Comparative test of super athletes

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Super athlete

Comparative test of super athletes

Comparison test of the super sports car, Suzuki GSX-R 750

The new hunting season has started. It’s about the crown of super athletes. The heavily redesigned Suzuki GSX-R 750 and the refurbished Honda CBR 900 RR face the frontal attack of the brand new Kawasaki ZX-9R and the Yamaha YZF R1.

Gerhard Lindner


Were rare Kawasaki and Yamaha so unanimously: “Fireblade, now you are due!” Since 1992, the Honda CBR 900 RR has cut off most of the supersport pie, and that should now be the end of it.
But it is not only the displacement cars that make demands on the redistribution, but also the “little ones” have a say. For example the Suzuki GSX-R 750. Further developed with injection technology, it hardly finds any serious competition in the deserted 750 class. It can keep up with a CBR 900 in terms of end performance as well as weight, and in the fight against the latest sports bombs ZX-9R and YZF-R1 it plays its wild card: price advantage.
Change of scene. Spain in December. Pre-Christmas mood. Four MOTORRAD testers, one wish: I want to ride them first. Sure, which one is meant, the Yamaha YZF-R1. Everyone has had a rehearsal before, in the hotel car park, before breakfast. And everyone agrees: The R1 is different from the others. Somehow smaller, shorter, narrower. The handlebar stubs are deep, but not as far forward as on the competitors. Steering angle? Still enough. The narrow bridge frame and the slim tank make it possible.
Cold start no problem. The R1, organized by our Spanish colleagues from the sister paper MOTOCICLISMO from the Yamaha pre-series fundus, starts up without a hitch and – like its three opponents – can do without any mixture enrichment after just one or two kilometers. Smooth. Yes, that’s true. The R1 engine runs smoothly. Hangs gently, but with incredible force on the gas. Reacts spontaneously, but without surprising outbursts. Demands respect with his performance and rewards with sovereignty. Whether 2000 or 10000 rpm, the R1 always has usable and calculable performance ready.
The CBR unit is of a similar nature. Always a role model for controllable power, the revised Fireblade (see MOTORRAD 24/1997) shows that the key to success on country roads is not mega power, but a broadly usable power band. Not quite as vehemently as the R1, the CBR sometimes pulls two gears too high out of the corner. The fact that it acts a little more cautiously above 9000 rpm is more calming than disappointing. Because 128 HP is more than enough on public roads.
Those who dare to seriously challenge the Kawasaki ZX-9R will experience sheer horror. The ultra-short-stroke four-cylinder engine over 9000 rpm shows that it is quite harmless and great to act in the lower speed range, which is a good kick in the back. Brutal bite, brutal thrust, brutal sound. Vibrations, suction noise, acceleration and unfortunately also the hacking power input during the transition from sliding to load state – everything about the green looks more robust, harder. It doesn’t matter that the test machine “only” delivers 144 hp on the test bench compared to the single test copy (MOTORRAD 25/1997): The Kawasaki will show you, don’t worry.
Only the Suzuki has worries. Even if it has increased in the middle speed range thanks to injection, it is under full stress in this high-torque company. In order not to lose touch with the troops in the tangle of bends in the hinterland of Valencia, there is only one thing that helps: Shift at times and always keep it up to speed. No wonder that the GSX-R chases around 1.5 liters more fuel through the injection nozzles on average. In any case, the 130 hp lethal injection is not lacking in top performance. But there is another way to travel relaxed.
The Honda shows. The good-natured drive, which the annoying load change reactions of the previous models have largely been abandoned, is joined by a great chassis. The suspension elements can be adjusted very comfortably, respond sensitively and always ensure the necessary degree of driving stability. The seat cushion is a piece of cream. Even well-known tourers do not offer a more comfortable place. The pronounced tendency to set up in a slightly to medium inclined position is still a nuisance. The front 130 tire on the 16-inch rim not only makes life more difficult on uneven surfaces, it also limits the choice of tires. Veteran CBR 900 drivers can sing a lament about it.
The ZX-9R causes complaints of a purely physical nature. She beats her driver rock hard on bad roads and knows no mercy even when the damping is almost completely open. On the other hand, the casual seating position with the high-mounted handlebar stubs is convincing. The heaviest test subject in the test (211 kilograms) can be bent around corners without great effort.
Since the Suzuki has been on the new Metzeler ME Z3, it has also been one of the light-footed, precise, light-footed vehicles. Equipped with pleasant reserves of comfort, it glides perfectly over poor stretches of road. But with her, the sitting position bent far forward tires. And then the tiresome topic of steering damper. Well, dear Suzuki technicians, how to do it is wrong: As long as no one was on it, the trade press howled about mean beating the handlebars. Now that one is mounted, she complains about the poor directional stability at low speed. Nothing is so hard as man’s ingratitude.
And the R1, what’s to complain about? Nothing. The seating position is okay even on longer journeys. The fork and shock absorber of the pre-series Yamaha (basic tuning can still be changed slightly) can be adjusted extremely comfortably and impress with their silky smooth response. No one romps so easily and naturally through the curvy mountains, no one masters the quick change of lean angle so well. From a sporting point of view, weight distribution, balance and ergonomics are the finest that the market has to offer. The R1 seems to get stuck on the asphalt, and the direct feedback not only increases belief in the machine, but also in your own driving skills. So: be careful!
Powerful machines also need powerful braking systems. And they all master their tasks brilliantly. At least on public roads, none of them are even remotely overwhelmed. A little more hand strength here, a little more gentle effect there. After a few kilometers on the respective brand, you can hardly make out any differences. Only the ZX-9R falls off a bit. Certainly not because of a lack of performance, rather one has the impression that the fork is twisting under the hard grip of the six-piston system at first. Above all, this affects the important relationship of trust with the front wheel.
Trust is also required on the full throttle stage on the autobahn. The findings: plus points for the outstanding top speed of the ZX-9R. Bonus points for the wind protection of the GSX-R, which, by the way, cannot be shaken from the slipstream of the R1. Negative points for the small tank of the Yamaha – with the specified 18 liters, more than 130 kilometers would have to be in it before the reserve lamp warns. Pity for the CBR, for which one has to wait again and again.
New day New luck. The Cartagena circuit is on the program. Fantastic conditions: 18 degrees, sun, demanding route, not too fast, but peppered with lots of tricky passages.
To warm up, all four move out on their series tires, which are now badly used. The Bridgestone-tyred athletes from Kawasaki and Honda soon reached the limits of their emaciated rubbers. But also the Metzeler of the GSX-R seem to have added 1,300 kilometers of country roads. As soon as the footrest nipples sip on the asphalt, the rubbers start to slide. The R1 stands on the Michelin TX 15/25 assembled for the Spanish market. The German machines are delivered on Metzeler ME Z3. This should eliminate the slight twitch in the steering.
In order to create the same conditions for everyone involved, they are put on uniform sports tires, brand Michelin Race 3, during the lunch break. The name says it all: liability until you drop. The CBR benefits from the new footwear in two ways, as the Michelin minimize their inconvenience to stand up. Much easier to turn in, the Honda, which had previously seemed a bit unwieldy on country roads and racetracks, can be circled much better through the narrow chicane and held in line in the narrowing corners. In extreme situations the thick silencer hits, but the days when the alternator cover could become a stumbling block are over. If it were just a little livelier at the top – it would have what it takes to win: stable, perfectly controllable brakes, spring elements that do not give up after ten laps at the limit. The CBR just makes you feel good.
The ZX-9R takes it the hard way. A hurricane rages from 9000 to 12500 rpm. Where the Honda was whipped through at full throttle without hesitation, the gas is now lifted to hold back the last few horsepower. Difficulties arise in the slow passages, when applying the gas this jolt is annoying, caused by the overrun cut-off on the carburetors. Since the test machine is not the Kat version, the plug connection is released without further ado. And lo and behold: The performance is no longer so hard.
The problem with the fork is not that easy to fix. As already complained on the country road, the fork gets a big flutter the first time the brakes are grabbed. Only after a few meters with the brake applied does the stem calm down and focus on its actual task – springing and damping. What remains is an uneasy feeling and the certainty that in the next lap, under no circumstances will you brake later. The sticky sports tires claim victims. The beautiful titanium rear silencer looks a bit worn out.
The Suzuki burns off a real fireworks display on the route. The lap times (see table) speak for themselves. Only the brakes disappoint. Although the bite of the six-piston system is correct, the stability is not far off. More than six quick laps in a row are not possible, because the hand lever can then be pulled to the rubber grip even in the extreme position.
And the R1? Is above things again. Although she is now scratching the slope with the silencer, everything else runs like clockwork. It remains stable when braking, pulls in the tightest radius through the curves and paints the longest black lines at the curve exits. All of this just like that, without causing undue stress. This is how the heroes of this world must feel on their Grand Prix racers.

