Open Superbikes, 1997

Power Trippers!


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As you might expect, this level of comfort doesn't lend itself to racetrack performance. At the Streets of Willow our XX struggled with the same handicaps that plague the ZX-11 - too much weight and too little ground clearance. Instead of scraping its pipes like the ZX, the CBR drags its fairing. We ruined the bodywork with two palm-sized scrape marks on either side of its fairing before we realized that plastic was hitting pavement. Sorry Honda. 
Another racetrack handicap is Honda's linked braking system. Our faster testers found that turning into a corner while hard on the front brakes would cause the back end to step out. We also weren't crazy about the linked braking while riding in the rain, as applying the rear brake causes the front to dive as one piston in each front caliper is activated. We prefer to have complete control over braking.

Like Kawasaki's ZX-11, Honda's CBR-XX wasn't built to go racing. It was intended for sport-touring in comfort, a task that it is very capable of. It is much smoother than the Kawasaki, and its carburetion is cleaner as well. With its aggressive styling and powerhouse mill, Honda's Double-X is an impressive package, doubly so considering it's an all-new model. Do we have a winner? Wait -- there's one bike remaining in this shootout. . . .

Slick aerodynamics combine with 136 horsepower to propel the XX to the highest top speed of any production sportbike. Honda's XX gives the rider a tastefully designed cockpit with such social pleasures as a clock and fuel gauge.

Manufacturer: Honda
Model: CBR1100XX
Price: $11,499
Engine: Liquid-cooled DOHC inline four
Bore and Stroke: 79 x 58mm
Displacement: 1137cc
Carburetion: (4) 42mm flat slide CV
Transmission: Six-speed
Wheelbase: 58.7 in.
Seat Height: 31.9 in.
Fuel Capacity: 5.8 gallons (1.1 gallon reserve)
Claimed Dry Weight: 491.6 lbs
Measured Wet Weight: 557 lbs
Measured Peak Horsepower: 135.8 at 9750 rpm
Measured Peak Torque: 81.6 ft-lbs at 7250 rpm

1997 Yamaha YZF1000

Yamaha's FZR1000 won our open-class sportbike shootout last year with its combination of precise handling and a knockout engine, so we had high hopes for its replacement model, now dubbed the YZF. Especially after European Desk Colin MacKellar and Australian Desk Ken Edwards raved about the YZF1000 Thunderace a year before the machine came to American shores. We weren't disappointed.  
Yamaha's YZF gets its grunt from a lighter and more powerful version of their venerable 5-valve Genesis mill. A lighter crankshaft and pistons are fitted, along with new 38mm Mikuni carbs that feature throttle position sensors for improved response. In the handling department, a redesigned swingarm and rear shock (with
Despite clip-ons mounted below the triple clamp, Yamaha's YZF remains surprisingly comfortable.
Like its YZF600 sibling, the 1000 has extremely powerful brakes.
All of our testers loved the Yamaha's racetrack manners - that is when they could pry Editor Plummer from the seat.
controls for rebound and compression damping) compliment the fully adjustable cartridge fork, and its brakes -- the exact same units fitted to the YZF600 -- are the best in this test.

 Although the YZF enters this competition with a 100cc deficit in engine capacity, it doesn't give away an inch at the track or strip to its competitors. The big YZF battled the GSXR for best lap time at the Streets, and only missed the top spot by a fraction of a second, mostly because the Streets of Willow is a right-handed track, and the big Yamaha's single exhaust pipe exists on that side -- thus it drags its huge muffler fairly easily. Suzuki solved this problem by beveling the front corner of their dual mufflers, a trick Yamaha should pick up. In the canyons it was the same story, as the Yamaha and Suzuki diced corner after corner while leaving the ZX and XX trailing far behind. At the dragstrip its 125 bhp powered it to a 10.38 second pass at 134.62 mph. Impressive stuff indeed.

