2011 Middleweight Sportbike Shootout - Street [Video]

Ducati 848 EVO vs. Suzuki GSX-R750 vs. Triumph Daytona 675R

story by Pete Brissette, Photograph by Joe Bonnello, Video Michael Nardi, Created Jun. 16, 2011
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Ever feel like the odd man out, or the proverbial third wheel? If motorcycles had feelings, we know of three that might answer that question in the affirmative.

Ducati’s 848 and Triumph’s Daytona 675 have to work harder to get the attention of the modern sportbike buyer than do the 600cc supersports from the Big Four. A dollar to a doughnut says that the non-rider friend of a motorcyclist could, with decent accuracy, tell you what motorcycle company makes the Ninja. Ask that same person about a Daytona and they might reply, “What does spring break in Florida have to do with motorcycles?”

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Suzuki’s GSX-R750 may not have the same issue of poor name recognition, but it seems as though its glory days are far behind. Once the darling of the sportbike world, the Gixxer 750 is left looking in from the outside to see how the popular kids’ party is going. It was all over but the cryin’ for the 750 once 180-hp, 1000cc two-wheeled land rockets hit the scene.

2011 Middleweight Sportbike Shootout - Street

We are Sportbikes! Hear us Roar!

So here we have three perfectly viable, high-performance sportbikes seemingly overshadowed by the popularity of 600s and 1000s. This begs the question then: Is this trio of sporting motorcycles, with their odd engine displacements, relevant in today’s supersport and superbike world?

The 848, 675/675R and GSX-R750 don’t fit neatly into a clear-cut category these days. If it weren’t for the AMA’s Daytona SportBike and SuperSport series – the only two venues in which the 848 and 675 can compete at the national level – the Duc and the Triumph would find themselves relegated to street-only status just like the Gixxer.

2011 Middleweight Sportbike Shootout - Street

While many folks like to make the case that the 848 and 675 slot in with the 600s, we opted to set them aside, along with the GSX-R750 – the only modern sportbike with that displacement – into a separate classification, what we’re calling the Middleweight Sportbike category.

In addition to the extra displacement beyond 600cc, the up-spec 675R and GSX-R’s MSRPs bring them in line with the Ducati’s price tag, further setting apart these three from the Big Four’s popular 600s.

In our estimation this triple threat of sportbikes warrants your consideration if you’re in the market for a supersport. And If you’ve been daydreaming about the 2011 GSX-R600, winner of our 2011 Supersport Shootout Track comparo and don’t have designs on racing in the 600 class, but rather are looking for a great all-around canyon slayer and trackday tool, we say you’re silly if you don’t give serious thought time to the 750.

The Gixxer 750 makes nearly 20 hp and 9 ft-lbs more than the GSX-R600, gives up an insignificant 7 lbs in claimed curb weight while running the same chassis, and yet costs only $400 more than the 600’s $11,599 MSRP. Good luck finding an aftermarket accessory that will give the 600 an equivalent boost in power for a mere $400. The GSX-R750 is a stupid-good deal.

2011 Suzuki GSX-R750 vs. Suzuki GSX-R600 Dyno Horsepower

We taste tested each of these updated and upgraded for 2011 oddball sportbikes when Kevin Duke rode the 848 EVO late last year, Troy Siahaan spun the 675R around southern California’s newest road circuit, Chuckwalla Valley Raceway, this past April, and I was reintroduced to the all-new Gixxer 750 at Barber Motorsports Park’s undulating racetrack in early Spring 2011.

Make sure to read those separate reviews for additional details and insights; spec sheet jockeys should also look for a comparative spec chart in this shootout.

The Tale the Dyno Can’t Tell

A quick glance at both the horsepower and torque graphs for these machines gives a fairly clear view that the Ducati – just edged out by the GSX-R for best peak power – manages a healthy gap over the Suzuki until the Duc’s Twin stops producing while the Gixxer keeps spinning up. And, of course, the Duc’s voluminous cylinders handily out gun the Triumph’s inline Triple.

However, in the instance of this trio, the results of the controlled environment of a dyno test belie the character of what each engine is like in the real world of city streets, SuperSlab and winding, lonely two-laners.

