Comparison test athletes, Honda Fireblade, Suzuki TL 1000 R, Triumph Daytona 955i
In the super sports performance society, the air is getting thin for the Honda CBR 900 RR, Triumph Daytona 955i and Suzuki TL 1000 R. This also applies to the high altitudes of the Alps?
You’re in the second row, no question about it. Losers all in the competitive arenas of the world, where fractions of a second decide between victory and defeat. Honda CBR 900 RR, Triumph Daytona 955i, Suzuki TL 1000 R: everyone has a little circuit ailment with them somewhere.
But seriously: who really cares. If you want to go on tour. Off to the Alps. Have real fun beyond compression and spring preload. Here the backpack is put on instead of the racing tire. 3000 kilometers up and down the passes. With race track winners? Anyone who has ever driven a hard-core Ducati 996 up the pothole road to the Stilfser Joch or tried to use the power reserves of a Yamaha R1 on the Jaufen Pass as befits their standing knows: this is just stress. Therefore, in view of the mountain giants, seconds fade to theoretical size.
Exactly the right terrain for the three from the second row. Also the right terrain to sound out which engine concept stands out. V2 or three or four cylinders, each arranged in a row (for technology see box on page 29).
In terms of pure muscle mass, there is initially a tie, at least for Triumph and Honda. The vehicle documents certify 128 HP each, the Suzuki is even supposed to mobilize 135. In the preliminary investigation on the test bench, however, only 121 HP remain in the Triumph, 127 HP in the Honda and 130 HP in the case of the Suzuki.
So much for the gray theory. In practice, other things are much more relevant. It’s about the sound, the characteristic that so often determines the future of the sport together. The Daytona masters this discipline in a masterly way, its full sucking gasp creates goose bumps even when the gas is blown while standing, gives rise to hopes and arouses feelings. In contrast to the Honda. Synthetic, not very exciting. Drumming is not part of their craft. And the Suzuki? Hearty, metallic. A bodybuilder’s handshake. The strength athlete from Motor promises a rustic adventure.
And the mountain calls. Stilfser Joch, Bernina Pass, Fluela Pass: there is a lot on the program. But the TL 1000 R doesn’t get anywhere. The start is not for those who are lost in thought. Out of sheer anticipation, the clutch disengaged a little too quickly, and – plop – the engine stalls. So again, and gently. It works, especially since the short tank and the handlebars that are not placed too deep do not unnecessarily complicate the grip on the levers. Simply passport-ready.
Triumph makes life harder for little people. The tank is longer and the handlebars wider. In addition, the two edges in the fuel drum press against the inside of the thighs. But who said that a hot liaison was not a problem? And as such, the ride on the Daytona turns out to be after just a few kilometers, when the heat build-up under the tank and seat makes a fire.
The Honda does not know such problem areas. But on the contrary. It is there straight away, that "you know each other" feeling. Everything fits, everything fits. Successful ergonomics is what they call it. And, in conjunction with a chassis that is exceptionally good for athletes, comfortable. Mogul slopes, I’m coming.
The triumph is different. Not only in terms of the seating position, but also in terms of the chassis design. Much more direct. And more precisely. Raging up to the Stelvio Pass, which is a pleasure. Full throttle, shifting, braking almost to a standstill, straight after straight, turn after turn. Even with the soft country road setting (see box on page 34 for setting), it lets the driver feel at all times what is happening. And what can be expected of her. This is also due to the front tire in the 120/70 format, while the 130/60 of the Honda still looks a bit in the bends. Triumph, on the other hand, has gotten to grips with the difficulties with the extra-wide 190 slipper on the rear rim and the associated positioning on bumps. The shock absorber was revised for this purpose. It got a harder spring and less negative spring travel.
