The four stars of our 2007 Supersport Shootout - Suzuki GSX-R600, Honda CBR600RR, Kawasaki ZX-6R, Yamaha YZF-R6.
Alright, we don't wanna hear any whining about having to read another sportbike comparison test. We'll eventually get to the dual-sport comparo and the cruiser face-off, we promise, but first it's time again for the middleweights to throw down.
This is a class in which the evolution of a motorcycle is most apparent. It's actually appropriate that bikes bred for the cut-and-thrust of the racetrack also constitute the most ferociously competitive street market segment. It offers an omnipresent promise of something better.
And so it is again in 2007. It was only 12 months ago that we sampled the then all-new Suzuki GSX-R600 and Yamaha YZF-R6, both of which advanced the art of contemporary sportbike design. Among the Big Four middleweights, the versatile Gixxer was judged best in our street category; the R6's superb racetrack performance gave it top honors in the track segment.
Through the revolving door of New comes two more clean-sheet designs. Honda and Kawasaki have each drawn up freshly minted examples of what they believe are machines at the leading edge of technology, design and performance.
Kenny's impressions from the 2007 CBR's press introduction boasted of the Honda's drastically lighter weight and vastly improved midrange power. Although his ride time on a dry track was limited due to rain at Barber Motorsports Park, he was confident in predicting that the rejuvenated CBR would be a front-runner in the battle for the '07 supersport title.
It was only about a fortnight later that I was bombing around the same glorious Barber track, but I was sampling Kawi's new middleweight missile, the ZX-6R. No longer a 636cc "cheater," the ZX conforms to the exact 67.0mm x 42.5mm bore and stroke the other three 600s use. I perceived the new ZX to be the best handling Kawasaki I've ever sampled (a Muzzy Raptor was close). Evidence of its capability has begun to come in the form of manufacturer win advertisements. First there was Fabien Foret's victory aboard a ZX-6R in World Supersport competition at Phillip Island. Less than a week later, Kawi scored a pair of brilliant one-two finishes in the Daytona 200 and the season-opening AMA Supersport race. This has to be a bright sign of the potential built into this ground-up redo.
By this point you might be anticipating a word or two about the winner of last year's Supersport Shootout, Triumph's sexy and splendid Daytona 675. But its 76cc displacement benefit over the four-cylinders in this test gives it what some people say is an unfair advantage, and there is some merit to that belief. The fact that Triumph was unable to get us a Daytona in time for our comparo had little to do with its omission...
Four bikes and a lot of miles. We took turns flogging the latest crop of Japanese supersports on both the street and track to determine the winner of our fifth Supersport Shootout.
Keen eyes will also wonder why no representation from Ducati this year. Well, with no revisions for the '07 model year and an 848cc version rumored to be in the pipeline, we thought we'd keep this competition purely between 600cc bikes this time around.
As usual, we rolled each bike across our Intercomp digital scales and strapped them to a dyno. But this dyno was different in a couple of ways. First, it's the inaugural runs of our new Dynojet 200i. And second, the numbers it spat out were a little bit less than what we expected, but the important point is that the numbers are all relative to each other, apples to apples on the same day.
The MCUSA faithful know that our sportbike comparison tests are regularly split into separate street and track tests. We test at the track because it's the safest environment to push the lofty limits of bikes developed on and for racetracks. We also test at the track because it's almost always a fantastic experience.
We showed up at Willow Springs International Raceway
to hammer around the medium-speed Streets of Willow course. We were joined by representatives of each manufacturer and our friends from Cycle News
who were doing their own shootout. It would've been a perfect day had the morning not been cold before rain came to - as it does - rain on our parade. While we had a dry track and with temps in the mid-40-degree range, the Pirelli Diablo Corsa 3s
we fitted to each bike were sticking strong. The track finally dried out enough to continue lapping in the afternoon, but before we could really get down to business the showers came again and shut us down.
All of which is a wordy way of saying we won't create a separate track test this year. Our rain-hampered track session simply didn't allow us enough time to gather all the required info, notes and lap times to make a track test fully credible. We'll still use the impressions we got from romping around the Streets course, but this year they'll be combined with our street riding notes into a single comprehensive test.
And while we were testing this quartet's maximum performance, we also made a few runs down the quarter-mile to evaluate how they stack up against each other in terms of outright acceleration.
With the preliminaries out of the way, let's get down to it, alphabetically. We'll begin with what was the winner of the opening round of the World Supersport series.