“For a V-Twin engine with the largest displacement, it was odd to have to rev the nuts off the 848 to access the meat of its power,” says Kevin. The 848’s power development was perhaps one of the biggest surprises to us during this three-way evaluation.

2011 Middleweight Sportbike Shootout - Street

With a large-displacement Twin as the 848 EVO’s power source, we were expecting what we always expect from a Twin and from a Ducati: stump-pulling force in the low and mid-range with a less-than-thrilling top-end. The EVO threw us for a loop when it exhibited what we can best describe as very non-Twin-like power. Dare we even say it’s more reminiscent of a multi?

“The hotter cams in the 848 EVO shift its powerband upward, gaining more top-end lunge at the expense of some midrange,” notes Kevin. Indeed. It was only a matter of handful of miles after I first saddled up to the black-as-night 848 EVO that a flat spot in the 5–6K rpm stood out like a cat at a dog show.

Give the EVO a big handful of throttle while in that 5-6000 rpm zone and the result is nothing less than a flaccid response from the 849cc L-Twin, regardless of gear selection, but most notable in top gear. Starting around 7500 rpm the 848’s mill thaws out quickly and becomes borderline explosive around 9 grand. This soft-ish spot in the powerband isn’t necessarily a deal breaker, but a soft spot in the midrange is a drawback for street use – especially so for a Twin, as that’s where most riders considering a V-Twin expect to dwell so they can lazily rely on grunty power.

The 848, like many Ducatis, is also saddled with tall gearing.

2011 Middleweight Sportbike Shootout - Street

“Some deft clutch/throttle work is required to get moving from a dead stop,” says Troy. “On the bright side, if you’re not riding aggressively, the tall gearing allows some room to be lazy with your shifting.” A minor thing worth mentioning here is the Duc’s heavy clutch pull. It’s not Harley-Davidsons-of-yore heavy, but nevertheless requires more yank than the GSX-R or Triumph’s clutch.

Despite the Triumph’s overall power deficit, it does produce hardy low-end power, even more than the GSX-R until approximately 5100 rpm, at which point the Suzuki pulls away. From the saddle, however, the Brit bike feels much stronger than the graph line it plots on the dyno.

“I love the character of the three-cylinder engine,” says Troy. “It has great torque down low with healthy a mid-range, too. Although its top end is lacking when compared to the other two bikes, it feels strong across its entire rev range when contrasted with a 600’s power curve.”

2011 Middleweight Sportbike Shootout - Street

Digging out of slow-speed canyon corners or pulling away from intersections is child’s play for the 675R. The Triumph’s grunty, linear Triple makes for a better street-going tool compared to the 848’s somewhat peaky powerband Twin. According to Kevin, he’d “rate the 675’s three-cylinder mill as one of the best motorcycle engines of all time.”

The deceptive strength of the Triumph’s engine, and what felt like the ol’ switcheroo by the Ducati as to how we expected its engine to perform, caught us off guard. However, of no surprise was the GSX-R750’s perfect blend of mid- and top-end power.

With the anticipated weak-ish low-end of a revvy inline-Four, the Suzuki otherwise provides an ideal powerband for use in the street. And as you can see by the horsepower graph, it is also the most linear of the three engines once past the 5000-rpm mark. Additionally, the 750 provides the same snotty intake snort that we so liked on the GSX-R600. The tendency of the Gixxer engine to get a little buzzy at times – but again, not a big surprise for an inline Four – was perhaps the most notable complaint we could summon for the Suzi’s powerplant.

And with that, we deem the GSX-R’s engine as our favorite, but only by a narrow margin over the Triumph’s spectacular Triple. If the 675R could spare just a few more horsepower on top, we’d have given it the nod as our fave.

Unity in Braking

2011 Middleweight Sportbike Shootout - Street

While there was quite the interesting disparity in engine performance ‘tween these three, they are very much on the same page in one area: brakes.

We’re not sure if we have ever had a collection of motorcycles wearing essentially the same type and brand of calipers, but this matchup brought together three sets of Brembo radial-mount monobloc front brakes. If you guessed no losers here, you’re right. It was only the subjective quality of brake feel that created any differences in our opinions. My preference is usually for calipers to exhibit strong initial bite joined by a solid feel at the lever, and the 848 EVO delivers this in spades.

