Generation comparison: Honda and Yamaha
Superbikes then and now in comparison
What can the noble homologation models of the Superbike World Championship of the past millennium do against today’s bar goods? PS juxtaposes the Honda RVF 750 and Fireblade as well as the Yamaha YZF-R7 and YZF-R1.
Generation comparison: part 1
NOnly Ducati still does it, the rest are content with clunky off-the-shelf goods.
The last of its kind from the Far East were the legendary Honda RVF 750, aka RC45 and the Yamaha YZF-R7. The former was launched for the first time in 1994, the latter in 1999. Both with the unconditional order to win, both sinfully expensive and the R7 even only in a worldwide edition limited to 500 pieces. Both the RC45 and R7 surround themselves with an aura of the very special, stand out like the holy grail from the mass of ordinary drinking cup bikes. As usual, PS behaves disrespectfully and pulls the two royals from their fairytale half-sleep in the Hall of Fame back into the rough reality. To give them the spurs one more time and confront them with their youngest grandchildren, the Honda Fireblade and the YZF-R1.
Honda RVF 750 (RC45)
Honda RVF 750, factory code RC45: It was put into service in 1994 as the successor to the grayed-out RC30.
The RC45 had a tough time in many ways right from the start. Its predecessor, the RC30, was legendary during its lifetime, and expectations of its successor are correspondingly high. In 1994 they also had a strong and much cheaper competitor by their side with the Fireblade Type SC33. It was not allowed to play there because of the World Cup displacement limit for four-cylinders to 750 cubic meters, but it sold like sliced bread. And to top it all off, Desmo-Twins dressed in red dominated the World Cup. A start into a tough life under difficult conditions, for which the RVF seemed well equipped with its spur-wheel-driven V4 engine.
The brake is off the shelf and was also on the first Fireblade, while the double pipe exhaust comes from the accessories.
Its injection system alone, with its large, 46-millimeter intake funnels and its anti-hopping clutch, were high-tech in 1994. Titanium connecting rods, a first gear with a long gear ratio and the single-sided swing arm rounded off the classy equipment. Otherwise there was little gloss on the Honda, rather cloudy matt of the high-volume shelf. Ordinary switch elements are optically inconspicuous on it, neither fork bridges nor spring elements or other delicacies indicate its sporting purpose. So the RC45 is a blender? No, because despite its almost boring appearance and from today’s perspective old-fashioned ergonomics, the driven example, which is on a non-standard 17-inch front wheel and with Michelin Pilot Power 2CT in the dimensions 120 / 70-17 and 190/55 -17 was equipped to convince. Not overhanded, but neutrally and precisely, the RC45 can be angled, clapped in fast and tight radii and filed through.
Despite its 15 Lenze, the RVF has a transparently reporting landing gear that calmly complies with the wishes of the pilot on brisk country roads. There is never any hectic on the RC45, it can be maneuvered good-naturedly, is more of the calm type than the hyperventilating hectic. Their V4 engine, which provides sufficient thrust at all times, also fits.
Everything about the Yamaha R7 is elegant: the 23-liter aluminum tank is prepared for a quick tank system, and the deflection of the Öhlins shock absorber is milled from solid. The Yamaha was also equipped with a two-part cooler as standard.
The YZF-R7 is quite different. It lacks any serenity, it is hectic, uncompromising, 100 percent racing. It cannot be normal because it is not normal. Never before has a Japanese motorcycle been delivered from the factory more radically than the R7. The few R7s built were only reluctantly homologated by the legislature. And only because the regulations of the Superbike World Championship provide for it. Mentioned for the first time for the 1999 season, the R7, which included a racing kit, cost 55,000 marks and came out of the container with the finest components on board. The most obvious equipment feature was, of course, the Öhlins chassis, the strikingly large 23-liter aluminum tank prepared for quick tank systems, adjustable steering head angles and swing arm bearings, adjustable footrests and the milled lower triple clamp as well as the milled lever of the suspension strut, which is even length adjustable.
Noble parts: almost all parts of the R7 have been milled out.
