It’s a hard and dangerous business passing judgment on all these new motorcycles. Not so much physically dangerous (though there is that), but more like dangerous we’ll get it wrong. One of my favorite parts of being a MOron is going out with the other kids to do comparison tests over the span of a few days, when we have the chance to stop and smell the lattes, comparing notes and impressions on each bike every time we stop, and reach a consensus. Most of the time.

But now that the news cycle is shortened thanks to the interwebs, when I go off to do a “First Ride” like I just did for the all-new Suzuki GSX-S1000, and need to pass judgment in print (online) the next day, it’s all on me to get it right. The longer I hang around, the more I realize how crazily important motorcycles are to some people – not least the people who build them. It’s important to get it right for plenty of reasons.

Suzuki’s Aki Goto (in the black Kushitani jacket) has been with the company since 1973, invented the four-wheel ATV, and tuned for Barry Sheene. There’s very little I can tell him about motorcycles.

Suzuki’s Aki Goto (in the black Kushitani jacket) has been with the company since 1973, invented the four-wheel ATV, and tuned for Barry Sheene. There’s very little I can tell him about motorcycles.

When I gave the new GSX-S two thumbs up and an 86.25 on the ScoreCard (pretty good for a $9,999 open-class naked), it was deeply satisfying to know I’d got it right when certain readers I can trust to be 180 degrees wrong wasted no time commenting on what a dismal POS failure the new Suzuki is.

Yess! Nailed it again!

There’s always going to be a certain amount of subjectivity. The least hint of jerky throttle drives some of us nuts, Evans Brasfield. Some guys can’t abide the tiniest bit of handlebar vibration. Other times, we all find ourselves in total agreement. What’s amazing really, is that when a motorcycle gets it right, both 6’2”/250-pound Sean Alexander and little old me can agree that the Aprilia RSV4 was the most comfy bike in our recent six-way Superbike slugfest. How does that even work?

Sometimes you look at what the loyal opposition has to say, though, and you wonder if we all rode the same motorcycle? In fact we did not in the case of the new Yamaha R1, since all the publications who named the Yamaha “Superbike of the Year!” rode the “M” version ($21,990), while MO tested the vanilla R1. All I can surmise is that the electronic suspension on the M must be truly magical, because our R1 finished last in the Suspension category on both Street and Track portions of our recent shootout. It also only beat the Dante’s Inferno Replica Ducati Panigale in the Ergonomics/Comfort category, a bike which would be much more comfortable than the R1 if only it didn’t use its rider’s circulatory system as a radiator for its rear cylinder.

080515-whatever-consensus-1299-panigale-s

I’ve always been kind of a Yamaha guy and I loved the original ’98 R1 along with most of the ensuing ones, but this latest one is what we used to refer to as “a rack”, and not the good kind. In fact, it’s just about the cruellest production motorcycle I’ve ever ridden.

I mean, Yamaha does say the new bike is all about racing performance (which is what they always say), but this time they really meant it – not that I’ve ever ridden a race bike this uncomfortable: A Honda RS125 is preferable once you’re folded up on it. I can see how the R1 could inspire you to go faster than ever, so as to climb back off it as soon as possible.

One nice thing is you can ride under most trucks when your exit comes up sooner than expected.

One nice thing is you can ride under most trucks when your exit comes up sooner than expected.

One big magazine that named the R1M numero uno among this year’s open-class sportbikes uses ergonomic triangle diagrams that let you compare the bikes: According to them, the R1 folds your spine fully eight degrees more than the BMW S1000RR and 7.2 degrees more than the Aprilia. Ouch. Looking at it reminds of me of Steve Martin’s “The Cruel Shoes,” and I’m usually with the crowd who lambasted Troy the other day when he mounted the soapbox to complain about all sportbikes being uncomfortable. I generally like the ones with great suspension because they work out the kinks in my back without jarring the vertebrae loose. I hope the “M” is better than the plain R1 we tested, which could be used instead of waterboarding. Listen Hillary, are you going to come clean or is it gonna be another ride down Santa Rosa Creek Road?

