In this year's World Supersport shootout, three of the five bikes are completely unchanged from 1999, only one model has been revised, and only one model is included that was omitted before. Still, even with so many similarities, we came up with a completely different end result than what we had last year. That's what you get for having different chefs stir your pot.
We've gathered together the main contenders for the World Supersport title: four 600cc four-cylinder machines from Japan and one 748cc V-twin from Italy. All bikes compete head-to-head not only in what often turns out to be the most-competitive race of the weekend but also on showroom floors and back roads as more and more consumers opt for agility and light weight over a 130 horsepower motor pushing around a far more portly mass of semi-precious metals.
While Honda's CBR600F series motorcycles have generally been regarded as the best all-around 600-class machines made, Suzuki's GSX-R600 has long been the cream of the crop in racing circles. Last year Yamaha followed up its amazing YZF-R1 with the YZF-R6 that did to the 600-class what its big brother did to the liter-bike class. This year Kawasaki completely redesigned its ZX-6R in order to better compete with the rest of the 600 Supersports and, hopefully, secure the title for Team Green.
Where does the Ducati fit into all this madness, then? After all, can a bike that has an additional 150cc on its nearest competitor yet is still down on horsepower be taken seriously? Or is the chassis, which is almost identical to the all-conquering 996, enough to place the Ducati at the head of the class?
We went into this test with the goal of finding which machine is the absolute best all-around 600 Supersport motorcycle made. We took into account not only racetrack prowess, but also street-skills and drag strip times so that no matter what is your preferred domain, we hope to provide you with the info you need to chose the right mount.
Before this shootout even started, the Ducati 748 was a favorite among staff members. Its scrumptious bodywork and superb back road manners made up for a very stiff ride. The Duc's motor makes only 89.6 horsepower but all of it is readily available anytime you twist the throttle. Such is the nature of a twin.
The Ducati was in its element at the racetrack. Roland Sands, the 1998 AMA 250 GP Champion, said that no matter how fast he went on the 748 he felt like there was a whole other level of performance. Most testers agreed and said that no matter how fast they rode, the Ducati still had something left, even if they didn't. Despite this, the Ducati's average lap times were over one second per lap slower on average than all other bikes. This might have to do with the way the motor makes its power or the way the chassis prefers high cornering speeds instead of the more squared-off cornering line preferred by bikes with more power. Given enough track time, most riders would be able to alter their riding style and, on a tight track like the Streets of Willow, at least match the lap times of the Japanese fours.
We expected the Ducati to fail miserably at the drag strip. Its dry and grabby clutch seemed destined to conspire with meager horsepower numbers to make this a walk down the grocery aisle instead of a hell-bent run up the quarter-mile. The Ducati did finish last at the drag strip, posting times that were more than one-half second behind the class-leading Yamaha, but it was the easiest bike to launch and the maligned clutch seemed impervious to even the most ardent abuse.
Fourth Place: Suzuki GSX-R600
The Suzuki was a pleasant surprise. After making only 90 horsepower we expected the GSX-R to be slow on the track and at the drag strip. Even after so few changes over the past few years, the Suzuki's first few laps at the track had riders commenting on how "right" the bike felt. Roland Sands commented how he could "hold it open more than any other bike" in part because of the relatively mild power output, but also because of how stable and balanced the bike felt. Most testers generally spoke of the Suzuki within the context of a race track, noting how easy it was to ride fast.
Unfortunately, the GSX-R took a little trip to the infield infirmary, needing attention after Sands flicked the bike down the track, mid brain-fart, thinking he could do same things on the Suzuki as he does on his 250 GP bike. This wasn't good news for some testers who wanted more time on the bike, but it spoke volumes about how confident a rider became aboard the Suzuki. It also spoke volumes about Sands as his eyes looked like saucers when he realized we might have to pay for the damage. Roland, the bill is in the mail.
