The Rocketships. Built with one aim in mind – sports performance. Greg looks at the big players from a decade ago…

Litre bikes were the flavour of the Month in a big way in 2010. The Adventure fervour of today was just a glint in a marketing genius’ mind at that time.

Then, as now, there was difficulty inherent in separating the major offerings sitting impatiently on lightweight sidestands in showrooms right across this wide brown land.

Put simply, the similarities far outweighed the differences.

There seems to be a formula that worked – influenced strongly by World Superbike racing – and Japan Inc was sticking furiously to the script. The argument was that all were hugely competent, and that’s a very tough position to counter. If you like it hard and fast (now, now…), the crop of litre sports bikes available in 2010 would have you giggling like a schoolgirl after three Bacardi Breezers.

Let’s get one thing straight from the outset. These things were uncomfortable.

Due to the design brief of ‘performance’, litre bikes had low bars, rear-set and high clearance footpegs, forward canted and small seats and stiff suspension. Not a great deal of change there in 2020.

That all added to the inherent ability of the bike to travel quickly and get around corners with agility. It’s not about you and your relationship with your chiropractor. Get used to it.

Tie-down points were minimal, there was no luggage add-on options list and pillions hated you.

That’s the bad news. Relax, there is plenty of good.


We are going to concentrate on the big Japanese four. We’ll look at the 2010 Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade and 2010 Suzuki GSX-R1000 this time around.

Very similar across the board on paper, it is surprising how different these bikes are in operation. In some areas we are splitting hairs, but you really do needed to do your homework in this sector, such were the subtle but very important variations in operation.

Price when new: $19,490 plus ORC

The Fireblade moniker enjoys huge brand credibility and this comes in spades if you chose the latest incarnation. The designation itself haD come to represent Honda’s flagship sports offering since its release way back in 1992.

Losing its way around the turn of the new century with the release of the Yamaha YZF-R1 (1999) and the Suzuki GSX-R1000 (2001) due to those bikes offering larger capacities with which the Blade’s 929cc could simply not compete, the bike was upped in capacity in 2004 and now boasted 999cc.

This brought it back to around the top of the heap once more.

Power comes from a 999cc, liquid-cooled, fuel-injected, inline, DOHC, 16-valve, four-cylinder engine developing 175.6hp (131kW).

Suspension sees fully adjustable 43mm inverted forks, while the rear has a Pro-Link single shock, once again, fully adjustable.

Brakes are dual radial-mounted, four-piston calipers with floating 320mm discs and at the rear a single 220mm disc and single-piston caliper.

Honda offered Honda Electronic Combined ABS (e-CABS) as an option for an extra grand.

This was claimed to “minimise the pitch tendency, enhancing balance and stability while providing the ABS and CBS advantages of smooth, easy braking and wheel lock prevention.

“Exhaustive testing on road and track has shown that our electronically-controlled “Combined ABS” enhances control while retaining cornering feel”.

Okay, that was the press blurb, but Honda had been seriously messing about with combined braking for a long while and the system had been given a big thumbs-up by testers worldwide.

A big plus for those in the market and a tick in the Honda box, right there.

Wet Weight is 199kg , seat height 820mm and fuel capacity 17.7 litres.

Honda offered an impressive range of optional add-ons which include carbon fibre accent parts (hugger, front guard and crankcase covers).

There were tank pads, a seat cowl, taller screen, paddocks stands among others.


Engine useability. The Fireblade powerplant was a huge achievement. Making delightful power brilliantly through the midrange, this was the friendliest and most forgiving of the engines in the category, certainly when it came to road use, which is where it matters. Build quality was also second to none.


There’s not much to pick on when it comes to the FireBlade, but it was not the fastest bike in the category (top-end). We have to wonder whether that was simply academic, but we are talking ‘sports’ so it is a factor for some buyers – it has the equal lowest power to weight ratio of our four at 0.89bhp/kg.

Suzuki GSX-R1000
Price new: $18,995 plus ORC

Similar to the brand recognition that is afforded the Fireblade model designation, the GSX-R logo had come to represent Suzuki’s jewel in the crown.

In short, anything with that moniker has to cut the mustard against the latest and greatest sport offerings. From release in 2001, the GSX-R1000 has never disappointed on that front.

Suzuki set the benchmark for sports bikes when it released the GSX-R1000. It was simply the thing to have at that time and sales figures worldwide reflected that.

Power comes from a 999cc, liquid-cooled, fuel-injected, inline, DOHC, 16-valve, four-cylinder engine developing 135kW.

Suspension sees fully adjustable 43mm inverted forks, and a fully adjustable single shock at the rear.

Brakes are dual radial-mounted, four-piston calipers with floating 310mm discs and at the rear a single 220mm disc single-piston caliper.
Wet weight is 206kg, (172 dry), seat height 810mm and fuel capacity 17.5 litres.

Suzuki’s S-DMS drive mode system allowed the rider to select from three different engine power output maps depending on road conditions or individual rider experience.

A nice idea and a fun thing to play with, Suzuki had tried to bring the sports experience to new people with this feature and should be applauded for that. You could ease into the Salvador Dali experience slowly that way…

The range adjustable pegs were a nice touch, giving a buyer the chance to make the bike fit.

Suzuki offered a large range of add-on parts to accessorise the GSX-R including: gel seat, taller screen, tank covers, and tank pads, among others.


Balance and comfort. The Gixxer was very composed in a variety of situations. Also offers the best fuel economy in the category.


Midrange get up and go. Power is made high in the rev range.

It was be very potent on a ride day, where you can use that sort of go, but in the middle, real-world, it was pipped by the Honda. And, what was the go with those mufflers?
Equal lowest power to weight ratio in the category at 0.89bhp/kg.


There you have it, Part One of our look at the 2010 crop of Japanese superbikes.

In Part Two we look at the 2010 Kawasaki ZX-10R and the 2010 Yamaha YZF-R1.

Very similar, but subtly different, each will appeal to a certain type of rider.

One thing is absolutely certain – with respect, unless you are very, very good, all will be better than you. I know for certain that each of them can outride me!

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