As far as 2017 is concerned, this might be the year we remember as the one that saw the entire liter-class field go electric. No, I don’t mean like that. I mean electronic rider aids – every major player in the field has them now. Honda and Suzuki, with their CBR1000RR and GSX-R1000, respectively, had held out on introducing riding aids (beyond differing power modes in the Suzuki’s case) until this year. Meanwhile, the rest of the competition has leap-frogged ahead, introducing highly advanced traction control, wheelie control, launch control, slide control, and all kinds of other controls previously only seen on MotoGP machines.
Next week (Wednesday, to be exact) I’ll be riding the new, 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 (look for my review Friday). Now, because we’ve already featured the 1999 R6 in a past Church feature, this week we fast forward to the second-generation R6, which our own John Burns got the chance to ride in late 2002. A sharper tool than the original R6 as far as racetrack chops go, after reading this piece stay tuned to my review of the 2017 model to compare and contrast. Something tells me the two models will be very similar in many ways…
The big news in the sportbike world for 2017 was the introduction of not one, but two heavily revised iconic literbikes – the Honda CBR1000RR (and CBR1000RR SP) and Suzuki GSX-R1000R (and GSX-R1000). The previous versions of both models had languished for a number of years without any major updates, most notably in the electronics department, but also in the engine bay. Meanwhile, their competitors, both in Japan and abroad, had made significant gains with their flagship liter-class sportbikes, producing some of the fastest, most powerful, and advanced motorcycles we’ve ever piloted.
There’s an old saying that aptly describes the Hyosung GD250R: A day late and a dollar short. The 250cc beginner bike market went strong for years without much of an update, as the Kawasaki EX/Ninja 250, and later the Honda CBR250, practically owned the category for nearly three decades. Hyosung wasn’t absent in the market, since it persisted with its GT250R (and the naked GT250, no R).
What’s up with Hyosung? The Korean bike builder just seems to do things its own way. If there’s a marketing department, it’s a secretive one that’s careful not to divulge sensitive information. When there’s a new model, it sort of just arrives… the new GD250R did make an appearance at last November’s EICMA show, but we must’ve overlooked it? Is this thing from North or South Korea? Is it a threat to national security? And what is GD acronyming anyway? Grand Douring?
In a few day’s time you’ll get to read all about the brand new 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000, Suzuki’s most advanced GSX-R to date. Penning the story will be none other than MO‘s E-i-C Kevin Duke, who did his best to tame the beast around one of the most loved racetracks in the world: Phillip Island in Australia. But before we talk about the new bike, let’s go back to the GSX-R1000’s roots; 2000 in this case. For this week’s Church feature we’re bringing you the First Ride review of the 2001 Suzuki GSX-R1000 – Suzuki’s answer to the liter-class sportbike wars started by Yamaha’s YZF-R1 a couple years prior.
Up until now Kawasaki’s Ninja 650 has been recognized as a genteel gateway drug to the company’s true supersport model, the ZX-6R. For 2017 Kawasaki has further distilled more performance from the beginner-ish Ninja while maintaining the bike’s streetable mannerisms. In other words, the 2017 Ninja 650 is a more potent sportbike capable of shredding a twisty canyon road or closed course race track on the weekends, while performing commuter duty during the weekdays.
Cresting the top of the steep incline leading onto Portimao’s main straight, I’m committed to keeping the throttle on the new 2017 Honda CBR1000RR to the stop. With fifth gear clicked, the front wheel starts to reach for the sky. Unfazed, the throttle stays pinned, ready for the wheel to eventually come back to earth. The wait feels like forever, and my view is increasingly filled with sky instead of tarmac. I can’t wait for the Honda’s wheelie control any longer, so a click to sixth gently brings the front Bridgestone back to the ground. The Fireblade flexes its muscles, tickling 180 mph down the straight. Then it’s time to scrub speed down the hill before hitting the dip signaling the apex of turn 1. The short chute to reach turn 2 is quickly gobbled up before a moderate amount of brakes are applied to navigate through the hairpin. From there, it’s another flick to the left, and we’re driving uphill towards the crest of turn 3, knee on the ground, rear tire spinning ever so slightly.
Fans of liter class sportbikes have got to be drooling over the prospects that 2017 holds. In fact, as this goes live, Business Class Editor Troy Siahaan is across the pond preparing to ride the revamped Honda CBR1000RR in Portugal. Next week, E-i-C Duke will be jet-lagging his way to Australia to tussle with the long-awaited Suzuki GSX-R1000. When we last gathered in the 24K gold and marble festooned MO Tower Conference Center from which we run the global MO Empire, we realized that so many examples of 1000cc sporting machinery were going to be available for the coming model year that we’d need to break them up into classes within the liter bike class. At the top, we have the exotics – sportbikes costing $20,000 or more – bikes befitting one-percenters, like ourselves. The next grouping consists of the open classers that the rest of you can afford (if you’re lucky) without requiring a lottery ticket for the down payment.
Norton Motorcycles announced a new 1200cc carbon-clad sportbike, claiming a maximum output of more than 200 hp and a dry weight of 395 pounds. The V4 RR is priced at £28,000 (US$34,777) while a special edition V4 SS version is valued at an even more posh £44,000 (US$54,651).
EICMA and Intermot have come and gone and the question on most American consumers’ minds is which of the wonderful new models will be making their way to the U.S.? Today, Kawasaki answered their part of the question, confirming the ZX-10RR, Ninja 1000, Ninja 650, Z900, Z650 and the Versys-X 300 for the U.S. market.
On the surface, the 2017 Honda CBR650F and its naked sibling the CB650F don’t look much different than their 2016 versions apart from their new graphic schemes. The overall visual design, including their oh-s0-sexy cascading header pipes are back, and the underslung silencer has only a slightly different shape. Underneath the familiar skin, however, are a few updates that further refine Honda’s two 650 models.