On the street, the GSX-R was a fairly decent ride. The ergos are definitely more suited to race tracks and twisty back roads than a trip down the 405 freeway, but the bike offers solid wind protection and a motor that's smooth. The placement of the controls are well-thought out and everything works fluidly, rarely necessitating a second thought or a change of any sort. Overall the Suzuki GSX-R600 is race-worthy straight out of the box. It's biggest flaw is that the competition is so intense.
Third Place: Honda CBR-600F4
The Honda CBR600F4 won last year's shootout and looked poised for a repeat performance. As a street bike the F4 is about as good as they come; only the ZX-6R and its superior wind protection and broad power range was preferred. As far as ease of riding goes, everyone agreed that no other bike offered a platform that was as friendly or easy to negotiate as the Honda. Its smooth and powerful motor, comfortable ergonomics and decent wind protection make this one of the easiest to ride Supersport motorcycles. It is easy to feel comfortable quickly on the CBR600F4.
On the track the Honda exhibited the same characteristics as it did on the road. Most testers got up to speed quickest on the F4 and it drew comments such as: "If you're not an expert, this bike is the best choice." Lap times were typically one second per lap faster than the Ducati.
At the drag strip, the CBR was slightly more than three-tenths quicker and two miles per hour faster than the 748. The F4 was relatively easy to launch although its upright seating position made it tough to get our weight up over the front end to help keep the front tire on the ground. The motor pulled strong, making it easier to keep the rear tire from spinning as violently as on some of the other bikes. But, once out of first gear and into second and third, the main complaint was a rev-limiter that seemed to cut in too early. Where most other bikes' power began to taper off near red line, signaling a shift-point, the Honda's mill kept pulling harder as the revs increased and we repeatedly found ourselves blowing a perfectly good launch by hitting the rev-limiter and not shifting soon enough.
Second Place: Yamaha YZF-R6
Last year, Yamaha's R6 tied with the F4 for the top spot in our shootout and, like last year, the R6 ruled the track, drawing comments like, "I just didn't expect that," when describing the R6's handling characteristics.
Average lap times were in the neighborhood of one second faster per lap than any other bike, regardless of the rider. Both the brakes and the motor are strong while offering the amount of user-friendliness commonly found on less hard-edged motorcycles. The suspension has the same sort of balance that makes the Suzuki such a great track bike, but the R6 ups the ante with better components, more power and lighter weight for a sharper-edged package. While the R6 is designed for the experienced rider, even intermediate riders and novices may also appreciate the Yamaha's virtues.
The YZF-R6 is an excellent street bike, although the seating position is a bit more racing-oriented than the 6R or F4. Also, both the Kawasaki and the Honda offer better wind protection. The R6's motor is a awesome in the upper revs, but there is a lack of bottom-end power that makes passing cars a shift-before-you-go proposition. The suspension soaks up the road nastiness better than we'd expect from a bike with such exemplary track manners, and it looks as sexy as any Japanese 600 ever has.
At the drag strip we discovered another niche for the R6. While we expected the Kawasaki to rule while the R6 struggled with wheelies, we found that because the R6 had the most top-end power, it could pull out a good E.T. even if the launch was sub-par. The only problem we had was the gearshift lever position that caused a few missed shifts during the initial runs. When imply raised the lever one notch to get a better pull on the linkage, the problem went away.
Even the clutch, which we expected to be fragile, lasted far longer than we expected, withstanding repeated full-throttle, clutch-slipping runs down the quarter-mile. It's nice to see that Yamaha, in their quest for ultimate performance, didn't sacrifice much if anything in the way of durability to eek out the last 100th of a percent of performance.
First Place: Kawasaki ZX-6R
Kawasakis have often been considered as horsepower bikes that tended to lack refinement. With its total make-over for 2000, the Kawasaki ZX-6R looked poised to trounce all-comers on the track just as it had on our dyno, posting an impressive run of 96 horsepower, tops in the lot above Honda's F4 (95.5 bhp) and Yamaha's R6 (93 bhp).
