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"Fast Bikes", May 1, 2013

Living with...

PIC: JONNY GAWLER

Of course, buying the right bike for you may not mean that you have to be the quickest round track, the fastest from A to B, the speediest down the strip or have the bike pumping out the most power. Reasons could be more mundane, so here’s the bit that deals with everything else.

Let’s get the costs out of the way first. You can flick through to the specs page and see the rrp, but dealers aren’t called dealers for nothing. Alphabetically, we found the Honda up on a zero per cent deal. This new 2012 non-ABS bike needed a £3231 deposit followed by 36 lots of £199. We checked insurance, too, and this hits the money scales at a whopping £711, fully comp.

Kawasaki seems to be holding firm on the price front, and we couldn’t find a used bike for anything under five figures. For a new 2012 bike (without the new electronic steering damper) the best we saw was a 2.5 per cent deal with 36 payments of £266. Insurance was cheaper at £557.

Suzuki was up next, and though list is £10,999 we spotted a pre-reg 2012 model at £8,995 – a whopping saving. As you’d expect, the finance for this deal was more expensive, at 14 per cent, but with a three grand deposit, 36 payments of £146 and then a final payment of just over four grand, it’s yours. Not only is the bike cheaper, but insurance is too, at just £302.

Last up is the R1 and the manufacturer deal here is finance over two, three or four years at two, three or four per cent respectively. As an example, this works out at £349 over three years with just a £99 deposit. Insurance is up, a year’s fully comp at £636.

Service wise, it’s all pretty much the same, with all four bikes requiring 4,000 mile servicing – way off what the European manufacturers are offering these days. This is a hugely disappointing aspect of the Japanese clinging to their traditional ways.

So after you’ve paid and insured your bike, what are they like to live with? To be honest, all are brilliant – although none are perfect. The Honda comes close, with an easy ability to commute, great fuel economy and it being easy to clean. The only downsides are the pegs are set too high to be comfortable on more relaxed rides, there’s no traction control to mop up anything untoward and the battery on the ABS model is tiny and discharges too easily.

The GSX-R1000 follows in a similar vein, its more simple outlook on life suiting everyday use. Here, the pegs are adjustable so can be modded to suit, but the bike does feel bigger than the slim and svelte ’Blade. Fuel economy is decent when you knock the pace down and added to other lower running costs makes it more attractive than its performance elsewhere suggests.

Jump on the Kawasaki and you feel this is a different breed of machine. The long, low looks translate into a comfortable enough position, but the motor isn’t as flexible as the Honda or Suzuki to perform the menial tasks without much complaint. There’s an Eco sign on the dash telling you that you’re doing your bit for the planet, and it’s pretty respectable on the juice front, too.

The Yamaha is odd - grips are too thick, levers too high and the riding position takes getting used to. It’s fickle in town, has a grabby clutch and recalcitrant engine that behaves like a twin. This leaves you not riding as smooth as the other bikes. It can be pretty juicy, too. Fuel economy isn’t great, we’ve been stranded a few times!

Highlights

998cc cross-plane motor

Six-level TC

Variable inlet tracts

Nice colours

161bhp

206kg

TRACK 8

Lovely slides but too fat

FAST ROAD 8

Rossi tech really helps

HOOLIGAN 7

Electronics too intrusive

NEW RIDER 5

Smooth, but on the large side

DESIRABILITY 8

New colours and curves help

DON’T BE FOOLED BY

New bikes. The K5 can be yours for £4k, it is cheap to insure and is easy on the juice. You won’t lose money, too!

Verdict: 7

If the soundtrack and technology is more important than performance, the R1 is a winner.

+ ENGINE, NOISE, TECH

- HEAVY, BALANCE

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