And the Suzuki? Also strives vehemently towards the top of the pass – and yet neither the Honda nor the Triumph can hold a candle. No time for the pilot to enjoy the wonderful panorama, because after every change of direction it wobbles, bobs, swings – that’s not how it was imagined. What is it? No time to think about when to keep the connection. But at the top, at an altitude of almost 2800 meters, where meter-high walls of snow still play winter, is analyzed. TL 1000 R: an accumulation of small ailments, the product of which is a medium-sized chaos of frame reactions. One after the other: The standard Metzeler ME Z3 tires, here in a special specification especially for the TL, have plenty of grip, but spoil the joy of cornering in the image-enhancing 190 version on the rear wheel, especially on bumpy passages, due to its unauthorized straightening. Then the much-scolded combination of shock absorber and separate rotary vane damper in the rear. Even stubborn adherence to the principle does not improve it, but instead ensures constant unrest in the hindquarters, while the standard, non-adjustable steering damper at the front makes the steering behavior an extremely sluggish event, especially in tight turns.
Another problem with the TL 1000 R is even more serious. The spontaneous response of the injection and the associated hard performance of the engine make for a clouded pleasure, because the abrupt load changes and the resulting reactions in the hindquarters make it difficult to accelerate cleanly out of turns and tight corners.
In this regard, it would be worthwhile for the Suzuki developers to take a look at their colleagues in Hinckley, England. It is pure joy what the Daytona has to offer in terms of responsiveness: load change reactions are simply not felt. Just as spontaneously as the TL 1000, but always perfectly dosed, its injection reacts to commands from the gas hand and, in combination with the almost backlash-free drive train, forms a package that turns serpentines into a real delight, especially since the three-cylinder between 3000 and 4000 revs – and thus exactly in the speed range that is required here – has an answer for every steep climb.
The Honda in-line four too, but with a little delay. The reason is not the lack of performance, but the less spontaneous throttle response compared to the Triumph injection, which makes the precise flow of power to the rear wheel more difficult. In return, the CBR 900 has a nose ahead of every bend. The combination of two 310 millimeter discs and four-piston calipers in the front wheel can be perfectly dosed here in the tight winding curve. The Honda is literally flying towards the next highlight, the fast Bernina Pass. The road surface is flat, with long and shorter curve radii. A paradise. They can build roads, the Swiss. But here too you have to brake, and hard. Preferably with the Triumph, because its stoppers grabbed the hardest – and because it keeps its rear wheel on the ground the longest, while the TL 1000 and, above all, the CBR like to boldly stretch their rear towards the sky.
Heaven is also the keyword to shed light on another minor weakness of the Suzuki. When it comes to high alpine regions, the air becomes too thin for the otherwise potent V2. It has to be 6000 revolutions to keep the load rolling smoothly. The slipping clutch becomes a habit. The CBR and the Daytona appear largely unimpressed by the altitude, and also lose performance, but not to this extent. Whether a parameter is missing from the Suzuki injection?
What is certain is that something is missing during the subsequent departure, namely fuel in the tank of the TL. Absolute ebb after 198 kilometers of brisk country roads and an altitude consumption of over 7.3 liters. Before exact judges raise their index fingers: Instead of the promised 17 liters, exactly 14.67 liters went into the Suzuki fuel drum. Something went wrong with the factory gauging! But regardless of this, the TL 1000 consumes the most on average (see measured values), while the revised Daytona, contrary to experience with earlier models, is unexpectedly frugal and the CBR traditionally uses fuel sparingly.
But not with the nerves of the pilots when short bumps or edges are driven over at high speeds under tension. Then the ride on the Fireblade sometimes becomes a dance on a knife’s edge. The reason: Despite all the comfort, the CBR sometimes wedges hard with the handlebars. The Daytona, on the other hand, leaves its tracks completely unmoved, and the TL 1000 R wuden such bugs – via steering damper, but also with the associated disadvantages – but pulled.
But she has another one – and surprisingly shares it with Triumph, because she’s used to better things from the British so far. Both are about the switch box. To be more precise: the pairs of wheels in the first gear do not always interlock willingly when braking sharply on turns, but often only after they have been stepped on several times. The Honda transmission, on the other hand, is always and everywhere extremely cooperative. Fortunately, because on the CBR the shift foot is used more often than on the two opponents. On the one hand, because a bit of punch is missing from the lower rev range, on the other hand, because the silky-soft four-cylinder subjectively needs ever higher speeds, while the two- and three-cylinder drivers concentrate more on the choice of line thanks to different engine characteristics. Incidentally, the individual gear steps fit perfectly with the Honda as well as the Triumph. The Suzuki drives a first gear that is too long for this mountain classification, which belongs more to the race track.
