Motorcycle Forums banner
1 - 18 of 18 Posts

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
2,087 Posts
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...
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
2,087 Posts
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.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
2,087 Posts
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!
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
2,087 Posts
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
This has been a controversial subject among magazines and manufacturers for years. What seems simple isn't, but since you asked nicely...

First off, we tested on the track because pinning a literbike on the street for more than two gears can get you thrown in jail. And because there's no safe way to explore aggressive lean angles or ultimate braking performance, etc. Testing nearly any limit of a literbike's performance on the street is either silly or dangerous or both. I hope you can understand how you can learn much more about a bike's performance capabilities on a track than you can on the street.

That said, I'd love to include lap times whenever we go to the track. But that creates many other issues.

- Our crew is made up of fairly quick riders. Of the less than 10% of sportbike riders who take their bikes to the track (and presumably many of those are among the most talented street riders in their circle), we belong in the fastest group. However, we're not active racers, so we generally go quicker at the end of the day after we've learned the nuances of the track than at the beginning, meaning that comparing lap times can be unfair for the first bike to go out on timed sessions.

- "Ah, so then you should hire a pro racer," you might say. Well, if you've been around us for awhile, you know we run a lean operation, and finding the budget to bring in a pro can be difficult. Another problem I've had when I've hired a racer is that they often feel most comfortable on the brand of bike they race, perhaps skewing things to a particular OEM. Don't even think about bringing a rider with any sort of serious OEM support.

- And then there's tires. We had three diff tires on our stock bikes, and lap times are affected greatly by incremental differences in grip.

- "So, get Michelin (or whoever) to give you tires like they generously did in your Supersport Shootout so they've got equal footing," one might think. There are a couple of problems with that. First, manufacturers develop their bike (and their steering and handling qualities) on a tire specially developed for the bike. A tire's construction, profile and outside diameter vary greatly between brands, so a new set of rubber might transform a sweet-handling bike into a real handful - or many other similar negative effects.

- And then there's the pole lap. To be fair, the tires have to be in identical conditions before the timed lap. You also have to ensure the rider won't be going quicker because he just finished a quick lap and knew he could go quicker by braking later or taking a diff apex or whatever.

But, most importantly, you need to make sure you have an empty racetrack in front of the rider. If you've been to a trackday, you already know that getting a perfectly clean lap with dozens of others riding around is next to impossible (especially for a pro-level rider). Believe, I've tried.

OEMs who have been at these sessions during trackdays have also noticed that getting clean, precise laps logged while others are on the track is nearly impossible, so they strongly recommend that any magazine that wants to log lap times, they should rent a track for their own private sessions. Have you ever priced literbike-worthy racetracks lately? They ain't cheap - and don't forget the insurance, track personnel and mandatory ambulance...

"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."

There are many ways to evaluate an engine or tranny without taking lap times.

Maybe when the economy turns around and money is flowing, we'll again rent our own track. Until then, I hope you learned several things about these bikes that you didn't know before you read our shootout!
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
2,087 Posts
I'm surprised you (Kevin_Duke) even offered an explanation. It's always easy for a knucklehead to criticize a write-up without thinking of what it takes to actually make it happen.
It was a legit question, and I felt it deserved an explanation so you guys were aware of the logistics involved.

The other thing about tires I didn't explain. If we rented a track and did a superpole style session for best laps, it would require three sets of tires for each bike - 24 total tires. And then we'd have to allow for time away from riding to swap them out. More logistics to work out when, as it was, we struggled to get our five test riders enough seat time on the bikes.