The Trumpet’s binders also supply a strong bite on the rotors, but in Troy and Kevin’s estimation this brake set allows a little more lever travel, which better suits their preferred type of action at the lever. The Gixxer is the only one that employs rubber brake lines (steel-braided lines on the 848 and 675R), which is likely what contributes to the least aggressive feel of the three. But by no means are the GSX-R’s Brembos lacking in any way. As Kevin says, “they are nothing less than faultless on the street.”

The Rest of Story…

We’ve covered a lot of ground at this point by going over the qualities and characteristics of the three very different engines in this friendly competition, as well as highlighting some minor traits in braking. But there’s even more to discuss to help weed out an overall winner. So let’s delve a little deeper into the 848 EVO, 675R and GSX-R750.

2011 Middleweight Sportbike Shootout - Street

Next Page...Ducati 848 EVO

 

2011 Ducati 848 EVO $12,995

If any bike here looks like it came fresh from the racetrack, we could probably pin that attribute on the Ducati. Looking beyond the EVO’s no-nonsense matte black color scheme you’ll notice the clip-ons’ low height contrasted with a tall tail section, while a narrow waist (seat/tank junction) accentuates the Duc’s racer-esque lines.

“The Ducati has the most aggressive rider triangle of the three,” laments Troy. “In typical Ducati fashion, the rider is practically sitting right on top of the front wheel. Low bars and high pegs makes for a brutal ride on the highway.”

The Duc’s saddle is broad with thin but supportive foam density, and the above-mentioned narrow waist helps a rider tuck in. However, the footpegs lack the knurled surface found on most metal footpegs, and so they struck us as unnecessarily slippery. Adding insult to injury is a set of mirrors that are perhaps some of the worst on the market. When they aren’t vibrating to the point of uselessness, chances are your elbows have blocked 70% of the rearward view.

2011 Middleweight Sportbike Shootout - Street

Additionally, a wide turning radius and ultra-tight clearance between the clip-ons and upper fairing – which means fingers can get trapped ‘tween the clip-on and mirrors during full steering lock – can make for some sketchy slow speed maneuvering, like in parking lots or when pulling a U-turn. Factor in the adroitness with which a rider sometimes needs to modulate the clutch and throttle to get a smooth start, and the negatives start mounting right out of the gate for the EVO’s street performance.

2011 Middleweight Sportbike Shootout - Street

Our complaints go on. Ducati’s continued use of an undertail exhaust helps keep the bike’s look clean, giving an unencumbered view of the sexy single-sided swingarm, and they produce an aftermarket-sounding note that’s never far from the rider’s ear. Alas, the undertail also contributes to a warm rider rump, particularly from the right side.

The Duc’s 56.3-inch wheelbase – 1.6 inches longer than the 675R’s span – along with its laziest steering rake, support comments like “truckish in this group” from Kevin, and “a little more difficult to tip into turns” from Troy. We need to invoke the all-things-being-equal qualifier here to give some perspective, as among this group the slowest steering bike is still pretty damn sharp handling. However, the GSX-R and Trumpet are distinctly lighter-effort at the helm.

Heavy-ish steering aside, once the EVO is set on its side it is the picture of stability.

The steel-tube trellis framed chassis is unflappable from just beyond tipped in for the corner, to corner exit. The front end communicates perfectly that it is glued to the asphalt, freeing the rider to think about things like dialing in more throttle, line or body position changes, brake application and trajectory for the upcoming corner. Perhaps this isn’t the most flattering characterization, but the EVO is akin to a block of aluminum going through a corner: solid.

2011 Middleweight Sportbike Shootout - Street

I found the Ducati’s all matte black color scheme and sinister headlamp shape perfectly kick-f’in’-ass, even if it shows dirt easily. However, young racer boy Troy says the red color ($1000 extra) better highlights the same sexy lines the 848 shares with the 1198. He-who-is-far-from-collecting-Social-Security-pensions even went so far as to say the “matte black does the 848 as much justice as a blanket wrapped around a supermodel.” Youth is wasted on the young…

For what is often perceived as a premium brand, the 848 EVO struck us, frankly, as kind of unrefined in this crowd. It takes the most energy to set into a turn, has a hefty clutch pull, is generally uncomfortable for extended street duty or freeway miles, gets a little hot on the ass and requires some skill to launch smoothly from a stop.

