the dawn of time, well, since Gottfried Daimler bolted an
engine to a bicycle, anyway, arguments have raged over the best
size and layout to have in a sports bike. At the moment, looking
on the world stage, it looks as though a V-twin is the best way
to go for competition bikes. But on the road, four cylinder bikes
dominate sales, partly through cost and partly through their sheer
presence. So, layout aside, what's the best way to go? There are
those who argue that there really is no substitute for cubes.
Others will say that corner speed is king, and that a good lightweight
will always win. While some go for the best of both worlds and
try to get big power from a middleweight. We've had our share
of heated discussions about this as well, so we've decided to
sort it out. Once and for all.
are a terrible thing. We all have them, of course, in spite of our
best intentions. Look at us, for example. Three road testers of
similar experience. Adrian, having spent his hard-earned on an R1,
believes that any sportsbike smaller than a litre is a mere pretender.
Stuart, on the other hand, worships at the altar of agility and
is thus the happy owner of a Triumph TT600. I, of course, am totally
objective in this area as my own bike is a GSX-R 750. The fact that
we have one with us on this test is, of course, entirely coincidental
and will not influence my judgement in any way.
So. Do you really need a litre bike? Can a 600 really be as quick
as a 750, or indeed can a 750 live with a 1000?
Age 44, riding since Mr Daimler did his engine thing. Fast, smooth
and convinced of the merits of big powerful bikes over weedy fine
Being used to big-bore superbikes
for a long time now, both on road and track, my initial thoughts
about the 600 was that it was going to have it's work cut out just
to keep pace with the 750 and no way was it going to keep up with
the 1000. The torque factor alone would somewhat restrict just what
you were going to be able to do with the 600, but in terms of outright
speed I suspected that all 3 bikes would be of similar nature around
the 14 ½ mile Nürburgring circuit. I was somewhat dubious about
the 600's ability to cope with the long hills and the sheer power
needed to pull out of some of the corners, but in terms of it general
handling I wasn't concerned because a bike as agile as the new GSXR600
should be able to play a game of catch up,
if you were able to utilise its full potential. Having ridden a
1000 sportsbike for more laps than I care to remember around the
Nürburgring, my natural choice would have to be the GSXR 1000. It
has the highest power and torque of any current superbike on today's
market, so the only question was whether you could use it to it's
best at the track, and would it handle the road style lumps and
bumps of the Nurburgring under almost full power without spitting
you off into the Armco?
Age 43, been riding "a while." Fast and incredibly accurate, as
befits an advanced instructor and Class One motorcyclist. Believes
the merits of agility over power.
I like 600s because they're plenty
fast enough for real roads riding while remaining somehow more friendly
than big bikes. He says, thinking fondly of his fairly recently
departed Daytona 955... I've seen enough GSX-Rs to know that they're
all pretty well sorted and usually far mroe capable than the rider.
Just like now, really. The 1000 may well be just a little too much
for an upright riding chap like me, the 750 belongs to Simon and
I don't want to drop it so I'll probably end up happiest on the
600. So, um, that's my vote, then.
38, only been riding for 24 years. Ex endurance and TT racer, as
well as sometime Nürburgring instructor. Fast and usually smooth
although has been known to get ragged. As a racer, swears by 750s
as the perfect combination of power and agility.
600s are great, no doubt about
it. The combination of light weight and reasonable power makes for
a brilliant riding experience. Except when you're not totally committed,
of course. At that point the lack of torque and the need to constantly
stir the gearbox to keep any reasonable forward motion becomes a
pain in the neck. Litre bikes certainly address that by throwing
huge lumps of torque at the problem until it vanishes in a haze
of burnt rubber. And that's the problem - a litre class sportsbike
has so much oomph that it's almost unusable in many circumstances
and pretty intimidating in most others. The 750 sits comfortably
between both camps, with enough power to remove the need for constant
gear swapping yet a gentle enough delivery to make lighting the
back tyre up at least a little less likely. That's why I bought
one - plenty fast enough when I want it to be yet easy going enough
to use day to day as well. And that's why I reckon it will be the
best bike around here as well.
only one way that we can really decide this. Take the
best sportsbike in each capacity group and ride them back to back.
The fact that the best in each class happens to have the letters
"GSX-R" in their names makes the test rather easier - all have brilliant
handling and ace engines, and the shared gene-pool means that the
playing field is as even as it can be to start with. Talking of
playing field. This is not really a test we can do on the road.
Apart from the fact that we could never guarantee consistent traffic
conditions for long enough, getting an accurate idea of performance
with bikes like these on public roads would result in the three
of us being banged up before you could say "Journalistic integrity,
Your Honour." So we came to the Nürburgring instead.
Simple. 14½ miles. Anything between
64 and 170 bends, depending on how you count them. 1000 feet between
the highest and lowest points. No speed limits, no traffic coming
the other way. But still close enough to a normal road to be relevant
for a test which is, after all, aimed at you, the road rider. So
how are we going to do this? Quite straightforward, really. Each
of us will go out and ride as many laps as we can on each of the
bikes. We'll try to get speeds at certain points as well so that
we can get an objective impression on just how easy it is to get
the power down. After we've done that we'll sit down and score each
bike out of 10 for confidence, handling, braking, performance and
overall feel. There's no point in scoring for comfort or looks because
they're so alike that they should all score the same. Then we'll
average the scores and that should give us an overall winner.
Place your bets, please.
part... The bikes