The passenger footrests certainly have no place there. But this is about the Alpine tour, and it can also be done in pairs. Can, but shouldn’t, because the comfort of the backbenchers is not far off. It is best to have a passenger on the Honda. A reasonably comfortable place were it not for the Michelin TX 25 rear tire, which buckles on the flanks under the additional load even with increased air pressure. Sitting worse but driving better applies to the Triumph with BT 56 tires from Brigdestone. On the Suzuki, the high-level silencers spoil the passenger’s comfort, as even small feet hit the exhaust covers.
AT.Better to be alone, just the backpack on your back and your credit card in your wallet. This is the ideal equipment when Timmelsjoch, Jaufenpab and whatever their names are waiting. Even if the Suzuki in particular shows some small weaknesses: Here the second row is the first. We know that because shortly before St. Moritz, the three-man formation flies low past an R1 squadron with visibly drained pilots. In the fashionable ski resort, however, the ranking is quickly restored. In front of the cafe, the Yamahas are the focus of interest. Their drivers at the table next door can’t really look forward to it after the defeat shortly before. Here, in the heights, there are different laws.
Engine concepts that differ not only in terms of sound – music, two, three, four…
Dull throbbing or rather shrill tones? Three
Engine concepts that differ not only in terms of sound.
The best thing about prejudices is removing them from the world. For example the thing with the crude and gruff two-cylinder. A kitten of engine, this Suzuki TL 1000 R-Twin. This is of course due to the 90-degree configuration, which gives the crankshaft drive with its 98 millimeter pistons an excellent mass balance. Without balancing shafts, of course. If there is a rumble around below, it is much more due to the uneven power output. On the one hand, because two crankshaft revolutions are divided into just two work cycles, which also take place asymmetrically at a rhythm of 450 and 270 degrees. In return, the TL drive with smooth running and 107 Nm of torque blows a storm in five-digit speed regions. The fact that the piston and crank mechanism do not explode is primarily due to the extremely short-stroke construction of 66 millimeters (stroke to bore ratio: 0.67). Just one millimeter shorter in stroke (ratio 0.82), the Daytona 955 i-drive flies its flag. Not maximum performance, but torque is required. 102 Newton meters, accompanied by a hoarse hiss and, thanks to the responsive injection system, a start that dislocates your shoulders. Although the symmetrical crank pin offset of 120 degrees favors the mass balancing, the England three can not avoid a counter-rotating balance shaft to combat annoying vibrations. The reason: Due to the torque that occurs, triggered by the oscillating masses (piston and part of the connecting rod), the engine wants to tilt around its longitudinal axis, since the crankshaft drive of two cylinders is always asymmetrically moving upwards or downwards when the crankshaft rotates. The CBR 900 RR, with 916 cm³ the smallest test subject in the test, does quite well in terms of torque (96 Nm) and power delivery. Here, too, the declared design goal: full torque with moderate maximum performance. The way leads over a relatively long stroke (ratio 0.82) and relatively small carburetor cross-sections (38 millimeters). The disadvantage: the CBR four-cylinder cannot play to the extent that it is easy to turn and the associated high performance like a Kawasaki ZX-9R. When it comes to engine vibrations, the inline four-cylinder with a 90 degree crank pin offset and a balanced moment of inertia – the pistons go up and down in pairs – causes few problems. Conclusion: Suzuki’s TL 1000-Twin, originally planned for the Superbike World Championship, is the only one of the three engines that goes into the race radically trimmed for maximum performance. Triumph-Triple and Honda-Four, both not designed for racing, are clearly on the way to road-oriented sportiness: thrust in all situations without angry outbursts of performance.
