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"Fast Bikes", May 1, 2013

On The Road...

PIC: JONNY GAWLER

The finishing order may well be reversed for pure road riding. The Kawasaki’s tall first gear, top-end powerband, and performance-enhancing electronics that don’t function as safety aids ensure only John McGuinness-spec testicles will reap rewards. The Ninja isn’t as natural at dissecting A-roads or, in fact, cornering etiquette and requires more commitment than any other bike on test. That said, its brutality is a joy to tame on the roads and Kawasaki’s bizarre recipe of massively long wheelbase and radical geometry still works. You just have to work harder.

The R1’s captivating crossplane cranked engine (and the supplementary soundtrack) becomes a dangerous obsession on the road. Open the throttle anywhere, in any gear, and the Yamaha surges towards the next bend like there’s nothing inside the cases, aiding you in searching for grip. Over the years the fuelling and throttle response has been drastically improved, and it no longer looks like you’re shagging a kangaroo when being indecisive with throttle application. Like the Zed, first gear is tall, but the ’box is smooth.

Soft and supple, the R1’s suspension is a real ally on Her Majesty’s highways, providing bump compliance and assurance on any surface. Its excess weight that cripples it on track rarely becomes a problem on the roads, and just ignites faster corner entry, while the BPF forks on the other 2013 bikes can’t be utilised.

A mix of innate chassis balance and geometry mean you’ll rarely see the ’Blade out of line, or question Honda’s inability to install TC – the mechanical grip from either end massages your ego and exudes confidence. While others flap, Honda’s HESD damper is the real deal. The ’Blade is never fazed by iffy surfaces and is far more adept at bump management than the Kawasaki.

The plump midrange and seemingly everlasting engine parameters make the go-go part of the ride almost lazy, but it can make the nose a tad lively when battering the throttle bodies. And coupled with one of the most natural, ergonomically friendly riding positions, seat time on the Honda never gets hectic.

Greasy roads and shitty surfaces are where Honda’s C-ABS really shines, virtually promoting the front-end to uncrashable status. Coupled with the ability to change line on demand and its fluidity on a thrash, and you’ll rarely get caught out with the Honda.

The Suzuki doesn’t even have ABS to shout about, instead relying on a supernatural equilibrium built into the chassis. Even without turning a wheel, it just feels right, neutral, and lurking beneath the obese fairings is the shortest wheelbase on test that adds to its sharpness.

While its peak power in standard form is a weakness on track, the Gixer’s monstrous torque and peachy fuelling whoop everything at mediocre speeds, only tarnished by a clunky gearbox.

Back in the Tardis, the K5 Thou’ still feels brilliant, although the oldie is a little indolent at times – probably down to its age and hard life of spanking.

Highlights

The BMW’s base

Changed the game

Raw speed

Four piston calipers

154bhp

180kg (dry)

TRACK 9

Nothing in it against the clock

FAST ROAD 9

Loves to be caned, needs revs

HOOLIGAN 9

The K5 set the standard

NEW RIDER 3

Far too naughty for newbies

DESIRABILITY 8

If only for its reputation

DON’T BE FOOLED BY

Lap times. The fastest on the track aren’t always the daddies on the road. Did we mention the K5 still rocks?

Verdict: 8

Eight years on, the K5 is still a staggering bike with enough pace and ability to challenge 2013 metal. Get one while they are still hot!

+ ENGINE, HANDLING

- ER, NO GIZMOS?

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