Kawasaki puts a lot of stock in its AMA/ProStar drag racing effort so we expected the ZX-6R to be the king of the drag strip. However, on a hot day in the high desert the clutch wasn't up to the abuse. With a best run only two-tenths of a second faster than the Suzuki, the Kawasaki fell three-tenths of a second behind the R6, although it posted a trap speed only one mile per hour slower, hinting that if we were able to get a better launch, the 6R may have ruled the strip. When the ZX wasn't spinning the rear wheel, the clutch slipped so much that the motor over-revved with each shift since the clutch was unable to hold the next gear.
On the street the Kawasaki was our clear favorite. The fantastic motor made beautiful sounds and, matched to a smooth transmission, the upright-yet-still-sporty seating position made any sort of roadwork a pleasure. The seat is soft and, coupled with well-damped suspension and great wind protection, the ride seemed more VFR800-like than a race-track weapon.
Once on the track, however, the ZX-6R showed that the changes made to the bike over the past year add up to more than just a higher MSRP. Without any changes to the stock suspension settings the front end felt fine, although the rear end moved around more than we would have liked. Because the bike turned well into the corners, we left the ride-height adjuster alone and increased the compression a few clicks. This helped settle things down, but the bike never quite attained that balanced feel of the 748 or the GSX-R600.
The Kawasaki's lap times were only a few clicks off of those posted by the R6 even though some testers felt they just couldn't get the suspension totally dialed in to their likings. The motor made good power off the bottom and that allowed the bike to attain high velocities down the following straight. Mid-corner the bike would touch down occasionally, though no hard parts dragged. In all, the ZX-6R is a tremendous all-around package.
At the end of it all, the Kawasaki wins by virtue of its all-around package. Much like the Yamaha YZF-1000 that ruled the open class a few years ago, this Kawasaki does everything well and nothing bad. It has excellent street manners, fully adjustable suspension that has potential to improved lap times considerably, and a motor that is without a doubt the best in class. It's true that any of these bikes here would put a smile on anybody's face: But nothing here covers as many different types of riding and pleases more riders than the Kawasaki.
The Yamaha was a close second because it's such a kick-ass bike that makes you feel like a hero when you ride it. It's hard-edged (though not as much as the Ducati) and not bashful about it. A great bike for sure, but it lacks the ZX-6R's all-around usefulness. The same could be said about the Suzuki, but it's still toting around a few too many pounds and it needs an infusion of horsepower. That's OK though, we hear a new GSX-R600 is on the way for next year.
The Honda and the Ducati are exact opposites; most testers wished the Ducati had more of the CBR's user-friendliness and that the Honda was a bit more focused. We know, we're a tough bunch to please but when you're splitting hairs we can't be bashful, can we? And at the end of it all, we kept coming back to the ZX-6R. Different testers, a few changes and look at what happens to the pecking order in the Magic Kingdom of World Supersport.
1. Mark Hammond, Managing Editor
My picks, in order:
R6: Light, super-handling, fast. Spins to the moon. Most thrilling to ride. Comfortable on the street. Way sexy looking.
6R: Almost a coin flip between the 6R and F4. Again, easy to go fast on. Comfy, best wind protection of the bunch. Black green color scheme is nice, especially if you can replace the green rims with black rims. Overall build quality not as good as the Honda put awesome engine makes up for it.
F4: Third for the shallowest of reasons: Almost identical to 6R in every area but not as much power down low and pumpkin/black and silver/red color schemes are UGLY UGLY UGLY!
GSX-R600: Easy to ride fast on track, stock settings almost perfect for the track. Down on power compared to the other Japanese 600s and not as comfy on the street.
Ducati: Great bike although single-minded. Too uncomfortable as a street bike. The big question: Is the 748 $4000.00 USD better than the Japanese bikes. No.
