Wednesday, April 26, 2006

2006 Middleweight Supersport Shootout

Honda CBR 600RR : Kawasaki ZX-6R : Suzuki GSX-R600 : Triumph 675 : Yamaha YZF R6

By the MO Staff, April, 2006

Buttonwillow Raceway Park, CA -- Not too big, not too small. Not too slow, not too fast. The middleweight supersport category -- cutting-edge sporting tackle bigger than 500cc and smaller than 750cc -- is a hotly contested category that has grown in popularity since the class's inception in the mid-1980s. Around this time of year, the first robin of spring is drowned out by the howl of 14,000 rpm engines bouncing off the rev limiters as the magazines torture the latest bikes to determine which bike will be the hot ticket for that riding season.

We here at MO have a great love for 600cc machines, as well as a great love of free tracktime, tires and crispy fried foods. So every year we call up the manufacturers, procure trackday
tires, and poach some tracktime from a cooperative trackday organizer. We've done it so many
times now it practically runs itself.

The fly in the ointment was Triumph announcing the potential Jim Thorpe of middleweight sportbikes, the Daytona 675 triple. We figured we could ignore it and do our usual Honda-Kawasaki-Yamaha-Suzuki thing like we've been doing since 1997, but the feedback and buzz on the message boards indicated we would have to somehow get the Triumph to maintain even a shred of dignity and credibility with our attractive and discerning readership.

Triumph wouldn't have one available for us until 2009, and Publisher Sean Alexander had just spent our last $8,999 bailing his manservant Abdul out of county jail yet again, so we couldn't buy one. We put out a frantic call to our readers, and by some miracle, a bike materialized.
We have the 675. We have the new Suzuki GSXR 600. We have the new Yamaha YZF- R6. We also have the Honda CBR600RR and Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R. They have fresh tires, there's a trackday scheduled, and we have enough gas, snacks, lap timers and other implements of destruction to get the job done. Good MOridian, set your phone to "out of office" and hang the "Back In 15 Minutes" sign on your cubicle. It's Supersport Shootout time once again.

Five Bikes, but Only One is Best: The Competitors

Picking contenders for this annual comparison is easy; since the mid-90s, each of the Japanese factories has offered a cutting-edge middleweight sportbike. In 1999, Yamaha upped the ante with their YZF-R6, which offered uncompromising, track-oriented performance and handling. In 2003, Kawasaki fired back with a 636cc machine with very focused ergonomics, and even Honda -- long known for building slightly softer bikes that offered friendly, balanced performance with a CBR600RR, based on their hi-tech MotoGP racer. This year is as exciting as 2003, with the
addition of two all-new machines. The Triumph is the big news, as it signals the abandonment of the English, company's strategy of attempting to compete with the Japanese on their terms. Instead, the 102 year-old marque uses their signature engine configuration --the inline-triple
-- to offer consumers a lighter, slimmer machine with the same top-end hit as a 600cc inline-four and the grunty torque of a middleweight twin.

The other big news is an all-new Yamaha YZF-R6. Lighter, faster and with aggressive styling, the new Yammie boasted a 17,500 rpm redline -- at least until it was discovered that the tachometer was optimistic, reading over 1,000 rpm higher than actual crank speeds. Still, it's a light, fast and potent sporting machine that has some of the most amazing looks we've seen in any sportbike.

As if these two new missiles weren't enough, Suzuki snuck in an all-new GSXR 600 for 2006. It's based on their incredibly versatile and dominating GSXR 1000, which is a blend of speed, comfort and incredible handling prowess. We also can't ignore the Honda and the Kawasaki, which we tested last year. They return for 2006 mostly unchanged, but they are still very good and looking for trouble. It's a motojournalism cliché to say they are all excellent bikes, but the level of competition in this class makes this a true statement. How do we determine which one is best?

Who Ordered Rain? The Test

To figure out which bike is best, we have to actually ride all the bikes. Poor us. Lining up the four Japanese bikes was fairly easy, but Triumph wasn't as forthcoming about pooping a 675 on command. "We'll put your name on the list and let you know when it's available" they said, and judging by the 14-month wait we had for the Rocket III, we'd rather not hold our breath.
So we put out an all-points bulletin for a MO reader with a 675 we could flog. We got many
responses from all over the country, but we settled on loyal MO reader Ole (say "ol'-ee")
Holter of Long Beach, CA, a piston's throw away from MO's Torrance headquarters. In exchange for the use of his shiny new 675 for a couple of days, we gave him a measly two sets of $300 tires, lodging, meals, a trackday, free racetrack coaching, two dyno runs and all the gas he could burn. What a sucker!

Pirelli launches the Diablo Corsa, the first tire with the revolutionary MIRS™ technology

Pirelli creates their latest tire without the use of those bothersome "humans." Sounding similar but completely unrelated to the dated Russian space station, MIRS ( Modular Integrated Robotized System) developed by Pirelli R&D, is now utilized in Pirelli's production of their Diablo Corsa. The strength of this process is in "allowing the construction of a one-piece seamless cover, the new production method provides users with a tire whose qualitative standards are on a
different plane than those obtained via the traditional process: absolute structural uniformity, no vibration or tire imbalance, and maximum comfort in road use." Pirelli also touts the "uniformity guaranteed by MIRS™ that permitted Pirelli engineers to develop the unique mix of compounds that render the tire suitable for use on the track." he end result of all this tech is to offer riders who "use their Supersport bikes more for trackdays (70%) than on the road (30%)" faster riding enjoyment, peace of mind in all weather conditions and racetrack performance. An additional feature of the latest radial member of the Diablo family is a tire that is perfectly matched
in motion to it's mate because the tire's profile always keeps the most suitable shape thanks to Pirelli's ICS (Ideal Contour Shaping) design and 0 degree steel belt construction. Imagine, all that from some soul-less robot.

Tread pattern plays an important role, with the front tire being "assigned the task to 'attack' water layers to clean the asphalt", thereby leaving what water is left in the path of the rear tire
to be dispersed even further by way of transversal grooves between the center and shoulder sections of the tire with the remaining area being slick so as to be tractable and stable.
Man, those robots sure know how to make one heck of a tire.

With five bikes procured, we needed to level the playing field by putting equal, track-ready tires on them. A call to Pirelli sent a couple of pallets of Diablo Corsas to spoon on. The Corsa is a step up from the regular Diablo, offering more grip and a carcass better suited to track use, yet that is still suitable for street riding in all kinds of weather conditions; this last feature was to be useful later in the test. Ole himself turned out to also be a useful resource, because not only did he provide a spare rider to help with the test (motojournalist and author of 101 Sportbike Performance Projects Evans Brasfield had to cancel), but he also mapped a route for us to Buttonwillow Raceway for the racetrack testing. The route went through some of the
most spectacular roads in Southern California, with almost no Interstate involved. We started
near Glendale at the Angeles Crest Highway and worked our way over to Lancaster, where we
took flat, empty and wind-blown Highway 138 to I-5. After watching Publisher Sean "Editor
Emeritus" Alexander consume a 1.5 pound chimichanga in a horrifying, anaconda-like manner at a very tasty Mexican restaurant, we headed in a top-secret direction on one of the most excellent roads we've seen to do our photo passes and enjoy the handling and motor of the
best sportbikes made. The road is so good, MOridians, that we will not reveal, even under
torture, the name or location of the road.

Sadly, the weather Gods did not smile on us, lightly sprinkling us with rain for the remainder of the test. We stayed dry enough to enjoy some more high-speed hijinks on another top-secret road near the racetrack, and then retired to the palatial (compared to some other Buttonwillow area motels) Buttonwillow Inn and Suites after a traditional charred large-mammal dinner at the Willow Ranch barbecue. The next morning it was off to Buttonwillow Raceway for the racetrack evaluation. Composed of 14 twists and turns, Buttonwillow is already a technical challenge that highlights a machine's suspension and responsiveness.

Trackday organizer Ti2TT decided, after getting strong customer demand, to run the full
course backwards, in a counter-clockwise direction for more fun and challenge. Now exits would become entrances, increasing radii turns would be decreasing ones, and apex would be in the wrong place. If there was a place that flexible, easy-to-ride and forgiving characteristics of a bike would shine, this was it.

Did I forget to mention the forecast for rain?

Fortunately, we did not have to go it alone. Honda, Yamaha and Kawasaki all sent their tech support staff to keep their bikes clean, fueled and perfectly tuned for each rider's preferences, and the Suzuki and Triumph had their suspenders dialed in by the very competent hands of Dave Moss of Catalyst Reaction suspension.

The Riders

Ole Holton
195 lbs, 6'3", 42 yrs, Favorite Fried Food: Clam Strips
An electrical engineer for a large corporation that builds expensive and destructive machines for the government, Ole (say "Ol-ee") was a natural to test expensive and destructive motorcycles for us. He has been riding motorcycles for 16 years and is the proud owner of the grey 675 we used in the test. He stood up to Sean's withering torrent of foul jokes and alpha-male posturing with flying colors and rode a passel of unfamiliar motorcycles with confidence and verve on our test. He is currently building a death-ray to attach to Ashley's RV.