One more important note: As I mentioned in the R1 report from its press intro, the American R1 is down 6 hp from the Euro version due to noise restrictions. It's likely that a change to an aftermarket exhaust and a Power Commander might result in 160-plus-hp at the wheel. And in case anyone is thinking the new R1 is some sort of dog, remember that one of Yamaha's test rider/racers was about 2 seconds quicker around Eastern Creek on the new Euro R1 compared to the old one, as I reported from the bike's intro.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
2,087 Posts
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.
Sorry, KM, I don't have specific sales details for you, as the OEMs generally don't like to provide that info to the public. And it depends on whether you are talking a percentage of streetbike sales or of total motorcycle sales (including dirtbikes) or of total sales of all products. Cruiser sales surely provide some of the money to develop the sportbikes, but sportbikes on their own is a significant market. However, the constant redevelopment of sportbikes every two years is quite costly, and in this economy, don't be surprised to see a longer interim between updates. Note that Honda's CBR600RR was due a revamp this year (assuming the typical 2-yr cycle) and it got only new mirrors and brake calipers.

The constant one-upsmanship in sportbikes has two purposes. One provides a platform for racing, so the package needs to be good. But the other is to provide an improved product so that journalists and enthusiasts will perceive the new bike as better. Bikes are so good these days that any improvements are incremental. So, for instance, the Gixxer Thou isn't 30% better than the previous one, but it is a better bike. How much that's worth is up to the consumer.

The R1 is a unique situation. Its improvement in tractability is something any riders can feel, but the tie-in to MotoGP technology is just as important in marketing terms. The new R1 is special, and its distinctiveness is definitely an asset to both riders and posers. How much is that worth to you?

Glad you enjoyed the words and sounds!
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
2,087 Posts
Performance is always tied to perception. I am swapping out the front end of my Z750S, because I want better front braking and suspension. Does it brake okay? Yes. Is the stock suspension okay? Yes. But I have experienced better braking and suspension on actual sportbikes, and that's what I want on my Z. I guess I'll find out if the ZX6R front end with steel braided brake lines will make a big enough difference. I sure hope so! :)
Good post. The Z750S is perhaps the most underrated bike in terms of ability per dollar - more people shoulda bought 'em. Hope the front-end swap works well for ya!
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
2,087 Posts
So the Big Four don't want to play with the Duc. Did Ducati not have a standard 1198 available to use? There is not that much price disparity between the standard Duc and the Big Four.

Of course, they will would have whined.
The first 1198 available for testing was the S model, and we couldn't turn it down. The standard 1198 might've not been objected to, but it was too late for our shootout by then. But, still, there's a $4000-$5000 price difference. On the plus side, the 1198 series is so different from the Japanese literbikes that I don't think there's much cross-shopping between them. In terms of street usability (ergos, mirrors, comfort, etc), the Duc is well behind the true liters. It sure is wicked cool, though!
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
2,087 Posts
If you're looking for street usability why would you be looking at one of these things at all?
Cuz you can ride 'em on the street! They actually do quite well as a commuter or sport-tourer or whatever. This is one reason why we appreciate the adjustable pegs on the Gixxer and R1, and we hope to seeing adjustable clip-ons on some bikes in the future.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
2,087 Posts
2 things stand out here,
first the comment about the R1 being the easiest to slide the rear-end out of the corners:

"On the other hand, Steve "Speed" Kelly believes the cross-plane engine enhances corner-exit speeds on the track. "All that hype about there being a connection between the throttle and the rear tire is true."

<...I never would have guessed this>

" If you want to able to spin up the rear tire exiting a corner, having the bike sliding around while you keep the gas pinned, no other literbike I've ridden before made this so easy. The grip and drive the R1 gives somehow allows you to just keep opening the throttle when on other bikes you'd be backing off for fear of highsiding yourself.""

...but isn't that how a highside begins? I don't understand what it is about the crankshaft that makes it easier to slide the rear coming out of a turn. Or why this would be all that difficult on a 150HP motorcycle.

the other thing...

""It [Honda] felt so planted and confidence-inspiring that I crashed it," says a red-faced Gardiner. "If you take this bike to the track, you need to run it on real race rubber. That's a compliment to the brilliant handling; lesser bikes send you a warning as you reach the limits of the tire's adhesion but the CBR1000RR was completely composed, ready to do much more on demand.""