2. Brent "Minime" Avis, Editor of Something
I love supermodels. Nothing better than a fine woman, is there? And beer. Maybe I'd occasionally forgo the supermodel for a cold, frosty one in the shade of a tall oak on a hot summer day.
Motorcycles are OK, too, though they don't have quite the impact with me that either of the former do. But it's all the best, I suppose. I'd have to be a rock star to be able to spend my time chasing supermodels. And if I were to imbibe too much on beverages of the frosty alcoholic type, Mark "Kojak" Hammond and my girlfriend would have me in AA quicker than Anthony Gobert loses factory rides for much the same reasons.
People think motorcycles are dangerous, but given these two other vices I'd have to say that swinging a leg over any one of these World Supersport machines is downright civilized. Kinda fun, too -- I must admit.
Since we're being impractical with supermodels and beer, along those same lines I'd pick the Ducati as my favorite. It's like dating a supermodel, complete with the beautiful looks and high maintenance. It may be better, though: you can lock the 748 in the garage when you're done riding it and not get a call from an attorney the next morning.
In this same world, the F4 fails miserably since it's far too practical. It's too boring without a lot of personality, dressed up all flashy like your 60-year-old neighbor who thinks she still looks hot in black spandex and white high-heel cowboy boots with fringe.
The R6 is a screamer on the track; but it's like taking a greyhound for a walk to your local doggie-poop park. The back roads barely cut it and commuting is better done in your car. Somewhere between is the Suzuki, which is a solid track bike even if it feels neutered after riding the other in-line fours. Again, not a commuter, but at least it has more wind protection than an old open-face Bell helmet.
Which bike melds the best of all worlds together most seamlessly? That'd be the Kawasaki. It's got a rompin' and stompin' motor with enough handling and civility so that whether you're pretending you're embroiled in a battle for the lead with Jamie Hacking and Nicky Hayden or just off to pick up your supermodel for the night, the ZX-6R has got you covered.
3. Calvin Kim, Associate Editor
The bikes are in alphabetic order by manufacturer.
Drag Strip -- Wasn't the greatest launching bike out there, partly due to the lifeless clutch. Found it difficult to do a straight launch. However, it had good pickup and the down-low grunt could be felt immediately.
Street -- Although the power availability is stellar, its unfriendly clutch and racer ergos limit its street functions. Also, the exhaust caused excess heating underneath the seat when driven under 30 mph. Very uncomfortable. However, after extensive street riding, I got used to everything but the exhaust heating. Overall, probably the worst street bike, but not unbearable.
Track -- It took longer to get used to the 748 compared to all the other bikes mainly because of the different power and handling characteristics. The bike felt like it was on rails at all times. The brakes felt vague. At a slower, more technical track like the Streets, the 748 is more than capable of keeping up with in-line four monsters like the R6. However, with a lack of top-end power, a longer, faster track could be the 748's demise.
Drag Strip -- The generic bike of the bunch. Its clutch wasn't grabby, or slippery. Its power came on gently, but once in the upper third of its power band, you could tell the bike was really cooking. I'd assume thats when the ram-air system would start to kick in. Gear changes were smooth and nothing was really surprising.
Street -- Very predictable. Would make an ideal bike for the intermediate rider who is making his first leap into the 600 Supersport world. The docile power delivery warrants minimal thought. Non-threatening ergos reinforces its stable street nature. Still, the more performance oriented rider will not feel the F4 lacking in anyway. Power spools up nicely all the way to the top, and the brakes feel fine. However, sterile ergos did not agree with me.
Track -- The F4 made the track seem more like the street than any other bike. Sterile ergos and the same docile power delivery really allow the rider to concentrate on a better racing line. Foot pegs were too low and ground clearance was the worst of the bunch. Suspension worked admirably to soak up all the racetrack bumps. Overall, the bike performed very predictably.
