2005 Open Supersport Shootout

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

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We've told you about each of this year's superb crop of open class bikes from technical descriptions to our individual perspectives of their performance on both the track and the street. We've described our testing methodology and told you how much fun we had doing all of this. Now it's time to give you our rankings. But first, a proviso: Even though there is always a winner in MO shootouts we feel that this year's crop of liter bikes are among the best and most closely matched we've seen. The quality and craftsmanship in each of these bikes is unbelievable. Thus, choosing among them becomes somewhat of a subjective matter of taste.

Who will come out in front?Yes, a couple of these bikes do dominate based purely on the stat sheets. But having ridden each of them at length we believe that each of these superb bikes was a legitimate contender for the title of MO open-classer of 2005. We've said it before: one does not ride a spec sheet down the road. In the flesh each of these bikes are endlessly competent and all of them have a wonderful character of their own. For 2005 Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki and Yamaha have succeeded in crafting bikes that are so advanced and are of such high quality that each is absolutely the best bike in the world for someone.

We've made our choices for this year and we hope that the information and perspective we have provided is helpful, or barring that, at least amusing. We've ranked the bikes based on both their street and track performance. Since most of you are not racers, and since the overwhelming majority of these Sean, deep in thought: "The Gixxer rules! But I liked the Yamaha better on the street and most MOFOs aren't racers... How can I ever decide between any of these awesome bikes? {sigh} Hmmm... ...what would Brian Boitano do?" bikes purchased will never see a racetrack we biased the rankings in favor of street performance by a ratio of 2:1. We used a weighted scale for individual rankings with 5 points awarded to a testers first choice, 3 for the second, 2 for the third and one for the fourth. The final rankings are below.

As you can see the track rankings are very close, with only one point separating the CBR1000RR, the GSX-R1000 and the ZX-10. The Honda comes out on top here by virtue of its rock-solid stability and ease of use. Congratulations to Big Red.

On the street the wildly fun GSX-R1000 simply blew the doors off of the competition. "If you can get past your fear," says Sean, looking very analytical after turning a blistering 2:03 on the big Suzuki, "the Suzuki does everything as well as the other bikes, and throws in significantly more motor to boot. If you have aspirations of winning club races the GSX-R is it -- both in production and modified because it's the best platform start with. I'd bet a buck that a stock GSX-R is fast enough to win, even in the modified classes."

Yes, MOFOs, the 2005 Suzuki GSX-R1000 is the most fun package that terrifying power comes in. Notice that even if we had weighted the track and street totals 50/50 the GSX-R would have still won the shootout going away. So the undisputed winner of the MO 2005 open class shootout is the Suzuki GSX-R1000. Hail to the king!

"Put My Money On The Table" Table
How the testers would spend their own money.
We scored the bikes 5 pts. for 1st, 3 for 2nd, 2 for 3rd and 1 for 4th.
  Sean Alexander Martin Hackworth Pete Brissette Gabe Ets-Hokin Totals
Suzuki GSX-R 1st 3rd 2nd 1st 15
Honda CBR 1000RR 3rd 1st 1st 4th 13
Yamaha YZF-R1 2nd 2nd 4th 2nd 10
Kawasaki ZX-10R 4th 4th 3rd 3rd 6

Deep Thoughts

Martin Hackworth's Final Thoughts:

If I were going to drop somewhere north of ten large on any of these bikes it would be the Honda CBR1000RR. I was fastest on it on the track because it was the most stable, the most reassuring, and the easiest to ride. Street performance is less of an issue for me with modern liter bikes because I think that they make only fair platforms for the type of street riding that I do. None of the 2005 open-classers are suitable for extended road riding so the track performance would be the primary factor in my purchasing decision. Honda's excellent reputation for reliability and their high engineering standards would factor in as well. I've owned several Hondas and they just plain work.

Martin flying his GPT on his favorite trackbike. I'd give the R1 a hard look as well. It's nearly as fast, easy to ride, and stable for me and makes even a better street bike, though still far from my ideal. The R1 is just not quite as polished as the Honda, but it's pretty close. It's a lot more comfortable to live with as well. It's a very close second.

The GSX-R1000 and the ZX-10? Toss a coin into the air. Both are great hooligan bikes and put you at the top of the boulevard GP, but that's not anything that I have a high degree of interest in anyway. Both are great motorcycles, but not what I'd spend my son's college tuition on.