Eric Putter
150 Pounds, 5'6", 41 years old,
Favorite Fried Food: Crispy Power Bar
We also enlisted the throttle-twisting services of Eric Putter, a 20-year veteran motojournalist. He's a former 600 owner and racer who is now an unabashed open-class streetbike devotee. He currently rides a lightly modded Yamaha FZ1 and is in the market for a middleweight track-day steed to offset his diminutive Honda NSR50 race bike. He attended the R6's press introduction and
recently spent a day riding all of this year's open-class sportbikes.

Mike Goff
152 lbs., 5' 7", 48 years old, Favorite
Fried Food: Sashimi
Remarkable for not eating land animals and being married to a former Mouseketeer, (Mary) Mike (also an engineer for an aerospace firm) proved his mettle by riding in wet leathers over the 4100-foot Tejon Pass in the rain and then eating a large and greasy In-n-Out cheeseburger at Sean's urging. He's a true enthusiast with 18 years of riding under his belt and over 60,000 miles on his 1998 CBR 900RR as well as odd tastes in motorcycling footwear.

"Editor Emeritus" Alexander: 225 pounds, 6'2", 37 years old,
Favorite Fried Food: Lots of it.
Pugnacious, gracious, tenacious and with the innate fashion sense of a Mexican Soap Opera star, Dirty finishes up his tenure here at MO with this shootout. He is known throughout the industry for having a flawless moral sense, an incredible knowledge of anything and everything with a motor, and being incredibly filthy-minded, with nothing off-limits to his foul and offensive sense of humor.

Sean is also wicked fast on the track or street and can go faster then most mortals while riding one-handed. He will be sorely missed by all of us here at MO who don't offend easily. Editor Ets-Hokin has spent the last four days sitting outside Sean's office, waiting for him to take him to lunch. We don't have the heart to tell him he's not coming back.

Gabe "Are We There Yet" Ets-Hokin
157 pounds, 5'6",
Favorite Fried Food: Please, no more.
Woody Allen once said, "90% of success is just showing up." To prove that true, Gabe stuck through 14 months of almost daily abuse from MO's executive power structure to move to the front of the line and become the Editor when Dirty left the building.

More than qualified to plan, execute and write content for MO, Gabe is an AFM expert roadracer and former trackday coach who still can't wheelie on command. He is, however, furry, warm and easy to subdue, characteristics that make him popular on long road trips.

After a trackday that was disrupted by an afternoon rainshower, we packed up MOvan, connected electric vests, and got on I-5 for a chilly, rain-soaked 150-mile trip back to the office. The next day, we commenced to put the bikes on the MO DynoJet Dynamometer and hash out our votes. As always, votes are based on the 100 percent subjective impressions of our five
testers. We ask ourselves which of these bikes we'd want to own if we happened upon the necessary cash for the asking price of each one. We then tallied the votes and turned in our notes and impressions. One week later, the finished story is presented for your enlightenment.

Fifth Place: Suzuki GSXR 600

If you're a club racer, you probably ride a Suzuki. The Blue Team's products are so balanced, so race-ready, that even a lowly commuter tool like the SV650 is on almost every club-racing grid in the United States. So it surprised us when the fabulous, all-new GSXR 600 came in last place.
If you're looking for a ride to show off on, the GSXR shows itself off pretty well. The styling is aggressive and balanced, with some futuristic touches like the exposed engine cases, built-in
turnsignals in the rear and tucked-in rear fender.

We all liked the electric-blue treatment on the wheels; Ole called it "absolutely gorgeous" and liked the way it made the wheels stand out. Sean said the bike was "an absolute stunner in direct
sunlight." Mike was a little less appreciative, saying that the instrument display "just looked
exceptionally cheap" and that the long shift linkage looked like an afterthought. However, nobody could deny the bike has a compact, aggressive look that sums up what a 600-class
sportbike should be.

Slipping aboard, we all noticed a very tight riding position. The bars seem lower than the larger GSXR's, and the pegs a bit higher, too, although they are adjustable for three positions over a 14 mm range, a classy and welcome touch. Eric noted that even if it did feel "like it had a "sit-in"
(instead of "sit on top" feel), the short-tanked GSX-R felt best... [it's] the most oddly comfortable of the lot." Gabe also liked the cramped quarters, noting it felt comfortable and familiar on the track, the way GSXRs often do. Tall guys might not agree with our more dainty testers; Ole complained that "for riding long distances, the GSXR6 is the worst of this bunch". However, nobody buys these things to tour on (unless they are masochistic or jockeys, or both) and we mostly agreed that the difference in comfort levels between the bikes was negligible.
What we do buy middleweight sportbikes for is that precision-engineered, high-rpm kick-in-the-ass we love from these little screamers, and the GSXR has it. We all noticed the soft low- and top-end power from this motor, with Sean calling it "a bit lacking" in the power department and Eric noting he was "dropping down into first and second on the Suzuki where I was in second and third on the Triumph."

The rest of the testers found the power delivery somewhat bland, contributing to the overall average feel of the bike. The gearbox is typical Suzuki-good, with a short throw and positive, smooth action; Eric stated "as always, the GSX-R wins the slick-tranny award". Only Mike noted slight difficulties getting into first or neutral without feeding a bit of throttle.

Overall, as a street motor, the GSXR is probably the weakest, even if it is tied for most horsepower with the Yamaha R6 at 111.3. Unfortunately, it makes that power at rpms that most riders never use at a street-riding pace.

We might not have been too impressed by the motor, but we liked the handling. The GSXR, although it might have a "screaming, head-banging, mosh-pit kind of" reputation, according to Ole, is a pussycat in the handling department. Even though Sean found it "not as plush" as the other bikes, the suspension and chassis are very well set up, making everyone confident and comfortable in most sorts of turning situations, whether making U-turns for photo passes or 100 mph, knee-down racetrack turns. The brakes are great, too, with all the power and sensitivity you'd expect from this kind of brake arrangementut.

Like the motor, where the chassis on the GSXR really shines is on the racetrack. The harder you push it, the better it feels, which some of our testers liked and others didn't. Ole said that "it felt like I had to work at it a bit more to get the best out of it", but Gabe and Eric turned in some of their best times on the GSXR; it seems to reward aggressive, wild antics on the track. "You can just rail on that thing" said Eric, breathless and wild-eyed after his first session on it, and Sean relished how it allowed him to "dance around the apex while carrying excellent corner speed."

It's a well-engineeredbike that allows a good rider to become better the faster he goes but lacks the character a less experienced rider might notice on the track. The GSXR finishing last illuminates what a tightly-contested class this is. It's really outstanding in its own right and would make any owner ecstatic, especially if they lived at the base of Latigo Canyon or right outside Mid-Ohio Sportscar Track. The GSXR is an incredible bike but is probably too track-oriented to really be considered better overall than the other machines here. The 675 and 636 have better motors, the R6 is sharper handling, and the 600RR edges out the Suzuki with its refinement and balance. However, a racer or serious trackday rider -- especially if she's a Suzuki fan -- would be foolish to discount this bike on the basis of its position in some
magazine shootout written by five idiots. We think this is a winning bike, Suzuki,
just not in this test.

2006 Suzuki GSXR 600 Tech Briefing

Suzuki must have been busy for the 20th anniversary of the US introduction of their mind-bending, earth-shattering GSXR sportbikes. They revamped their 1000 last year, and
blew the minds of motojournalists everywhere with what might be the best sportbike ever
made. Unfortunately, their 600cc tool was getting a bit long in the tooth and wasn't getting
the attention and respect they felt it deserved.

The solution is the all-new 2006 GSXR 600. The fellas from Hamamatsu started with a
similar frame as the 1000, with just five cast sections for maximum rigidity and minimum
weight. It's mated to a swingarm that's boasts a 25mm larger swingarm mount and measures 38mm longer for better traction and suspension action.

Overall, chassis dimensions are smaller and more compact, with revised rake and trail figures.
Hanging out in that frame is an all-new motor, smaller and more powerful than before. The crankshaft and transmission is designed to be smaller and more compact, (although the crank is 16 percent heavier to "add traction during cornering") and the whole assembly is rotated forward in the frame for better mass centralization. An all-new back-torque limiting clutch is also new for 2006. Brakes are still twin four-piston, radial-mounted calipers, but they now grip 310 mm discs. The rear caliper is now lighter as well. Forks are 41 mm and adjustable for preload, damping and rebound, and the rear shock sports a "16mm larger rod", according to Suzuki's website. It must be getting the same spam we are.