Drag Strip -- Almost too good. The bike would continually slip the rear wheel almost through second gear. If we changed tires/swing arm then I'm sure this bike would've ruled. Powerful motor and an easy to modulate clutch.
Street -- The 6R is like an improved F4. With more more power down low, it makes street riding more pleasant. Slightly larger than the F4, the 6R feels light on the tight back roads. More wind protection and better ergos then the F4 make it the premier street bike.
Track -- Same situation as the F4, but made better due to its peppier motor. However, the suspension wasn't setup for me, so it felt odd, namely the wallowing rear-end. Tracked through corners really well. Felt very light considering it was probably the largest of the five. When up to speed the bike would still have the grunt to power out of sweepers.
Drag Strip -- Considering how many runs we put through this bike, I'm surprised it was still ridable. Bullet-proof clutch really let the bike shine. Unfortunately the weak-motor is its one downside.
Street -- I personally did not have enough street time to really make a fair judgment. However, aside from a too-tall first gear, and no bottom-end power, I would imagine slow speed traffic situations would tax the clutch.
Track -- This is where the GSX-R truly shines. The Suzuki felt much like the 748 in that the whole motorcycle was stable and yet was able to offer lots of feedback through the bars. Nevertheless, steering was super light and it was very flickable. However, you never felt the same roll-on oomph that you could feel from the 6R or R6. More motor would help in that area.
Drag Strip -- Grabby clutch and short wheelbase equals tough launches. But with so much high-end power, the R6 can save a sloppy launch with brute force. Had notchy shifting though. Aside from that, the YZF has wickedly fast top-end.
Street -- Of the five bikes tested, I felt this one to be just as hard-edged racer-ish as the Ducati. Super high foot pegs and narrow clip-ons make for an uncompromising racing ergonomics package. Thankfully, that same package is still comfortable for the street. For the street, you'd have to keep the power up, and during full-lock turns, the inside thumb would get stuck between the bar and tank.
Track -- I had the most problems hooking up with this bike. The brakes worked one-finger fantastic. The YZF required a very aggressive riding style that this beginning track-o-phile just didn't posses to ride the bike to its capabilities. Nevertheless, the sheer thrill of winding the throttle up and feeling the power of bike transfer down to the rear wheel is just amazing. Especially for those fast sweepers!
4. Jeff Rheaume, MO's Fleet Manager
First let me say that I think a 600cc motorcycle is the perfect size street bike for all but the top speed/horsepower addicts. I had an 1987 Hurricane that I raced in AMA Supersport and then rode on the street for two years and more recently I rode an RRF600 Suzuki. When the opportunity to ride these four 600's and the 748 came about I was thrilled. Who would not want the opportunity to thrash/evaluate someone else's motorcycles?
We rode all the bikes on the street, around the new 1.8 mile Streets of Willow course and at the drag strip at LACR. Although I found little things to nit pick on all the bikes I would like to say they as a group are incredible motorcycles. They are all capable of winning AMA Supersport races and providing many tens of thousand miles of street riding excitement.
My favorite bike is Kawi's ZX-6R. It's a superbly balanced motorcycle, easy to ride because it does everything so well. It has the widest power band and best power delivery with a rock solid chassis and boat anchor brakes. My nit: The fairing, while providing excellent wind protection, blocks my view of the instruments. Not much to complain about, however.
In a very close second is Yamaha's R6. It's as good as the Kawi except for the gear box, notchy shifting with some missed shifts and back shifting. Except for the Duc it is the best looking of the bunch.
Third place is a very tough choice that goes to the Honda CBR600F4. The Honda lacked the knife-edge sharpness of the first two, but only by the smallest of margins. My nit pick is that the pegs are too far forward and this makes my 48-year-old back hurt.
Fourth place and is the Suzuki GSX-R600. I felt the most at home on the GSX-R mostly because I have raced them for over ten years. The only thing holding the GSX-R back is the motor. She just needs more horsepower.