In contrast, the five titanium valves in the CNC-milled combustion chambers, light pistons and titanium connecting rods work in secret. The transmission with ultra-long first gear and the injection system with two nozzles per cylinder (the shower bar in the air filter box is only activated with the racing kit and its injection computer) are further attributes of Yamaha’s merciless racing determination. The pilot pays tribute in the truest sense of the word in everyday operation on an OW-02. The handlebar stubs are only 15 millimeters higher than the seat cushion, the large tank is a whopping length and the knee joint only fits when the driver slides far back. Pain is the order of the day. Especially if the journey is not immediately clear. The four-in-line only has pressure from 8500 rpm. The engine falls under this category "Fuel-to-noise converter", So it delivers more sound than smoke.
Bends or tight corners always have to be negotiated with a slip clutch, preferably in a hang-off style, so that if the thing should be stalled at under 50 km / h, the driver’s knee can protect the panel from scratches. Narrow ground is therefore the death of the R7. It’s better on fluid routes. But then please with an aggressive, active driving style. This is the only way for the Yamaha to fully exploit its trump cards precision, stability and feedback. Passive cruising is not possible on the YZF-R7. Their top performance characteristics and the closely spaced gearbox always require full concentration in order to always keep the speed in the correct window and to have propulsion appropriate to your status at hand. Like a two-stroke engine, the R7 demands everything, but also gives everything in return. As little as the RC45 was a thoroughbred production racer, the OW-02 is so much. The Honda lacks real racing attitude, while the Yamaha YZF-R7 even has a little too much of it.
Fireblade & RC45
Modernity has moved in with the 2009 Fireblade. Regardless of whether ABS is subject to a surcharge or flaps in the exhaust stub, the computer controls and monitors many functions on the Honda.
And what about within the family? Are the 2009 Fireblade and the RVF 750 related in any way, or do they just share the wings on the tank and the fact that due to a change in regulations, the Fireblade for Honda has to get the coals out of the fire in the Superbike World Championship? In the case of the Hondas, there is no need for further discussion of the driving dynamics: The Fireblade has a whopping 50 hp more than its great grandmother. The RC45 was ergonomically old-fashioned back in 1994, the chassis geometry on the safe, conservative side. Today’s blade is superior to an RC45 in all respects except in terms of exclusivity. More power and performance, better brakes and a more manageable chassis are proof of the progress made in engineering over the past decade and a half.
Much more interesting is a, let’s call it philosophical, consideration of the Honda machines. Both the RC45 and Fireblade are high-tech products, trendsetters and pioneers. While the RC45 comes up with mechanical highlights such as the very elaborate V4 engine, the titanium connecting rods, the single-sided swing arm and an injection, the Fireblade offers an electronically controlled steering damper and a sporty ABS, which has now been copied by the competition. Another interesting aspect is the move away from the V4 concept towards the inline four-cylinder. At the time, Honda was the only Japanese brand to counter the powerful Ducati twin with a V concept. Everyone else tried poisonous row fours. Today Honda has also joined the crowd, while Yamaha bucked the trend and put an in-line engine with exceptional crank pin offset against the Ducatis. At Honda, in this regard, technological class has become a unit of measure.
Yamaha R1 and R7
The Yamaha R1 treats itself to its extras: be it the independent crankshaft concept or the six-piston caliper of the front brake.
It is a little different with the Yamaha siblings. Unlike the Hondas, R1 and R7 are not more than a decade apart, but only just under ten years. Hardly in all respects, because if you only look at the R7, you will recognize the original R1, which was developed in parallel – one of the biggest hits of the last millennium. From today’s perspective, almost everything on the YZF-R7 is still modern – apart from the seated position that is too stretched out, the tank that is too wide and the handlebars that are too low. Geometry, wheelbase, balance and, last but not least, the look still fit in the sales room and on the street even in 2009.
The R7, for this story with Michelin Pilot Power 2CT in size 190/55 on the rear six-inch rim, is on par with the youngest member of the R1 family, at least on the country road. It cuts into quick arcs in a handy and very precise manner, reports on the condition of the road with great precision and even allows playful line corrections in an inclined position. This bike is ten years old? Never! Only the very blunt brake does not fit into the picture of this sharp racer.