Other features include a new instrument cluster with a gear position indicator, all-new aerodynamic bodywork, super-light aluminum alloy wheels, a bigger, trapezoidal radiator
and some very cool, adjustable footpegs that every sportbike should have. The whole package weighs in the same as last year's bike at 355 pounds and sells for $500 at $8,799. It's available in four colors: red, blue, black and grey.

Fourth Place: Honda CBR 600RR
How can a bike this refined, this well-balanced, this exquisitely well-crafted come in fourth place in this shootout? The competition is really tough, but how can Honda, with R and D resources like the Pentagon's not beat the smaller upstarts? This is a bike that is nearing the end of a four-year life cycle, eons in middleweight sportbike years. However, we've always really liked it. Gabe and Sean both picked it as their favorite track bike in our 2005 comparison test, so it doesn't lack in handling prowess. So why didn't it win? None of us had any complaintsabout the styling. The aggressive, RC-211V- inspired bodywork looks great, and the center-up exhaust set
the standard for trick, even if it does reduce under-seat stowage to almost zero. Overall, the styling is as polished and finished as the rest of the bike is.

On board, the bike fires up smoothly and easily, with an electric-smooth feel from blipping the throttle. The motor is eerily smooth on this thing, as is its bigger brother, the 1000RR. The gearbox is also faultless, with a feeling like you are clicking the knobs on an expensive piece of medical equipment as you row through the gearbox. The fuel injection is the best, "combining great accuracy with smooth delivery", according to Dirty, who knows a thing or two about injection. Comfort and day-to-day living with this bike is pretty run-of-the-mill for a middleweight sportbike. The bars are low, the pegs are high, and the seat is hard. "No part of
the Honda's ergonomic layout stood out", according to Eric, but Gabe didn't find the comfort level as objectionable as he thought he would. Around town, the push-up body position can
be painful for extended periods if you're not going fast enough for the wind to prop you up;
again, that's to be expected in this company. We're not on sport tourers here.

What this bike is built to do is deliver confident, effortless handling under all kinds of riding conditions, and it has that in spades. Every one of us noted how easy the Honda is to ride fast, and how well-built it feels. Whether Ole was on the street or track, he reported it was "totally effortless and easy to go very fast" on the little red bike. Eric said the Honda spoke to him "in all the right ways. It has an electric-smooth powerband, flicks easily, is super-stable and the chassis gives great feedback." Even Sean, demanding an expert that he is, praised the RR for feeling
like it was "carved from billet."

Braking and suspension action are top-notch as well. The big brakes deliver outstanding feel and response from one or two fingers, and the unit pro-link rear suspension is as precise and well-balanced as the rest of the bike is. It all adds up to what Mike called a "well balanced, almost reassuring" feeling.

The brilliance of the CBR is the way it can inspire confidence on the track, and we all liked its racetrack performance. Ole said "on the track, the 600RR was totally effortless and easy to go very fast on", and Sean maintains that it "plasters a grin across your face as soon as you roll it out of pit lane. No other machine can combine this much racetrack prowess with a friendly a nature like the CBR." Like the GSXR, this is a good choice for those who want an incredibly
competent chassis to build their cornering skills in a controlled environment.

However, that competence is marginalized by what we all thought was a soft or characterless motor. Gabe loved the smoothness, but even Mike, with the least track experience, complained of having to downshift more often to pass or gather a head of steam. On the dyno, the RR puts seven less hp on the ground than the top middleweights, with not much on tap below 8,000 rpm. Eric Putter wryly complained of having to ride the "low-power version" of the Honda and was reminded that "these damn 600s are weaklings; the CBR the weakest of the weaklings", but was happy to spend his first two track sessions on the "mellowest bike of the group". It seems tough to nit-pick the Honda over seven horsepower, but in this kind of competition, that's a large gap,
especially compared to the R6's monster top-end rush and the Triumph and Kawasaki's mid-range stomp. Anybody who buys a Honda will not be disappointed, for sure. It's an incredible-handling, balanced bike that has enough power to win races with a competent rider aboard, but on the street, most riders will notice a comparable lack of power. Great handling and quality feel isn't enough alone to get top billing in this test; the Honda was close to tying the next two bikes, but close only counts for horseshoes and hand grenades. For $8,999, the same price as the much more-exciting 675 and just $200 less than the explosive and dripping-with-technology R6, Big Red doesn't offer enough of a value to top the list here. To quote the Soup Nazi: Next!

Two-way Tie for Second: Yamaha YZF-R6 and Kawasaki ZX-6R

What is interesting about this two-way tie (and we rarely tie here at MO; a first-place tie will result in the senior editor casting a tie-breaking special vote) is how different these two bikes are. Both machines make similar horsepower and weigh almost the same, but they take different approaches to how they get deliver riding goodness.

We covered the Kawasaki 636 in last year's shootout, and it took second place last year as
well. It's a balanced, comfortable bike that has a stomping mid-range hit; whether you think
adding 36 cc of displacement to get that stomp is cheating is beside the point.

Styling is just OK; we don't think it has the same visual impact of the 2003-2004 ZX-6R.
It's more bulky and burly than the other bikes, with little to distinguish it visually from the
ZX-10R. The tail-mounted exhaust looks great but reduces underseat storage. In the cockpit
waits that same crazy bar-graph tachometer that has been replaced in the ZX-10R. Eric
complained "with all the ZX-6R's horsepower fighting for my attention, that tach is a terrible joke." Almost everybody griped about it, and all we can say is that the 636 has enough midrange
so you don't really need to look at your tach. However, there's also a lap timer and a programmable shift light, which classes up the instruments package to an acceptable level.
Once in the saddle, you can notice how comfortable and plush it is, which belies the less-comfortable low bars and high pegs. Sean declared that "on the street, the Kawasaki's cushy seat is compromised by what seems like too long of a reach to the bars." Gabe spent a few days
cruising around the LA basin on the 636 and thought the comfort was totally acceptable, as long
as you don't spend too many hours in the seat and you keep moving fast enough to keep the
weight off your wrists and lower back with the wind blast. Mike noted the 636 "felt bulky and
heavy compared to the other 600s, even though I know it weighs about the same", and Eric agreed; "With its wide tank, the Kawasaki felt like the biggest of the group -- and this wasn't a bad thing on the street." Some of us don't want a bike so tiny it disappears; the Kawi has a substantial, comfortable presence, making it a good street ride. Ole even went so far as to say that "If I was choosing a middleweight with the expectation of doing repeated 500-1000 mile days, I'd choosethe 636."

What helps is that motor. With 108.6 hp and as much torque as the Triumph's 675 cc triple, this is the bike for the lazy middleweight pilots among us. The midrange -- fatter on the dyno chart than the 675's -- lets you leave it in a higher gear than some of the more peaky bikes. Gabe noticed carrying two gears higher in some turns at Buttonwillow, and Eric liked the "killer midrange pull". Still, how that midrange feels is subjective, and Ole thought it still felt "like just another 600cc (or so) inline four." 675 ownership makes one jaded, apparently.

You can't hide from that famous Kawasaki intake shriek. Dirty said "this new bike seems a bit louder than last year and there's a mischievous note to it throughout the mid range." It sounds so good you want to ride in that higher rev range all the time, but the "vibration in the tank and
seat from 7,000 to 10,000 rpm" was noticeable to Eric, which might put a damper on listening
to that music as much as you'd like.

We don't buy bikes to listen to (or do we?), so how is the 636 in the handling department? Like
the Honda, the Kawasaki makes the rider feel at home much of the time with precise, yet stable
handling. Mike noted the bike felt stable leaned over, yet quick to steer. Sean thinks he might
have set his fastest times on the green machine if our track day hadn't been rained out. Gabe appreciated the balanced and neutral feel the bike had; that high comfort factor goes a long way
towards making you faster in the twisties as well as making long commutes tolerable.

On the track, the meaty powerband, balanced handling and comfortable feel made it a favorite bike for many of our testers, although Eric said it "offers less chassis feedback than some of the sharper tools in this pack", even though it was setup well for trackdays. This could be a perception caused by the larger, wider feel this bike has. Brakes and suspension are top notch, and the slightly shorter front tire profile (a 120/65-17 rather than the 120/70-17 the other bikes use) didn't cause any noticeable handling issues.

That's the Kawi; a solid, dependable, comfortable bike that also has pretensions of being a "headbanging rocker which would make you want to grab the shotgun and a couple of Molotov Cocktails and have a little fun", according to Ole. However, it's anything but. Instead, you get a good all-around mount that can still carve it up at a trackday or win a club race or two. And even if it does have all the power and torque the 675 does on paper -- and much more midrange than the R6 -- it still doesn't stand out enough to overcome that big, heavy feel. What do you expect from a company that calls itself "Heavy Industries"? Still, the 636 is a terrific bike that would make most riders happy for a long time, as long as they haven't ridden a 675 or an R6. "I
was just about to sign the check for a 636" said Ole. "Now, I'm glad I didn't."

