2005 Open Supersport Shootout

Honda CBR 1000RR : Kawasaki ZX 10R : Suzuki GSX-R1000 : Yamaha YZF R1

Page 2
The Contenders

4th - Kawasaki ZX-10R

The 2005 ZX-10R is basically the same as the model we tested last year with some subtle changes aimed at suspension and transmission issues we (and others) noted in our evaluation last year. There are new paint schemes in 2005 for the flagship Kawasaki and the pearl red on MO's test bike was one of the best we've seen on a stock motorcycle. At a claimed dry weight of 375 lbs., the current big boy Zed possesses the highest thrust to weight ratio of any of the three returning open-classers.

ZX-10 is strong like bull! As with last year the Zed X is very compact (though not as much as either the Honda or the new GSX-R). The frame spars pass over the engine rather than around the sides and the package feels very narrow from the saddle. All of our testers agreed that the ZX-10 felt light, compliant and very agile, and our big guys found it to be among the roomiest of the four. None of us had any huge complaints on the ergonomic layout considering we are, after all, dealing with one in a series of very focused sportbikes.

The ZX-10 is ram-air equipped and the digital fuel injection uses four 43mm throttle bodies, with electronically controlled sub throttles to smooth power delivery, although we wonder if Kawasaki intentionally left some "kick" in the powerband: "The Kawy's less-linear torque delivery gives it a screaming top-end rush," says Sean. "It imparts the best impression of riding a booster rocket into low-earth orbit of any bike here. The Suzuki may be slightly faster, but the Kawasaki feels as though it is accelerating harder. Weeee!"

Speaking of nubile Catholics, Kim ostensibly arrives to orgainize and keep things tidy, but really MO Knows that cool people always bring hot chicks to the track. (We bring Ashley too.) You'd think that this top-end power kick is bad, but it actually helped one tester go faster: "I spent more time revving the Kawasaki up to redline than the other bikes," say Pete, "and I didn't feel like I was getting into trouble -- I could always tell when it was 'coming on the pipe' and was prepared for even harder acceleration. What I mean is that the GSX-R doesn't seem to have a top-end limit -- it just keeps ratching up. It's not unsettling, it just accelerates so relentlessly that I would unkowningly get into a turn way too fast -- and that happended a few times, putting me hotter into corner entry than I felt comfortable going. It doesn't have a lightning-bolt jolt of power anywhere, it just keeps winding up and up and up."

Kawasaki isn't oversizing in this class like they are in the 600s: The ZX-10 engine is a four-stroke, 16-valve, 998cc DOHC inline four with a bore and stroke of 76.0 x 55mm and a compression ratio of 12.7:1. The exhaust system is equipped with Kawasaki's take on a power valve and a titanium silencer to help the hot noisy exhaust gasses make the transition to the cold, cold world. Similar to last year, the Kawi howled on the MO dyno to the tune of 154.7 horsepower.

The Zed 10's tranny is a six-speed close ratio unit with multi-plate wet clutch and back torque limiter. Some of our testers noted improved shifting over last year's model. Clutch actuation is easy and completely transparent, if a bit more abrupt than the Honda and Yamaha. The front brakes are dual hydraulically activated units that grip dual 300mm petal discs via radial-mounted, opposed four-piston calipers. The rear brake is a single 220mm hydraulic single piston unit that puts the clamp to a 220mm petal disc. The brakes work impressively well in hauling the ZX-10 down from triple digit speeds in a hurry. No complaints there.

In the hands of an expert, the ZX-10 is a fearsome weapon. In the hands of Sean... Up front, 43mm fully adjustable inverted forks handle suspension chores. Rake and trail are 24 degrees and 4 inches. Wheelbase is the shortest of the four at 54.5 inches. The rear suspension features a de rigueur, braced aluminum swingarm with Kawasaki's UNI-TRAK© linkage system. The rear shock is fully adjustable for everything including ride height. The consensus among our testers was that while the suspension on the 2005 ZX-10 was an improvement over the '04 model, some nervous behavior remains. No stock steering damper again this year, but the ZX-10 needs a steering damper if you ride the bike hard. Kawasaki provided the optional steering damper for our second day of track testing, which noticeably tamed the frisky nature of the bike when pushed hard on the track.