On the bright side, this is just the excuse we need to borrow an R1M and return to the scene of the crime for a rematch against the winner of our Shootout, the BMW S1000RR. In the Laguna Seca Raceway portion of our deal, our ringer Doug Chandler liked the BMW much better than the Yamaha around the track. The Beemer was also a good enough streetbike for me to ride back and forth to Monterey, thanks to its electronic cruise control and heated grips. The 20 more horsepower is a nice bonus too, and all of it in a package 10% cheaper than the R1M.

My kid was the only guy besides me who liked the Street, but he quickly threw it over for a Moto Guzzi V7. Which is not a “cruiser.”

My kid was the only guy besides me who liked the Street, but he quickly threw it over for a Moto Guzzi V7. Which is not a “cruiser.”

I’m not 100% infallible. At the opposite end of the Open Sportbike shootout, I keep pimping Harley’s Street 750 to anybody who’ll listen, and even talked it into MO’s Best Cruiser Honorable Mention last year by playing up its “significance.” But it still winds up being trounced every time we put it in a comparison, most recently in a shootout with the Honda CTX700N and Kawasaki Vulcan S. A “cruiser” that’s functional, comfortable and under 600 pounds is still a little too novel even for MO. Our competitors have escaped insulting Harley-Davidson (and domestic spats) by largely ignoring the Street since its coming-out party. I still love the thing in spite of its Douglas Fir front brake, which is the main shortcoming detractors bludgeon it with. Speaking of deciduous front brakes, the other publications’ KTM RC390 test bikes must’ve had a different spec brake than our test unit did, along with rear shocks that provided damping; we really wanted to like the little KTM as much as the other guys did. Alas…

In the end, variety is the spice of life, and what fun would it be if everybody rode a motorcycle you approved of? You’d never get the chance to make a new friend by strolling over to tell the owner what a dismal failure his motorcycle is. It’s a big part of the fun.

  • Old MOron

    Ha ha ha, that lead picture should be called, “The Face(s) of Consensus.”

    • Alexander Pityuk

      That picture is truly gold. Sometimes it’s just the headline and the picture, nothing else needed (though highly appreciated).

      • Old MOron

        One of the best things about MO is that while they take motorcycles very seriously, they know how to take themselves less seriously.

  • http://statesofmotion.blogspot.com/ FastPatrick

    There’s this deeply important and often underappreciated thing in this world called “credibility.” Hype merchants peddle their wares and move on to the next target; people who speak the truth earn respect and legitimacy.

    Especially for those of us who literally depend on descriptions and judgements rendered by others for our decisions, this is a valuable commodity.

    Keep it up.

  • JMDGT

    To care about getting it right requires integrity. Right defined can be many things. An accurate truthful description of any attribute,feature,impression or whatever goes a long way. Consensus conschmensus. It can mean nothing, everything or anything in between. No matter how much I hate someone else’s bike I can always find something I like about it. Bike reviews are opinion journalism. They are objective and subjective. Aside from being truthful all you need to know is what you like.

  • Shlomi

    It’s not quite clear why Duke made so much effort to get the Aprilia Factory RF to the super bike shootout ( the first on the country?) , but only got the R1 (not M).
    What would you say if for luxury sport Sedan test you use BMW 335 (instead of M3) vs. Audi S4?

    • DickRuble

      Good point. I think I know the answer though; they got the opportunity to be the first to review it and it would have been “foolish” not to… Ultimately, as JB says, reviewing is a highly subjective activity tainted by a need to balance advertising interests and journalistic self-respect.. so we can only sit back, grab a slivovitz, and hopefully have an entertaining read while looking for attack angles.

      • john burns

        Actually that’s a good question. I thought when I first read about the R1M, the word was “limited edition”, and that you had to apply to purchase one, etc., like an R model Ducati or something.. So I assumed most media would test the base model. Not the case. I am going to check with our Yamaha person as to how many R1Ms are being produced.

      • john burns

        Actually that’s a good question. I thought when I first read about the R1M, the word was “limited edition”, and that you had to apply to purchase one, etc., like an R model Ducati or something.. So I assumed most media would test the base model. Not the case. I am going to check with our Yamaha person as to how many R1Ms are being produced.

