2001 World Supersport Shootout
World SuperSport Shootout, Part I
Get the Flash Player to see this player."Once again, Suzuki nailed the fuel-injection, bettering the Fi efforts of the Honda and the carburetion of the Yamaha."
Cracking open the throttle mid-corner at the racetrack or accelerating away from cars while lane-splitting on the freeway, the Suzuki's fuel/air mixture was always spot-on. Similarly, some riders felt that the Suzuki's brakes were best in class while others gave the nod to the Yamaha's binders. Either way, they're a tidy set-up that never failed to get us slowed for the corners.
The suspension kept things on line, even when we swung wide before arcing into turn-one and had to come back across the pavement seam. Handling was, overall, very predictable and stable with the only real drawback being a rather heavy feeling when tipping into some of the slower corners at the track. This could be traced to the combination of the steering damper and the rather wide tank that contributed to some tester's comments about the bike's generally large overall feel.
On the road, the Suzuki was not exactly a class favorite.Some people even preferred the Ducati's ergonomic package to the Suzuki! We'll attribute this anomaly to the fact that the Suzuki felt wider than the other bikes and that its foot-pegs feel like they're mounted higher and farther forward than the other bikes here. A few testers even mentioned that the seat-to-peg relationship was even a hindrance on the track. Then again, these are the same people who have been known to occasionally wear a skirt.
Local backroads were turned into race tracks as far as the Suzuki was concerned. This bike likes to rev, and it shouts at you rather loudly, asking you to run it hard and run it in deep. While this may be some people's idea of fun, it's certainly not for everybody. Likewise, suspension is set on the stiff side, again referring to the bike's intent -- ruling the racetrack. Wind protection was surprisingly good on the GSX-R, offering a larger bubble than the others here. It's just too bad that more people couldn't get along with the ergos long enough to appreciate this.
Second Place: Honda CBR600F4i:
In totally stock form, the Honda is the easiest bike to ride quickly over unfamiliar roads. Similarly, it's also the easiest to get up to speed on when circulating a race track. The comfortable riding position puts you in a relatively upright position with just enough of a forward cant to keep your weight where it needs to be for spirited riding -- over the front wheel. This is by far the best streetbike here, thanks to comfortable ergos and a motor that doles out easy-to-use power everywhere. The suspension's also extremely plush while maintaining enough firmness that, should the pace quicken, it's all in a days work for the little CBR. The rider's information display is also the most comprehensive in this test while maintaining the sort of ease-of-use that gives you just what you need in a quick glance without becoming too cluttered.
Not unexpectedly, the Honda's downfall is the race track where it's not as solid as the other bikes are. Still, it only took a few clicks and twists to get the bobbing and weaving bike to settle on its haunches and get back into the swing of things.
With the best stock tires and the most confidence-inspiring chassis in this test (if we hadn't changed tires half-way through the racetrack test, the Honda might've claimed outright fastest lap, so kudos to Honda for spec'ing awesome Michelin Pilot Sports instead of the horrid Dunlop D207 mushballs that come on the Suzuki and Yamaha), the Honda was also the bike that started touching things down the quickest. After the suspension changes though, most everything on the bike stayed clear of the pavement with only the exhaust can touching down in a few right-hand corners at extremely high rates of speed.
"I was out tooling around Willow on the Honda," said Plummer who rode non-stop (not even for lunch) all day at the track, logging the most laps, "which is completely comfortable, having a good 'ole time, though I didn't feel like I was going that fast. Was I ever surprised when I came in and found that I was, by far, faster on the Honda than any other bike in the test. It's a sneaky bike -- so planted and in touch with the ground, but in an ever-so-plush way, this is the bike that will make Joe Rider a canyon hero. Simply put, it'll make you believe it's going to stick, and it does, so non-pro racers will probably like this the best, although the R6 is faster, turns easier and has more damping front and rear, so you don't have to be ultra-smooth like you do on the comparatively softly sprung Honda."
The brakes on the Honda are good, though not quite as powerful as what's to be found on either the Yamaha or Suzuki. Similarly, the Honda's motor has a smooth sort of delivery that begs a rider to twist the throttle open at the earliest possible moment -- and then do it even earlier on the next lap 'round.
That's the sort of confidence this bike inspires on both the street as well as at the track. Editor Plummer even turned his fastest lap of the day on the Honda because he felt that his aged self was able to flow around the track easier than on the other bikes and, at the limit, confidence in a machine is worth everything.