Not surprisingly, however, is the fact that the 750 engine sees no sun compared to the brilliant liter engine of the R1. While the thousands are convincing in all respects except when it comes to fuel consumption, the R7 is actually impassable in normal operation. Built for racing, the five-valve engine creates frustration instead of pleasure. The hard throttle response alone with the associated load shocks in the drive train can drive the pilot insane. Then the missing punch below 8500 rpm and the eternally long first gear. The only bright spot is the hydraulic clutch actuation. It runs very smoothly and is therefore driver-friendly because it is used very often. Why is this feature mentioned? Because the Italians, especially those from Bologna, have not yet managed to build hydraulically operated clutches with little operating force.
At this point a note to the R7 lender Mr. Klein. He has promised an R7 with R1 engine for the next Tuner GP to support this thesis – with flames, my dear!
Cult or shock?
Left to right: Honda Fireblade C-ABS, Honda RVF 750 (RC45), Yamaha YZF-R7 and Yamaha YZF-R1
Both! Of course, neither the RVF 750 nor the YZF-R7 can keep up with the modern flag bearers of the brands in terms of sporting aspects. But on the other hand, these will never achieve their cult status. However, it is astonishing, almost shocking, how different the approaches of the two brands were towards the same goal, the Superbike World Championship. While Honda offered a rider-friendly motorcycle as a base, which is still very rideable from today’s perspective, Yamaha took a different approach. Radical, brutal, aggressive. While an RC45 simply drives and can also stroll, the pilot has to work hard for the Yamaha YZF-R7. If he does that, he can be happy. If he doesn’t, he despairs. So it is hardly surprising that Honda finally broke through the Ducati supremacy in the SBK World Championship and won the title with John Kocinski in 1997, while Yamaha with Noriyuki Haga missed out on the two years of service.
Technical data Honda RVF 750
Four-cylinder 90-degree V-engine, 4 valves / cylinder, 88 kW (120 PS) at 12000 / min *, 76 Nm at 10000 / min *, 749 cm³, bore / stroke 72.0 / 56.0 mm, Compression ratio 11.5: 1, ignition / injection system, 46 mm throttle valves, hydraulically operated multi-disc oil bath anti-hopping clutch, six-speed gearbox
Light alloy bridge frame, steering head angle: 65.7 degrees, caster: 92 mm, wheelbase: 1410 mm. Upside-down fork, Ø fork inner tube: 41 mm, adjustable in spring base, rebound and compression. Central spring strut with deflection, adjustable in spring base, rebound and compression. Suspension travel front / rear: 120/130 mm
Wheels and brakes:
Light alloy cast wheels, 3.50 x 16"/6.00 x 17", Front tires: 130/70 ZR 16, rear: 190/50 ZR 17. First tires: Dunlop Sportmax II. 310 mm double disc brake with four-piston fixed calipers at the front, 220 mm single disc with two-piston fixed caliper at the rear
Measurements and weight:
Length / width / height 2165/710/1100 mm, seat / handlebar height 790/840 mm, handlebar width 635 mm, 212 kg fully fueled, f / r 50.5% / 49.5%
Rear wheel power in last gear:
83 kW (113 PS) at 225 km / h
Acceleration 0 – 100/150/200 km / h 3.7 s / 6.5 s / 11.1 s, torque 50 – 100/100 – 150 km / h: 5.4 s / 5 , 4 s
248 km / h
Fuel type: Super unleaded. Average test consumption: 7.4 liters / 100 km, tank capacity 18 liters, range: 243 km
43,580 marks (1994 plus utilities)
Honda Fireblade, Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R, Suzuki GSX-R 1000, Yamaha YZF-R1
1000s in a racetrack comparison
Technical data Honda Fireblade
