometimes a seasoned veteran can be refined to the point of perfection for a particular application and that's exactly what you get with the Honda. This is a bike tailor made for street riders and is just a slipper clutch and a few HRC kit parts away from being capable of taking on all comers, be it street or the track.
For My Money: Kevin Duke
For my money, I'd buy the CBR1000RR. It has my favorite user interface of the bikes in this test, and it has a way of making me believe that maybe I'm not aboard some kind of hell-bent 180-mph hyperbike. Some might poo-poo the CBR's lowest peak horsepower, but I assure you that you can clutch up the front end at more than a-buck-twenty, so it's not dull by any stretch. In fact, it's at or near the top of the power curve most of the way to 9500 rpm, which is the rev range I spend about 99% of my time aboard literbikes. With the CBR, I've got the muscle of a big bike with the agility of a middleweight. Hey, come to think of it, didn't Honda start this whole idea with the CBR900RR.?
For My Money: Michael Earnest
I would rate the Honda CBR1000 as the best overall package of the big four and feel it would make a great street/track day bike. The engine was very linear in its power delivery, coupled with a user friendly clutch making this bike extremely easy to ride quickly. My only noted complaint would be it needs 5 horsepower, everywhere.
For My Money: Brian Steeves
Everyone seems to say this, and so will I, because it's true. All of these Japanesse superbikes are so very close that you could let your dog pick by letting it run around the showroom and see which one he marks his territory on and that would be a great bike. So I say to you, go buy, adopt or borrow a dog and take a stroll to your local dealership. OK, OK, in all seriousness this is what I would personally buy - the Honda CBR1000RR.
The Gixxer Thou is still the bike to beat on the track and due to its overall bad-assedness takes top honors in our Superbike Smackdown once again.
What more can be said about the GSX-R1000
that hasn't been said already? For starters, this latest bike took a few steps forward and a few steps back. The combination of a ridiculous amount of power and an ultra-smooth delivery keeps the GSX-R at the top of the food chain once again in the battle for track supremacy. Just look at the results in the AMA Superbike championship for an example of what this bike is capable of in racing conditions.
The CBR and ZX gave it a run for its money on the street, but in the end there is just something about the Suzuki that gives it an edge at the track. Unfortunately for Suzuki the Honda was able to steal a bit of its mojo this time around, because its peakier power band detracted from the hellacious top end hit that helped propel it to the top of the track rankings.
Whoever has been in charge of the development of the Gixxer the past five years deserves some serious praise for its performance on the track. The bike is damn near untouchable because it manages to do a lot of things very well and has few weaknesses. If you plan on going to the racetrack intending to win races, the GSX-R1000 is the bike to have.
For My Money: Jimmy Moore
Now if I was asked, and I was, which one of these space-aged rocket ships I would buy if I was willing to kick out a nice pile of clams, to go racing or do trackdays with, I would have to drag my loot over to the closest Suzuki dealership and present my collection of mollusks there. It is the most balanced package of the lot and is simply the most devastating in a straight line. What more does a racer need?
For My Money: Ken Hutchison
Frankly I am getting tired of the Suzuki dominating Superbike Smackdown but the fact is that it's the best all-around bike of this group. The look has grown on me and the fact that it is easy to ride yet faster than hell makes it all the more attractive. As Brian would put it: They all feel the same in the dark and from the cockpit you can't tell what the bike looks like. All you can see is the world going by in a blur and the competition fading away in its wake.
Let us know what you think about this comparo in the Motorcycle USA Forum