The athletes on the racetrack – To the lap, please
Landstrasse is all well and good, but hand on heart: if you really want to know what’s going on, you should hit the road
Well then. The racetrack comparison, but this time completely different. Not on the hunt for lap times. Not even with pilots who do nothing else all day. Racing for beginners. No tenths count here, just having fun driving. So to the on-site appointment: Hockenheim, small race, the sun is smiling, the heart is pounding. And then the first few laps. A revelation. Not when it comes to driving skills. First, the knee stays on the tank. It is important to get to know the course. No, the tires take the first oath of disclosure. Especially the Bridgestone BT 56 Triumph, which is still so excellent on the road, surrenders to the rough race track surface, the faster speed and the higher temperatures and smears all its displeasure onto the asphalt when accelerating out. The TX 15/25 pairing on the Honda does slightly better in terms of grip, as does the ME Z3 from Metzeler, which, however, retain their inharmonious country road habits. It doesn’t help, the tires have to be down, so it’s a good thing that the Michelin van is just around the corner and has the latest generation of sports tires on board. Pilot Sport is the name of the rubbers that have already proven their membership several times. So up with it and off to the track – the difference is amazing. The Suzuki in particular is undergoing a thorough exchange. Bends far more precisely, while the hindquarters are still pumping, but the tire can no go along be disturbed by bumps. Not perfect, but still. The spring elements are readjusted at the next pit stop (see box). So, now it goes, because the engine has found its way back to its old level of performance in the flat Baden region. Even the hard use of gas is hardly a problem here, with sticky tires and the corresponding grip. The two-cylinder pushes even from slow corners that it’s a pleasure. So you can save yourself some gear changes and concentrate entirely on the line selection and braking points, which are always set later, because stability and controllability are convincing even at the racing pace. Only the vane damper at the rear is overwhelmed despite the compression and rebound stage being turned off. The conventional retrofit strut from Ohlins (price: 1780 marks) with reversing levers shows how it can be done better. Equipped like this, there is calm in the rear: The Triumph Daytona follows on from its good country road performance almost seamlessly. Here, where there is only full throttle or gas to be used, their performance drop in the middle speed range is even less disturbing. Accurately and equipped with an ingenious brake, it shoots around the course, can be accelerated out of the curves to the point and without load change reactions, scrapes clearly with the notches in an inclined position – and sometimes a little with the bend, is just fun. It could only use a stiffer spring in the rear – the Honda doesn’t make things that easy for beginners right away. Because even on the racetrack, the carburettors do not respond quite as spontaneously as the injections from the opponents. It therefore doesn’t push forward so brutally at the corner exit. The steering precision is also not quite as good as the TL 1000 R and especially the Triumph. Nevertheless, once shot in, you can do brisk laps with the Fireblade. Assuming that the very long fear nipples on the footrests move to the spare parts shelf beforehand. Then the Honda keys down a lot later, and appears most stable in the undulating full-throttle passages. And the moral of the story? Above all, the Suzuki is rehabilitating itself – equipped with the right tires – for its not flawless performance in the Alps, and with its power engine it is really fun on the race track. This was expected from the other two anyway, although the Daytona, with its overall good performance, can be considered an insider tip.
Honda CBR 900 RR – 2nd place
Balanced: For years the attribute for the Honda, whose combative surname Fireblade no longer wants to fit. Because over the years it has lost something of its originally wild character. What remains is a comfortable athlete who hardly anyone can fool. Hardly because the Triumph, with its direct nature and the robust engine, has the nose in front when driving hard. So her finish line is balanced. Second place, right in the middle.
Suzuki TL 1000 R – 3rd place
Strong V 2, stable aluminum frame, superbike ambitions – and still not a convincing performance. The TL 1000 R lacks what the CBR has. Balance. A little bad in many corners does not add up to a good grade, that’s that. The systems are very promising, and the highest weight in comparison does not play a decisive role under these conditions. Maybe the Suzuki just needs a little time. And urgently another designer.
Triumph Daytona 955i – 1st place
The Daytona is at the top of the podium because it’s a great motorcycle. And an excellent athlete, at least under these conditions. Clear feedback, sufficient reserves – and an engine with power and character. Even the good Honda finds it difficult to follow suit. In addition, there are detailed solutions made with a lot of love and an independent look despite some borrowings. Only the thing with the heat build-up should be thoroughly reconsidered in Hinckley.
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