But damn the torpedoes if you must have a Duc!

The 848 – in my book anyway – is the baddest looking, has the best mid-corner stability (read: confidence inspiring), produces a wonderfully raucous sound and will effortlessly power wheelie right past the 675R that has a too-tall first gear. If you’re a Ducatisti, the $1000 premium over the Suzuki and Triumph is worth it.

2011 Middleweight Sportbike Shootout - Street

Next Page...Suzuki GSX-R750

 

2011 Suzuki GSX-R750 $11,999

Let’s see. Most of the handling agility of the GSX-R600, the same BPF front end as the 600, compact overall size, some of the best sportbike ergos available today and an extra 18 horsepower to boot, all for $11,999 – a paltry $400 more than the GSX-R600’s price tag. Can we end the GSX-R750 section right here?

“The Gixxer has many more street-biased features than the others in this group, giving it a definite leg up as a versatile streetbike,” say the words in Kevin’s notebook.

Forgetting about the GSX-R750’s best-in-our-made-up-class engine for a moment, there are a number of qualities that back up KD’s opinion. For instance, neither the 675R nor 848 EVO offer adjustable foot pegs; the Gixxer pegs move up and down, fore and aft. And with its pegs in the low position, the GSX-R has the greatest amount of legroom while maintaining enough ground clearance for street lean angles.

2011 Middleweight Sportbike Shootout - Street

The Trumpet and Ducati don’t have the most comfortable seat or the same level of upper-body wind protection like the GSX-R does, and we were pleased to find dual helmet locks under its seat cowl. These various traits, in addition to a fully adjustable, highly compliant Showa BPF and broad spread of tractable power make the Suzuki GSX-R750 a compelling package as a streetable bike carved from a remarkable race-winning heritage.

2011 Middleweight Sportbike Shootout - Street

As undeniably cozy as the Gixxer is, Troy astutely notes that, since it’s an inline-Four, the width of the gas tank doesn’t allow him to squeeze the center of the bike with his legs as easily as he can the narrower Duc or Trumpet. This seemingly minor detail leads to a greater issue over the miles, as Troy says that instead of relying on his legs to take off some of the pressure from his wrists he needs to source other ways to relax while riding this bike.

Duke notes the Gixxer “slices up a canyon with far less effort than required on the Ducati,” but he added its turn-in response isn’t nearly as brisk as the Triumph.

Despite the extra energy the 750 requires to initiate a turn when compared to the Gixxer Sixxer (an effect due largely to the increased rotational mass of the 750’s heavier flywheel and reciprocating weight), Troy was spot on when he comments that, “the 750’s chassis is as neutral and linear-feeling as the Suzuki 600’s chassis.”

Additional highpoints on the 750 include the only slipper clutch in the group, the slickest gearbox, and thoughtfully laid out gauge package that includes a clearly displayed GPI in its LCD window.

2011 Middleweight Sportbike Shootout - Street

Styling notes find the Suzuki floating somewhere in the middle. The 750’s updated appearance is appreciated – like its new, stacked headlight that Kevin says throws out a wide and bright low beam with a piercing high beam that’s significantly better than the Triumph, or the Ducati’s surprisingly ineffective projector-style eyes – during a night ride I couldn’t tell the difference between low beam and high beam brightness.

Fresh face aside, the GSX-R’s appearance is kind of the same ol’ same ol’. The Suzi’s looks failed to generate glowing opinions like those noted for the svelte 675R and one-step-ahead-of-the-law, criminally inclined dark Ducati.

“I almost always recommend a smaller bike than a larger one,” says Kev, “and despite how well we like the GSX-R600, in this case, the GSX-R750 makes for a more usable streetbike. With its torquier, more potent engine, handling that’s nearly as adept, identically comfortable ergos and same superlative brakes and suspension, the GSX-R750 merits lots of consideration on the buyer’s part before he or she pulls the trigger on a 600cc bike.”

