2004 Open Class Shootout

Aprilia RSV R; Ducati 999; RC51; CBR 1000RR; ZX 10R; GSXR 1000; 955i Daytona; YZF R1

Eight count em (Ahem! more on this later…) EIGHT! 1000cc Superbikes. After much wrangling, butt kissing and assorted favors, MO managed to assemble the most complete lineup of Liter Bikes you're likely to find in a US test. What you have here, is an 8,000cc shootout (give or take). Ain't it grand?

We in the MO family are nothing if not unconventional. We're buccaneers, matey! The flag of piracy flies from our mast. Our sails are set wing-to-wing. We take no prisoners, yield no slack and expect no quarter from you, the MO faithful. So even if every other literbike magazine test in the world comes out with big horsepower on top, you are probably not going to see that here. Bollocks to those lackeys anyway. We evaluated these bikes pretty thoroughly with a variety of riders who logged a bunch of miles in all sorts of riding situations. We had everyman types mixed in with fast street guys and bona fide racers and for good measure, even a squidly nitwit (at least until we canned him).

R1 CBR RSV-R 955i
RC51 999 ZX-10R GSX-R

"Effortless fourth gear power wheelies barely begin to describe the nature of the thrust generated by these personal cruise missiles."

Even though there is broad agreement among the testers that the ZedX-10 is the most powerful production motorcycle on the planet, it's probably not going to come out on top here. All eight of these bikes have some serious juice. Ha! Effortless fourth gear power wheelies barely begin to describe the nature of the thrust generated by these personal cruise missiles. We're talking unadulterated, atom-bomb-up-the-poop-chute, Come to Jesus! power. With such a surfeit of horsepower across the spectrum, it really becomes a smaller factor in considering the respective merits of these bikes.

By way of analogy, if you were told that you were going to be spending the rest of you life on an island with your choice of any one of the ten most beautiful women on the planet, would you waste a nanosecond of your time worrying about their respective looks? Not if you were smart. Since they are all stupefyingly beautiful, you'd most likely be more concerned about their personalities and long-term prospects for getting along. So there you have it, horsepower is a given. We're ready for the flames. Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!

This test was laid-out to include: Same-day-same-dyno testing, a meandering 400+ mile street ride from Torrance, CA through PCH to Mulholland Drive, Latigo Canyon, Decker Canyon, More Mulholland, to the 101Fwy north to Ventura, followed by Hwy 33 inland through Ojai, then over the mountains to the central valley, where we would meander through the farmer's fields to sunny Buttonwillow Raceway. After a night in a posh $40 per night hotel, we would wake bright and early, cruise the 10 miles over to Buttonwillow, then swap the OEM tires for Pirelli's awesome new Diablo Corsas, after the tire-swap we'd do a full day of racetrack evaluations, make our notes and then drone south on I-5 back to MO fat, dumb, tired and happy.

This is the calm before the storm...

"Two of the absolute finest racetrack motorcycles in this test, never actually made it to the racetrack portion of the shootout."

That was the plan. However, in the spirit of full-disclosure, we must sadly report that two of the absolute finest racetrack motorcycles in this test, never actually made it to the racetrack portion of the shootout. You see, during a photo session in the middle of our 400+ mile street ride, Sean gave strict orders that we were to slowly proceed past Photo Point X at 30 second intervals then continue to Bike-Swap point Y at normal speed, then wait at the bike-swap for the last bike to arrive. The problem was, that instead of waiting at the Bike-Swap, the first rider got bored and decided to re-trace his route back up the winding canyon road. This confused the second rider in line, who made a U-turn and proceeded to follow the first.

After seeing the first and second riders heading the other direction, the third rider (Dale on the GSXR 1000) figured he was going the wrong-way and not wanting to get lost, decided to make a U-Turn on a short straight, between two tight corners. As Dale was starting his U-Turn, the fourth rider (Sean on the 999) came around the previous corner and found his older brother blocking the road.

"The 999 did a flat-spin over the edge and down the gully."

...and this is where it started to get ugly.

This is where it gets ugly. Not wanting to kill a family member, Sean decided to aggressively counter-steer left, heading for the hole in front of his brother's bike (hoping to do a 90° left-90° right "chicane" maneuver, to miss Dale) he would then counter-steer hard-right and try to stay on the pavement and away from the narrow gravel-lined shoulder and 60' drop that awaited him immediately outside the oncoming lane. This plan was working well, except for the fact that Dale didn't see Sean coming and continued his U-Turn at about 5mph. Sean's Ducati hit Dale's GSX-R with a glancing blow to the left front of the fairing, knocking the big Suzuki out from under Dale, who was left standing in the road wondering what that bright yellow flash was. On Sean's side of the equation, things were not so simple.

You see, it was Sean's right hand that had just knocked the GSXR out from under his brother and he was now traveling nearly 60mph towards a steep drop, with a freshly broken right hand trailing behind him. Riding off-balance and one-handed, Sean pulled the left clip-on with all his might and got the big Duc turned nearly 90° back to the right. If there had been another 6" of asphalt, this could have been the greatest "save" ever. Unfortunately, as he completed his corrective turn, Sean ran out of road and entered the gravel at a high lean angle. Since the throttle was completely closed, because Sean was now riding one-handed, the big twin's engine braking caused the rear tire to skid on the gravel and the bike low-sided dumping Sean on to the roadside as the 999 did a flat-spin over the edge and down the gully.

With two damaged test bikes and our fastest rider injured, it was initially decided to scrap the rest of the shootout and return to MO to lick our wounds. Once we got to MO, we shot a few photos of Sean's injuries and then decided it was time for some mood-elevating wings-n-things over at Hooters. After sampling the rejuvenating powers of hot wings and beer, our Executive Editor figured he could probably still ride with 800mg of ibuprofen and a thorough taping together of the outer fingers on a super-jumbo sized pair of gloves.

"As a final note it must be emphasized that aside from being way fast, all of these bikes are also astonishingly competent."

When we coupled this with the realization that our readers, would be less than pleased if MO didn't at least try to bring you a track test of the 6 remaining bikes, we decided to un-scrap our cancelled track test. We arrived at this decision some time after 11:00pm Thursday night and since we were over 200 miles away from our Track Daz event scheduled for Friday morning at Buttonwillow Raceway. All beer drinking immediately ceased. We then made a few hasty "cancel that cancel-order"phone calls, then rushed home to sleep. At 4:30am Friday morning we met back at MO for the long slog up to the racetrack. It was time for MO to snatch mediocrity from the jaws of defeat!

Once we arrived at the track, we quickly made our way through registration, then proceeded to get in each others way as we scrambled to get six sets of Diablo Corsas mounted. It would be nice to tell you that the rest of the day went smoothly, but with a general shortness of time, an unusually high number of red flags (thankfully none were for us) and a large number of lapped riders, we found ourselves scrambling to get enough clean laps on each of the bikes. Dustin and the rest of the Track Daz staff did an excellent job trying to accommodate us. However, in the end, a flat tire on the R1 meant Will Tate (one of our fast guys) didn't get a shot at the Yamaha. Even with all this adversity, each bike experienced the same handicaps, so we feel that the laptimes and test results are relevant.

As a final note it must be emphasized that aside from being way fast, all of these bikes are also astonishingly competent. There is truly not a bad motorcycle in the entire lot and ranking them from first to last is largely a matter of splitting hairs. Only a dolt would be anything other than deliriously happy with any of these incredible motorcycles. All eight are eminently worthy flagships of their respective factories. That having been said, at the end of this comparo there will be a ranking. We've had our fun and made-up our minds. Now it's your turn.

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