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"Fast Bikes", May 1, 2013

Life On Track...

Oh look, we managed to get out on the only decent day in March - score!

PIC: JONNY GAWLER

Our annual Sportsbike of the Year test has proven that against the stopwatch little separates this 2012/13 quartet on any given circuit. Well, the ZX-10R sets the standard by mullering the rest by a second, but the other three are inseparable and the K5, on decent rubber, is on par eight years later.

Akin to wrestling a giant turtle, the ZX-10R’s riding position is the most bizarre; you’ll have a chopper-style seating experience, and you’ll wonder how the thing does what it does so adeptly.

The package is sublime; a taut chassis that loves to be caned is mated to an eager 175bhp motor that also loves a spanking, while the electronics work with you, egging the throttle to more abuse, opening sooner and harder – all very Ninja. The relentless, rev-hungry motor erupts at 10k on the dash. This Kawasaki powered Scud missile launches capabilities into its clever electronics. Life onboard the other bikes is far more serene and your eyesight is ultimately less blurry.

This has something to do with linear engines and compliant chassis that the barbarous manners of the Ninja lack. While you could still have a plough-off with a Deutz-Fahr and annihilate the Kawasaki with dollops of midrange, the other three are far less involving due to being smoother and more refined. The Suzuki and Honda’s conventional inline-four motors are tractable and make lighter work between the corners when the bike is upright, while the R1 offers MotoGP aping technology and configurations as a USP.

Nicked straight from Rossi’s M1, the cross-plane crank means little inertia, and an unrivalled throttle-to-rear wheel connectivity – every millimetre of throttle twist input equates to rear wheel output, and its shortfall in horsepower is overcome by corner exit drive. Despite its poor performance against the stopwatch, the Yamaha is idiosyncratic, but involving.

All the new bikes, excluding the R1, have Showa’s BPF fork, which in theory brings stability and braking control to the shindig. In truth, it’s really only a trend, but while the others remain inline under braking, the R1 dances and suffers from inconsistent engine braking depending on the revs on show.

There’s grip galore onboard the 2013 GSX-R Thou’ and the chassis flatters any tyre. With the lack of wizz-bang rider aids, that leaves us with just the sublime, laser-guided front end.

Grip is one thing, stopping is another. Despite Brembo Monoblock calipers, complete with gold shade and red writing, the Gixer’s brakes are redundant after several laps in the heat and are no superior to that on the K5. If you’re at ten tenths, Honda’s C-ABS braking system doesn’t work either, sending you way past your apex at an extra 10mph.

The shock’s lack of damping (at any pace), and ground clearance are two areas that hamstring the Honda. I can’t remember riding a ’Blade in the past few years that hasn’t been slowed by a dodgy shock.

Some reckon there’s too much weight over the R1’s nose. What’s definite is the Yamaha is packing some serious timber, and this hampers its dexterity when you’re manipulating the limit. It takes some real hustling to change direction and it simply hasn’t got the supreme handling talent of its rivals – but the R1 redeems itself on corner exit.

Traction control isn’t essential, but it helps on track. Kawasaki’s S-KTRC system is genius, never over intrusive, intelligently cutting the power and still allowing 110 per cent rider control. Awesome.

Highlights

Simple Simon

S-DMS mode buttons

BPF fork

Brembo calipers

156bhp

203kg

TRACK 9

Grip everywhere, but slow

FAST ROAD 9

Still hugely capable on road

HOOLIGAN 7

Don’t build ‘em like they used to

NEW RIDER 6

If Carlsberg did L-plate 1000s

DESIRABILITY 4

Old, lacks USP and needs style

DON’T BE FOOLED BY

Rootsy’s old suit. He’s now Dainese’s UK #1 and you’ll see his airbag suit very soon, delivered by VR46...

Verdict: 7

Ridden in isolation, it’s hard to fault the capable Gixer. But there are better options...

+ EASY, SMOOTH, SET-UP

- OLD, FAT, TOO SLOW

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