    • Alexander Pityuk

      Well, it’s actually okay to use 335 vs S4, because it’s RS4 which should be compared to M3 :-)

    • Evans Brasfield

      That’s easy. The RF was available and the RR was not. And the RF barely made the test, only becoming available the day before we headed for Laguna Seca.

      • Shlomi

        What about the R1M ? Is it fair to compare the RF to R1? The price different suggest the the M should be much better.

  • DickRuble

    The new Suzuki is a dismal failure. It may be a decent bike, but that’s not enough. For the Suzuki corporation, it is a failure. The same way the Buells were dismal failures. I had stated (go back and read my comments on the topic) that the Buells wouldn’t make it, simply because they were good but not good enough. The same applies here. Now, let’s remember that there were many armchair cheerleaders ready to sing the praises and congratulate Buell. But none of them applauded with their wallet. Same will happen here.

    • mooner

      I don’t get it. Do you like the SV1000 or not? In the other article’s comment section you were singing the praises of the SV1000. The SV1000 was definitely a flop from the commercial aspect. This one may be as well.

      You mentioned that they should have used the V-strom motor. I had one (and an SV650) for 8-10 yrs, liked them very much, and still miss them a little. The world has moved on and the V-strom (and SV) motor has not. Between the new V-stom and GSX1000, no doubt I would go for the GSX1000, just for something different. And I love v-twins.

      • DickRuble

        I believe the GSX1000 will be a flop. I also don’t like it, even if it may be an ok bike. The SV1000 was a flop. But I liked the bike, minus the front suspension. My comments harp at the Suzuki’s strategy rather than the bike. Between the FZ-09 and the GSX1000, what would the majority of people chose?

        • Old MOron

          FZ9 or GSX-S? Can’t wait for the MOronic shootout.

          • DickRuble

            There’s already an FZ9 vs GSX-750 comparison out there. Why the 750? Maybe because it’s a 3 cylinders vs a 4, so they felt that the 750 needed a handicap. However, I think that the FZ9 will hold its own quite well against the 1000.

          • Old MOron

            Thanks for the reminder. I went and looked it up. You know what? The FZ9 won by a scant 2.7%. “In the end it was the FZ that came out on top but only by the skin of its under-suspended teeth. It’s saving grace being its weight-to-power ratio.”

            http://www.motorcycle.com/shoot-outs/less-shootout-four-cylinders-7999-three-cylinders-8190-two-cylinders-8699-video

            Seems to me the GSX-S1000 might well beat the FZ9. Bring on the comparo!

          • Will

            Head scratcher for me was VFR800 beating out R1 as Motorcyclist’s Motorcycle of the Year in 1998. I owned both at the time and while the Honda was an excellent all-around bike, the Yamaha was a game changer. Looking back, it’s pretty obvious which had the biggest impact.

          • john burns

            Say, come to think of it I was working there then! WTF?!

          • Will

            Hey, don’t beat yourself up too bad. To err is human, to forgive divine … did Mitch Boehm (a.k.a. Mr. Honda) cast the deciding vote in favor of the Viffer?

          • john burns

            Y’know I don’t remember there being a vote? Or do I? I think I wanted the R1 to win but by then I knew I could never win a debate with Mr. B.

        • Craig Hoffman

          The FZ09 has a great engine, but the Suzuki has far more power. The FZ09 also has craptastic stock suspension. The appeal of the ’09 is their price point. They are great project bikes and I like them lots, but by the time you buy one, install a Penske shock and do something about the crappy front forks, you have spent 10 grand, which is right there with this Suzuki, which comes with far better stock components and another 25-30 stock horsepower with more coming out of that K5 engine with a little effort. The niche I see for this Suzuki is horsepower for dollar.

          This Suzuki will probably be a sales flop though in the US anyway. It is not a sport bike and it is not a Harley. Super standards have always had a hard time in the US. The FZ09 is an interesting exception to that trend. They seem to sell well.

          • DickRuble

            Funny, the FZ-1 is the bike I notice the most around here (East Coast), and those I see seem in very good, clean condition.

