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"Fast Bikes", May 1, 2013

Down The Strip...

Beauty versus the beast... Al versus Rootsy... Fat versus thin...


Armed with GPS datalogging and all five bikes, we headed to the only place in the UK that can accommodate 185mph motorcycles – Bruntingthorpe Proving Ground. Testing conditions couldn’t have been better; dry, 15-degree sunshine, complemented by a miniscule tail wind that wouldn’t hamper top speed or give other inaccurate data. We launched all five bikes down the runway three times, just to preserve clutches and give each bike an even chance of stacking up some decent stats.

The 2013 Gixer’s gearbox isn’t too pretty and, for some reason, Suzukis eat clutches like our old boss ate pies. Most of the time, the adjustment can be made at the top of the cases, under the tank. And with eight year’s worth of engine development and aerodynamic updates, nothing separates the K5 from the 2013 GSX-R. In fact, the K5’s longer gearing gives it the edge on terminal speed and only loses out under acceleration because the 16,000-mile motor is looser than a cock in a shirtsleeve.

Worryingly, the Kawasaki’s new Öhlins electronic steering damper is about as useful as a cow in a Findus factory. Stability was never a threat when caning the Ten on the road or track, yet under hard acceleration in the first few cogs, the Ninja’s bars flapped lock-to-lock down the runway. Conversely, the electronics package really helps speedy getaways, with anti-wheelie combining with a mellow midrange to keep the front wheel hovering over the Tarmac, amongst a cacophony of pretty bangs. Hold it at around 7,000rpm and dump the clutch.

Get past the ¼ mile, and the ZX-10R absolutely trounces the other four. The rest of the ’box is close ratio and reaches top gear before the rest, bouncing off the limiter for a large portion of the two-mile strip and illuminating the sky with the cheap disco dash. Those with epilepsy had better beware. And also worth a shout is the need to turn off the electronics before attempting a wheelie – watching Rootsy turn into a complete stunt novice wasn’t good viewing.

The Honda requires a very different approach to launches. Boasting such a gargantuan midrange, not even a perma-foot on the rear brake can stop the nose pointing towards the sky. You almost have to start from idle, feed out the clutch and gradually build things, changing into second as soon as you’ve ridden the torque wave. The technique obviously works, as the Honda is the closest to cracking a sub-3 second 0-60mph and is also fastest to 100mph. Post ¼ mile, and the ’Blade gets left behind in a wake of Gixers, Ninjas and tuning forks, and is a whole 6mph slower than the Kawasaki.

As well as engine manufacturing inconsistencies and tolerances, the R1 has also suffered with the old creaky clutch syndrome. Remember Moby’s bike from a few years ago? He chewed a few, and it’s almost like the cable-fed clutch magically turns into a grabby, hydraulic operation, busting out the slowest and trickiest 2013 0-60mph figures. The Yamaha’s physical size aids body tuck but it can’t be healthy for outright speed. Despite the dash reading high 180s, the R1 only just breaks the 180mph barrier.


998cc inline turbine

Showa BPF

Snazzy dash and wheels

Clever C-ABS




Plenty of potential but hamstrung


Perfectly balanced and easy


No leccy to intrude


The throttle works both ways


2012 updates helped appeal


Your mate who said he was doing 190mph on his Ninja. All the Japanese bikes are limited to 186 on the clocks...

Verdict: 9

An absolute belter made better by the updates from last year. But we can’t wait for the V4...



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