The B-Team: Value Supersport Shootout 2005

Page 4


There was a great deal of wailing and gnashing of teeth in the MO office while we debated which bike was best. In a lot of ways, it's not fair to the Honda to pick the Buell over it. The Honda is as sorted and nit-free as a ball-peen hammer, where the Buell has many rough edges. It's also unfair to the ZZR to put it behind the CBR: for more than a thousand dollars less, you get a bike with equal power and comfort. The Yamaha...well, it's a nice bike, especially if you like old stuff, but it just doesn't have enough to offer to even come close to besting any of the other machines. We all agreed the Kawasaki was the best value, and that the CBR was the best motorcycle overall, but the Buell was the bike we'd most want to own. Sean summed it up: "It might be the least-sorted bike in this test, with FI tuning issues and after-thought passenger accommodations, but it's the one I'd actually buy ten times out of ten. Look to the rising sun if you want spec sheet domination and perfect refinement."

"We all loved riding the Buell, and we know our readers demand more than mere competence from their motorcycles."

Because of this, Gabe wanted to declare a two-way tie between the Buell and the F4i, until he was told that the punishment for not picking a winner in a MO shootout was waxing Sean's bikini area.

So he picked the Buell, since he appreciates having a good-handling and solid bike with enough character and individuality to boost his constantly-challenged ego. But he still likes the F4i for it's refined near-perfection: "If you really just want to concentrate on the ride, whether you're going fast or slow, that's good. If you want a more involving ride, that's bad. So if you're the kind of person who wants a perfect, if slightly bland motorcycle, the F4i is definitely the best here."

However, we all loved riding the Buell. And we know our readers demand more than mere competence from their motorcycles. As motorcyclists, we aren't just looking for the most bike for the money: we also need a bike that lets us stand out from the crowd, but can still be ridden like a real motorcycle. The Buell does this in spades, while being reliable, easy to service and cheap to fix. The Buell dealer network is as far-reaching as the Japanese brands, and compared to more exotic two-cylinder machinery from Europe, it's a real bargain at $8,899.

Sean said the Buell is as "loveable as a Golden Retriever Puppy (when it's not pooping on your rug with it's crappy off-idle FI tuning)", and that wraps it up nicely for us here at MO. This is a unique bike that needs the rider and will reward him with miles of fun and adventure. It's not the best-priced bike on the market, but we think that among this company, it's worth the extra money to the rider who wants more from his riding experience.

"Put My Money On The Table" Table
How the testers ranked the bikes overall.
Rankings: Motorcycles are given five points for first place, three points for second, two points for third and one for fourth.
  Pete Brissette Sean Alexander Alfonse Gabe Ets-Hokin Points
Buell XB9SX 1 1 4 2 14
Honda CBR F4i 2 2 3 1 13
Kawasaki ZZR600 3 3 1 3 12
Yamaha YZF600R 4 4 2 4 6


Gabe Ets-Hokin, Editor-at-Small

"Motorcycles aren't about sensibility, are they? They're all about what makes the little devil on your shoulder happy, while providing the bare minimum of justification to any other decision-makers in your life."

Although all four bikes are in similar price and performance categories, two of these bikes are really out of their leagues and should be upgraded or retired. The first is the YZF600R. Although it's as good a bike can be with the old FZR600 motor, the old YZF feels like a relic, with its heft, bulk and buzzy, soft motor. It would be a good choice for a commuter/sport-tourer, but at $7,099 plus freight and set up, I'm not so sure it's such a great value, especially compared to such fun, nimble bikes as the SV650 or the Triumph Speed 4.

The Kawasaki is interesting because it shows how much sportbikes improved between 1995 and 1998. Unfortunately, sportbikes improved much more from 1998 to 2001. The ZZR600 has lots of nice details, and has a very entertaining motor, but its lack of comfort and heavy feel would keep me from purchasing it, especially when there are so many other great bikes for less than $7,299. Even Kawasaki's own Z750 would be a better choice for the kind of riding I like to do.

This leaves two very different contenders vying for my very fictional money. The Honda is the rational choice: its smooth, sophisticated feel will age well, just as the F2/F3 series have. The high admission price of $8,499 should amortize nicely, as Honda can really screw a motorcycle together. If I was a serious numbers-cruncher, and wanted a capable, fast, economical and sensible choice, I'd have an F4i in my garage. (Come to think of it, I've had two.)

But motorcycles aren't about sensibility, are they? They're all about what makes the little devil on your shoulder happy, while providing the bare minimum of justification to any other decision-makers in your life. The Buell should satisfy the latter with its fuel economy and low maintenance costs, while keeping the former cackling because of its good handling manners and zany fun-factor. At $8,695, the Buell is hardly a "value" bike, but getting this much character, versatility and clever engineering for under $9,000 seems like a bargain anyway.

Al "Fonzie" Paliama, Dissident

Let me tell you all a little story. A story about the Value Supersports shootout votes that I was forced to give and how they came about. Forced because I tried to keep out of the fray -- I'm an easy-going, non-controversial kinda guy. Motorcycles and motorcycling is all good, in my opinion -- I like to get out and ride, anytime, anywhere, on anything.

When it comes to testing here @MO, I'm the photographer -- so I carry more weight in camera gear, lenses, video equipment, a laptop for editing said materials, and so on. I'm also de-facto sheep herder, corralling the destination-challenged MOrons ahead of me to the right locations. And so, I don't feel that I ride to evaluate, I ride each bike in order to have it in place where it needs to be for the next picture. I'm also last on the totem pole for pick'ems. For instance, our first riding stint was during some very windy miles where no one wanted to ride the Buell -- so, yup, you guessed it: "gee, Fonzie, it's your turn now on the bike with the least wind protection." And guess what? Yessir, the Buell has the least wind protection.

When I ride testbikes, it's with commuting and/or traveling laden in mind, and with that in mind, the ZZR was my top pick because I enjoyed the torque curve common to Kawi's engines, and it had an enjoyable exhaust note. Fast but not too uncomfortable to ride around the city. The Buell is too tall to stand over for this 32" inseam rider -- tippy toes at red lights gets old, fast, for me.

Buell XB9SX
Honda CBR F4i
Engine 60in. Thunderstorm® 984cc Air/Oil/fan-cooled, four-stroke, 45° V-Twin 599cc liquid-cooled inline four-cylinder
Horsepower 72.17 95.67
Torque 56.36 42.47
MSRP $8,895 $8,499

Kawasaki ZZR600
Yamaha YZF600R
Engine 599cc, Four-stroke DOHC inline four, 16 valves 599cc, liquid-cooled, 16-valve, DOHC, inline four-cylinder
Horsepower 95.96 85.86
Torque 43.68 43.26
MSRP $7,299 $7,099

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