For $8,699, this bike is a value compared to some of the other bikes and a solid performer. Second place two years in a row is impressive in this company; well done Kawasaki.

Tied for Second: Yamaha YZF-R6
It's nice to see a love it or hate it kind of bike in a class dominated by carefully engineered machines with differences measured in tenths. This newest R6, the third total redesign since 1999, is an extreme bike, one that elicits strong reactions. Styling-wise we think the
Yamaha people have hit it out of the park, maybe even the parking lot outside the park as
well. Every part on this bike was designed to be aggressive-looking and purposeful, from the big
aerodynamic wings on the fairing to the teeny little tail section that will frustrate racers
looking for real estate for their numbers or sponsorship stickers. The little stub of an exhaust pipe is very MotoGP, and kudos to the stylists for not jumping on the done-to-death undertail exhaust bandwagon. Our test unit was dressed to kill in its Yamaha 50th anniversary gold
and black paint scheme, which makes grown men weep with joy when viewed in sunlight.

On board, our riders noted a very compact seating position, with bars and pegs close to the seat. Surprisingly, it wasn't too uncomfortable; Sean called it "quite comfortable on the street", but Gabe found the seat's comfort lacking after he rode it back to Torrance after our trackday was done. He made it in one (tired) piece, but not without some judicious complaining; "my ass hasn't been this sore since my first night at MO!" It's no tourer, but there are less comfortable bikes out there. What makes the R6 exceptional, aside from its cutting-edge styling, is an incredible
motor. It makes 111 hp at the rear wheel, with a genuine 600 cc of displacement and no tuning tricks. What's the catch? This power comes on like a light switch; Sean described it as "almost two-stroke like with its distaste for low revs and an explosive upper-RPM hit." Gabe almost pooped himself when he went to pass a pesky B group slowpoke on the racetrack by clicking down two gears in the smooth, flawless gearbox and twisting the throttle hard exciting a turn. The bike jumped forward and shot past a clump of riders so fast he thought he was crashing. "It leaps out of corners and screams its way downrange just like a real race bike" according to Sean, all the while making delicious high-rpm wailing sounds that cause sterility in migrating birds and make property values plummet 15 miles away.

Maybe 17,500 rpm was a figment of Yamaha's PR hacks, but our MO Dynojet Dyno did record power at 16,000 rpm, although peak power comes on at just a little over 14,000. Still, at 10,500 rpm it's pumping out close to 90 hp and keeps it up until Mr. Rev Limiter growls "lights out!" and shuts it down at 16,000. That's a 5,500 rpm-wide powerband, hardly what we'd call "peaky" if it was any other bike. "I felt comfortable keeping the engine revving above 10,000 rpm" said Mike. "In doing so, the bike felt fast and the engine just shrieked." That's the idea; keep it over 10 grand and let the fun begin. On the street, that means Mr. Toad's wild ride, wheelieing off the corners and accelerating the 357 pound (claimed) critter like a cinder block
dropped off an overpass. "When ridden in its sweet spot, the R6 flat-out ripped!"gushes Eric.
Handling is similar to the motor's character; manic yet precise and effective when utilized correctly. The forward-biased chassis and lack of a steering damper made the bike feel a little unsettled when pushed a bit; Eric claimed he could get the R6 to "wag its tail easily" on the track, and Mike thought the handling was "very sharp, maybe sharper than the Triumph." Gabe noted headshake under even mild racetrack conditions, and a chassis very sensitive to input or suspension tuning. If this is your first sportbike, we just hope you know what you're doing. If you have any doubts about your tuning or riding abilities, get the lower-spec R6S: it's a fantastic bike that is forgiving and a lot less expensive, yet almost as fast. The new R6 is as ground-breaking and controversial as the original. It's a unique bike with incredible charisma and presence. It "makes the greatest sounds in all of sportbiking", according to Eric, and Ole liked the "delicious and sublime" handling and chassis. However, it is clearly harder to ride than the other bikes and designed for hard-core trackday enthusiasts and racers; "If you're a racer looking for a middleweight track weapon, look no further" says Sean.

The Pink One also said "it's a hell of a bike... and it should be, considering how much Yamaha charges for it." $9,199 ($9,299 for Raven and $9,499 for the 50th anniversary paint) is a lot of money for a 600, but it's a lot of 600 for your money, and one that should safely stay on the leading edge for several years. Will Honda orKawasaki be able to top it next year?

Yamaha YZF R6 Tech Brief

Seven years ago, the first YZF-R6 screamed out of its mother's womb, making a huge impact on the middleweight sportbike scene with an amazing combination of light weight, free-revving horsepower and razor-sharp handling. Yamaha set themselves a very high bar of being
the leader in 600 cc sportbikes, but the last iteration of the R6, though a sweet-handling and comfortable ride, was a little behind the curve when it came to power. Yamaha entered 2006 with guns blazing. The all-new 2006 YZF-R6 offers sharpened power, handling and boasts a 17,500 rpm redline. Yes, we know the 17,500 claim is bogus, the result of an over-excited PR
department not checking their voicemail frequently enough. It still has an incredible motor and great chassis.

The motor is completely redesigned, with several firsts for Yamaha. The 16-valve, liquid cooled motor uses titanium valves and 67 mm pistons working in a 42.5 mm bore compressing fuel and air to a 12.8:1 mixture. The clutch and gearbox is all new as well, with a super-tall, 80 mph first gear and slipper clutch for maximum racetrack performance. Fuel injection (with digital engine management, of course) is controlled by an all-new fly-by-wire system for precise control. The result is 111 hp on our Dynojet Dyno at just under 14,500rpm.

The chassis is also new, of course. The GP-inspired Deltabox frame and swingarm are much more rigid in all directions than the old frame, and it's constructed of a combo of plates and castings to create what Yamaha calls a "straight connection layout." The swingarm pivot is also moved 20mm, and all the changes result in a 5 mm shorter wheelbase and sharper, steeper steering geometry. However, there's still no steering damper.

The suspension is as serious as the rest of the bike. The 41 mm inverted forks have separate high and low-speed damping circuits, as does the rear shock. Since most sportriders don't know enough to even set their spring sag, Yamaha's message is clear: they are catering to very serious racers and trackday enthusiasts. Brakes are similarly serious, with radial-mounted, monoblock calipers grabbing 310 mm floating discs. The whole package weighs in at 357 pounds dry, (claimed) just a couple of pounds lighter than last year's model. However, those two pounds come at a steep price; the 2006 YZF-R6 rings up at an MSRP of $9,199, a cool grand more than the old bike. That might be immaterial; Yamaha is going to bring in a limited number of these bikes anyway (motojourno old hand Eric Putter thinks less than 1,000 total). However, the old model will still be available as the YZF-R6S, with standard forks and brakes for just $8,199.

The Winner: Triumph Daytona 675

Do you remember all the hype for the Jerry Bruckheimer production of "Pearl Harbor"? It seems the more something is hyped, the more it actually sucks. Fortunately, motorcycles frequently measure up to the hyperbole, and here's a good example. Triumph's sportbikes, especially 600-size, tend to be overweight and underpowered, if excellent handling. So when they announced this three-cylinder 675cc wunderkind, we were skeptical. Would they really offer class-leading power and be able to wrap it in a sweet-handling, lightweight chassis? And sell it all for a reasonable price? We braced ourselves for another Triumph-sized disappointment, but we were spared. Instead, we started hearing from the early ride and introduction reports that this thing really was all that. This was good and bad. Good because a good motorcycle is always a good thing in general, but bad because we knew there was no way we would get one to test against the other middleweights, and no amount of intellectualizing would explain away the lack of this bike in our test to our fiendishly discerning and demanding readership. Fortunately for us, reader Ole Colton came through with a lightly-used, bone stock (we had to switch the off-road canister--which adds exactly one horsepower--for the stock exhaust) example for us to use, so we can tell you how it measures up. One glance at the bike tells you it's something different. The styling is a combination of 80's sharp lines and 90's curves that results in a mature yet aggressive look that stands out in this pack. Eric said it had "more gorgeous, swoopy lines than a Lotus Elise", and Mike just called it "beautiful to look at." The high tailsection looks a bit insectoid, but that high seat helps taller riders with comfort, too.

The bike is dripping with sweet details. There's a cast, bolt-on subframe, gold-anodized forks,
solo seat cowl, easily-detachable license plate bracket, and a cool three-outlet exhaust can. The
instruments, housed in what Eric called a "beautiful and elegant" dash are as comprehensive as it gets, with a gear indicator (ironic, as this is the bike that least needs an indicator), lap
timer, shift light (that flashes a series of three blue LEDs at you as you near the limit) and MPG
calculator. Gabe and Eric complained about the MPH readout being too small, but you can set the clock to display the time in Big Ben-sized numbers in case you leave your glasses at home, grandpa. Hopping on, shorter riders like Gabe, Eric and Mike can still just about get their feet
flat, thanks to an incredibly narrow cross section. It's so slim at the waist you can practically touch your heels together under the bike. The frontal profile is noticeably smaller than the other bikes, and the low bars and cut-outs on the top triple clamp contribute to the feeling of compact lightness. It "felt a little weird because of its tall, stinkbug stance" to Eric, but Sean thought "it was perfectly comfortable for the couple hundred of street miles we covered." Gabe and Mike loved the narrow tank; this is a tiny-feeling, yet comfortable bike.