First Place: Yamaha YZF-R6
Times change, and as a racetrack replicas evolve, he who is not leading the pack sees nothing but arse-hole and exhaust pipe. Such is not the case for Yamaha and their still-excellent R6. After a few changes were made this year, the bike is far better than it previously was. Most notably, it makes more power, but the way it makes it it awe-inspiring: This bike revs past 15,000 rpm, and is incredibly smooth, much more so than even the Honda: "I have bad wrists," whines Plummer, "and the R6 is, by far, the easiest on the hands and forearms. This year's engine is so smooth it's uncanny, I've never ridden a 600 so plush in every way. From the awesome engine to the well-damped chassis, I could find no flaw with this bike other than the mushball D207 Dunlops that came stock: I rode on them too much on the morning before we changed to the Rennspots, and the weak carcass on the D207 makes the bike feel disconnected with the ground.
A big front-end push on the Dunlops ruined my confidence on this machine for the day. If that hadn't happened, I'm 100 percent positive I wouldn't gone faster on the Yamaha than the Honda -- it's ram air is more effective so it's faster than the Honda at speed, and it's got more ground clearance and, in my opinion, the best mass-produced brakes made. Those three factors, combined with the smoothly impressive engine, clearly get my vote for the best performance/streetable 600 today."
It's now been combed over in the way the Y2K YZF-R1 was, with a bit of "sharpening" being the goal -- and the result. However, as much as the bike has been sharpened, it's still a few paces behind the Suzuki on the track. But since this test places more emphasis on streetability, the Yamaha gets the nod over the Suzuki in the overall tally.
On the street, though, the Yamaha has a more friendly ergonomic package that helps contribute to the bike's relatively lithe overall feel. Most people preferred the Yamaha's ergos on the street and even on the racetrack where the ergos helped to inspire confidence. Despite the more relaxed riding position, the R6 still managed to keep hard parts from dragging on the asphalt though the peg-feelers did touch down frequently.
"This bike was actually one that some staffers chose as their daily mount because of its light feel and ease of handling in most on-road situations."
Wind protection was second or third best in this test, following the Suzuki, with different riders putting either the Honda or the Yamaha in second. This bike was actually one that some staffers chose as their daily mount because of its light feel and ease of handling in most on-road situations.
It's a narrow bike that loves to lane-split and has decent bottom-end power to squirt away from traffic if that's your desire. On the street, the suspension was routinely picked second, following the Honda. Both bikes exhibited far more bump-absorption than either the Suzuki or Ducati, but the edge here goes to the Honda unless you always find yourself riding on the "spirited" side of the equation. Stock-for-stock, though, the Yamaha's suspension package provides a good starting point whether your intentions lay in the local hangout or the local racetrack.
On the track, after raising the forks in the triple clamps by six millimeters to compensate for the slightly larger yet immensely stickier Metzeler radials, the R6 is still a tremendous track package. It's just not quite as sharp as the Suzuki or Ducati's chassis, but it's darn close. The brakes were constantly the targets of praise, as was the motor's snap. There is just enough of a "hit" in the powerband to keep things exciting without being intimidating in the least. The carburetion on our test bike was good except for an occasional popping on deceleration from high revs. Still, this was more of an aural annoyance than anything that effected the bike's performance.
The only thing that caused any concern to any of the testers at the track, or on the street, is that the Yamaha's transmission feels rather clunky compared to the other bikes on hand. This is nothing to worry about, though. Yamaha's own R1 has never been the slickest-shifting box around either, but the recent changes were supposed to help in this department. Actually, after riding a well-used Y2K model, we felt the new tranny might have been a bit of a step backward.
In our recent poll we asked you, the readers, how much bias you preferred when deciding an outcome here. The overwhelming response was that you were more concerned with how a bike functions as a daily vehicle, with the racetrack nothing more than a thrice-yearly departure from your modus operandi. Outright performance is one thing, but most people won't push to the limit of these bikes, anyway. Heck, some would argue that we don't either, but then again, we're not a bunch of Kurtis Roberts or Ben Bostrom clones. We remind each other of this on a daily basis, in fact. So, what's a few tenths of a second per lap when the overall experience of the bike is significantly more pleasant on a day-to-day basis? Its an equation that, unlike the problems you faced in school, has many solutions in the real-world.
Any of these bikes could make their owner the happiest man or woman alive if all they ever rode was that one bike. But after spending a considerable amount of time on each of these four bikes, riding them back-to-back, there's definitely a clear-cut winner -- and that'd be the Yamaha.
It's the only bike here that offers above average track performance and stellar on-road manners in a package that inspires more confidence than nightly calls from A-list actresses begging you for a date.
Unfortunately, we work here at MO so we'll probably never get those phone calls. That's just fine with us, though. If every consolation prize was as brilliant as the Yamaha R6 and Honda's CBR600F4i, we'd be able to live happily ever after.
Brent Plummer(5' 10", 145 pounds)
Whenever we contemplate street riding on these four bikes here, it's strange how Calvin and I always want to ride the Ducati -- everything about it exudes quality and coolness. It's just plain awesome. But part of why we think it's so great is that we don't have to live with it, or it's bills, we get to give it back without incurring any of the long-term reliability issues. Still, if you're stinkin' rich, buy one, add 25 horsepower, and it'll be great.
