Best Yet | 2015 Literbike Comparison Test

Three of the best 2015 sportbikes go head to head in a clash for literbike class supremacy: BMW S 1000 RR vs. Ducati 1299 Panigale S vs. Yamaha YZF-R1

2015 Literbike Comparison Test

It doesn't take more than a minute for the floodgates to open; they're almost completely ajar by the time we reach the freeway on-ramp. Then, as the throttles come open on BMW's S 1000 RR, Ducati's 1299 Panigale S, and Yamaha's R1 they burst agape, and what comes spewing through is a string of expletives that very crudely begin to verbalize the sensation inflicted upon us. A sincere apology to our mothers. You raised us better than to be throwing profanities around like a drunken sailor. But 519 collective horsepower has changed us, and in that moment, half-decent words escaped us. All we can say is, "Holy s—t!"

It takes us a few minutes to come down from our horsepower high (a few more for our hands to go entirely still), and by lunch we’re able to find slightly more mature wording for describing the current crop of literbikes. Words such as “inspiring,” “mind-blowing,” and “exhilarating” come to the surface. Then the words “best yet.”

Yes, one of these three bikes is quite possibly the best supersport motorcycle ever built. And the others? Well, they’re not as far behind as you’d expect.

Note, of course, that Aprilia's 2016 RSV4 RR was not available at the time of testing. What we have here are three new or updated bikes that were available at the time of testing: the BMW S 1000 RR, the Ducati 1299 Panigale S, and the Yamaha YZF-R1. We've already featured each bike with first-ride reports, which covered all the technical updates and details: the Panigale ("Power Progression") and the R1 ("Raising the Bar") in our last issue, and the S 1000 RR in the February/March issue ("No Rest for the Wicked").

We’ll look to compare the RSV4 RR to the winner of this shootout as soon as we can get the keys to one. For now, it’s all about this trio and how they work on the street and track.

2015 Literbike Comparison Test - BMW S 1000 RR

2015 BMW S 1000 RR

The Street Ride
We kicked our 2015 literbike comparison test off with a week of commuting to and from the Sport Rider office in Irvine, California, and then a day of canyon riding that included everything from tight, beat-up sections of road to smoothly paved sweepers and long stretches of highway that'd eventually lead us back home. In years past, this portion of the test would have kicked our asses (yikes, did it again—sorry, mom), but this year it was noticeably less like being on a torture rack for a few reasons.

The first reason is that Ducati has made some significant updates to its 1299 Panigale for increased comfort, ultimately outfitting the bike with a more comfortable, 899-derived rider’s seat and larger front fairing that provides better wind protection not only at the track but on the road as well. Separate, these changes seem insignificant, but together they create an almost entirely different riding experience and actually make riding the Panigale rather, dare we say, pleasurable. We even didn’t mind the reach to the Panigale’s tall, wide-set clip-ons.

The BMW’s ergonomics are still better in a direct comparison, the wide-set bars and similarly damped seat providing great around-town comfort but without having you pushed as far forward as you are on the Panigale. And finally, the R1, with its narrow, more heavily angled clip-ons and thin seat, falls somewhere between the two bikes in terms of comfort. The R6-like ergonomics offer up a more aggressive riding position than the BMW but with a modest amount more overall comfort than the Panigale on any ride longer than 30 miles.

BMW offered up for this test its S 1000 RR with Dynamic Package, which includes everything from forged aluminum wheels to Dynamic Damping Control, cruise control (part of the Race package), and heated grips—essentially everything but a German tech—and Ducati its 1299 Panigale S, which includes Ducati Electronic Suspension (DES) and a heated seat (oh, wait, that’s just engine heat—never mind). Yamaha, meanwhile, offered up its much more affordable R1, the R1M being a limited-production model that has basically already sold out.

We mention this not to highlight some absurd performance (or price) gap between the Yamaha and its competition but rather to applaud the R1 for how well it shines despite costing right around $3,000 less than the next bike in the comparison ($16,490 versus $19,440 for the BMW and $24,995 for the Ducati). In a lot of ways, it’s better even.

2015 Literbike Comparison Test - Ducati 1299 Panigale S

2015 Ducati 1299 Panigale S

The R1’s TFT (thin film transistor) dash is, for example, the standout of the group, as it offers easy-to-read information regardless of the sun’s glare and is easier to navigate than any other display in the group. On the BMW, changing riding modes, settings for ABS, traction control, or heated grips is easy enough, but digging into the main menu for making changes to the suspension is more time consuming, plus the mass of information on this year’s larger dash is more difficult to make sense of at speed. Similarly, the Ducati’s TFT dash continues to be difficult to see during the day due to the color of its background and the almost-always-present reflection of the steering damper. Adjusting settings for each of the electronic riders aids is relatively easy using the buttons on the left clip-on, though still not as easy as with the R1’s click wheel. The Ducati also requires some forethought, as you can’t adjust individual settings on the fly unless you’re in Race mode. Even then you can only adjust one predetermined electronic system (wheelie control, engine brake control, or traction control).