Four-cylinder in-line engine, 4 valves / cylinder, 131 kW (178 PS) at 11200 / min *, 112 Nm at 8500 / min *, 1000 cm³, bore / stroke: 76.0 / 55.1 mm, compression ratio: 12.3 : 1, ignition / injection system, 46 mm throttle valves, mechanically operated multi-disc oil bath anti-hopping clutch, six-speed gearbox, G-Kat
Light alloy bridge frame, steering head angle: 66.8 degrees, caster: 96 mm, wheelbase: 1410 mm, upside-down fork, Ø fork inner tube: 43 mm, adjustable in spring base, rebound and compression stage, central spring strut with deflection, adjustable in spring base, Rebound and compression stage, front / rear suspension travel: 120/135 mm
Wheels and brakes:
Light alloy cast wheels, 3.50 x 17"/6.00 x 17", Front tires: 120/70 ZR 17, rear: 190/50 ZR 17. First tires: Bridgestone BT 015 "F.". 320 mm double disc brake with four-piston fixed calipers at the front, 320 mm single-disc brake with single-piston floating caliper at the rear
Measurements and weight:
Length / width / height: 2090/830/1130 mm, seat / handlebar height: 815/860 mm, handlebar width: 650 mm, 209 kg fully fueled, v./h .: 51.8 / 48.2%
Rear wheel power in last gear:
120.8 kW (164 hp) at 257 km / h
Acceleration 0 ?? – 100/150/200 km / h: 3.3 / 5.2 / 7.5 s, pulling speed 50 ?? – 100/100 ?? – 150 km / h: 4.5 / 3.6 s
293 km / h
Fuel type: Super unleaded. Average test consumption: 6.3 liters / 100 km, tank capacity: 17.7 liters, range: 281 km
14 790 euros (plus Nk, C-ABS 1000 euros surcharge, HRC paintwork 100 euros)
Technical data Yamaha YZF-R7
Four-cylinder in-line engine, 5 valves / cylinder, 78 kW (106 HP) at 11000 / min *, 72 Nm at 9000 / min *, 749 cm³, bore / stroke 72.0 / 546.0 mm, compression ratio 11.4: 1 , Ignition / injection system with two injection nozzle strips, 46 mm throttle valves, hydraulically operated multi-disc oil bath clutch, six-speed gearbox
Light alloy bridge frame, steering head angle: 66.2-68.2 degrees, caster: 100-90 mm, wheelbase: 1400 mm. Upside-down fork, Ø fork inner tube: 43 mm, adjustable in spring base, rebound and compression. Central spring strut with deflection, adjustable in length, spring base, rebound and compression. Suspension travel front / rear: 138/120 mm
Wheels and brakes:
Light alloy cast wheels, 3.50 x 17"/6.00 x 17", Front tires: 120/70 ZR 17, rear: 180/55 ZR 17. First tires: Pirelli MTR 01A / 08 Corsa. 320 mm double disc brake with four-piston fixed callipers at the front, 245 mm single disc with two-piston fixed calliper at the rear
Measurements and weight:
Length / width / height 2060/720/1125 mm, seat / handlebar height 820/835 mm, handlebar width 670 mm, 208.5 kg fully fueled, f / r 52.3% / 47.7%
Rear wheel power in last gear:
89 kW (121 PS) at 246 km / h
Acceleration 0 ?? – 100/150/200 km / h 4.4 s / 6.9 s / 10.9 s, pulling power 50 ?? – 100/100 ?? – 150 km / h: 7.8 s / 9 , 0 s
278 km / h
Fuel type: Super Plus unleaded. Average test consumption: 6.7 liters / 100 km, tank capacity 23 liters, range: 343 km
49625 marks (1999 plus NK and 5931 marks for racing kit)
Technical data Yamaha YZF-R1
Four-cylinder in-line engine, 4 valves / cylinder, 134 kW (182 PS) at 12500 / min *, 116 Nm at 10000 / min *, 998 cm³, bore / stroke: 78.0 / 52.2 mm, compression ratio: 12.7 : 1, ignition / injection system, 45 mm throttle valves, mechanically operated multi-disc oil bath anti-hopping clutch, six-speed gearbox, G-Kat
Light alloy bridge frame, steering head angle: 66.0 degrees, caster: 102 mm, wheelbase: 1415 mm, upside-down fork, Ø fork inner tube: 43 mm, adjustable spring base, rebound and compression level. Central spring strut with deflection, adjustable in spring base, rebound and compression stage, spring travel from / h .: 120/120 mm
Wheels and brakes:
