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Old 04-26-2009, 09:29 AM   #21
TheFox
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Originally Posted by seruzawa View Post
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.
You know, what I find interesting is that I've never heard anyone talk about lap times because no one can relate. Motorcycle magazines -- at least, sportbike magazines -- are in Southern California. They typically do not reference anything outside the state, and typically all go to "Streets of Willow" to rave about the BOLD! NEW! GRAPHICS! and the incremental improvements for this year.

Again, this may be why I quit sport bikes and went to H-D products. That being said, the only motorcycle magazine I read with any regularity is PB from Britain, which isn't track or race focused; just performance focused.

I've never been to Streets of Willow, I probably can't find it on a map, so why should I base my riding decision on how fast a bike can go around it? For that matter, can a guy running at VIR in Virginia extrapolate an estimated lap time for his track from the Streets of Willow track?
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Old 04-26-2009, 10:44 AM   #22
seruzawa
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You know, what I find interesting is that I've never heard anyone talk about lap times because no one can relate. Motorcycle magazines -- at least, sportbike magazines -- are in Southern California. They typically do not reference anything outside the state, and typically all go to "Streets of Willow" to rave about the BOLD! NEW! GRAPHICS! and the incremental improvements for this year.

Again, this may be why I quit sport bikes and went to H-D products. That being said, the only motorcycle magazine I read with any regularity is PB from Britain, which isn't track or race focused; just performance focused.

I've never been to Streets of Willow, I probably can't find it on a map, so why should I base my riding decision on how fast a bike can go around it? For that matter, can a guy running at VIR in Virginia extrapolate an estimated lap time for his track from the Streets of Willow track?
Yeah. But if one isn't going to ride on the track why even buy one of these things? You can't even load the suspension without getting arrested.
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Old 04-26-2009, 09:26 PM   #23
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Default Going in circles is a good thing.

I'm all for the track testing for a bunch of reasons even though I don't ride at the track. First, it takes the bikes to their mechanical limits without jeopardizing our beloved testers. Plus, I want the bike to bust on them, not me. I suspect the manufactures spend the money because it gives them some liability protection to say that they gave the public a fair warning as to the performance capabilities of their machines. They also get the impartial feedback from the testers.
Remember when all bikes were tested at the drag strip? We ended up with fast bikes, peaky engines and spindly front forks. Now it seems that track testing is creating street bikes with tiny wheel bases and narrow range gear boxes. The fairings don't provide wind protection for the legs anymore.
Thanks for mentioning engine vibration at highway speeds as comfort has as much effect on 'mileage' as the size of the gas tank.
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Old 04-26-2009, 10:41 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by aretheregods View Post
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!
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Old 04-27-2009, 05:15 AM   #25
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All nice bikes, and even though I probably couldn't fit on one, I'd take the Duc I think. Good job MO dudes.
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Old 04-27-2009, 08:01 AM   #26
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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.
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Old 04-27-2009, 09:11 AM   #27
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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.
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Old 04-27-2009, 09:30 AM   #28
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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.
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!

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Old 04-27-2009, 10:54 AM   #29
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"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. "

Apparently it's worth a lot to a lot of riders, or at least their perception of the value is there. I talk to a lot of riders who spend what I consider ridiculous amounts of money for (again, what I consider) neglible performance increases. Who in their right mind wants a VStrom 1000 to go even 1 full second quicker on a 1/4 mile bad enough to spend a thousand dollars on pipes and ECUs? Enough people to keep Dale Walker and the Vince Bros. in business. Yet it's a Dual-Sport. With a big windshield and side cases.

On the other hand, there is clearly a "trickle down" value to the investment in sport bikes; what is leading edge on the top of the line sportbike today often finds it's way to bikes with a different mission tomorrow. So even someone like me who no longer wants to ride at 10/10ths on the fastet bike I can afford benefits I suppose. I may be using the technology to dodge a Q-Tip at 45 rather than braking late at turn 3 to get around another rider, but I benefit from dual disks nonetheless.
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Old 04-27-2009, 03:02 PM   #30
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Default Excellent shoot-out Kevin, Pete and Fonzie!

Excellent shoot-out Kevin, Pete and Fonzie!

Glad to see the second best value in motorcycling get even better. 600s being the best value. I personally have never owned a motorcycle, so I'm just guessing here. Great work MO team love the video and photos. GWB WAS THE BEST!

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