YAMA-STARS!

'This 185-mile route has ev­ery­thing from se­cond gear hair­pins, to breath­tak­ing, three­fig­ure-speed sweep­ers'

Motorcycle News (UK) - - News -

THREE FIRST TESTS

Yama­haõs new bike blitz con­tin­ues and MCN man­aged to get first rides on three of them this week. The all-new naked MT-03, re­vamped MT-09 and much-im­proved FJR1300 come un­der scru­tiny but can each bike re­ally rule their re­spec­tive classes?

MCN, I have come to know the Yamaha’s quirks. It’s an unashamed race bike and that shows on the road. It might have great legroom, but the seat is like a plank of wood and the bars are set as low as they can be. That’s per­fect for Valentino on a Sun­day af­ter­noon, but a few tank­fuls into a big ride and your wrists and rump are soon scream­ing for mercy.

Just one year af­ter its launch, the R1 has slipped down the or­der.

Old power gen­er­a­tion

Brought to you by the peo­ple who make the world’s best tour­ers, the BMW S1000RR is com­fort­able. It has a snug seat, de­cent wind-pro­tec­tion and, if you tick the op­tions boxes, like our test bike here, you get heated grips, cruise con­trol, a quick­shifter, au­to­blip­per and a choice of five rid­ing modes. But like the Kawasaki, legroom is best suited to shorter rid­ers.

This Sport model also has semi­ac­tive sus­pen­sion damp­ing con­trol. It fur­nishes you with a magic car­pet ride and de­liv­ers com­plete sta­bil­ity on any road sur­face. Best of all, the BMW is pow­ered by one of the most in­sane en­gines in any mo­tor­cy­cle. Punch­ing out 196bhp at the back wheel, not only is it one of the most pow­er­ful here, it sounds like it too, spit­ting and roar­ing un­der hard ac­cel­er­a­tion while pop­ping and bang­ing on the over­run. Ac­cel­er­a­tion is elec­tri­fy­ing in the Ger­man in­line four’s sweet spot, and as MCN Per­for­mance tester Bruce Dunn pro­claims, it sim­ply spews power.

But all of a sud­den, the BMW, which first ap­peared in 2010 and dom­i­nated for years af­ter, is be­gin­ning to feel its age. It’s an an­i­mal and oozes ag­gres­sion. It’s all point and squirt in the cor­ners, shirt off and spoil­ing for a fight. It’s not as plush, friendly or re­fined as the ZX-10R or as quick steer­ing as the 1299 Panigale. It’s not as planted in fast cor­ners as the R1 and doesn’t have the Aprilia’s smooth elec­tron­ics. You can’t deny its fe­ro­cious speed, though.

A dif­fer­ent propo­si­tion

Du­cati’s 1299 Panigale S is the best of all su­per­bike worlds. Brush­ing the not in­signif­i­cant £21,050 ask­ing price un­der the car­pet for a minute, it’s elec­tron­i­cally fer­tile, the most pow­er­ful ma­chine here ( just pip­ping the BMW) and boasts the most ground-churn­ing torque. Its abil­ity to waft through fast cor­ners bor­ders on the mag­i­cal and the con­fi­dence it gives you rush­ing into cor­ners is barely com­pre­hen­si­ble. Its Brem­bos are race grade and brak­ing sta­bil­ity is out­stand­ing. It’s pretty handy on track, too.

With its quirky cast ali air­box chas­sis, the Du­cati has come a long way from the orig­i­nal buck­ing bronco 1199 Panigale, thanks to chas­sis mods, more grunt from its big­ger en­gine and most of all from Imu-as­sisted elec­tron­ics that smooth off the Panigale’s ag­gres­sive edges, like the com­put­ers that keep a Eurofighter in the air.

It’s very dif­fer­ent to the other su­per­bikes. It’s tall, thin and you feel pre­car­i­ously bal­anced on top at first. The L-twin en­gine clat­ters at low revs, the bars are as wide as a flat tracker’s, there’s more legroom than a tourer and the whole thing bucks and weaves if you put too much in­put into the con­trols. It takes time to learn how the Du­cati likes to rid­den, but it re­wards when you click with it.

Like the R1, MCN lived with the Du­cati last year. It might be the clos­est thing to a race bike with lights here, but the 1299 Panigale S is re­li­able, roomy and com­fort­able for long dis­tances. The Du­cati is the bike you’d choose for the long haul – the com­plete op­po­site to the Yamaha - and cer­tainly not what you’d ex­pect or what we thought when we first rode it at the launch last year. It has over­taken the R1 as the bet­ter road bike, and that’s be­fore you’ve even talked about its daz­zling pres­ence and ag­gres­sive styling.

We had high hopes for the Aprilia. Ar­riv­ing in the sum­mer the RSV4 RF missed our 2015 su­per­bike shoot out, so we never knew ex­actly where it fit­ted in the su­per­bike world. Ride it fast on track and its Wsb-win­ning genes are there to see. The tiny Aprilia is ag­ile through chi­canes and sta­ble in fast cor­ners. It plies you with con­fi­dence at any speed and is se­ri­ously quick. The new 185bhp RF is the most pow­er­ful RSV4 we’ve ever tested.

It’s harsh, small and track-fo­cused for the road, but you put up with any dis­com­fort to hear that Mo­togp-es­que V4 yowl at full revs, and its abil­ity to scurry through cor­ners at speed in com­plete safety and with lit­tle ef­fort from the rider. But half­way through the day the Aprilia’s clutch started slip­ping and it put it­self out of con­tention for the rest of the test. It’s a shame as we were con­fi­dent it could’ve been one of the fastest bikes here.

The R1 and Panigale were our unan­i­mous favourites on the road, so the only way to split them is to see how they go around the track.

Con­tin­ued over

MCN'S new boy band 'No Sense of Di­rec­tion' ponder their next move and won­der why no one brought a map BMW'S Bavar­ian mis­sile still can't be matched for grunt, but it's start­ing to feel its age The Euro­pean su­per­bikes from Du­cati, Aprilia and BMW are sti

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