Light alloy cast wheels, 3.50 x 17"/6.00 x 17", Front tires: 120/70 ZR 17, rear: 190/55 ZR 17. First tires: Michelin Pilot Power, front "P", 310 mm double disc brake with six-piston fixed calipers at the front, 220 mm single disc with single-piston floating caliper at the rear
Measurements and weight:
Length / width / height: 2090/775/1120 mm, seat / handlebar height: 820/840 mm, handlebar width: 650 mm, 214 kg fully fueled, v./h .: 52.3 / 47.7%
Rear wheel power in last gear:
117 kW (159 PS) at 263 km / h
Acceleration 0 – 100/150/200 km / h: 3.2 / 5.1 / 7.5 s, pulling power: 50 – 100/100 – 150 km / h: 4.0 / 3, 9 s
285 km / h
Fuel type: Super unleaded. Average test consumption: 7.1 liters / 100 km, tank capacity: 18 liters, range: 254 km
15950 Euro (plus additional costs) The Honda lines are very similar, but they play in different leagues. It’s linear, with no treacherous break-ins or outbreaks, very driver-friendly and easy to manage. The YZF-R7 celebrated what a performance curve shouldn’t look like. As wavy as an African gravel road, it plagues the pilot with inharmonious performance, hang-ups and tears. She doesn’t know about pulling power, only full loading between 8500 and 13500 rpm. The R1 is completely different. Thanks to the short translation, it can be used anytime, anywhere.
Power on the crankshaft, measurements on Dynojet roller dynamometer 150.
The Honda lines are very similar, but play in different leagues. It’s linear, without treacherous break-ins or outbreaks, very driver-friendly and easy to manage. The YZF-R7 celebrated what a performance curve shouldn’t look like. As wavy as an African gravel road, it plagues the pilot with inharmonious power delivery, hang-ups and tears. She does not know about pulling power, only full loading between 8500 and 13,500 rpm. The R1 is completely different. Thanks to the short translation, it can be used anytime, anywhere.
Noble bikes in racing
Aaron Slight, here still without his starting number 111, drove the RC45 in the World Championships from 1994 to 1999.
Both the Honda RVF 750, factory code RC45, and the Yamaha YZF-R7, internally called OW-02, were built exclusively as base vehicles for the booming World Superbike Championship.
It was put into service in 1994 as the successor to the graying RC30 and should finally scare the dominating Ducati armada. The Japanese only succeeded to a limited extent with the very elaborate V4 concept. Even double world champion Carl Fogarty could not fight for the desired world title on her in 1996 and only finished fourth overall. It was not until 1997 that the RC45 won the world title under John Kocinski. At the end of 1999 it and its V4 concept were replaced by the Twin VTR 1000 SP-1.
Haga and Yamaha, the R7 with the 41, have burned themselves into the hard drives of Superbike fans for ages. Although Haga was only runner-up in 2000 before the factory Yamaha withdrawal from the World Cup, he was always a candidate for race wins. No one else could move the OW-02 to the limit and beyond that as he did. Trophy or hospital, that’s Haga’s motto on the Yamaha R7.
From left: Honda Fireblade & RVF 750 versus Yamaha YZF-R7 & YZF-R1
The RC45 and the R7 are two extraordinary sports motorcycles and are more different than they could possibly be. The series Honda is pious, the Yamaha a beast. From a sporting point of view, the RC45 was significantly more successful, especially on the Isle of Man or at national championships. The R7, on the other hand, only flashed briefly and was never further developed. Whereby there is more R7 in the original R1 than you might think. At this point a note to the R7 lender Mr. Klein. He has promised an R7 with R1 engine for the next Tuner GP to support this thesis – with flames, my dear!
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