2009 Literbike Shootout

Honda CBR1000RR vs Kawi ZX-10R vs Suzuki GSX-R1000 vs Yamaha YZF-R1, with a side of Ducati 1198S

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The Finish Line

First Place
Honda CBR1000RR – 96%

We liked the CBR so much last year that we knew it was still going to be a contender. But we weren’t sure how it would stack up against its newly minted competition. We need not have worried, as the 1000RR is a stellar performer regardless of what a rider asks of it.

“This bike is just so perfect!” raved Speed Kelly. “It’s so easy to ride – fast or slow – and no other bike has such a complete package. It’s so good that I want one.”

 Highs:     Lows:
  • Best in class agility
  • Stonkin' midrange power
  • Perception of quality
  • Gauges need updating
  • Tight fit for tall riders
  • Most expensive

Second Place
Kawasaki ZX-10R – 94%

We were more than a little surprised at the Ninja’s high overall ranking, so much so that we double- and triple-checked our math. Turns out that we got our sums correct, and the 10R accumulated a score a scant 0.4% higher than the next best. It has an admirable powertrain with the most horsepower, first-rate brakes and the lowest MSRP in the segment. And it looks way cooler in its optional new graphics package.

“The Kawasaki was probably the biggest revelation of the group, between street and track,” said Gardiner. “On the track it felt the ‘raciest.’ It was eager to turn and the motor is a monster, though far more tractable than it was in its two previous iterations.”

 Highs:     Lows:
  • Horsepower king
  • Reasonably priced
  • Feels wicked
  • Not the prettiest girl in school
  • Ergos don't suit all
  • A beast

Third Place
Suzuki GSX-R1000 – 93.6%

Coming in at a virtual tie with the ZX probably wasn’t what Suzuki was expecting when it reinvented its venerable Gixxer Thou. But that shouldn’t detract from what is perhaps the best all-round streetbike in this test, a totally competent handler and a class icon.

“Its plus points are the cool, easy-to-use dash, human-sized ergonomics that fit my six-foot frame, and that killer motor,” said Kelly, an owner of a K7 GSX-R1000. “My main dislikes are the styling. Suzuki seems to have tried too hard and ended up over-styling it with unnecessary angles and lines that just don't flow well.”

 Highs:     Lows:
  • Ergonomics and comfort
  • Tons of power
  • Best instrumentation
  • Mildly balky gearbox
  • Unremarkable styling
  • Untidy exhaust

Fourth Place
Yamaha R1 – 93.5%

If Suzuki won’t be thrilled with our shootout results, it’s a safe bet Yamaha won’t, either. But, really, we’re talking fractions of 1% here. The R1 is full of laudable characteristics, including its interesting new engine design – the sound alone is worth the price of admission. But that new engine has to be made heavy to control the cross-plane’s unique firing order vibrations, and that contributes to its chunky weight.

“What impressed me the most with the Yamaha was how easy it was to ride at a really fast pace on track – great brakes and handling,” said Mr. Speed. “What Yamaha has achieved is to make the R1 into a superbike for the masses.”

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 Highs:     Lows:
  • Sexy engine sounds
  • Stable handling
  • Nice build quality
  • Not its weight!
  • Heavy steering
  • Looks fast

Related Reading
2008 Literbike Shootout
2007 Literbike Shootout
2009 Yamaha R1 Review
2009 Suzuki GSX-R1000 Review
All Things Sportbike on Motorcycle.com

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