Taking these midweight sports bikes to the road, track and race track
This article originally appeared in the July 2006 issue of VENTOS magazine.
While we owe the ultra-competitive 600cc Supersport racing for propagating today’s highly evolved middleweight sports bikes, working within the rules of the race doesn’t necessarily result in the best bike for the street rider. A year ago we rounded up the 2005 middleweight supercars and trained our focus on absolute performance on the race track.
The overall winner was closely tied to lap times, dragstrip ETs, maximum power and Wow! factor. This year, we committed ourselves to developing the best sports bike for motorcycles in the real world.
Last year’s focus on performance came from spending two days on a race track, the first on track-day spec tires at the tight and technical Streets of Willow Springs road circuit. Aftermarket high-performance, high-grip, ultra-smooth racing rubber exhaust systems were installed for the next day’s hot laps around the 2.5-mile high-speed Willow Springs International Raceway race track.
After we wore our skinny knee pads, multiple-time endurance racing champion Rickey Gadson joined us at Los Angeles County Raceway where he burned down the track at a record rate. (The Gadson factor should be taken into account when comparing last year’s times with the quarter-mile performance of current machines – the bikes haven’t slowed down as the numbers suggest.)
This time we set out to evaluate the class in a way more suitable for simple sports bike enthusiasts. We limited our track activities to a single day at Streets of Willow and a morning at the LACR quarter mile, and spent more time riding highways, back roads, and back roads. Our goal: to name a winner based on the most usable performance, competition, and convenience.
While all street miles were logged on stock tires, we mounted Pirelli Diablo Corsa radials on each bike for the circuit portion. Positioned as a track day tire, the Diablo Corsa is available in 120/70 and 120/65 front sizes, the latter of which allowed Kawasaki’s ZX-6R to retain its standard tire size throughout testing.
Before changing tires on the track, each bike was first lapped on its original rubber so that we could quickly identify any handling-related issues that a tire change might induce. We didn’t have to worry as each and every bike took Devils like hell on wheels, with excellent steering feel, stability, and long-lasting grip.
Straws were drawn to determine the order in which the bikes were ridden during the timed lap comparison sessions. The MyChron Light TG lap timers fitted to each bike ensured that accurate times were recorded. Associate editor Mark Cernicky led the way, doing five-lap stints on each bike before handing it over to executive editor Mark Hoyer and then to me.
After some minor adjustments to the chassis, Cernicky performed the rotation a second time, setting the fastest time of each bike in the process.
After the “official” timed sessions, our new associate editor Blake Conner and Brienne Thomson, the latter a competing club racer taken from the CW marketing department, were introduced to the mix for open testing throughout the afternoon.
I took care of the riding duties at LACR, keeping the amount of clutch-torturing pitches to a minimum, while the entire group played the musical chairs, swapping bikes repeatedly for the next two days on the street. Now for our observations in the order the straws were drawn:
Luckily, Honda drew the shortest glass and was first in the rotation, meaning the CBR offers driver-friendly demeanor with solid, predictable handling that instills immediate confidence.
“Of the five bikes, the Honda overcame the potholes best, and although it didn’t have the top touch of the others, the torque available from 7000 rpm was a welcome friend at corner exits.