2011 Middleweight Sportbike Shootout - Street

Next Page...Triumph Daytona 675R

 

2011 Triumph Daytona 675R $11,999

“In relation to the others, the 675R is a veritable scalpel, able to turn quicker than perhaps even any 600,” says Kevin. “The middleweight sportbike from Triumph offers handling obedience that continues even while trail-braking, retaining its set lean angle.” The 675R’s lightest curb weight and twitchy-by-comparison chassis dimensions give the Triumph one of its greatest assets: quick, effortless steering.

Sweetening the pot is Öhlins suspension front and rear. However nice the fully adjustable inverted fork and desirable TTX36 shock is, for our weights and riding abilities (that is to say, we’re not mid-pack or higher AMA racers), this suspension package and its stiff springs were almost overkill. As delivered, both the fork and shock were unbearably stiff, requiring numerous adjustments that allowed the suspension to use more travel, thereby better absorbing road imperfections.

2011 Middleweight Sportbike Shootout - Street

But once adjusted to suit our tastes, the Brit’s bike’s Swedish-made suspenders seemed like they possessed ideal damping without allowing the bike to wallow or wander when ridden aggressively. And, the gold stuff simply looks trick on a streetbike.

Kevin states that the “675R’s close-ratio tranny has a significantly taller first gear than the non-R, requiring greater clutch work during stoplight getaways.” While this an accurate assessment, it’s still the Ducati that requires the most clutch/throttle finessing.

2011 Middleweight Sportbike Shootout - Street

In addition to premium suspension and Brembo monoblocs, the 675R also comes with an electronic quickshifter as standard. At first this feature seemed less an advantage on the street than it might on the fast-paced environment of a racetrack, but once we accustomed ourselves to it, we noted that it functioned seamlessly and transparently. It was only when using moderate throttle openings when its shifts would be more abrupt than using the clutch.

Like the Ducati’s narrow waist, the Daytona’s similarly slim profile was also appealing to Troy, as it allowed him room to adjust his body position while droning down the freeway. Kevin, on the other hand, discovered that for him, the Triumph’s “thin seat, low bars and lack of upper-body wind protection gets old.” He also reports that the 675R engine “emits noticeable vibes at highway speeds.” The Tri also takes honors for Highest Seat Height, with its 32.7-inch distance to the ground, 0.1 inches higher than the Duc’s lofty bum carrier.

2011 Middleweight Sportbike Shootout - Street

Another caveat Kevin points out from his many freeway miles is that “a rider's right leg gets slow-roasted by the 675's exhaust pipe when cruising around town.” He caught this peccadillo during 70-degree weather here in SoCal, so expect exhaust heat to become a bigger issue in the hot summer months.

The 675R’s instrument cluster is similar in layout to the GSX-R, in that it has an analog tach and LCD readout combo. But Triumph’s odd choice to display white characters/figures onto the LCD’s black background meant that during daytime the display was often challenging to see clearly. The 848’s all LCD, MotoGP-derived instrument panel that offers a bar-graph tach readout was just fine with me, but Kevin and Troy found it only a little less bothersome to view than the 675’s clocks.

“Of the three, the Triumph is to me the most exciting and fun bike here for the street,” enthuses Troy. “It’s got loads of character, it sounds great, has linear, useable power, flicks from side to side almost telepathically, and it just downright looks awesome.” Although Kevin has an appreciation for the black bike, he, too was wooed like a sailor to the rocks by the 675R’s siren’s call.

“The 675R is easily the most attractive in this group. As much as I dig the aggressive appearance of the finely tailored 848, it's the Triumph that is sexiest to my eyes,” he says. Guess that makes me the lone hold out for the 848 EVO’s simple but devilish good looks. However, like a college freshman, I could change my opinion of who’s hottest looking depending on what kind of light the 675R is in.

Like the tremendous value the GSX-R750 brings to the table, so, too, does the up-spec R version when set side-by-side to its nearly identical twin, the standard Daytona 675. For the sum of $1500 more on top of the 675’s $10,499, you can enjoy Öhlins front and rear, Brembo radial-mount monoblocs, an electronic quickshifter and various carbon-fiber bits. With all that, who wouldn’t leap at the Daytona 675R?