Conclusion Kawasaki

3rd place street The merciless power of the ZX-9R can almost never be implemented on the street. And the chassis beats the backbone softly on bad roads. Despite good handling and a pleasantly upright sitting position, the ZX-9R lacks a little good manners. 2. Place racetrack Hell without practice, a poem for stokers who have tried and tested horsepower. In the upper speed range, the 900 engine literally explodes. The hard suspension set-up also works on the racetrack. Only the fork worries when braking hard.

Conclusion Yamaha

1st place on the road The subject of power and torque has never been interpreted as impressively as with the R1. Your engine is simply one step above the competition. The same applies to the playful handling. Workmanship and equipment are at a high Honda level. 1. Feel like Cadalora, Abe and co. The R1 makes it possible. There is performance in all situations, easily controllable and without any surprise effect. Great brakes and a stable, super-handy chassis complete the picture. R1, the new reference.

Conclusion Honda

2nd place on the road Top performance is not everything. Good-natured power delivery and a comfortable chassis sweeten everyday life. The CBR almost tripped over its 16-inch front wheel. There is no need for a high pitching tendency and wobbly cornering behavior on undulating roads. Everything easy, everything easy, but not consistent enough. The CBR engine lacks the last bite on the brakes, this extremely strong tendency to pitch, which requires too much force when turning. Still, the new vintage is better than ever.

Conclusion Suzuki

4th place streetShe did more than bravely. But the displacement deficit cannot be made up. Unfortunately, the little one can book neither weight nor handling advantages for herself. From a financial point of view, however, the GSX-R is a more than interesting alternative. A high-revving engine, a well-tuned chassis and super-fast lap times make the 750s a real big bike fright. Unfortunately, the brakes are not very stable, and the performance range of the four-cylinder is quite narrow compared to the large-capacity competition.

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