Chuck: 'Hand me that socket please.'  Gabe: 'Errr... I think I've got some 20-weight ball bearings here'  Chuck: 'Do you even know how to change a tire?  Gabe: 'Sure, no problem; 220, 230, whatever it takes.'We asked Russ Brennan of Kawasaki why Kawasaki's engineers don't follow the pack and put a steering damper on in the first place. The response? Why include something most riders don't need? "When we developed [the ZX-10R], the engineers determined a steering damper wasn't required under normal riding conditions. Trackday riders tend to purchase a steering damper that suits their individual tastes and replace the stock units anyway, so we're letting the rider make that choice."

Comparing the steering damper to another component, Brennan made another point: "Last year we were the only OEM to offer a back-torque limiting clutch in this class, which is much more money to purchase aftermarket than a steering damper." The "accessory" steering damper is an Ohlins unit, but is available directly from your dealer, with a genuine Kawasaki part number (K45104-2005), and carries an MSRP of $364.95. Also required are the $39.95 fork clamp (K53020-364), and a $99.95 frame bracket (11053124). For those of you who are keeping score; this brings the Kawasaki's "As Tested" price up to: $11,503.85

Sean and MR ALLCAPS: separated at birth? Another item unchanged from last year is the confusing, poorly lit and hard-to-read LCD tach/speedo combo that we savaged then and shall do so again now. Ergos are reasonably good and the ZX-10 fits tall guys pretty well considering its relatively low 32.5-inch seat height. The six-spoke wheels are notably cool. The mirrors work, the twin headlights are great, and aside from a lot of body- panel rattling buzzing across the rev range, everything about the ZX-10 is tip-top.

The ZX-10R is a thoroughly entertaining ride on the street or the track. On the track, the compact feel and monster motor elicited giggles from our testers, and brought out the MR. ALLCAPS in the meekest among us. It did it with a surprising amount of comfort and civility, yet still had the rough edges that Kawasaki fans demand. Once we added a steering damper to complement the race rubber, it became easier to ride, but surprisingly didn't really stand out on the racetrack. Is a comfy seat and monster motor enough to edge the ZX-10R into first place?



This is the face that knocked the fabled 916 off the "most beautiful sportbike" perch.3rd - Yamaha R1

The wonderful R1 is back unchanged for 2005, it's the bike that narrowly missed out being the winner in last year's MO's comparo. It still has all of the styling (our favorite) and button-down demeanor that makes the big Yamaha a perennial favorite. The Deltabox aluminum frame and well-sorted suspension create a bedrock stable platform. Throw in plush seating, 379 pound claimed dry weight and great ergonomics and it is easy to see why the R1 was a favorite among our testers in '04. This year the R1, once again, earns particular praise for stability, smoothness, predictable handling and power.

The R1 is fed by dual-valve throttle bodies with motor-driven secondary valves injecting fuel into a four-stroke, 20-valve, 998cc DOHC, inline four. Bore and stroke are 77.0 x 53.6mm and compression is 12.3:1. The exhaust system contains Yamaha's EXUP and twin underseat titanium silencers. All of this is good for 152.6 bhp on the MO dyno which is pretty darned good get-down-the-road in our book.

The R1 gives you confidence before, during and after the apex. The R1's transmission is a six-speed, close ratio and equipped with a multi-plate wet clutch that is light and transparent in use. The front brakes are dual 320mm discs with forged one-piece radial-mount calipers and a Brembo radial-pump front master. The rear brake is a single 220mm hydraulic disc unit with single-piston caliper. As with the rest of this year's open-classers, the brakes are a one-finger affair that work in a manner beyond reasonable reproach.

Front suspension is via inverted, fully adjustable KYB 43mm forks. The piggyback rear shock is fully adjustable and attaches to a braced swingarm. Rake and trail are 24 degrees and 3.8 inches. Wheelbase is 54.9 inches. Consensus among our testers was that the R1's suspension is among the best-sorted (unless pushed to the limit). For most -- but not all -- of us the R1 was a very easy bike to go fast on and feel good about doing it: "I liked the Yamaha least on the track" said Feature Editor Ets-Hokin, "because it didn't have the confidence-inspiring precision of the Honda, and it didn't have the punch or stubby feel of the other two bikes."