          • Craig Hoffman

            Those are probably Gen 1 FZ1s (01 to 05) and either generation attracts cheapskate old geezers like me who take care of their old man’s sport bikes :)

    • john burns

      The Buell XB-9S, especially the City, was one of my top 5 bikes of the last decade. Plenty of people loved their Ulysseses, including Peter Egan. The 1190SX Troy and I compared against the KTM Super Duke R last year came very close to beating it, but we had to pick the KTM for its more well-roundedness. To me, that does not say dismal failure.

      • DickRuble

        EBR is kaput. The 1190SX is languishing in dealer showrooms at a cool $5000 discount and still nobody buys it. How is that not a failure?

        • john burns

          Oh Dick Dick Dick… you remind me of the old saying about the man who knows the value of everything and the worth of nothing. If Buell bounces back in the next few days it will be God’s way of telling you, ahhhh, something.

  • Alexander Pityuk

    “… didn’t use its rider’s circulatory system as a radiator for its rear cylinder”
    Nailed it. Again!

  • howard kelly

    Fine scribble there JPB…. all too true.

  • Bruce Steever

    I’m all for dissenting opinions, John… but sometimes you really are riding a different version of the bikes that the rest of us tested.

  • Ducati Kid

    John,

    Being a ‘scribe’ is TOUGH Sledding! :-)

    Have already requested DUCATI install a Circular Fan – INSIDE – that offensive Rear Cylinder Exhaust Coil drawing Air between it’s Shield and Coil exhausting resulting heated air downward AWAY from the Rider!

    Questions why it has taken so long for a corrective solution as this concern was first reported at the Panigale media introduction in late 2012?

    • Kevin Duke

      There’s been at least two corrective solutions since the original Panigale launch, but neither have been very effective.

      • Ducati Kid

        KD,

        Sadly, none thus shown are little more than extending the Exhaust Coil Shield as found on TERMIGNONI’S Panigale Exhaust system.

        Rider discomfort, and it’s reporting, represents lost product sales to me!

        This not Dumb but STUPID!

    • Lisa Glover

      There is only one Tough Sledding. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SbLUuQ7bwH8

  • dbwindhorst

    You’ve read — and remember — “Cruel Shoes”?

    Okay, now I’m impressed.

  • http://www.motou.info Gabe Ets-Hokin

    “a bike which would be much more comfortable than the R1 if only it didn’t use its rider’s circulatory system as a radiator for its rear cylinder.”

    LOL

  • Gabriel Owens

    I love this publication

  • John B.

    For over 20 years I made a living suing product manufacturers alleging, design defects, manufacturing defects, failure to warn, and/or failure to provide adequate instructions. In these cases, I reviewed thousands of product design and testing documents, and spent hundreds of hours deposing people who design, manufacture, test, and/or market products.

    You have not experienced true hostility until you depose a product designer and criticize his design and/or methods. Designers are less defensive about their children then they are about their products. In many cases, the manufacturer would rather die than settle. It’s an unforgettable experience to feel unadulterated contempt. After a while, I began to relish in my opponent’s animus. When things got hot I would say, “It’s nothing personal, only business,” which reliably fanned the flames.

    I laugh when I think about all the times I travelled long distances to a manufacturing facility for depositions, and my host wouldn’t even offer me a glass of water or a cup of coffee. One Japanese manufacturer served me with 225 boxes of design and testing documents (in Japanese) when I arrived at their LA-area facility. Nice!

    I can imagine similar awkwardness when a manufacturer hosts moto journalists for a product launch, and then the journalist pans the product. “Thank you for the wonderful time in South Africa, but my thighs got a little to warm while riding your new bike…. no offense.” Ha!!

  • Y.A.

    I would rather a well informed opinion I don’t necessarily agree with than a puff piece for a bike I like. The value in these reports isn’t the conclusion or writer’s opinion, but the analysis the writer uses to get there. All literbikes are stretch-your-elbow-and-wrist-joints fast…. but details like the Panigale’s heated seats or the R1’s Braveheart rack ergonomics matter more for actual ownership and use. So keep feeding us the details please. They make you guys a great resource and make for good reading.

  • Daniel Chavez

    Hahahaha “Douglas Fir braking” that’s gold.