"The Honda and Yamaha are a toss-up for me."
As I said above, if my first impression on the Yamaha wasn't with those icky D207 tires, I would've liked it more. These crap tires are a running joke amongst journalists, so to those of you in the industry that don't say anything because you rely on free Dunlops for your personal racebikes and tires, shame on you!
Anyway, try and testride both the Honda and Yamaha and make your decision yourself. Chances are, even after just sitting on each, you'll be in love with one and that'll be it. All of which leaves the Suzuki. I hated it. Either the tank is too far back or the pegs are too low and far forward, or both, but my feet kept slipping off the pegs at the track. Ex-MOian Gord Mounce summed it up best in our 1997 600cc shootout: "The face-down, ass-up riding position is better suited for one's first day in prison than the operation of a motorcycle." That still holds true today. While I'm complaining, the vibration was horrible. If you want a Gixxer, get in line on the awe-inspiring 1000 -- that thing's so fast you'll be glad you're slung down low on the front wheel!
Brent "Minime" Avis (6' 2", 185 pounds)
Just like every wannabe actor or femme fatal in Hollywood, I too -- the semi-great Minime -- have two sides. Neither is physically pleasing to the opposite sex, mind you, but the emotional weight this carries goes a long way towards making life's simple decisions utterly complex.
For instance, I lust after the Ducati. If it were a woman I would force myself upon her and make her mine. Well, I would try to, anyway. But just as quickly as I'd fallen for her I'd find myself put out. Alone once again because I knew, somewhere deep inside, that the girl I belonged to was the Honda. She may not be the one that has my friends green with envy, but she makes a good beef stew and doesn't shrink my clothes on a regular basis.
What I mean, in a roundabout way, is that the Honda takes care of me. It makes me feel like the man in the relationship and I can make her happy, too. There's mutual respect and a healthy give and take the Ducati has never given thought to. If you catch her in the right mood, she can even be a little bit spicy -- even if it does take a little coercing on my part.
Calvin "HackFu" Kim (6' 0" 150 pounds)
The pinnacle of every multi-bike test revolves around the details. Obviously all the involved parties share similar traits. If they didn't, questioning the authority putting the test together would certainly be in order. Why, then, do we constantly focus our attention on the obvious, whether it be subjective, or factual?
I prefer to select my favorite machine based on subjective criteria (has anybody ever been dissuaded from buying a Dodge Viper GTS-R ACR because of fuel economy or luggage capacity?). It is my opinion, after all. As such, if I had to name one bike to place in my garage, it would have to be a duel between the R6 and the GSX-R. And this duel would take place in a dealer showroom. Both bikes feel like race bikes, much in the same way the 748S does, but for nearly 40% of the cost.
The F4i fell short just by millimeters. And for such a trivial reason at that. I found the ergos to be slightly disagreeable. Nothing a set of aftermarket clip-ons and adjustable foot-peg brackets could not solve. Alas, as this was a test of stock machinery (tires notwithstanding), switching parts would not be appropriate.
The 748S, while stunning and invigorating to ride and appreciate, is cost prohibitive for this rider. Attempting to set fast laps and smooth lines is difficult enough. What happens when you must do this while worrying about potentially destroying a nearly $15,000 piece of machinery?
Roland "Shift-Lever" Sands
Well, you'll have to excuse the tone of this review but I'm a little pissed off right now and I'm listening to some Beck. It's not the most motivational music but it's good right now. So basically, what I'm saying is, listen to some Beck. Anyway...
My favorite bike is the R6. I like it because it's fast as hell, it handles as close to a 250 as a four stroke possibly can and it's still the best-looking bike of the bunch. Hooray for the Yamaha! Girlfriends suck.
"Yamaha is still best."
The Suzuki is my next favorite because, well, I don't know -- it's just good. I went fastest on it, I think. Calvin will have to check on that [You did, a tenth of a second faster than on the R6 - CK]. It's way powerful but the thing is, it just feels really raw and a little out of control going into the corners.
It feels like the ass swings around going into a corner. Not as refined as the Yamaha, but it's the best race bike. Next is the Duck, back again for more ass-whoopin from the Jap bikes. Dude, if it revved and had like, 20 more horses it would be my favorite. But, since it don't, it's just like, well you know when you have the squirts and it's like plap, plap, plap, all loud but nothing's really coming out? Well thats the Duck. But it handles and looks the business.
So that leaves the Honda. Ohh, special Honda. Thou art so fast and thou hast such horrible ground clearence. The bike is good, though a little soft and squishy. It's like after you drink a lot of beer and have to take a turd and it's not really hard. And Splooosh! You get the point. It's fast as hell, But I almost high-centered on the pipe a number of times. Eeww.
All in all, I'd say any of them's a fine choice. But the Yamaha is still best.