Is that good or bad?
How much was the chassis and how much due to the tires?
I would be really interested in this testers' opinion on the same bike with different tires.

thanks
Sliding a literbike's rear tire isn't difficult. Doing it without highsiding is the difficult part. Most highsides result when a a rider backs off the throttle during a slide. The R1 does a better job at translating the feel of grip at the tire to what the rider is feeling at the throttle.

As for the CBR, I rode it at its press intro at Laguna with race-compound tires, and it was a very solid package. Gardiner's crash had nothing to do with any limitations of the CBR.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
2,087 Posts
"Sliding a literbike's rear tire isn't difficult. Doing it without highsiding is the difficult part. Most highsides result when a a rider backs off the throttle during a slide. The R1 does a better job at translating the feel of grip at the tire to what the rider is feeling at the throttle."

...?
*how*?

As you say, the key to not highsiding is not to jump off the throttle in the middle of a slide. So, there's "sliding" and "not sliding"...and all of these bikes can probably easily slide the rear. So what's the difference? Without the cross crank it's much harder to know when the rear end is sliding?!? Or just harder to keep it sliding without getting totally sideways?

I have to echo an earlier comment: if this is such a big deal then the R1 should have rated much higher. If it isn't...then why make a big deal out of it? Not posting track times was a big mistake. If it can't be quantified objectively then it's all a matter of feel, and if it's just feel then it's a matter of how the bike feels when ridden at the limit...and maybe the limit is higher because of the better feel.

but then again you have a great-feeling bike which apparently doesn't give enough feedback, allowing the rider to ride it into the dirt...

"As for the CBR, I rode it at its press intro at Laguna with race-compound tires, and it was a very solid package. Gardiner's crash had nothing to do with any limitations of the CBR."

so ok what did it have to do with, then?

I'm not getting much out of this review, really. Ok some of the bikes are more comfortable than others, the exhaust sounds better on some than others, and some have more power above 10k than others, and the engine buzzes more on some than others, and the GSX-R1000 has a cable clutch. That's about it. You guys wrecked a bike and can't say why, and a bike which has the engine specially modified for better handling, you refuse to quantify how that improved handling helps performance. I could have done this myself. And better tires, apparently, would just have meant that it would have wrecked at a higher speed. While probably not providing any feedback that the rider was getting into trouble. Unless the bike is only safe to ride fast on race tires.

By the way the next time that you guys publish a "shootout" like this without lap times? Why not make it an open shootout. If lap times don't matter, then why not throw in some 600s and 250s? Sure they will make less power, but they will also be lighter and cheaper too, and when all that is factored into your rating equation they might even beat the literbikes.

Also what I think matters a lot but is entirely ignored here is how easy these bikes are to maintain and how well they hold up under sustained riding. What tires work well on them and what don't and what sort of performance changes are seen across the range of suspension settings. The CBR supposedly has a problem with leaky fork seals, is that still an issue? What about the transmission...hopefully the R1 has left the old fJ 2nd gear problem well behind...what are the mechanical disadvantages of the cable clutch vs the hydraulic clutches on the others? Ok so they all have fuel-injection now, but what about the valve adjustment procedure? Are we looking at cap and shim adjustment or do any of these have hydraulic valves? And why not test the ABS model CBR? Just too many holes here. I couldn't even tell from reading this which one of these bikes I *would* want to ride and which one I *wouldn't* want to ride for more than an hour or two on the highway. I'm sorry, I'm not going to spend $13k on a bike and leave it at Willow Springs and only ride it there, and at some point it has to be maintained, and that's just as important as anything else. If it's going to cost me $2k every 5000 miles to keep it running, it's not a good bike. I will trade 25hp at the top end for a hydraulic valve train. Happily.
We give you nearly 5000 words at zero cost, and you still want more. Do you ***** at your wife Adriana Lima about her not cooking often enough?