Fifth but hardly last is the Ducati 748. It's hard to compare the Ducati with the rest of the bunch because the 748 is a race bike made into a street bike and the others are really street machines that with some prep can be raced. As you might imagine, the 748 excelled on the track but on the street I would ride it to my chiropractor's office and then take a taxi home. Maybe I could trade the Duc for 5 years of adjustments, but it's just to beautiful to give up.
5. Nigel Gale, Annoyingly fast British guy
Brent Avis, a.k.a. Minime, gave me a call asking if I'd like to spend a day at Willow Springs whupping up on motorcycles. Having been denied that avenue of pleasure for a while I accepted and made the pilgrimage to picturesque Rosamond on a pleasant April morning.
The victims for the day were lined up and dressed in sticky Dunlop frog skins (tires), very smart! It's hard writing about five bikes that are all quite special and having to come up with a winner. With me, it comes down to personal preference.
First place is the Honda F4. The CBR is a very predictable and friendly package. If you were to take ten novices to a racetrack and put them on these bikes it would be very stressful. If they were all on F4s, it would be much less stressful. Great bike, good handling, fun and easy to ride at very high velocity as well.
The GSX-R600 comes in a strong second place. For me the Suzuki was a very fun bike (that was a redundant statement as they are all very fun bikes). The Suzuki was very friendly at 100% user input. If you were racing a 24-hour endurance race and at 3:00 am it was your turn to ride again, it would be easier getting back on the Suzuki than the others. If you've ever been in a similar situation, you'll understand what a compliment I just paid the GSX-R.
Yamaha's R6 comes in third and will definitely be the bike most coveted by the young canyon-racer crowd. It's the closest thing here to a G.P. bike. However, it is not for novices. It makes no concession for comfort and the brakes on the R6 will get novices into trouble really quickly -- not because they are bad, but because they are so good. The only negative for me was the transmission which was clunky on up shifts (it may have been just this unit) but it was especially noticeable when up shifting in fast sweepers, for instance. If you give this bike 100% then it's a thing of joy to ride. If you're not that serious, get one of the other 600s.
The Kawasaki ZX-6R is fourth for me. When I was a young sprunt, Kawasaki came out with a 750cc two-stroke triple that was faster than anything before it by a large margin. Since then Kawasaki has made a reputation building extremely fast motorcycles. I didn't see the dyno sheets but if this was the most powerful 600, it would not surprise me. The only real complaint about this bike was that in the ultra-tight chicane at the Streets course, the 6R wasn't as happy going slow as were some of the other bikes. Still, with its tunable suspension with ride-height adjustability, things could easily be smoothed out. Good looking and fast, Kawasaki's reputation will not get tarnished with this one.
Bringing up the rear is Ducati's 748. One of my first bikes was a Ducati 350 MK III. It handled great, was loud and uncomfortable; I guess some things never change. Luckily there is no freeway at the racetrack or the Ducati would not be so much fun. If most of your riding is country back roads or canyon riding, this could be your dream bike. It handles well, looks great and is fun to ride. 'Nuff said.
6. Roland Sands, AMA 250 GP Champion 600's of the past have generally sucked. It's only been in the past three years that the manufacturers have been serious about the lightweight sport bikes, and thank God for that. The current crop of 600s are phenomenal. Testing these bikes was more fun than drinking orange juice and seeing if you can make your spit touch the ground before sucking it back into your mouth. Yes, it was a hoot and besides crashing a Suzuki I had a great time riding all these bikes.
