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Original Article:
2009 Literbike Shootout

Please discuss the Motorcycle.com article 2009 Literbike Shootout in our Motorcycle Forums below. Use the reply button to let others know your comments or feedback on the article. Constructive criticism is always appreciated, along with your thoughts and personal opinions on the bikes and products we have tested.
 

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Yowza..

Welp, seems like the horsepower wars are over.
Wonder which sled woulda posted quickest lap time, with spec bun for all, and all springs fiddled with, to riders content.
Gotta go sob in my java that Yam didnt win,(used to that by now), and face a rare daytime shift- without sleep.
Nice keyboard mashing to all yall.
Ill have one of each.
And Ducat for dessert.
 

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The only thing that seperates these bikes is the rider. The only difference is prefrence.
You're absolutely correct, Moke. Because it's not what you ride, it's how hard you ride it that counts, and you can't bolt on skill.
 

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The only thing that seperates these bikes is the rider. The only difference is prefrence.
Yep, that's a fact. This was the tightest shootout I've ever done, and a legitimate case could be made for any of these bikes.

I prefer the CBR, and bcuz I'm short, the ergos aren't a problem. But if I was taller or had some sport-touring in mind, the Gixxer would be the choice. The Yamaha is so unique that it has a powerful attraction, and its 146 rwhp never really feels not powerful enough. And the ZX, especially in our bike's color scheme, has an animalistic quality that has a charm of its own - it makes you feel like a bad-ass even if you're not.

Two more items: We had the support at Willow of factory technicians from each manufacturer, so the setups weren't lacking anything - they all worked so well that the speed we were running had more to do with the amount of track time thru the day or the condition of the tires.

Although we didn't log lap times, I'm sure there wasn't much in it. It wasn't uncommon to come off the track on one bike and feel that it could be the winner. Then we'd jump on another bike and feel the same way about that one.

These bikes are so excellent, a literbike consumer could be forgiven for buying whichever bike based on which he/she likes the looks of. Or dealer preference. But there are small distinctions I think we illuminated that will help anyone choose which would work best for them.

I hope this shootout gets a billion hits, cuz it was a monster to get finished so quickly. And I may have to request PayPal deposits to pay off my speeding ticket...
 

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Great Bikes, one and all! The R-1 sounds like an RC30, and it should! The Rider will play more of a role in victory and likely few of these bikes actually sold will be ridden at even 95% of capacity!

I don't seem to see the need for a gear position indicator? ? ? If you can ride at the level that these bikes perform, is a gear position indicator really needed? Kind of like a speedometer, moot point on bikes that can break the limit in 1st gear without breaking a sweat!!! I have been riding for over 40 years and over 500K miles and currently own 5 different bikes (one has a gear position indicator) and can say that I do not even look at this feature. Not a make or break feature.

I must say that the 4th place finish for the Yamaha does come as a surprise! I am sure that Yamaha will not be happy with that! I am equally surprised ( and pleased) that the CBR was (again) chosen # 1. My friends say that when I am cut, I bleed little red HONDA "wings"! HONDA quality and all around performance is very difficult to overcome, even with more technology!
 

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I don't seem to see the need for a gear position indicator? ? ? If you can ride at the level that these bikes perform, is a gear position indicator really needed?
Is it needed? Nope. But even with a combined 150 or so years of riding experience among our five test monkeys, we referred to them quite a bit, even on the racetrack. And since every modern bike has a circuit that tells the ECU which gear the bike is in anyway, an indicator for gear position isn't too much to ask. And if a rider doesn't use it, it's not like it carries a weight or cost penalty.

It's like a clock. Does a literbike need one? No, but it's easy to add to a set of modern instruments, so each of these bikes have one.
 

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But Mr. Duke, while the factories have gone nutz on different firing orders, re-mapped ECUs and better phorks & shocks, why oh why do they all still tip the scales at around 500 lbs, soaking wet?

One would think better handling and performance could be gleaned from drastic weight reductions. I'm sure a 400 lb. R1 would handle better, and be faster than a 500 lb R1. Even better a 350 lb. R1.

Maybe they've reached their respective lowest weight beacuse of DOT & EPA rules and regs? If not, that would seem to be the next big leap in performance, i.e. getting the weight down around 400 lbs, wet.

Clue me in here oh wise one...
 

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Put a Bazzaz box and mount a slip on to the CBR, get rid of the top end restriction and optional traction control to boot. Hmm... As scary fast as these things are stock, there is quite a bit more available. Even my "old tech" FZ1 is testment to that. Like I need that much power. Oh well. We live in an age of excess. Who am I to go against the trend :D

My personal choice would be the last place Yamaha though, because I like how it sounds, especially uncorked with some proper cans on it. The R1 has a coolness and a fun factor the other bikes simply don't have. That, and I am just partial to sport bikes wearing the tuning fork I guess.
 

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But Mr. Duke, while the factories have gone nutz on different firing orders, re-mapped ECUs and better phorks & shocks, why oh why do they all still tip the scales at around 500 lbs, soaking wet?

One would think better handling and performance could be gleaned from drastic weight reductions. I'm sure a 400 lb. R1 would handle better, and be faster than a 500 lb R1. Even better a 350 lb. R1.