Perhaps you missed the part of the thread about why taking lap times is a practical and logistical nightmare.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
2,087 Posts
If you haven't ever been to a track day, you owe it to yourself and your riding experiences to join one!
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
2,087 Posts
I'm sure some track days on the bike would be just as cool.
Cooler, actually! Make it happen! That goes for all of you who haven't yet experienced it!
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
2,087 Posts
Hey, a little on-topic for once. I know, here he goes again about liter bikes weighing too much, but holy cripes, looking back at open class street motorcycles over the last 20 or so years, they seem to have gained a lot of weight. Some of which can be removed with common sense engineering and design.

My Buell had that lump of a Sportster motor, and still came in at just over 400 lbs, and as a result could out handle most anything Japan had to offer in the tight stuff (and the fast sweepers too).

Maybe I should start a company that removes unsightly pounds from 1000cc Japanese repli-racers..might be big.

What's your spin on the weight issue? Is it a necessary evil, what with all the technology, or can it be solved with better engineering/materials?
My spin is facts. The wet weight of a 1991 Yamaha FZR1000, according to Cycle magazine, was 533 lbs full of fuel. That's nearly 100 lbs heavier than the lightweight '08-09 CBR1000RR, and it's 60 some lbs heavier than the lardy new R1. If you don't think OEMs try hard to reduce weight of sportbikes, you're not paying close enough attention to the additions of forged-aluminum, titanium and magnesium components to contemporary sportbikes. Big kudos to Honda for doing the best job at reducing weight of both its CBRs.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
2,087 Posts
Ah I think you better take a closer look brother the bikes of today don't turn? At speed? Are you kidding me, no disrespect but check the weight of a gs1100 versus a Gsxr1000? The bikes are much much lighter now a days? Thats not even mentioning the 600 class?
The aforementioned FZR had a 26.7-degree rake. That's almost chopperish compared to 23.3 degrees of the CBR. Combine the much steeper rake with 100 less pounds, and you can guess which changes direction quicker. Thank technology for steering dampers that keep the new bikes from headshaking riders off.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
2,087 Posts
I'm not sure that 21" front wheel on the DL1000 is going to work too well on the track. Got something ending in "RR" I can borrow? And don't say; "RRR!"
I once did a trackday on a R1200GS and the older Triumph Tiger at Infineon. Despite the stock enduro-ish tires, I did a lot of passing out there!

The point is, the RR comes in your pocket, not the bike! Have a blast!
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
2,087 Posts
.
The bottom-line is that these bikes only make sense on really-fast tracks in road-ready or near road-ready categories.
So the tens of thousands of people who buy a literbike each year and don't race them are idiots?

.
Yet you refuse to publish laptimes. It's patently nonsensical. The only *rational* reason to buy these bikes is to cut fast laps on a fast track.
You obviously aren't a racer, so then your whinging about a lack of lap times has no bearing on what you think about these amazing street machines.

If you were a racer, you'd know enough to qualify the question of which is quickest by asking: On what track? On what tires? With which rider. With which chassis tuner. After how many laps? (I'm curious if you bothered to read post #24.) And then you'd choose a bike based on which dealer you're friendliest with or which OEM offered the best contingency program, which is what racers do.

We gave you several thousand words of what the latest literbikes were like to ride on the street and on the track, based on the impressions from riders with experience on all the latest sportbikes and who have raced motorcycles. Plus tons of pics and video. I still have a hard time believing anyone didn't get their money's worth.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
2,087 Posts
Did you smell that? Smells like K-Pee.

Anyway, in today's society, not enough "thanks" go around. I just wanted to say thanks for the write-up. I know it's your job, but it was a good read, nontheless.

I still love the Ducati 1198 (sch-wing!), but I might have to consider the Ninja thou', though.
Thanks, Doc! We're glad someone's getting their money's worth!
 
1 - 18 of 18 Posts
Top