The motor fires up easily, and aside from a fuel injection stumble at about 1,500 rpm, pulls easily and cleanly to the 13,000 rpm rev limit we saw on our Dynojet Dyno. The torque
curve is remarkable, getting near 40 foot-pounds at just 4,000 rpm and staying ironing board-flat all the way to redline. This flexible, torquey, free-revving and powerful mill is the heart of this bike's appeal, and we think it's one of the best middleweight motors we've experienced. Eric noted a slightly notchy gearbox, but he thinks it will improve with time, like other Hinkley-produced transmissions.

Possibly the best part of it all is the incredible sound the 675 makes when it's wound out. Here's what the peanut gallery had to say: Ole: "Oh my God I love triples. The sound that this bike makes between 6000 and 12000 rpms is one of the sweetest sounds I've ever heard."
Sean: "That beautiful howl makes me ride like even more of an idiot than usual --good bye license."

Mike: "The engine is just awesome; awesome torque, awesome sound, awesome pull -- I want one!"

Gabe: "The sound is so incredible that I was actually caught myself singing along
with it in my helmet; does Triumph make a disc of triple music for my Karaoke machine?"

Hey, the Rocket III has a great motor, too, but we didn't like the bike overall. How good is the chassis? Does it measure up to a great motor? You bet. The 675 doesn't handle like the other boys, but it neatly matches the triple's quick-revving, nimble character. With its forward weight bias and that ass-high back end, the bike feels like it has "unbelievably light steering", according to Mike. Eric had no trouble getting accustomed to the bike quickly on the track and set his fastest laps on it. Ole likes the way it's "totally effortless and highly comfortable to go very
fast [on] while feeling like you have a huge amount in reserve."

As a package, track or street, the Triumph is fun, exciting and effortless to ride. It has light steering, a free-revving, powerful-feeling motor, outstanding brakes, and supple, well-controlled
suspension. Expert and not-so-expert riders alike loved the bike, and in fact we all picked it as the bike we'd like to own. Sean made serious sounds towards owning one, and Gabe swears he'll buy the naked version if (when!) it comes out. Ole and Sean noticed vibration; the rear motor mount is very close to the rider's footpeg, but because you can keep the bike on the boil at much lower rpm, the rest of the crew didn't really notice (or shut up about it if they did). The other little nit pick is the way the high tail section slopes the seat into the tank; Ole recommends gripping the tank tightly with your knees at low speeds.

What's the catch? We don't think there is one. Triumph has pulled off a real coup here. The 675 is great-looking, sweet-handling, and very fast for a middleweight. It's also surprisingly novice-friendly and easy to ride, with the flexible motor and forgiving, yet precise chassis letting you focus on your riding, whether you are on the street or on the track. It's even priced reasonably at just $8,999, cheap compared to an MV Agusta Brutale or Ducati 749. After years of struggling to compete with the Japanese factories following the rules, Triumph wrote their own so they could win. The result works well and will be a strong contender for Bike of the Year.
Congraulations, Triumph.

Triumph Daytona 675 Tech Briefing

The bike we've been wishing Triumph would make for a long time, the 675 uses a lot of cutting-edge technology to give us a bike that will beat the giant Japanese factories. The heart is an incredibly compact, liquid-cooled 12-valve three-cylinder motor. The pistons are jumbo-sized, with a 74 mm bore and 52.3 mm stroke. The compression ratio is a sporty 12.65:1 and fueling duties are handled by a multipoint sequential electronic fuel injection system managed by an inductive digital ignition and an electronic engine management system. Triumph claims 123 hp at the crank, numbers right in line with our reading of 108 hp at the back wheel on
the MO Dynojet Dyno. The chassis is also innovative, with the extruded aluminum frame spars
arching over the motor to give it a slender, compact feel. The wheelbase is a stubby 54.8 inches and the chassis geometry is fashionably aggressive with 23.5 degrees of rake and 86.8 mm of trail. Suspension is handled by a pair of gold-anodized 41 mm inverted forks, adjustable for
preload, rebound and compression damping. The rear shock works through a linkage and is also three-way adjustable. It also has a ride-height adjuster, if you can scrounge the right sized washers and don't mind taking the shock out to adjust it. Brakes are radial-mount four-piston calipers and 308 mm free-floating discs. The bike is topped off with swoopy, modern-looking bodywork and an all-steel tank, a welcome thing if you've got a tankbag. The instrument panel is loaded with features, but there is no anti-theft system built into the ignition. With a price of just $8,999, the Triumph is priced right in line with its Asian competitors. Will Triumph devastate the Japanese automotive industry, leaving Japan as deserted and depressed as England's Industrial Midlands in the 1970s and '80s? We doubt it, but this is an exciting product from a company that has enjoyed more success than failure in recent years, and should boost their fortunes even more.

Conclusion: The Junior High School Track Meet
Oftentimes when we do a comparison test, at least one bike is a real stinker, but no bike stands out as a clear winner. Here, it's even tougher. Although the 675 was the clear winner, all the other bikes were incredibly good and we really liked them all; Sean said if he picked a random
key out of a hat he'd be happy with whatever he got. So, in the spirit of the Junior High School Track Meet, where nobody goes home without a ribbon, we present five first prizes.

Best bike for Serious Racers: The GSXR. It's got serious features and great contingency
support from Suzuki, and is well supported by the aftermarket and shares DNA with two other
Suzuki models, making bodywork and other parts easier to find used. The top-weighted powerband and durable design is suited for heavy track use, as is the compact, focused riding

Notes from the Test
Observed Fuel Economy on Street ride: Honda 33.3 MPG, Suzuki 36.1 MPG, Kawasaki 36.9 MPG, Yamaha 32.8 MPG, Triumph 34.4 MPG Preload Adjusters: Yamaha and Honda use convenient stepped adjusting collars on the rear shocks, while Triumph, Suzuki and Kawasaki use harder-to-adjust but more precise threaded adjusters with locking collars.

Yamaha boasts high and low-speed compression damping in the front fork, affording squids yet another opportunity to degrade their bikes handling. Mike was impressed by the Kawasaki's decent wind protection, but Ole (who is much taller than his Stepfather-in-law) complained that it needed a taller windscreen.

Although three bikes had built-in laptimers, they only work via the rider hitting the "lap" button at the exact same place every lap. We don't think that's either a safe or reliable way to record laptimes, and urge the manufacturers to use a magnetic or infra-red trigger like AIM or Ducati
uses, as most racetracks have a magnetic trigger or IR beacon set up for trackdays and racing.
Slipper clutches on the Kawasaki, Suzuki and Yamaha are pretty nice insurance policies to have on the racetrack against engine damage caused by overreving or rider damage caused by highsiding.

It used to be you could tell a manufacturer by build quality, now everyone meets very high standards. The Honda is still the nicest, though, with Yamaha and Triumph close behind. The Kawasaki and Suzuki are very nice, although Mike Goff complained about cheap-looking plastic panels on the GSXR.

Most of the mirrors on these bikes are too short and don't reveal much view to the rear. Our 675 test unit has the Triumph accessory tall windscreen mounted. Best Built: The Honda is such a classy, quality ride that we weep to see it take fourth place. It's also a hoot to ride, and whodda thunk that 105 hp would ever be a "slow" 600? We never thought they'd break the 100 hp barrier. It makes those 105 horses in a smooth, flawless manner, something that counts more than outright top speed. Best Street-Only Bike: The Kawasaki's monster midrange, sensible wind protection and comfy seat make it a good choice for urban commuting. It's also a good handler and not-too-shabby with a passenger. When you're ready to get nutty, that unique intake shriek and fat midrange power hit will gather all the wanted -- and unwanted -- attention you need.Best (Bad) Boy: The R6 has an Impala SS, a tattoo with your mom's name on it and a three-legged pitbull. It is a serious bad-ass that will change the reputation of the R6 from that of a forgiving, comfortable puppy into a tough-to-tame, wild stallion. It needs a steering damper and won't suffer fools gladly but in the right hands can run rings around anybody on anything at the track. On the street it's comfortable enough and is fantastically nimble through traffic. Stunters will probably like it too, but let's not encourage them.