The big guys in our test especially appreciated the roomy ergonomics of the big Yammie while the smaller testers tended to think of it as long and heavy feeling. Seat height is a relatively tall 32.8 inches. One of our testers did note that the R1's side cutouts make an otherwise relatively large bike easy to handle for shorter riders.

The controls on the R1 are well placed and do what you expect. The mirrors work and are mostly vibe free. The gauges are trick and easy to read and were praised unanimously among our testers. The shift light is the best of any of the bikes that were equipped with one and the tachometer, in particular, is large and easy to read. There is absolutely zero drive train lash in the R1, and the throttle response is absolutely impeccable -- everywhere. A couple of our testers singled out the R1 for the cool noises at each end of the bike at full-tilt boogie. Fit and finish are flawless. Ets-Hokin went on to explain his seemingly odd choice for the Yamaha as best street bike: "I picked it as best street bike because it's the most comfortable, is easy to ride and it feels like the best-built motorcycle: toss in 26,500 mile valve-adjustment intervals and it's an easy choice for the street rider."

Once again Yamaha has shoved a worthy entry into the ring. But can the mature R1 open up a can of whoop-ass on its younger and more crazed competitors?



"Yonder nigh I spy a cantankerous corner," quips Martin, who is old enough to remember when people actually spoke like that. 2nd - Honda CBR 1000R

In last year's open class shootout the clear winner was the RC211V-inspired CBR1000RR. Even though the R1 was close, it was pretty much the consensus of the group that the RR had the goods in nearly every category. Most of our 2004 testers felt as if the CBR1000RR was simply the best sportbike ever - an amazing machine that did everything well. It was also, by a wide margin, the easiest bike for all of us to ride fast straight out of the box. The CBR1000RR was trick, fast, stable, versatile, reasonably comfortable, confidence inspiring in the extreme, and oozed sophistication. There was not a thing on the big RR that did not feel solidly connected to something else. The RR was amazingly lithe and deceptively fast. It returns to the fray in 2005 unchanged.

The RR gets the fuel into its four-stroke, 16-valve, 998cc DOHC inline four via dual-stage fuel injectors. Bore and stroke are 75.0 x 56.5mm and compression is 11.9:1. The exhaust funnels fumes into a trick underseat silencer. Rear wheel horsepower is a class-low 147.11, according to the MO dyno.

The trend is now radial calipers. We're all for anything that can stop us. Please stop us!The RR's transmission is a six-speed cassette-style unit with a close ratio multi-plate wet clutch. The hydraulic activation on the RR makes the clutch feel very crisp and precise, perhaps to the point of being a bit grabby (it was the most difficult to launch at the dragstrip). The front brakes are dual full-floating, 310mm discs with 4-piston radial-mount calipers. The rear brake is a single 220mm disc with a single-piston caliper. The brakes at both ends of the big RR are flawless.

The front suspension features inverted fully adjustable HMAS 43mm cartridge forks. Out back the fully adjustable HMAS Pro-Link single shock handles chores without a hitch. Rake and trail are 23.75 degrees and 4.0 inches, respectively. Wheelbase is the longest of the group at 55.6 inches. Numbers aside, the chassis and suspension are rock solid. The 1000RR absolutely plants itself in corners and goes where you will it. The trick HESD (Honda Electronic Steering Damper) puts the clamps on any antics this bike might be prone to at speed. Although a tad undersprung and definitely overdamped for street use, the CBR1000RR is very composed on the track and feels, more than any of the rest of the bikes, like it is an integrated piece of machinery designed from the ground up to work as a unit: "The Honda is a great ride," notes Sean. "No quips about it -- it's stable, and unintimidating. It genuinely has a great chassis, and a brilliant steering dampner which allows it to be less intimitading than the other bikes."

