The Best of the Best: Part III

The Super Bowl

Page 2

Street and Strip

The conditions were less than ideal at the Los Angeles County Raceway -- 112 degrees, in the shade! Our first time out with the R1, Chuck Graves was able to squeeze a 10.25 quarter mile out of the R1. Next time, the Yamaha could only muster a 10:39 with Editor-in-Chief Plummer aboard. That was enough to best the Ducati's best time of 10:70 (the Duck overheated on its first run, so we never got to better that). Regardless of the poor desert conditions, the R1 clearly prevailed.

It should be noted that the tractable Ducati did that with only 113 horsepower, meaning the light weight, predictable clutch and all the intangibles that make it the racers' bike of choice still pay off -- novice and intermediate riders will be faster light-to-light on the Duck since it simply hooks up and goes off the line, whereas the R1 is a devilish wheelie monster. Out in the real world, while the precision and power of the Ducati were appreciated, we still preferred the R1. Complaints about the Ducati stemmed from the amount of work it took to ride and the absolute pain it was in traffic.

Heat from the rear cylinder was also a problem, cutting into the fun factor considerably. Pitting both of these featherweight fastbikes down your local twisty road, who comes out ahead is decided by which bike fits the rider's style better.

If you're a late-braking, flick-her-in sort of fella the R1 wants you. If you hold a tight line and concentrate on awesome drives out of turns, the Duck is your bird. Note that the latter method is superior, hence, if the squid factor is the same, the guy on the Duck will emerge victorious.

Smooth and svelte, with excellent heat control and street manners, the the crowning jewel in the YZF-R1's victory is its aptitude for hooliganism. You can pop power wheelies in almost any of the lower gears, roll stoppies with the awesome brakes, lay down big smokey burnouts, and do other things the high-brow Ducati seems to frown upon. Aloof and arrogant, the Ducati says "just ride me you ninny, I dare you."

Any bike that the AMA 250 GP champ doesn't feel he's good enough to ride is a bit extreme. Still, aloof or no, the 916 SPS missed winning this shootout by just one vote, the R1's extreme fun-factor being the deciding pull.

Ducati 916SPS
Termingoni pipes sweeping tastefully underneath the seat. The pipes were cool-loud, frightening small animals and children setting off car alarms and pissing off the local police. The only drawback was the heat. 
The stiff, chrome-moly chassis and Ohlins rear shock made the Ducati 996 the most taut, most precise bike most members of the staff have ever ridden. The downside is that on the street, this combination becomes your spine's nightmare and a chiropracter's dream.
Brakes, one more time.
The new Ducati logo needs some time to get used to.
On the track, the 916 SPS was superb, boasting the top lap times of the day for both Chuck Graves and Roland Sands.
A view of the single-sided swingarm.
With Honda, Suzuki and now Aprilia closing in, Ducati will feel some competition, but to this day the Ducati 916SPS is the best out of the box twin-cylinder motorcycle you can buy.
Sure, the headlights won't win awards for illumination and the mirrors are essentially worthless, but who cares.
Nothing looks cooler than the rear wheel of a single-sided swingarm motorcycle when the pipes sweep up and underneath the seat.
Roland Sands working out.
The Ducati posted the best 60-ft times, which we expected, and quicker quarter-mile times and higher top speeds than the TL1000R, which we didn't.

 

Specifications:

Manufacturer: Ducati Model: 916SPS Price: $23,885USD Engine: 90-degree V-twin, DOHC, 4 valves/cylinder, desmodromic controlled Bore and Stroke: 98 x 66 mm Displacement: 996cc Carburetion: Electronic Fuel-injection Transmission: 6 speed, constant mesh Wheelbase: 55.5 (1410mm) Seat Height: 31.1 in (790mm) Fuel Capacity: 4.6 gal (17L) w/1 gal (4L) reserve Claimed Dry Weight: 429lbs (195kg) Measured Wet Weight: N/A Peak Horsepower: 113.0 bhp @ 9000 rpm Peak Torque: 68.6 ft-lbs (9.5 kg-m) @ 7750 rpm Quarter Mile: 10.720 seconds @ 131.951 mph (212.310 km/hr)

 

 

 

Yamaha's YZF-R1
Upside-down forks, magnesium parts, and the coolest Japanimation-inspired front-end ever... Oops, gotta change the sheets.
Most everyone set their fastest time on the R1, including CEO Brent Plummer.
A large digital speedometer lets you know when you break the sound barrier. The electronic tachometer houses a digital water temp gauge.
Yamaha carries on their recent tradition of killer brakes, and the bike weighs 60 or so pounds less.
The rear cowling is now a one-piece design. Racers commented on how cool the bike would look in race trim minus the license plate and passenger pegs.
The R1 likes to lean -- 56 degrees from vertical. Chuck liked sliding the R1 out of corners, admiring its ability to stand up on corner exits.
Launches were not the YZF's forte, but the 130+ horse motor took care of the rest, posting a best time of 10.25 @136.13 mph, just .05 slower than Honda's CBR1100XX.
YZF-R1

 

Specifications:

Manufacturer: Yamaha Model: 1998 YZF-R1 Price: $ 10,199 Engine: liquid-cooled inline DOHC Bore and Stroke: 74 x 58mm Displacement: 998cc Carburetion: Four 40mm Mikuni BSDR 40 CV Transmission: 6 speed, constant mesh Wheelbase: 54.9" (1395mm) Seat Height: 32.1" (815mm) Fuel Capacity: 4.7 gallons (18 L) Claimed Dry Weight: 390 lbs (177kg) Measured Wet Weight: 445 lbs (202kg) Peak Horsepower: 130.73 bhp at 10,250 rpm Peak Torque: 74.03 ft-lbs at 8,500 rpm Quarter Mile: 10.25 at 136.13 mph

 

 

 

MO Better Testing
He wouldn't leave us alone so we let Chuck Graves flog around the Streets on a stock YZF-R1.
It was absurdly hot at the Los Angeles County Raceway. Here Elmo bogarts the shade in order to record quarter-mile times.
Chuck Graves on the Ducati SPS chasing Roland Sands on the YZF-R1.
This was the third and final run quarter-mile run for the SPS. With temperatures over 120°F on the dragstrip, the strain in the Ducati engine was apparent and we thought it wiser to halt testing than end up building a new 996 superbike engine for Ducati.
The bikes didn't perform well in the heat, particularly the twins. Here they crowd out Elmo for that most valuable piece of real estate in the desert -- shade
Liquid-cooled inline fours run better than twins in the extreme heat, probably due to maturity of design. The R1 completed nine launches before we called it a day. In comparison the VTR and the TL-R were good for only four launches while the Ducati threatened to pull a Kervorkian after three. The R1 posted top scores in all the categories: a 1.74 second 60-foot time, a 10.39 second quarter-mile, with a terminal speed of 136.95 mph.

View all Photos PHOTOS & VIDEOS

main5
main5
main11
main11
graves1
graves1
main1
main1
Get Motorcycle.com in your Inbox