I hope that makes everybody feel good about the other machines, but let's face it; this test was all about the Triumph. Is the 675 really that good? Does it really set a new standard? Yes. There is something undeniably right about this three-cylinder motor, and Triumph should be praised for waiting to get everything, not just that wicked powerplant, right before going to market. If you're in the market for a middleweight sportbike, slap down a deposit on a 675. You might even be able to get one before you're too old to ride.

What We'd Buy

Eric Putter:
Picking a winner in this shootout was simple.
Of all the motorcycles offered in 2006, I was most looking forward to swinging a leg over the
Triumph 675. I may be a crusty, old, jaded motojournalist, but I was truly jazzed to ride the little Triple. Much to my delight, it didn't disappoint.

Although I'm not interested in a middleweight streetbike, if I were gonna lay down my
not-so-hard-earned money on a new 600-or-so-cc track tool, I'd have to gather $9000 worth of sterling pounds and trot on over to my local Triumph dealer.

The 675 is so sexy, so competent and carries such a tremendous buzz factor that it's the no-brainer pick of this fine litter. Hell, the thing's so good, I'd even take it on a few street sorties.

The best of the Fours for me was the ZX-6R. It has a big-bike feel without the big-bike weight, great midrange power, a seamless slipper clutch, the best fuel injection in this comparison and is comfortable, to boot.

Even though I felt more comfortably enveloped by the GSX-R's ergonomics and appreciate its top-end rush and excellent slipper clutch, the Suzuki's weaker and somewhat less balanced chassis made it a bit tougher to ride than the Kawi.

The CBR600RR is a tremendous all-around performer, but, simply put, its motor's lack of
steam negates all of the wonderful things its chassis translates and delivers.

This final spot is the toughest pick. As much as I wanted to love the beautiful, high-tech,
shrieking Yamaha, we're like lovers who haven't found that magic chemistry. All the
components seem to be in place for a happily-ever-after ending: serious power, sharp
handling, near-infinitely-adjustable suspension and great looks. Too bad I found the R6
hardest to ride due to its super-narrow powerband and chassis that wasn't even close to
being properly set up for me. On top of that, the slipper clutch is the least effective one I've
ever used. That said, I'd jump at the chance to spend another day at the track with the R6 to
see if we can rekindle our unrequited love.

Ole Holton:
Why would I buy a 2006 Triumph Daytona 675, rather than all the great bikes which the big
boys (Honda, Suzuki, Kawasaki, and Yamaha) are offering for 2006 ? Simply put, it's the
entire riding experience; the look, the sound, the feel, the ease of use, and the incredibly high grin factor that this bike creates. After riding the R6, CBR600RR, ZX6R, GSXR600, and the 675, I have to say that the Triumph is in a class all it's own. These bikes are all within a
fraction of an inch of each other in how fast and incredibly amazing they are, but the Triumph just exhibits all the right traits, and blows the other bikes out of the water in many ways. The
sound .... oh my god I love triples. The sound that this bike makes between 6000 and 12000 rpms is one of the sweetest sounds I have ever heard.

The riding experience is an absolute joy, just breath on the throttle, and you have a fistful of
Torque in a nice, convenient 250 sized package. As this bike starts to sing at 6000 rpm you
feel the huge torque advantage it has over it's competition. Splitting through traffic, idling
along at around 6000 rpm, you always have plenty of pull to accelerate quickly and get
away from potential trouble (where riding on a "normal" 600, you'd be dropping 2 or 3 gears
to get the same acceleration). This bike is by far the best bike to use for everyday driving. The Triumph is also drop dead gorgeous and is one of those bikes which would thrill me every morning I'd see her parked in my garage. This bike has a suspension/frame/geometry which makes it totally effortless and amazingly comfortable to go very fast while feeling like you have a huge amount in reserve. The first time I rode the 675 relatively hard on a familiar road I got to see a little glimpse of sportbike Nirvana. I was able to go much faster than I'd ever gone on my
Tuned/Tweaked/Well Adjusted Speed Triple, and I was really way more relaxed than I'd
ever been before. If I was in the market to buy a middleweight sportbike (they all cost about
the same), there is no doubt in my mind that I would buy the Triumph Daytona 675 before
ever considering anything else.

Mike Goff:
For me this isn't a tough choice; it would be a Triumph. It's a beautiful bike; stunning
looking, in my opinion. It's easy to ride, extremely nimble and light and that engine sounds phenomenal and pulls from wherever you're at -- it just has a lot of torque. It comes with a
steering damper and slipper clutch. There was nothing about the bike I didn't like; probably the only reason I wouldn't buy one is that my son-in-law already has one and I can ride it any time I want to. Besides, he chose the best color and it would be boring to have two of the same.
The tough decision is what would be my second choice. I would be happy with any of these bikes; I think it comes down to personal preference rather than which is a superior bike. That said, my second choice would be the Kawasaki, because of that great motor and the slipper clutch. I love the slipper clutch and the torque of the motor; I don't want to have to shift all the time.

My next choice would be the Honda because it feels so comfortable and easy to ride. Then I would choose the Yamaha, leaving the Suzuki as my last choice. Those last three bikes were great, but felt so similar that it seemed a matter of "that was cool -- next".

Gabe Ets-Hokin:
Some of you desperate for time-killing reading material might recall our Best of the Best
shootout last year, where both Pete Brissette and I selected the 2005 Yamaha R6 as a better all-around ride than the awesome Suzuki GSXR 1000. It's no secret that I love middleweight sportbikes. The good ones have a combination of power, handling, weight and fun-factor that verge on perfection, with technology and performance that belies their sub $9,000--make that $10,000--asking price.

The problem is that intense competition in the showrooms and on the racetracks has harnessed the power of convergent evolution so thoroughly that the bikes have incredibly subtle differences. Four cylinders, about 420 pounds wet, with 56-57 inch wheelbases and around
110 hp. They even have almost identical bar-peg-seat relationships. They are all very, very
good machines that will thrill however buys them. (Gong!) Enter the Triumph. It is stunning how good this bike is, and it does it with a simple concept; combine the performance and handling of a 600 with the torquey flexibility of a three-cylinder motor. Unlike a lot of good ideas, (like Ashlee Simpson or Boston Market) this one works very well, making the other bikes feel antiquated and hard-to-ride in comparison. Imagine an SV650 with racetrack suspension and 110 hp and you get the picture of howfantastic this thing is. I think it's the best bike of 2006, although I tremble to think how fun the Speed Triple 675 will be.That's why I gave the sympathy second-place spot to the R6. If the Brits hadn't shown up to a knife-fight with a .44 magnum, the R6 would be my favorite. It's a real racer with lights, a high-strung, nipple-pierced stallion that's the pure essence of what a 600 cc sportbike should be. The sound it makes at 14,000 rpm is so alluring you want to ride it to Nevada so you can legally perform an unnatural act with it. As a bonus, the styling is very fresh and original.

I liked the 636 almost as much and would pick it if I was restricted to street riding. It's
relatively comfortable and has a powerband I'd call user-friendly if I never rode the Triumph. That GSXR was great on the track, with enough balance and ease-of-use to probably be my
track-only choice. The Honda is of course the benchmark in rideability and quality but
doesn't stand out enough for me.

Sean Alexander:
Triumph Daytona 675: I'm driving home from a weekend in Vegas dictating the story to my
wife who sits ever so patiently in the passenger seat. Unfortunately, we've lost $500 at the
craps table and are running home, tails between our legs. But there is good news; not only
did I save money on my car insurance, but I also feel like I'm several grand ahead thanks to
the new Daytona 675. You see, it just replaced the Tuono at the top of my "Bike I'd Buy With My Own Money" list, and at a CH under $9,000 the Triumph is four grand(!) cheaper than the Aprilia. Triumph's press fleet may well be the hardest to work with in the industry and this fact wins them no points with MO. However, the basic goodness of this new 675 triple just can't be denied. It offers everything we love about middleweight supersports, plus more useable
torque and a sound not unlike a Honda CBX or even a flat-twelve Ferrari. I think it may well be the perfect sport bike. Hey Buzz, instead of just teasing us about buying a 675 to loan for our shoot out, you actually should have bought one. The Daytona's riding position is quite sporty as you would expect from a bike in this class, but I found its taller seat height to offer more comfort and a cool aggressive stance. Though you won't go touring on it, it was perfectly comfortable for the couple hundreds street miles we covered. My only gripe is that the vibration can be a bit grating at certain engine speeds. And that the beautiful howl makes me ride like even more of an idiot than usual -- good byelicense -

The Triumph's power is truly impressive, in every roll-on test from 60 mph be it 2nd, 3rd, or
6th gear, the Triumph was able to pull away from Kawasaki's very quick 636. On the race
track, the 675 pulled cleanly out of the corners though it didn't offer quite as much over-rev
as the inline-fours. Its neutral chassis lets you hustle it through the turns in the same
manner that makes middleweight supersports so much fun on the race track or in a canyon.