The riding position of the big RR is one of the more cramped among this year's class of bikes. The seat height is 32.5 inches, the pegs are high and the clip-ons are low. Still, it's not as much of a chore to ride as, say, the GSX-R, and one of our smaller testers found the riding position very comfortable. The weight of the 1000RR (claimed dry weight is 396 lbs) is a non-issue from the saddle thanks to very compact dimensions and mass-centralization.

Refined. Quality. Competence. That's Pete.Because nearly all of the power that the big CBR makes is usable, thanks to its supremely stable chassis, long swingarm, spot-on throttle response and reassuring suspension, it's very easy to ride. The intake honk and exhaust notes are as sonorous as a Formula One car, especially near the top of the rev range. The CBR1000RR is an amazingly competent motorcycle that exudes refinement and quality, and fit and finish are typical Honda perfection.

Similar to the CBR600RR, the 1000RR seems to be stable, user-friendly and confidence-inspiring both on the track and on the street. Of course, it doesn't hurt when Honda sends World Endurance champ Doug Toland to help tune the suspension, but we think it would have that feel anyway. On the street, the Honda was pretty unpopular with our testers, mostly for the rock-hard seat and low bars. Only our "million-mile man" Pete Brisette was able to look past the seat-like object mounted to the frame to appreciate the all-around balance and smooth motor. As he says in his summary: "You can remedy the seat situation, [but] it's awfully hard to fix engine buzz." The Honda's refinement, ease of use and flexibility make it a sure contender for best overall package.

The Gixxer says "Hi". Nice Gixxer.1st - Suzuki GSX-R

All new for 2005, the GSX-R1000 was the great unknown factor going into this test. The new Gixxer is so compact it looks like a 9/10 scale model of the rest of the open-classers. The styling is radical and edgy, but its puppy dog friendly single headlight seems to wave with a reassuring "Hi" that breaks the ice, even if the next word in the phrase has a chance of being "side". At a claimed dry weight of 365 lbs. it is the lightest by a fair margin of the four bikes. You've heard it a million times, but this new Gixxer is truly the first open-classer that can boast of liter bike performance in a package of supersport dimensions and feel.

To any regular sized rider the G1K feels tiny. It's narrow, has the lowest seat height of the group at 31.9 inches, and very high pegs. Mercifully the reach to the clip-ons is shorter than in previous iterations of the GSX-R. Nonetheless our taller testers looked like trained bears riding tricycles in a circus ring when riding around the track on the GSX-R.

One of our specially trained bears in Turn Two.The new GSX-R breathes through an improved electronic fuel injection system featuring the Suzuki Dual Throttle Valve System (SDTV) that maintains optimum air velocity in the intake tract for smooth low-to-mid rpm throttle response and high torque. This system feeds air to 43 mm twin injector throttle bodies for improved throttle response and acceleration. The primary injector operates under all conditions while the secondary injector operates under high rpm/heavy load. The new engine is a 998.6 inline four with 16 titanium valves. Bore and stroke are 73.4 x 59mm and compression is 12.5:1. Lighter valves and pistons along with several tricks aimed at reducing internal friction result in a red line that is 1000 rpm higher than last year's GSX-R1000. Exhaust gasses flow through the new Suzuki Advanced Exhaust System (SAES), an all titanium unit designed and positioned to keep mass low and close to the centerline of the bike. The funky triangular silencer allegedly decreases drag and definitely increases cornering clearance. The SET power valve remains.

The new titanium muffler is designed for less drag, increased ground clearance and has a special attachment for drapes and upholstery.The Gixxer's transmission is a redesigned six-speed close ratio unit with multi-plate wet clutch and back torque limiter. As with the rest of the test units, the clutch is transparent in operation. The front brakes are bigger, 310mm dual discs with radial-mounted, four-piston calipers and a new radial-mount master cylinder for improved lever feel and feedback. On the rear disc is a single-piston caliper. Braking is excellent, with drag-chute power tempered with delicate, sensitive feel.

Suspension is via fully adjustable 43mm inverted fork with Carbon (DLC) coated stanchion tubes to reduce friction. It works, as there is virtually no stiction apparent in this unit. Rake is 23.8 degrees and trail is 3.8 inches. Wheelbase is 55.3 inches. The piggyback rear shock is fully adjustable with a more linear rate than its predecessor. The new braced aluminum swingarm is lighter in weight, more rigid, and the right side is shaped to help tuck in the Electrolux exhaust canister.