And don't let dyno sheets fool you: The YZF1000 has the strongest roll-on performance of any bike in this test, as well as besting Suzuki's TL1000 and Honda's torquey VTR1000. The reasons are many, but basically boil down to this: In order to out-accelerate the competition, you have to move mass -- preferably less than everyone else has -- and do it faster. The YZF is the lightest, has the lightest flywheel (so the motor "spins up," or accelerates faster) and the best carburetion. In short, acceleration is a function of many factors. Looking at torque curves, while informative, doesn't really dictate what happens in the real world. And out on the streets where you spend 90 percent of your time at low rpms, the YZF rules.

  Shawn Higbee uses the YZF's 125 horsepower to light up its rear Metzeler. That the YZF would perform well at the strip and track didn't surprise us, given the bike's history. But the comfort level offered by its reshaped ergonomics did. While the YZF isn't quite in the same league as the ZX and XX for sport-touring comfort, the riding position is the most confidence-inspiring of the lot, and can still get you through a ride of several hundred miles without complaints from your wrists, back or butt. Its fairing offers excellent wind protection at all speeds, and does a good job of shielding the rider from engine heat.
In fact, with its excellent track performance and reasonable comfort level, there really isn't anything to whine about. If you wanted to nitpick, you might complain that the passenger footpegs are too high. When the biggest problem you can come up with about a motorcycle is its passenger pegs, you know you've got a winner. Yamaha's YZF1000 was picked first overall by every one of our testers but one.

 Its combination of powerful, torquey motor, precise handling, superior brakes and sane ergonomics are unbeatable in the Open class. This bike is as capable of winning races as it is eating up a 300 mile day tour. Yamaha's lofty YZF1000 is simply awesome.

Manufacturer: Yamaha
Model: 1997 YZF1000R
Price: $9,799
Engine: Liquid-cooled DOHC 20-valve inline four
Bore and Stroke: 75.5 by 56mm
Displacement: 1003cc
Carburetion: Four 38mm Mikuni
Transmission: Five-speed
Wheelbase: 56.3 in.
Seat Height: 32.1 in.
Claimed Dry Weight: 435 lbs
Measured Wet Weight: 505 lbs
Measured Peak Horsepower: 125.4 at 10250 rpm
Measured Peak Torque: 73.4 ft-lbs at 8250 rpm

The Envelope Please
When the tire smoke had finally cleared, one bike stood alone as 1997 Open Sportbike Champion - Yamaha's mighty YZF1000. However, this is a difficult class to judge and your personal choice may vary depending on what attributes you value most in an open-class sportbike. If you're looking for a motorcycle that ca n tour in absolute comfort while tearing up the road at speeds well past the limit in most parts of the world, look no further than Honda's CBR-XX. It was the only bike other than Yamaha's YZF to grab a first-place vote from our brace of testers, finishing this comparison in second overall.  
If the racetrack is your destination of choice, it's hard to argue against Suzuki's GSXR-1100. It has unbeatable ground clearance along with great front suspension and brakes. Plus its long history of racetrack success means an aftermarket full of great hop-up parts and accessories for you to choose from. On the down side, the GSXR's aggressive riding position is too painful on the street, and its buzzy engine easily becomes annoying.

These faults dropped the Suzuki to third spot in our rankings.  

Kawasaki's ZX-11 used to own the title of best open-class sport-tourer, but this year it takes a back seat to the Double-X. The big Honda is both quicker and smoother, and isn't hampered by the Kawasaki's carburetion glitches. Although the ZX-11 undercuts the XX's price, Honda's new CBR is worth the extra dough.
And that leaves Yamaha's YZF1000. Perhaps the best open-class sportbike ever produced, the YZF is a stunning combination of blinding performance, precise handling and real-world ergonomics. And get this: It's the least expensive motorcycle in this test (at least in America). This machine's as capable of winning races at it is sport-touring for hundreds of miles. For a bike to be competent in such varied environments is rare -- for it to excel is extraordinary. Such words of praise were frequently heaped on the YZF during this shootout by all our staffers. With six out of seven testers picking it first, it lays claim to the title of 1997 Open Sportbike Champion. 



1. Brent Plummer, Editor-in-Chief

Life without the YZF1000? That would suck.

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