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"Fast Bikes", January 1, 2013


The Mamba won’t beat around the bush – that’s what his other invention is for – but a hell of a lot of money has been spent here. Three sets of carbon fibre wheels is enough to fund one of these bikes in its own right, not to mention the cost of all the other metal, electronics and beautifying bits. But given the already high bar that’s been set by the current crop of sportsbikes, this is the sort of money you need to be spending to achieve discernible results and to challenge the hegemony of the class leaders.

Gone are the days of a pipe releasing 8bhp. The era of cheap mods having a big effect is over. Manufacturers have realised that they should be the ones to benefit from the gains to be had here. The arrival of the 180bhp BMW S 1000 RR called the Japanese manufacturers’ bluff, and since then all the stops are being pulled up to achieve parity in each class. That’s why we’re seeing trick wheels as standard, that’s why aftermarket pipes no longer produce power, that’s why we’re seeing ever more electronics being added into the mix. It’s progress, baby, so come along for the ride.

But life in the standard world is far from perfect. There’s still power hiding in the crevices of modern lumps, there’s plenty of weight that can be culled, and electronics are only ever going to advance – even ahead of what manufacturers can offer. That’s where this test comes in, and, Triumph Speed Triple R aside, each bike tested offers something above its standard starting point.

The Mamba had a shot on the Triumph, but seeing as Triumph won’t let the boys put anything other than Triumph kit on it, it’s as good as stock. The Öhlins, PVM wheels and Brembo brakes make this an almost unmodifiable bike, and you can’t help think that anything you do to this pimped up machine could only have a detrimental effect. Oh well...

In the case of Charlie’s Yamaha, he’s turned it into something that suits him, proving there’s more than one way to skin an R6. Comfort and flexibility was something I never thought possible with the Yamaha, so it just goes to show that manufacturers do tweak their bikes a little – even if they don’t announce it to the world.

BJ and Beaky, in going down the rim route, have decided to highlight the natural advantages of the class, make already agile bike that bit more nimble. Both offer crisp delivery and build upon the already strong basis of each. You don’t see that many 600s with aftermarket wheels on, but it has just as big an effect here as it does on a big litre bike. Whether they are worth it depends if you measure your life in tenths – rather than seconds...

The 848 is a weird one, and that’s only down to the slipper clutch. Sort that out and you’ve got a machine whose boom matches its bling. It’s close to the spec of the 848 race bikes, and what with the inherent ability of the traction control, it really has everything you could need on the road, and most of which you want on track. Forget your fancy Panigale, this is Ducati’s dream riding machine.

The BMW is the natural benchmark here, and the S 1000 RR in fettled form doesn’t disappoint. It’s a man’s bike, and no mistake. With an output that would shame a power station, it’s a wonder it can all be delivered with such finesse, but thanks to an expertly built map, it does this, leaving you with the rest of the accomplished package to play with. The rest of the package may be exposed on a hot day, but in the final embers of Autumn, even the mamba couldn’t find much fault with the set-up. It’s stunning.

It’s no surprise that the biggest outlay has had the most marked result. Al has turned the potential of the Suzuki GSX-R1000 into something tangible – a machine that can now live with the Beemer. The Nemesis traction control unit is the stand-out feature, but the BST wheels, Maxton shock and Yoshi cans all play a significant part in proceedings. But the £7k investment is a reflection of how far ahead the BMW is to begin with. Parity is attainable, but no-one said it was going to come cheap…

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