The GSX-R stands apart from this year's pack for many reasons. Of course the big question is how much juice does the new GSX-R put out? And (drum roll) the answer is - a Hoover Dam-like 158.7 bhp with enough torque to turn the screw on an Ohio class nuclear submarine. Thus, the '05 GSX-R1000 is currently the best candidate for the X-prize for two wheels with aftermarket bolt on wings.

So the new GSX-R is evidently everything the pre-release buzz had it hopped up to be. It's small, agile, very light and has class-leading power. Fit and finish are excellent. The GSX-R abounds in useful features that will appeal to club racers, and for those who care about such things it is undoubtedly the closest of the four bikes to being race-ready right off the showroom floor. Aside from the fact that the ergos will torture taller riders it seems to be absolutely the bike to beat this year. As a final raised digit directed toward the competition, the 2005 Gixxer also has the coolest soundtrack among the inline four liter bikes and one of the better ones in all of motorcycledom.

So how does the uberhünde GSX-R 1K compare to the rest? The whole greater than the sum of the parts, or less? "Take the best features of the Honda, Kawasaki and Yamaha, put them together and you have the 2005 Suzuki GSX-R1000," says Sean. "It has no bad manners, and a really big {explicative deleted}! The Honda's friendliness and stability, the Kawasaki's top-end rush and the Yamaha's bad-ass intake snarl, the Suzuki's got them all. Unless you just don't like Suzuki, I can't think of a reason why you wouldn't be happy -- if not a bit overwhelmed."

Tech: Area Under The Curve

After having ridden these bikes for a few days it's no secret to any of us that the GSX-R1000 is the class leader in power. After one ride, anyone's seat-of-the-pants power gauge can tell you that, and we confirmed this on our DynoJet model 250 Dyno. But what, exactly, is the proper way to know which bike is truly the most powerful? Peak horsepower? No. Peak torque? No. In both cases, a narrow-band spike of power can sway the numbers. What you want to look at is the area under the curve (one can use a plotter, MS Excel, or the thinking man's way is via a simple integral, although it can be profusely argued that the real thinking man's way is to have graduate students do it). Look at those nice lines drawn across the dyno charts, it's the total area under that curve that is meaningful -- basically, it's the total volume of power produced.

When you look at a dyno chart, horsepower and torque always cross at 5,250*, because horsepower is just a calculation of torque at a given rpm divided by the constant 5,250 (5252.1 if you use generally accepted 3.14159265 for pi). So it's accurate to say that high-revving, high-horsepower bikes just make decent amounts of torque at a high rpm. Torque, in a nutshell, can be thought of as big lever -- the longer the bar, the more leverage. Here, the GSX-R clearly reigns supreme, besting the R1 by 12.7 percent, the Honda by 13.9 percent and the Kawasaki by 13.9 percent. That's it, that is the outright difference in power measurements for these engines. But this is somewhat misleading in the real world, and here's why: Transmissions are just torque reducers. The "taller" a bike is geared, the more the torque applied to the ground is being reduced -- you've got a shorter lever (more so with each upshift).

For instance, to go a mile a minute, a 1,500 rpm Cummings diesel truck needs significantly "taller" gearing than a Kawasaki Ninja 250 screaming along at 12,000 rpm. Think of the truck's transmission as a shorter lever and you've got the right idea: the amount of torque being applied to the ground at any given instant that's going to determine how rapidly you can accelerate. It's all down to those torque-reducing transmission again (technically for you sticklers, multiplying less, except in Harley-Davidson Sporter Transmissions' fifth gear, which is 1:1 and is why they make more power in fifth -- 1:1 gear ratio means less frictional gear loss -- this is why we insisted our 90 bhp spec racebikes were always dyno'd in fourth gear, but we digress). Every time you upshift, you're reducing the effective torque that can be put on the ground. Torque is either multiplied or divided. If you have a 10:1 final drive gear ratio, torque is multiplied by a factor of 10. If the engine produces seven ft-lbs of torque at the crankshaft, the transmission will output 70 ft-lbs to the rear wheel. If you have a lower-revving engine that only turns half as fast, it'll need a 5:1 ratio to go the same speed, so it will only output 35 ft-lbs to the rear wheel.