Racer Girl: Elena Myers

Elena Myers showing nice form and poise on her 1997 Honda RS125 GP racer.You see a tremendous variety of riders at trackdays, from the 60-year old banker on his MV Agusta to the younger guy trying to de-squidify by "taking it to the track". You also see a lot more women riders on the track than you did 10 or even five years ago.

However, seeing a 12-year-old girl on a 125cc GP bike was a little surprising! Elena Myers is a regular at the Stockton Motorplex and other Super Motard tracks in California, with strong finishes in the Super Lightweight class on her tricked-out RM80 motard bike, as well as in California's Mini Road Racing league.

Armed with a sponsorship from Umbrella Girls USA, Elena's dad Matt Myers (who runs the Stockton Mini Road Racing Club) purchased a 1997 Honda RS125 GP bike and treated it to a trick, hot-pink paint scheme. On Elena's first track outing in February of 2005, she turned some impressive times at Thunderhill park, besting my best times there by a second!

Elena's Dad Matt handles wrenching and also runs the Stockton Mini Road Racing Club.On the day we were there, Elena was looking especially smooth and fast. She was turning 2:08's, only seven seconds a lap off a winning pace. She'll be running her RS125 in select CMRA and WERA races this season, and she looks forward to the change from dirty Super Moto to cleaner, faster Roadracing.

"Everything's different" going from dirt to roadracing, when I asked her what was different about riding on a big track. "It's easier."

-- Gabe

Gonna go far! Gonna be a big star! Gonna jump far on my GSX-R!Money Man Sean Lays his Money Down:

Joy! I just received a hypothetical check for the exact purchase price of any bike in this test. What to do? This is a hell of a dilemma. The Honda is super stable with its awesome HESD damper inspiring confidence and piece of mind as I probe its limits. Of course it's easier to inspire confidence when you have the weakest acceleration in the group. On the other hand, the ZX-10 has a nice comfy seat and a killer top-end rush, but it continues its head wagging ways, unless I spring for the optional Ohlins steering damper.

This leaves me with the GSX-R and R1. I love the R1 for its beautiful intake noise and the way it shudders and almost shakes its head, without actually doing anything too scary. It feels fast in a most entertaining way and the beautiful gauges and world-beating styling make it a strong candidate for my purchasing dollars.

However, there is no way to overlook the total package that is Suzuki's 2005 GSX-R1000. The new GSX-R combines the Honda's stability, exceeds the Kawasaki's power and has an intake noise almost as intoxicating as the R1's. If I were looking for a street bike the R1 would probably win out. The Suzuki's best thing on the street is that it has the least amount of suspension stiction, so it gives a little more of a compliant ride, and the worst thing is its abrupt off/on throttle transition, which exacerbates the little bit of drive lash that it has. This is only noticable at really slow speeds, like in the parking lot when you're looking for a spot, or cruising around pit lane at a track day -- once up to speed, the problem vanishes. However, for a race or track day weapon, the GSX-R has no equal and it earns my overall vote because after all, these bikes are meant to be used on the racetrack.

Another vote for the CBR! Will it beat the Suzuki? The tension is thick! Million Mile Man Pete Brissette Sounds Off:

If you're part of the overwhelming percentage of riders who'll never take your bike within a ten mile radius of a race track let alone get on a track but do plan to wear out the odometer you'll have some strong opinions too. For anyone who fits the above description of a rider you'll undoubtedly be looking for balance in design but be uncompromising in your expectations of quality. If that in fact is you than consider yourself "in the know" with me about the Honda CBR 1000. It's the best blend of all that a liter bike can and should be, refined in every way. Big Red has kept the motorcyclist who demands it all in mind when they crafted their entry in the liter class war.

The R1 and CBR are the two bikes with the most to prove. Honda has set out to do just that by proving Abe Lincoln wrong and trying to please all the people all the time. Here's how they did that in a nutshell: Wide clip-on placement to allow for a more relaxed position and great leverage at the same time; little if any vibration transmitted to the rider thru the foot pegs and handle bars; overall ergonomics that will allow you to dismount without feeling dismembered; an engine that has more than adequate power but delivers it subtlety; two- finger brakes with the clamping power of a ten-ton press; the utter definition of stability by way of its frame and the now standard-setting HESD steering damper. Legendary Honda refinement wraps it all up into a great package.

Today's lunch offering at Café Yamaha: Roasted Rump of Pete. The R1 needs to take some lessons in the people pleasing department. For instance, how not to keep the rider's tushie nice and warm. If I noticed the heat in 50 degree weather how much more of a problem will it be in the blazing heat of August? Clip-on placement isn't particularly wonderful either. Combine that with enough engine buzz to qualify as a sufficient numbing agent to prepare me for surgery and all I could think about was how much I wouldn't own this bike just because of that one drawback. It has a super-slick transmission and is the best looker in the test, but too bad Yamaha didn't use that attention to detail in some more crucial areas.

