Riding Impression: Mat Mladin's Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000

Cycle World rides the 7-time AMA Superbike Champion’s Superbike.

Photography by Brian J. Nelson

Riding Impression: Mat Mladin

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A dynasty is over. For his competitors, the departure of seven-time AMA Superbike Champion Mat Mladin—who retired at the end of the 2009 season—couldn't have come sooner. But there is no denying that Mladin and his powerful Yoshimura Suzuki team—headed by Crew Chief Peter Doyle—were more often than not the class of the Superbike field. Over the course of his AMA Superbike career Mladin amassed 82 wins, 78 of which were on Suzuki GSX-Rs.

Invites to ride big-name racebikes are the Holy Grail for us sportbike-loving moto-journalist types, as they offer a glimpse into a world many don't often get to see. I was lucky enough to attend a brief post-season test at California Speedway and got an opportunity to sample two of Mladin's bikes for five laps each. Normally, getting on a racebike of this caliber without any warm-up laps would be very stressful, but having recently tested a 176-horsepower, Yoshimura-built GSX-R1000 streetbike at the same track ("Stealth Superbike," Cycle World, November, 2009), I was reasonably prepared.

As far as racebikes go, Mladin's superbike couldn't have been more comfortably set up for me. Seating position, levers and footpegs were all placed ideally for my size and preference. Better yet, Mladin runs a street gearshift pattern, so I didn't have to worry about going down for up and up for down. Hunkered down in the seat, I found a MoTec LCD dash with a bar-graph tachometer swinging across its face staring back at me.

Down the pitlane and onto the racetrack while riding the first of the two bikes, I instantly noticed that the Mladin's racer turned much more quickly than the Yosh streetbike I had last sampled at Cal Speedway. I spent the first couple of laps getting accustomed to the bike and its power delivery, and then got a little more exploratory with increasingly aggressive line selection and throttle application prior to my session coming to an end far quicker than I wanted it to. Power delivery, fuel/ignition mapping and the bike's traction-control intervention were all set up perfectly. Revs build in an absolutely linear manner, which made controlling the bike at my pace easy. Acceleration out of a tight second-gear corner onto the track's back straight was strong, while grabbing gears (up to fifth) on the banking of the front straight was exhilarating. But power output on these AMA/DMG superbikes isn't quite as high as what the true factory bikes of a few years ago were making. Current rules call for stock internal engine parts, spec fuel (which Yosh says cut power by 5 percent alone) and limitations on cam spec mean "superbikes" now make a lot less power than what they did in 2008. I rode Miguel Duhamel's HRC-built 2005 Honda CBR1000RR, and that thing was a scary beast compared to this Suzuki. Special parts and heavy factory tuning must be missed by the top racers!

My second session was aboard another of Mladin's bikes, and it didn't take more than a couple of corners to realize that the chassis geometry was quite different from the previous machine. Stability was increased and steering was slightly slower, a setup the team used for tracks where this was beneficial. For a pretender like me, this setup, combined with my increased familiarity and confidence in the power delivery, made it a much easier bike to ride fast. Once again, I realized that Mat's ergos and suspension tune perfectly suited my preferences, although his suspension setup is about 10 times better than any racebike I've ever owned or ridden. Sections of track that I've typically had instability issues on didn't unsettle Mladin's bike at all. Considering the fact that AMA rules limit suspension modifications, performance was truly impressive, but the stock fork with a carefully set up Öhlins cartridge kit and a shock of the same make were awesome.

The Yoshimura Suzuki team did wonders within AMA-dictated parameters, proving once and for all that no matter what the rules are, the best minds with the most experience backing up a great rider will always rise to the top.

Mat Mladin's Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000

Mat Mladin's Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000

Mat Mladin's Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000

Mat Mladin's Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000

Mat Mladin's Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000

Mat Mladin's Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000

Mat Mladin's Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000

Mat Mladin's Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000

Mat Mladin's Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000

Mat Mladin's Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000

Mat Mladin's Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000

Mat Mladin's Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000