Pure sports bikes. Built with one aim in mind – speed and performance. Here, in part two, Greg looks at a couple more of the big players from a decade ago.
For newcomers, let’s recap what we talked about in part one.
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.
JAPAN 1000 INC.
We are going to concentrate on the big Japanese four. We’ll look at the 2010 KAWASAKI ZX-10R 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.
2010 KAWASAKI ZX-10R
Price when new: $19,499 plus on road costs
There is no doubt that Kawasaki lost its way when it came to producing performance motorcycles in the mid-nineties.
It gave the porky ZX-9R the significant job of carrying its big bore sporting flag, allowing the other three Big Japs to steal the performance march.
In the seventies to mid-eighties, Kawasaki had ruled the roost when it came to balls-out rockets. Yes, there was the ZXR750 and later the ZX-7R, but the latter came out at a time when the 750cc category was starting to become a little on the nose with buyers. Indeed, the ZX-10R put the big K back in the ballpark in a big way.
Power comes from a 998cc, liquid-cooled, fuel-injected, inline, DOHC, 16-valve, four-cylinder engine developing 140kW.
Suspension duties are carried out by 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 there’s a single 220mm disc with single-piston caliper.
Wet weight is 208kg, seat height 830mm, fuel capacity 17 litres.
In a clear effort to regain its place at the top of the performance tree, Kawasaki admits that this one had been tuned for a screaming top-end.
It referred to the engine as having “a performance potential very similar to Kawasaki’s factory superbike racing machines, making it essentially a race-ready engine.”
The stance of the bike also reflected this with the backbone twin-tube frame allowing the bike to reflect a very narrow feel. Race bike for the road perhaps?
THE PICK IF YOU LIKE:
Revs. This thing was ballistic from around 10,000rpm through to the 13,300rpm redline. It looked like a race bike and behaved like one; you’ll feel like a Superbike star. Equal highest power-to-weight ratio of the category at 0.90bhp/kg. This one was the horsepower king.
NOT THE BEST HERE AT:
Comfort. The Kwaka seating position is extreme. If you were riding short distances at rocket pace, this one would suit – a long tripster it was not. Gearing is tall, making for slower roll-on times from 100-160km/h. Heaviest on juice-use of the four as well.
2010 Yamaha YZF-R1
Price when new: $19,999 plus on-road costs
The much awaited R1 hit Aussie shores in 1998 to worldwide acclaim.
The bike dragged the sports bike fraternity to larger engine capacities, setting the benchmark for everyone else to reach.
Honda was stuck with a Fireblade that was looking a little underpowered next to the R1, Suzuki knew it had to get busy and produce a litre bike, but it took two years to come up with the GSX-R1000 – and Kawasaki was simply sound asleep.
Yep, Yam had got it right and the R1 positioned it as the clear leader in both sports bike technology and market savvy.
Well, in 2010 the field was as strong as it should have been and Yam had to work very hard to hold a place near the head of the pack.
The latest Yamaha continued that tradition of sneaking a smart lead with the introduction of a cross plane crankshaft, which produces an ‘irregular firing order’ – just like Valentino Rossi’s M1 MotoGP bike of the time.
Cornering traction was significantly improved by this.
Power comes from a 998cc, liquid-cooled, fuel-injected, inline, DOHC, 16-valve, four-cylinder engine developing 138kW.
Suspension is fully adjustable 43mm inverted forks and a fully adjustable single shock at the rear.
Brakes are dual radial-mounted, six-piston calipers with floating 310mm discs and at the rear there’s a single 220mm disc with single-piston caliper.
Wet weight is 206kg, seat height 835mm, fuel capacity 18 litres.
There was a drive mode (D-MODE), which let the rider decide between three throttle response settings using a bar-mounted switch.
Differing from Suzuki’s S-DMS system which limits actual power production, the R1’s system changed the intensity of throttle response. Pretty nifty stuff.
THE PICK IF YOU LIKE:
Technology. There is no doubt that the cross-plane crank assisted in cornering traction and the thing just sounds so horn with that firing order that I’d have one for that alone. Equal highest power-to-weight ratio at 0.90bhp/kg.
NOT THE BEST HERE AT:
Top-end rush. Nice tall first gear gets you away, but then it ambles a bit. Of course, it was a rocket, but in relative terms the others tended to ‘excite’ at the top. Serious bum and leg heating issues from the underseat exhaust too.
There you have it, the Japanese superbikes. Very similar, but subtly different, each will appeal to a certain type of rider. One this 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!
Snag’s career in motoring journalism spans 29 years with stints at major bike mags Australian Road Rider, Motorcycle Trader and AMCN along with contributions to just about every other outlet worth a hill of beans. He was editor of Unique Cars magazine and hosts his legendary podcast ‘Snag Says’ when he gets off his date.