2017 SPORTSBIKE WAR
New Blade SP, GSX-R1000R, R1M, 1299 Panigale S, ZX-10RR, S1000RR & RSV4 RF: Road, track & dyno PLUS Best deals make them oh-so tempting – p4
Welcome to MCN’S annual superbike shootout. This year sees the return of two Japanese 1000cc heroes, in the guise of Honda’s Fireblade SP and Suzuki’s GSX-R1000R.
A lot has changed since these two giants ruled the world. It was BMW that forced the superbike class to shift gears with their S1000RR in 2010 when the German monster set a new benchmark. It made 190bhp and came dripping with electronics. Ever since then the Honda and Suzuki have fallen further behind.
But these two former MCN group test winners are back, faster and leaner than ever. Do they finally have what it takes to dethrone the current superbike royalty? That’s what we’re here to find out.
Superbikes have outgrown the real world in terms of price and power, so in the spirit of ‘in for a penny, in for a pound’ we’re testing the posh versions here: the Rs, Ms, SPS and Factory versions. We’ll be pitching the cheaper base models against each other soon, as well as the mega-money exotica like the Panigale R, Superleggera, HP4 Race and Blade SP2.
But for now, make yourself comfortable while we take you on a journey through the fastest, most decadent superbike test we’ve ever undertaken – a week of hammering these seven twowheeled missiles in the dyno room, on the test strip, on a two-day road trip and for two days on track.
But which is best? Read on to find out. The result might just shock you... Like most sportsbike fans, I dream of riding a Panigale or S1000RR – or any of the current crop of litre superbikes – on a smooth and sun drenched racetrack, day after glorious day…
Back in the real world, we spend most our time on the road, piloting our 180bhp thoroughbreds around potholes and cursing the weather forecasters. So how they perform at 60mph is arguably even more crucial than how they perform at 160mph.
So we kicked off our test by embarking on a two-day, 500-mile trip from Northants to Wales and back, taking on terrible weather and everything from motorways to tiny lanes and shiny cattle grids, using Pirelli’s Diablo Rosso III as a control tyre.
I began on Kawasaki’s neatly understated-in-black ZX-10RR, which despite its race credentials struggled to translate its track class to the road.
‘In the wet the less muscular midrange helped the ZX-10RR’
Simply, I struggled to fit into its bar/ peg/seat triangle despite being only 5ft 6in tall. And if I found the pegs way too high and the bars too low, it was even tougher for the six-footers on test. Worse, the racy screen gave me little protection against the driving rain while the motor felt starkly lacking in helpful, low-to-midrange power, making riding at legal speed a chore.
The Kawasaki did grow on me. The clocks may be a bit Ôcasioõ but they are easy to read and itõs relatively straightforward to add or decrease the level of TC or to soften the power. In the wet a less muscular midrange allied to precise fuelling and tall gearing made the ZX easier to tippy-toe over slippery overbanding than the more aggressive Ducati and Aprilia. The quickshifter works effortlessly, too, while this RR modelõs Akrapovic exhaust sounds raucously up for it for a standard inline-four.
Yamahaõs R1M is far more protective. The screen is tall for a modern superbike and thereõs noticeably more wind Road verdict
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6 7 PART 1 On the road
Wales in the rain. We suffer so that you know the truth...