Honda CBR 600RR

Engine Type 599cc liquid-cooled inline four-cylinder
Bore and Stroke 67.0mm x 42.5mm
Compression Ratio 12.0:1
Valve Train DOHC; four valves per cylinder
Carburetion Dual Stage Fuel Injection (DSFI)
Ignition Computer-controlled digital transistorized with 3 dimensional mapping

Transmission Close-ratio six-speed
Final Drive #525 O-ring-sealed chain

Front Suspension 41.0mm inverted HMAS cartridge fork with spring-preload, rebound and compression-damping adjustability; 4.7-inch travel
Rear Suspension Unit Pro-Link HMAS single shock with spring-preload, rebound and compression-damping adjustability; 5.1-inch travel
Front Brakes Dual radial-mounted four-piston calipers with 310.0mm discs
Rear Brake Single 220.0mm disc
Front Tire 120/70ZR-17 radial
Rear Tire 180/55ZR-17 radial

Rake 24.0 degrees
Trail 95.0mm (3.7 inches)
Wheelbase 54.5 inches
Seat Height 32.3 inches
Turning Radius 10.8 feet
Dry Weight 361 pounds
Fuel Capacity 4.8 gallons, including 0.9-gallon reserve

Honda CBR600RR
0-60mph 3.72s
Standing quarter mile 11.52s @ 127.87mph
Top Speed 155.04mph (~250kmh)

TDM 900

Totally redesigned from the ground up, the unique new TDM900 runs with an uprated 900cc parallel twin cylinder engine featuring electronic fuel injection for a whole lot more punch right around the dial. And whether you’re commuting to work, heading across Europe with a passenger and camping gear or slicing through twisty mountain passes, this radically-styled all-rounder has got what it takes

Type Liquid cooled, 4-stroke, forward inclined
parallel twin cylinder, DOHC 5 valves
Displacement 897 cc
Bore and Stroke 92.0 x 67.5 mm
Compression ratio 10.4:1
Max. Power 63.4 kW (86.2 HP) @ 7,500 rpm
Max. Torque 88.8 Nm (9.1 kg-m) @ 6,000 rpm
Lubrication Dry sump
Fuel supply Electronic Fuel Injection
Clutch type Wet, multiple disc
Ignition TCI (digital)
Starting system Electric
Transmission Constant mesh, 6 speed
Final transmission Chain
Gear ratio 1 2.750
2 1.947
3 1.545
4 1.240
5 1.040
6 0.923
Primary reduction ratio 1.718
Secundary reduction ratio 2.625

Frame Alumium diamond
Front suspension Telescopic fork
Rear suspension Swingarm (linked type suspension)
Front wheel travel 150 mm
Rear wheel travel 133mm
Caster angle 25.5°
Trail 114 mm
Front brake Double discs, Ø 298 mm
Rear brake Single disc, Ø 245 mm
Front tyre 120/70 ZR18M/C (59W)
Rear tyre 160/60 ZR17M/C (69W)
Rim size front 18M/C×MT3.50
Rim size rear 17M/C×MT5.00

Overall length 2,180 mm
Overall width 800 mm
Overall height 1,290 mm
Seat height 825 mm
Seat length 655mm
Wheelbase 1, 485 mm
Min. ground clearance 160mm
Dry weight 190 kg
Fuel tank capacity 20 litres (reserve 3.5 litres)
Oil (tank) capacity 4.7 litres

Yamaha Diversion 900

Model: Yamaha XJ 900 S Diversion
Year: 2002
Category: Sport touring

Displacement: 892.00 ccm (54.43 cubic inches)
Engine type: In-line 4
Stroke: 4
HP (kW): 89.50 (65.3) @ 8250
Torque - Nm (kgf-m / ft.lbs): 83.30 (8.5 / 61.4) @ 7000
Compression: 10.0:1
Bore x stroke: 68.5 x 60.5 mm (2.7 x 2.4 inches)
Fuel control: DOHC
Cooling system: Air
Starter system / ignition: Electronic

Physical measures
Weight (dry): 239.0 kg (526.9 pounds)
Seat height (if adjustable, lowest setting): 795 mm (31.3 inches)
Wheelbase: 1,505 mm (59.3 inches)
Overall length: 2,230 mm (87.8 inches)
Overall width: 750 mm (29.5 inches)
Overall height: 1,300 mm (51.2 inches)
Ground clearance: 130 mm (5.1 inches)

Front suspension travel: 140 mm (5.5 inches)
Rear suspension travel: 110 mm (4.3 inches)
Front tyre dimensions: 120/70-17 58V
Rear tyre dimensions: 130/70-18 63H
Front brake(s): Dual disc
Front brake(s) diameter: 320 mm (12.6 inches)
Rear brake(s): Single disc
Rear brake(s) diameter: 245 mm (9.6 inches)

FJR1300 VS FZ1000

FJR1300 and Fazer1000 are two rather different bikes.

FJR1300 is a tourer-inclined sports tourer. It is very comfortable with an upright seating position. Has a generous fairing to block out the wind and stuff when you're going on a tour. The current model has a very short windscreen which does nothing but the new 03' FJR has a much taller (by 40mm) one which simply blocks out everything, and the windscreen height can be electronically adjust by the flick of a button. It also has pretty nifty electronics on the dashboard, and looks like it wants to fight with STX.

The stock panniers looks cool , but the built quality is poor compared to STs. A replacement of the panniers cost 2K. As a full-faired full-blown tourer, you can guess its not cheap, the last I enquired was about 28K OTR.
Between STX and FJR, the STX feels more comfy and has better fairing protection.

On the Fazer1000. It has won many MANY awards being the best bike to own for anyone. The most recent was the Rider Power No. 1 award amongst 200 over top bikes listed(the ST11 was 2nd there).

It is basically the most well-built all rounder which is totally worth every cent you spend (now 19K OTR). You can take it to everyday road riding around the city. Travel from A to B in TRIPLE quick time hehe. Pop a wheelie effortlessly with its 140+bhp. Take it on a tour to thailand with the ample fairing protection (and it is frame mounted which is much safer than handlebar mounted). If you want some thrill on the tracks, I believe many sports bikes can't even catch you with its power and excellent handling . It basically does anything you want to , its a jack of all trades (and probably a master of none hehe). And it doesn't take up much fuel either.


Comparison chart
(Figs from Magazine Reports)

1. Both are Street Bikes.
2. Hornet 96bhp@9700rpm vs Fazer 98bhp@12000rpm
3. Top Speed: H 233kmh vs F 226kmh
4. Wt: H 179kg vs F 180kg
5. Seat Ht: H 790mm vs F 795mm
6. Both with Exhaust Close to Seat(or Under)
7. Both In Line 4 Engines 16valves
8. Wheel Base: H 1425mm vs F1440mm
9. Price: H $14500 vs F $15600 (Machine Price)
10. Fuel Capacity: H 16L vs F 19L
11. Fazer Eng Is Revving
12. 0-100kmh: H 3.91s vs F 3.97s
13. Braking: H 4.83s(353') vs F 5.06s(361')

Main Difference:
1. Hornet tune to Low & Mid Torque Perf(Street Stop/Go Riding)
Fazer tune to High Torque Perf (Super Sport Style Riding)
2. Styling: Fazer is Looks Modern(futuristic). Design only 6mth old.
Hornet is more conservative street bike design.
(but well liked by bike magazines though)

Bike Mag(UK) Report Mar'04:

Hornet: Mid range, Ability, Quality
- Strong Midrange drages it out of corners.
Fazer: Attitude, Image, Top End Rev, Raw Excitement
- R6 derived eng, needs to be kept revving, it is fast & frantic.


Ultimately, choice is very personal.
Both Bikes are Amazing Machines.
Go Get One & Enjoy!

2006 Yamaha FZ1

By Kevin Duke

"Thy fate is the common fate of all; into each life some rain must fall" - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

And so it was that I found myself riding Yamaha's new FZ1 in a pounding rainstorm surrounded by the verdant fields north of San Francisco. Introductory press rides such as this aren't supposed to be sullied by inclement weather, and it was hard to imagine how I was supposed to adequately test a sporting motorcycle without any noteworthy traction.

However, the bitching going on inside my helmet began to annoy me more than the precipitation, so I capped off my brain's whiny pie-hole and began taking mental notes on what the FZ1 was telling me. First off, I was glad that Yamaha had fitted a windscreen 17mm taller than on the outgoing model, about the only concession the company made that wasn't intended to make the comfy old FZ1 into a sharper and more aggressive package for 2006.

The big Fizzer has been a sales success for the boys in blue since its 2002 introduction, becoming the top-seller in the non-supersport class of liter-sized sport motorcycles. It's become affectionately known as the sportbike for geezers, those of us who want a fast sportbike without the ergonomic compromises of a race-replica. The problem in the eyes of Yamaha's marketing team is that it was deemed too close in concept to the FJR1300 sport-tourer, so this new spin on the Fizzer concept puts some distance between it and the big-block bagger.