The most important thing is to figure out what was the best bike off the showroom floor, so this is how I will judge my favorite; but before I'm going to do that I will list my favorite bike in each of the following important categories:
The bike I went fastest on: the Yamaha The bike with which I could get laid the fastest: the Ducati The bike that was the fastest: the Kawasaki The bike that could take a licking and keep on ticking: the Suzuki The bike that could win a pumpkin carving contest: the Honda The bike that makes you think you're a hero: the Yamaha The bike that calls you a pussy and makes you feel like you suck: the Ducati
After all this, I like the great pumpkin best. Yes, the Honda has come through again, not because of it's domination in any particular category (besides Halloween contests), but because of its overall goodness in everything. It's fast and the power is very easy to use in all situations. It handles great and is predictable. You can push it and it still holds a line and inspires confidence instead of becoming unsettled and making you think you're going to crash. It stops great and the transmission is buttery smooth. It's comfortable and it's, well, everything you ever wanted in a lightweight sport bike. We'll just ignore the color scheme.
Next on the list? Kawasaki or Yamaha depending on whether you prefer motor or suspension. This is hard to do but I am going to have to pick the ... uhh, I can't do it! I can't choose so it's a tie.
The Kawasaki is fast as hell, shifts like a dream and it's just really good. It didn't feel like I had to rev the piss out of it to make it run like the Yamaha, and grabbing gears was as smooth as doing naughty things to warm apple pie. The suspension did leave room for improvement and I'd have to say it felt the heaviest of the bunch. A little mushy feeling and it felt like it transferred weight too fast, loading the front on the brakes and the rear on the gas. That motor and transmission were sweet and the brakes were the s#!t, and I mean that in a good way. They were not as initially aggressive as the Yamaha, but more progressive and I think ultimately just as powerful. And the Kawi looks bad ass -- It's my favorite looking bike. Super aggressive and I don't mind the green. It's better than pumpkin orange any day.
Yamaha's R6: What hasn't been said about this cunning piece of Japanese wizardry. Super lightweight, handles like a 250 and revs to the moon. I could go faster on a racetrack on this bike than any other bike in the test. It's that good. It's all that it's cracked up to be and more if you can ride it like it wants to be ridden. But that's also it's downfall. You have to rev the piss out of it to go fast. It wants to rev, and high revs and shifting don't always mix. The transmission on the Yamaha was, to be polite, hard to shift. It took a lot of concentration that should have been focused on traction. The worst transmission of the bunch, but the best handling bike by far. And the motor, well it's going to once again be hard to beat by any bike but the Kawasaki. Oh yeah, the Yamaha is a looker and will prove to be a favorite in any 'hood. My favorite color by far. And the brakes are really good. Super hard initial bite, which I like and it just keeps stopping harder. Maybe a little too good for the street.
Ducati is fourth and if I had more time on this bike I'd definitely like it more. It's a little different to ride and requires modifying your riding style. I didn't ride it enough to make this change and hence didn't get as much from the bike as I would have liked to. The chassis takes some getting used to, but in time I feel it could be as good as the Yamaha. It just takes more than one day. The motor is good; it's not spectacular but actually very fun. I liked the smooth, wide power band but it just never hit like I wanted it too. The brakes are nowhere near the Yamaha or Kawi. The tranny is surprisingly good, and the looks -- well it looks like a 916. How are you not going to get laid on a 916? Just peel the 748 stickers off, buy the 996 SP sticker kit, some carbon fiber goodies and you're freaking Carl Fogarty! 'Nuff said.
The Suzuki: I am a bad, bad man. Not only did I crash the Gixxer, but I relegated it to last as if to say, "see it was not my fault. The GSX-R came in last, of course I crashed it, it sucks!" But this is not the case as the Suzuki is a sweet machine and one of the best handling bikes in the test, on par with every bike but the Yamaha. I would say anyone could get on this bike and go fast comfortably on a racetrack. It felt great the moment I stepped on it. This is probably why I crashed it. I wasn't scared to push it. It felt good and I could throw it around and it wouldn't do anything weird. Its major drawback is age and some serious competition. These other guys are not messing around. And with the overall goodness of the Honda, the speed of Kawi, the handling of the Yamaha and the coolness of the Duke, Suzuki has definitely got some work to do. It's a good machine, just not good enough.