Suzuki has done some people pleasing of their own. But it's more for the riders who go from here to there with as much exhilaration as possible in as little time as possible as opposed to the riders who need to go from here to there and then over there and then back over here again one more time because you forgot something. The overall impression is that the Suzuki is a race bike with D.O.T. required turn signals and license plate.

The Kawasaki ZX10 falls just on either side of the extremes. It's a perfectly good bike in its own right but when the margin of separation is so narrow the slightest flaw will stand out. The tall seat, buzzy rattle from the engine bay and lack of a steering damper means the Kawi's plusses don't add up enough to beat the Honda, even though it has the plushest seat in the class. But this is a minor inconvenience with the Honda: you can remedy the seat problem by scouring the aftermarket, but it's awfully hard to fix engine buzz.

So, if you consider yourself a member of the Million Mile Club, then you'll understand my assessments as fairly accurate and valid. And if you want to be a charter member, let the 2005 Honda CBR 1000 take you there.

OK, he admits it: Gabezilla picked the GSX-R because it matches his leathers. Gabe's Final Word:

It's a cliché now for magazine editors to say that any one of the latest sportbikes would be a good choice for almost anybody, allowing us to weasel out of picking a winner, but when you ask us to put our hypothetical money on the line, you suddenly see strong opinions come forth.

All four of these bikes are incredible machines I would happily own. However, if forced to choose, I would pick the GSX-R1000 to spend my money on. It's almost the most comfortable on the street, has the best brakes, and has the lightest feel of all the rest. And when you add the most amazingly tractable and powerful engine I've ever experienced in a motorcycle, the choice becomes easier still.

The Honda worked better for me on the track, but its street comfort is questionable. The R1 feels like the best engineered machine, but it's big and a little slow compared to the ZX-10R and GSX-R. (I feel like a crazy person for writing that!) The ZX-10R feels tiny and has a great motor, but it's just a little rough-and-tumble for me to spend $11,000 on when presented with a choice.

I voted the Yamaha last on the track, because the Honda gave me more confidence, the GSXR felt much faster and the ZX-10R was more fun and manageable with the steering damper. It's a very nicely engineered machine that is a quality piece of equipment, but the other three felt like better bikes for the track.

Gabe really liked the build quality and reliability of Yamaha's big sportbike.I picked the R1 as best street bike, because it's the most comfortable and it feels like the best-built motorcycle, which is important if you are investing this kind of money to purchase transportation: a 26,500 mile valve-adjustment interval is something to take very seriously, especially for a high-mileage rider. Fast, fun, comfortable and easy to ride: this makes it an easy choice for the street rider.

Spending $11,000 to buy one of the most powerful, best handling motorcycles on planet Earth is not a rational thing to do unless you're a club racer, which in itself is one of the least rational things to be. So for those of us about to plunge ourselves into financial insolvency to buy one of these crazy things, the decision should be tempered with a good-sized dose of irrationality. The GSX-R is the choice of the unhinged genius. It's a fabulously designed machine that is designed to be imperfect in a charismatic, friendly way. It's like hanging out with your dangerously crazy friend who somehow has a good job and a happy marriage.

The boys and girls at Suzuki deserve big kudos for thinking out every last detail on their new 1000 and delivering an excellent-handling, supremely engineered motorbike with a monster motor that would have been at home on a WSB grid seven or eight years ago. It should get bike of the year, and would definitely get $11 grand of my money, if I ever actually had 11 grand!

Thunderhill Lap Times
  Martin Hackworth Gabe Ets-Hokin Sean Alexander Avg. Lap Times
Honda CBR 1000RR 02:20.5 02:13.6 02:07.6 02:13.92
Kawasaki ZX-10R 02:21.1 02:14.9 02:03.9 02:13.32
Suzuki GSX-R 02:23.0 02:13.9 02:03.4 02:13.44
Yamaha YZF-R1 02:20.9 02:18.2 02:05.2 02:14.76
LACR Dragstrip
  Martin Hackworth Sean Alexander
Honda CBR 1000RR 11.79@126.8 11.04@128.8
Kawasaki ZX-10R 11.50@128.1 10.70@133.2
Suzuki GSX-R 11.64@128.2 10.61@132.7
Yamaha YZF-R1 11.76@128.2 10.85@133.38

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