Maybe they've reached their respective lowest weight beacuse of DOT & EPA rules and regs? If not, that would seem to be the next big leap in performance, i.e. getting the weight down around 400 lbs, wet.

Clue me in here oh wise one...
Good question, Cuddy. First off, tho, let's be accurate and say these literbikes average about 450 lbs, not 500. And that's full of fuel, which adds nearly 30 lbs to a bike's weight. Kudos to Honda for getting the CBR's weight down to 439 lbs with fuel.

Now a little historical perspective. In 1997, Honda's CBR900RR weighed about 455 lbs full of fuel, pretty close to today's average weight of a literbike. So, one might say, that's no progress in 12 years. (Although, a ZX-9R of that era scaled in wet at about 530 lbs.)

But consider that 900RR produced only about 110 hp at the wheel, and this low output in todays terms has major ramifications on weight.

First, the more power a bike has, the more it wants to tie itself into knots under acceleration, so frames and swingarms have to get stronger and, hence, bigger, which means heavier.

Also, consider that the more power an engine has, the greater the amount of cooling capacity is needed. Take a look at a 900RR's radiator, then compare it to a current literbike. You'll see a huge difference. Not only does a big radiator weigh more than a small one, it also carries a lot more coolant - again, more weight.

And then we get to catalyzers and tighter noise restrictions, which dramatically increases the weight of the exhaust system.

The R1 engine has its own issues with weight, as its cases have to be built stronger (and heavier) to withstand the crossplane's unique vibration.

Hope that helps ya!
 

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strange "shootout"

As much as I enjoy reading motorcycle.com's articles usually, I have to be honest in saying it's more than a little bit strange that you would do a test of what are essentially 4 race bikes without actually doing any times at the track... I mean... it's completely counter-intuitive to what any normal magazine would do.
I don't even understand how you could possibly judge whether a bike's engine or transmission or etc. is actually "the best" without seeing if it actually makes a substantial difference in measured times at the track. Seat of the pants is one thing but if that's all your going for then "fun factor" is all that's important really.
I don't care one bit which bike wins, it just seems like you guys wasted a lot of time without any track times to show for it.
Hmmmm
 

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No its not, lots of people ride these on the street. Not to mention did you notice that MO is not a normal magazine?

There is a different "best" on the street than the "best" on the track. I bet most people with half a brain that are riding on the street don't care about what is "best" on the track.
 

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Of course...

I know lots of people ride these bikes on the street, that's obvious I suppose.
I wasn't saying that people don't ride these bikes on the street just that there are also people, like myself for instance, who ride their bikes on the track. I think it's clear that a large # of people who own bikes such as these or the smaller engined 600's or pretty much any high capacity sportbike will track their bikes.
I am certainly not saying that track times should be the only consideration just that for this class of motorcycle it really can't be argued that "most" riders don't care at all about track times. If we were talking about cruisers, streetfighters or something of that ilk then of course that would be the case... but for a sportbike that is essentially a homologation model for suberbike racing it just seems like testers would at least fulfill the curiosity of readers who want to know the times, even if they don't put them into the final tally.
 

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I know lots of people ride these bikes on the street, that's obvious I suppose.
I wasn't saying that people don't ride these bikes on the street just that there are also people, like myself for instance, who ride their bikes on the track. I think it's clear that a large # of people who own bikes such as these or the smaller engined 600's or pretty much any high capacity sportbike will track their bikes.
I am certainly not saying that track times should be the only consideration just that for this class of motorcycle it really can't be argued that "most" riders don't care at all about track times. If we were talking about cruisers, streetfighters or something of that ilk then of course that would be the case... but for a sportbike that is essentially a homologation model for suberbike racing it just seems like testers would at least fulfill the curiosity of readers who want to know the times, even if they don't put them into the final tally.
Sadly the % of race replica owners who ride their bikes on the track is quite tiny. There are hundreds of thousands of these things on the road, yet go to a track day and you won't see many people. My local track (Millers) canceled their bike track days this year due to lack of interest, for example. How many people show up at Willow Springs? A hundred? There are a million of these bikes in LA. Well, maybe not quite a million but there are a heck of a lot. They are all posing at the Rock Store or Newcombe's Ranch apparently.

However you are right about the lack of track times in this test. These bikes are essentially race machines and which is REALLY the fastest one should be determined objectively.
 

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A few questions, Mr. Duke:

What percentage of sales does the liter-bike catagory represent to the manufacturers? The standard line is that cruiser sales subsidize the high investment in technology and engineering on the superbikes, is that really true?

You made it clear that the difference in capability of these bikes is negligible, and that all of the bikes are vastly more capable than almost every rider. So the question is: does the investment in technology and engineering pay off on the street? In other words, say, for example, the bike today is 30% "better" than the same model 5 years ago. Will the average buyer get a "30% better" ride because they have cross-plane cranks, radial mount brakes, inverted forks, unobtanium fasteners? Or is this all about homologation and "win on Sunday, sell on Monday?"

The text material in your article is at least as good as anything I've seen in the printed media. But you guys have a huge edge with multi-media. Seeing and hearing the bikes run really sets your comparo above what C/W or M/C can do. It's cool you're getting the factory support you deserve.
 
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