Two, Three or Four?

Which configuration best settles the score?

Two, Three or Four? - Comparison Test

Two, Three or Four? - Comparison Test

Diversity is good, but when the topic is motorcycles, being unique is just plain cool. Despite using three completely different engine configurations, the four middleweight supersports tested on the same day at Willow Springs for the preceding 2x2s lapped within a second of each other. Considering that their respective engine designs are all over the place, kinda like the laundry on a teenager's floor, that's, well...amazing.

Ducati's 848cc Twin, Triumph's supersized 675cc Tripleand a pair of Japanese Foursfrom Honda and Kawasaki (determined to play by traditional 600cc rules) all crossed the finish line with eerily similar performance. Racing organizations that allow these different bikes to compete in the same classes spend countless hours, no doubt, trying to come up with formulas to keep them evenly matched. From our experience, they already are.

Religious readers of CW already know how much our staff likes the Honda CBR600RR. Since getting freshened up in 2007, it has been, thus far, undefeated in Ten Best Bikes balloting and therefore has remained the middleweight to beat.

The CBR doesn't have class-leading power—that honor goes to the new Kawasaki—but it is by far the lightest bike in the class at 386 pounds dry. The ZX-6R was very quick at the track, however, besting the Honda by almost half a second. The Kawasaki's chassis and in particular its new confidence-inspiring Big Piston Fork, in addition to awesome top-end power, made it a winner.

From the other side of the world, the Triumph Daytona was a clear winner in its battle against the Ducati 848. Lighter-handling on the tight Streets track, better all-around street manners and excellent new suspension, in addition to a huge difference in price, gave the 675 the overall nod.

Now comes the hard part. Taking into account their respective performances on the track and street, the 2x2-winning Kawasaki and Triumph are very evenly matched.

Almost identical horsepower output of 110.2 for the Kawi vs. 109.8 for the Triumph, and torque measuring 44.3 and 48.7 ft.-lb., respectively, prove engine parity. Same can be said for acceleration; the ZX-6R sprinted to a 10.59-second/133.98-mph quarter-mile, while the Daytona was just a blink behind at 10.65/131.49. Zero to 60 was identical at 3.2 seconds, while top speeds were split by 3 mph, the edge going to the Ninja's 158. So despite the results being very close, we give the Kawasaki the edge—an oh-so-slight one—based on engine performance.

It would be nice if we had the luxury of swinging the vote one way or another based on price, but that, too, is impossible, as they both retail for $9799. Chassis performance has to be the deciding factor. Both offer very refined and updated suspension, but the ZX's Showa fork impressed us more than the 675's revised Kayaba. It suffers less dive under hard braking, while offering the bump compliance of a softer setup. Because the chassis doesn't pitch back and forth as much between braking and acceleration, the bike is more poised. Another big plus is the Kawasaki's excellent slipper clutch, which improved composure during fast corner entries while downshifting. All of this adds up to more rider confidence and faster lap times.

The ZX-6R has better engine performance, is smoother running, has an awesome chassis that allows better lap times, better ergonomics that suit a wider range of riders and features fresh, updated styling that was a hit with all. So to answer the initial question: Kawasaki's Four does more.