Like the previous version, the core of this new FZ1 is an engine borrowed from the top-line YZF-R1 sportbike. Instead of being dumbed down with old-tech carbs like before, the FZ now sports fuel-injection like the R1. In fact, the whole engine is nearly identical to the current-gen R1, with the notable exception of camshafts designed to make more power at lower revs. As a result, its redline is reduced from 13,750 rpm to 12K revs.

Several changes have been made to offer greater drivability. The Fizzer's crankshaft has been given a 33% increase in weight for better tractability, and Yamaha's EXUP exhaust valve boosts low-end snap. The result is a claimed 148 crankshaft horsepower, seven up on the old bike and perhaps a bit more than 130 horses at the wheel. Despite the midrange-biased cams, peak torque is said to only match the R1's (and the '05 FZ1) but it arrives at 8000 rpm, 2500 rpm sooner.

In a bit of a surprise, Yamaha has kept the R1's tall gear ratios mostly unchanged for the FZ. Primary and final-drive cogs are alike, and the only differentiation is slightly taller transmission ratios in fifth and sixth gears for more relaxed highway cruising. The R1-sourced close-ratio tranny enforces an elevated first gear that is good for 80-plus mph.

The FZ1's chassis has received an extreme makeover. Gone is the flexy tubular steel frame in favor of a twin-spar aluminum unit that is said to be 20 lbs lighter. Just as important, Yamaha says it is greatly stiffer, offering increases in rigidity of more than 400% vertically and horizontally. Rigidity is up 140% in the key area of torsional flex. A controlled-fill cast aluminum swingarm not only looks spiffy, it's nearly two inches longer for improved traction, contributing to a wheelbase marginally longer.

This new chassis not only helps knock down weight by a claimed 16 lbs, it has also significantly shifted its weight distribution. The new FZ1 now has 51% of its purported fully-fuelled 485 lbs resting on its front wheel. That's a big change from the 49% of its predecessor and it matches that of the R1.

Aiding the front-end weight bias are the new ergonomics of the FZ1. The former bike's lounge-like position is replaced by a sportier stance. The rider is placed closer to the front of the bike and is met by a handlebar that is an inch lower but slightly closer. Footpegs are located an inch further rearward and a half-inch higher.

All this tech stuff is interesting only to a point. The proof in the mechanical pudding can only be found when digging in, so we set off to explore some of the finer backroads of Sonoma and Marin counties in California.

Even before firing up, the FZ1 makes a strong first impression. Yamaha has become known for making the most stylish of Japanese motorcycles, and this new offering continues that trend. Ignoring for the moment the controversial-looking muffler whose tip appears to have been styled by Marvin the Martian, the Fizzer impresses with graceful and appealing shapes. Eyes are drawn in by the shapely frame, the stylized fuel tank, attractive instruments and even the curvaceous passenger peg brackets.

Trained asses, such as us, might notice the 5mm reduction in seat height, helping the feet attached to my 5'8" body to be able to nearly flat-foot at a standstill. The clutch has an easy take-up around town, although smaller riders will notice the non-adjustable lever is a bit of a reach for short hands; the span of the front brake lever can be changed among several positions.

As our ride began in the pouring rain, the study of the FZ1's handling intricacies would have to wait until later in the day. In the meantime, I was enjoying the protection offered by the quarter-fairing and windscreen, although the turbulence it causes induces a bit of buffeting that increases noise. Its analog tach and digital speedometer are easy to read even through a soggy faceshield, and the lowered handlebar (painted a sharp metallic silver to match the upper triple clamp) is nicely positioned in that it doesn't place too much weight on a geezer's wrists. Vibration is fairly well controlled, aided by the rubber-mounted handlebar. The view from the mirrors is partially blocked by the rider's elbows.

Throttle response was generally smooth at these low-rev and aggression levels. The FZ1 goes about its business with power and grace, even if the standard suspension settings proved to be too stiff for my girlish figure. The seat isn't thickly padded but is supportive, comfortable enough for my skinny butt, though less so for some of the other larger journalists. My passenger, if I had one, would've been treated to a separate seat that is a fairly narrow and thinly padded perch with high footpegs.

Mercifully, the rain stopped falling and traction levels eventually began to rise. Finally we were able to turn up the wick and see what kind of performance the new Fizzer offers.

Surprisingly, we were all a little underwhelmed by the FZ1's acceleration. The aforementioned tall gearing really subdues the power hit, making it feel less eager than we'd hoped. Whack the 45mm throttle-bodies wide open at 5000 rpm in first gear, and the front Michelin remains in contact with the tarmac all the way to the redline - wheelie hounds will want to look elsewhere. This high-handlebar rocket feels more hoyden (look it up) than hooligan.

Personally, I'd like to try the FZ with a fairly radical change in sprockets to substantially lower the final-drive ratio. Getting additional punch around town might more than offset the increased rpm at higher cruising speeds. Shorter ratios in the bottom gears would've been a more desirable solution.

All of which isn't to say the FZ is slow. It becomes a missile once past 8000 rpm, blurring the surrounding scenery the way a literbike should. The powerband feels free of flat spots, yet it's definitely soft on the bottom end. Though geared tall, the six-speed transmission has light action but is a bit notchy. The exhaust sound from the funky muffler is quiet from the saddle yet has a deep, burly snarl from behind.

In terms of getting around corners, the FZ1's more front-biased weight distribution is noticeable to its rider. Whereas the old bike's front end felt a bit vague, this new version enhances what the front tire is telling its rider, aided in part by a 4mm increase in trail to 4.29 inches/109mm. This and a 10mm longer wheelbase (57.5 inches) can marginally slow a bike's steering, but Yamaha has steepened the FZ1's rake by a full degree, now at 25.0 degrees, which makes the big FZ steer quicker than ever. Although it's not what we'd call flickable, the FZ1 nonetheless acquits itself well in the twisties thanks to the excellent leverage offered by the upright and wide handlebar

So, all is good with the chassis, but hustling the Yammie through the corners shows a noticeable bugaboo. The throttle response is annoyingly abrupt when the engine is at higher revs, as it is when riding quickly. Fuel shut-off is harsh on trailing throttle, and it's even worse during reapplication of throttle, just past the apex when motorcycles need the steadying effect of a neutrally balanced chassis. So, when lean angle is at its steepest, an FZ1 rider is hesitant when dialing on the gas, sapping confidence and adding tension.

Other changes for '06 were more successful. Conventionally mounted four-piston monoblock calipers bite on larger (but thinner) 320mm front brake rotors stolen from the R1. They combine to provide strong speed retardation, even if they don't offer the precise feel of radial-mount calipers and master cylinders. The rear rotor's diameter, at 245mm, is nearly an inch smaller than the one it replaces. The greater pedal force it requires makes it easy to modulate the specific amount of stomp needed, without fear of unexpectedly locking up the rear tire.

Also new for '06 is the front and rear Kayaba suspension with 5.1 inches of travel, slightly less on both ends than previous. It's led by a 43mm inverted fork, which unconventionally has the rebound and compression damping circuits relegated to just one leg for each; fork spring tension is adjustable on both legs. The rear shock is 13% lighter, and it too has three-way adjustments.

Initially, I wasn't impressed with the ride quality of the FZ1. It was reacting harshly to bumps, in no small part due to stiff springs. The front spring rate is more than double that of its R1 cousin, and the rear is 44% stiffer, presumably so it can better cope with the added weight of luggage and a passenger. As a 145-lb rider, this wasn't working well for me.

After enduring stiff responses from the suspension of my test bike, I made a couple of changes that significantly improved ride quality. I took out a couple of clicks of compression damping from the left fork leg to relieve some of the harshness up front, then reduced the rear preload to the lowest of its seven positions on the handy ramped adjuster to better accommodate my light weight. These mods transformed the Fizzer from a stiff, bucking ride into one that was better able to use the available wheel travel. If I had more time for tuning, I would've tried less front preload, but even as it was I was fairly happy with the improvement.

A few more items from my note pad. Though I didn't test the headlights in full darkness, the evening ride I took indicated the dual headlights throw a wide beam. The front marker lights/turnsignals reflect on the inner fairing panels, which can be seen as either cool or annoying. Also, I was surprised to see engine temperatures run at more than 215 degrees on a cool evening before the fan kicked in. The FZ1's radiator is tiny compared to the one in the R1, though I don't anticipate any serious cooling issues. Finally, the new fuel tank, slimmer than before, is down in capacity to 4.76 gallons. That's an identical amount to the R1 and a bit too small for a serious road burner such as this.

In total, the FZ1 offers consumers high versatility and class-leading style for a relatively modest $9099 (less than a new R6!). Highlights are comprised of its excellent ergonomics, a greatly improved chassis and suspension, and a lighter, more nimble feel. Notable sighs include the harsh throttle response and tall gearing.