HEROIC LAST STAND
Honda Fireblade, Suzuki GSX R750 and Triumph Daytona – traditional pure sportsbikes reinvented or dropped altogether in 2017. Bike celebrates the faff-free race replica while we still can...
Triumph 675R, Suzuki GSXR750, Honda Blade – these pure faff-free sportsbikes may be leaving but they're still amazing.
THERE’S NOTHING QUITE like a Triumph Daytona 675. Thumb through a dictionary to ‘crisp’ and the definition should just have a picture of Hinckley’s slender middleweight, especially this hopped-up R model. The inline-three motor appears to have no internal mass and responds instantly, and with gear ratios perfectly matched to the torque curve it’s up and away on the mere scent of unleaded. The chassis is like a surgeon’s tool, high-spec Öhlins suspension flooding senses with feel as the 675R traces fast turns with laserguided accuracy. Overkill Brembo brakes can buckle arms with tarmac-creasing power. Add the evocative exhaust note, smooth fuelling, fine details and more than a little reputation, and the Triumph is wholly engaging. Especially as there are no modes to faff with, or umpteen pointless traction control levels, or engine braking settings you’ll never adjust. The 675 is a pure sportsbike, with direct and intense sensations. Red faced and grinning after a morning of low-level assaults on unsuspecting Leicestershire B-roads, Bike’s designer Paul Lang overflows with enthusiasm. ‘It feels so special, and that makes me feel special. How could you not want one in the garage?’ It’s a pertinent question. The 675R makes other sports 600s seem gutless and chubby, makes you go ‘ooh’ with genuine allure, but is being dropped in 2017 because we don’t want them in our garages. Sportsbikes aren’t as popular as they used to be, and while we still buy 1000cc superbikes the supersport class is dead. Complying with next year’s Euro 4 emission regs would require investment that would be wasted if nobody’s buying and so, with the Street Triple that uses the same engine set to become an 800, Triumph insiders say the sweet 675 is no more. The reason for today’s sunny autumn blast is it’s not the only icon that’s departing. Suzuki’s GSX-R750 has been a defining model for over 30 years, yet will disappear from showrooms – it’s not getting further development, and just a handful will be sold
‘We reach the switching, darting B6047 as the sun drops low bathing endless countryside in golden, autumn light’
under Euro 4 derogation. (End-of-series Euro 3 bikes can be sold for 24 months as long as they’re physically in Europe by 31 December 2016 but quantities are limited to 10% of the total sold in the last two years, or 100 units if this is higher – this is also the case for the GSX-R600, Hayabusa and Burgman 650, all of which are leaving.) It’s also the end of the line for Honda’s straightforward CBR1000RR Fireblade. Yes, there’s a new Blade for 2017 (see p38), however it’s festooned with gizmos – the departing one is the last big CBR true to the original Fireblade’s ‘total control’ mantra. Total control is actually an accurate description of the sensation given by the Honda. Road tester Pete Boast has plenty of experience of Blades from using them while instructing at Ron Haslam’s race school, and points out, ‘the throttle’s snatchy – it’s too sharp going to part open from a closed throttle’. It’s the only negative however, as the CBR1000RR is as composed, usable and refined today as it’s always been. It’s the largest capacity here but easiest to ride. All the weight feels located between your ankles, the chassis rolling effortlessly to gentle input and never, ever getting ruffled, even using all the readilyavailable 168 rear-wheel horsepower. Yes, it’s very powerful, and compact, with track-ready geometry, but so beautifully balanced it makes the Triumph seem pointlessly focused and the Suzuki hard work. Traction control, modes, electronic suspension? You’re so connected and confident they’re not missed. This 2014 bike doesn’t have ABS – Langy only misses it when told it’s not there. ‘The Honda’s bars feel wider than the others, with a real sense that you’re in charge,’ says Boastie. ‘It’s a really comfortable riding position too, helped by the fact it’s the best road suspension. Ride quality’s really, really good.’ After refuelling ourselves with the largest, tastiest coronation chicken butties known to man (the village stores in Medbourne if you’re interested, on the rollercoaster B664), we push north into Rutland. Suzuki’s GSX-R is weighty after the Honda, almost with
dulled responses, and despite appearing to have the same Showa big-piston fork its suspension hasn’t the CBR’S plush damping. Striding out across fast, open A-roads the Suzuki reveals different appeal, though. If you rode GSX-RS in the 1990s and early 2000s and want to rediscover those feelings and experiences, the 750 is chock full of their legendary character. Gearing is too high – if it could rev-out in top it’d do more than 190mph. Want to really go fast? Simply work that 130bhp, 749cc engine hard and, as Langy observes, ‘just go everywhere in second and third gear’. The intake noise is still addictive, too. Just as a Ducati sounds different to other V-twins, so the Suzuki is unlike other inline fours. Deep, hollow, loud, the airbox sounds like it’s tearing the atmosphere apart, rather than just gulping it down. From the side of the road the noise of a rapidly approaching GSX-R750 is almost haunting. Ignore acres of terrible carbon-effect plastic (you can have too much 1990s). Instead, praise how the steadfast chassis tackles bumpy roads. No, it hasn’t the nimbleness or suspension quality of the Honda and yes, the Triumph turns more easily. But where the light, stiff, racy 675R gets flung off line the Suzuki firmly refuses to be interfered with. Solid is a good way to describe the handling, and the brakes ace the Triumph’s. There’s a traditional sports air to the riding position as well. The twin-spar frame and sparkling blue tank splay legs, and if you slide your rump back fully on the long, spacious seat the ’bars seem a long way away. It’s not as light and friendly as the Blade in town, or as comfortable on a long straight ride, however you’re aware you’re on a sportsbike. No, more than that. You’re aware you’re riding a GSX-R750 – the sole survivor of the original 750cc superbike class. Our loop into Nottinghamshire and back into Leicestershire is timed perfectly. We reach the switching, darting B6047 as the sun drops low, bathing endless countryside in golden autumn light that brings out the subtle sparkle in the Triumph’s paint. Back on the 675 it feels impossibly trim and curiously lofty after the Suzuki; you feel more national hunt jockey than motorcyclist. But in that wonderful window between commuters clearing the roads and dusk swallowing the landscape, it’s the perfect stance for slicing up warm roads. At times the Daytona’s handling is surreal – perched behind the low screen and controlling the bike with the narrow clip-ons, it’s like picking a line on a games console. You ask and the chassis delivers; I’ll hit that bit of road there, now go over that bit there, and you lean with such confidence that my kneeslider Velcro is covered with grass seeds. And while 180bhp might be exciting, my self-preservation kicks in before I’m close to continually using all of the triple’s 112bhp. When a motor is this eager and responsive, it’s hard to see why you’d need more. Modern tyres mean it’d take staggeringly hamfisted stupidity to even get close to needing traction control on a dry road, either. The sun buggers off all too quickly so we stop in a gateway overlooking the Welland valley to compare notes. That old nonsense about sportsbikes all being the same has proved just that, each bike having its own character and positives. And a few negatives. Bling-loving Langy can’t help leaning towards the highspec Triumph 675R, however we all concur that the Honda Fireblade is the standout bike. Such balance. Such usability. This day out hasn’t been just to test the bikes, of course. We get a bit emotional too as this is a farewell to three of the finest sportsbikes of a generation; final examples of bikes that defined us over three decades of roundabout surfing,
The three iconic logos of three of the greatest-ever pure sportsters – a couple will live on, but they won’t be the same...
Classic paint scheme, accessory pipe and some ewes. Lambs due in four months