'Son, I say son, let me tell you how it's done...' So why is torque so important? Want move big heavy things really slowly up long hills? Get an engine with a ton of torque and give it a long lever -- a really short transmission like the 13-speed ones in big diesel trucks. It's not going to go fast, but it has the outright power to move the weight. Ultimately, the power a little Ninja 250 can put out is very limited so even with the shortest of reasonable gearing you just can't lift tons of load -- at least not with any expectation of getting over the top in this lifetime, let alone with angry SUV drivers behind you!

So why is horsepower so important? Because motorcycles are relatively light, and since we want to move them quickly over a period of time we need a way to measure torque with relation to time. This is where horsepower comes in -- it's a mathematical representation of torque and time divided by a constant. So a motorcycle should, theoretically, make the same amount of horsepower in any gear. Since we want to get places quickly on our bikes, measuring the area under the horsepower curve is a good indicator of that. Here, the GSX-R still shines, besting the R1 by 12.6 percent, the ZX-10R by 11.6% and the Honda by a whopping 18.7 percent.

Comparing area under the curves of the torque vs. horsepower graphs is very enlightening and much insight can be gained about the bike's real-world characteristics. Look at the Honda, in area under the torque curve, it's only 13.9 percent behind the class-leading Suzuki. But it lags by 18.7 percent in the horsepower arena -- this means the Honda makes more of it's power down low. Conversely, the Kawasaki trails the Suzuki in torque area by 13.9 percent but gains more than two percent horsepower (11.6 percent down) versus torque as compared to the Honda, which loses 4.8% -- and you can tell that the Kawasaki makes more power at higher rpm and will have more of a top-end "rush", while the Honda would be classified as "more tractable." It's no surprise that the Honda was the least-frightening engine on the track, this and its stable front end gave it the outright track victory. The real speed freaks like Sean will want the Suzuki but will also get a kick out of the Kawasaki's lunge. For the newbie, a flatter torque curve will have an easier learning curve.

Copious amounts of power do you little good when you've got ham for a fist. Let's look at this a little more, and consider more generalizations of low-horsepower versus high-horsepower bikes of the same displacement. Torque shreds things. Remember that horsepower is a function of rpm, so in order to make more bhp with the lightest possible parts, you want to rev the engine higher. Indeed, to rev the engine higher, you need lighter parts. One compliments the other. You can see why spinning things higher and higher is so important: 75 ft-lbs of torque at 5,250 is 75 horsepower, but 75 ft-lbs of torque at 10,500 rpm is 150 bhp. A lot can be gained by simply shifting the torque peak higher. Put another way, think of horsepower as that long torque lever spinning. Think of a higher-horsepower engine as that long lever spinning much faster and -- given the same length of that lever -- you're going to make more horsepower in the later, faster-spinning scenario. In many cases, it is more advantageous to spin that lever faster than it is to make it longer -- because it's got to be stronger to be longer, you have to make everything else stronger to support it, thus things tend to get heavier.

Another example: Start out with a lower-revving bike and you need taller gearing to go the same speed, thus your basic design has you starting out with less available torque on the ground. Take any motorcycle, put it in first gear and measure the acceleration vs. the acceleration it produces in sixth gear and first gear wins out every time. Think of it like this: drag race two of the same bikes from 0-60 mph, one bike using first through fourth gears, the other using third through sixth gears. The former -- the higher-revving bike in our analogy -- is going to win every time because it's putting more real power to the ground by not reducing it so much via the transmission.

In closing, if you really want to know which bike is fastest -- outside factors such as weight, wind drag and friction being equal -- we want to look at the area under the curve of the all-gear dyno runs, using the X-axis to mph instead of rpm. This will tell you the theoretical winner of any zero-to-whatever-mph race you want to run. Look for MO to be doing the math in future features.

--Martin


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