2011 Middleweight Sportbike Shootout - Street

Next Page...Conclusion

 

Conclusion

Is it possible that Suzuki knew at the time it was penning the 2011 GSX-R750 (and 600) that it may have caused the venerated 750 phoenix to rise from the ashes of sportbike obscurity? The gearhead Suzuki engineers were likely just interested in making the best GSX-R750 they could craft. But the bean counters at the company surely must’ve known what they were up to when they put the 750’s price tag within spitting distance of the MSRP of a 600.

The 848 EVO seems to have lost some ground in this crowd, largely due to its less-compromising-for-the-street race bike-biased design. Taken on its own, though, each of us would gladly park this dark demon in our garage.

The Daytona 675R makes a helluva case for itself with its premium suspension and brakes, as well as a quick shifter, while matching the GSX-R’s $11,999. And most of us think the Triumph is easily the best looker.

2011 Middleweight Sportbike Shootout - Street

However, the Suzuki’s expansive spread of power, handling performance that’s within 90% of the Triumph’s, virtually identical brake package and overall most welcoming ergonomics (Kevin said the GSX-R is the bike he’d use on a ride to Las Vegas) make the GSX-R750 the best value of the three bikes here. Additionally, the aftermarket offers mountains of treats for GSX-Rs.

From commuting to weekend warrioring to most potential for light-duty sport-touring to trackday weapon, the 2011 GSX-R750 is the total package.

Comparing Three Adventure Tourers
  Ducati 848 EVO Suzuki GSX-R750 Triumph Daytona 675R
Engine Type L-Twin Inline-Four Inline-Triple
Displacement 849cc 750cc 675cc
Bore & Stroke 94mm x 61.2mm 70mm x 48.7mm 74mm x 52.3mm
Compression 13.2:1 12.5:1 NA
HP (BHP or Rear Wheel) Claimed 140 - Tested rwhp 119.2 Claimed 148 - Tested 120.3 Claimed 124 - Tested 111.2
Torque Claimed 72 - Tested 61.9 ft-lbs Tested 52.4 ft-lbs Claimed 53 - Tested 48.5 ft-lbs
Frame Tubular steel trellis w/aluminum single-sided swingarm Aluminum Twin Spar w/aluminum swingarm Aluminum Twin Spar; aluminum swingarm w/adjustable pivot point
Wheelbase 56.3 in 54.7 in 54.9 in
Rake/Trail 24.5°/3.8 in 23.8°/3.8 in 23.9°/3.8 in
Front Suspension Inverted fully adjustable 43mm Showa Fully adjustable 41mm Showa BPF Fully adjustable inverted 43mm Ohlins NIX30
Rear Suspension Fully adjustable Showa shock with progressive linkage Fully adjustale Showa link-type shock Fully adjustble Ohlins TTX36 twin tube shock w/piggy back reservoir
Tires 120/70 x 17 Front - 180/55 x 17 Rear 120/70 x 17 Front - 180/55 x 17 Rear 120/70 x 17 Front - 180/55 x 17 Rear
Front Brakes Dual radial-mount Brembo monobloc calipers; 320mm semi-floating rotors Radial mount Brembo monoblock calipers; 310mm floating rotors Radial mount Brembo monoblock calipers; 308mm floating rotors
Rear Brakes 245mm disc, 2-piston calliper 220mm disc, single-piston caliper 220mm disc, single-piston caliper
Weight 370 lbs dry 419 lbs curb 407 lbs curb
Seat Height 32.6 in 31.9 in 32.7 in
MSRP $12,995 $11,999 $11,999

Related Reading
2011 Supersport Shootout – Street
2011 Supersport Shootout – Track
2011 Ducati 848 EVO Review
2011 Suzuki GSX-R750 Review
2011 Triumph Daytona 675R Review
All Things Ducati on Motorcycle.com
All Things Suzuki on Motorcycle.com
All Things Triumph on Motorcycle.com
All Things Sportbike on Motorcycle.com

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