Opposite the Ducati, which emits so much heat near the front part of the seat and rider’s right thigh that you’d swear you were on fire, the BMW and R1 take it relatively easy on your manhood and keep heat to a minimum. For Yamaha, this is a big leap forward, as the previous R1, with undertail exhaust, was known for scorching your thighs on warm days. Not anymore, with the 2015 R1 and the S 1000 RR emitting just a bit of heat and providing a much more user-friendly experience on longer highway stints and in around-town riding.

The R1 is not perfect though. At least not in Power Mode 1, as the on/off throttle transition in that mode is overly abrupt and makes stoplight-to-stoplight rides a bit of a headache when compared to the near-seamless BMW and Ducati. Fortunately, switching over to Power Mode 2 or Power Mode 3 solves the problem, as both modes ease the transition—3 more so than 2—from closed throttle to open without cutting all the fun. Gearing is a bit tall too, though that is more something you notice than something that actually affects the ride, as it’s not tall enough that you’re slipping the clutch off every light.

Whatever else the R1 gives up around town (which is very little, should you not mind the thinner seat and tighter clip-on angle), it more than makes up for in the canyons, with its chassis providing more feel than anything in the group. The Ducati feels a little less confidence inspiring but makes up for that by being the lightest bike in the category (428 pounds versus 439 for the R1 and 451 for the BMW) and steering into canyon corners with the effort of a bicycle. The BMW, by comparison, feels heavy and lacks front-end feel, Kunitsugu going on to say that the frame is still too stiff and provides too much feedback, despite changes for 2015 that reduce frame stiffness.

2015 Literbike Comparison Test - Yamaha YZF-R1

2015 Yamaha YZF-R1

You can adjust the base settings on the BMW’s semi-active Sachs suspension (also updated for 2015) for front “damping” (rebound and compression changed in unison), rear compression damping, and rear rebound damping, which we did for the street, and with positive results for each test rider. The Ducati’s system can also be softened up but not with specific values for rebound and compression damping (unless in fixed mode), which simplifies the suspension adjustment process but also provided a little less of a performance edge on rougher sections of road; in the softer setting, you can feel the fork and shock moving easily through their travel as they absorbed bumps but there’s still harshness as you hit a sharp-edged bump.

The Track Ride
Each bikes' attributes (for the better or worse) are put under a magnifying glass at the track, which in this case was Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch's new road course. Situated just outside of Pahrump, Nevada, this track has everything from a sweeping, 85-plus-mph corner to tight flip-flop chicanes, and a long front straight where you'll dig deep into the bikes' transmissions before having to drop the anchor for turn one.

A lot comes to light in that first corner too, with each bike getting slowed in an entirely different manner, but none better than the Panigale. It’s long been said that the M50 calipers on the Ducati are the best in the business, and that story is much the same this time around, with the monoblock units on the 1299 offering up more feel and power than the R1 stoppers, which are better than before but could still afford more power and feel. The BMW brakes couldn’t be any more different, as there’s decent feel but an overly aggressive initial bite that is tough to modulate with a single finger or two. Worse than that, the S 1000 RR has the least amount of engine braking (nonadjustable), and its brakes fade considerably during a session, so much so that the lever will come to the bar if you don’t start the session with it run all the way out. Both the BMW and R1 would probably benefit from new pads, while the Ducati’s rock-solid brake package wouldn’t need the slightest amount of attention.

2015 Literbike Comparison Test - BMW S 1000 RR

The Panigale’s advantages don’t end there, as it also has a better auto-blip downshift than the BMW, which lacks feel as you click through the gears and is more counterproductive than useful. The 1299 also offers up gobs more bottom-end torque than before, good for getting off the tighter corners with a bigger head of steam. “If you like torque, then the Panigale is the bike for you,” Kunitsugu says. With 175 hp, it’s not short on peak power either. The only thing is that you have to be ready for shifts, as the new motor revs extremely quickly, and you’ll be bumping into the limiter before you know it.

BMW’s S 1000 RR is different in that it’s happier at higher revs, ultimately building a bigger head of steam by the end of most straight sections. The biggest indication of this is how much farther back you have to move your braking markers; use the same ones you used on the Ducati or R1 and you’re guaranteed to get into the next corner with more speed than you or the fading brakes will know what to do with.

The R1, which produced “just” 164 hp when strapped to our Dynojet Dyno (versus 180 hp for the S 1000 RR and 174 hp for the 1299 Panigale), doesn’t have that problem but should not be written off as a slouch, as it still pushes through the air with surprising ease and has the midrange to get you off corners in a rather impressive manner. “I actually like the Yamaha engine because of the way it builds power. It’s just really easy to manage,” Kunitsugu says, referring to its ability to make you feel like you’re actually in control of the bike, rather than it being in control of you, as can be the case with the BMW and Ducati.

2015 Literbike Comparison Test - Ducati 1299 Panigale S

Electronics on each of the bikes do help manage the power, and here is where each of the manufacturers has made big improvements over before—BMW especially, as its traction control system (with integrated wheelie control system) no longer has aggressive cuts for keeping the tires in line or on the ground. Turn the system up while in Slick mode (available as part of the Race package, with 15 levels of adjustment) and you’ll notice that power is being pulled but in a less aggressive manner than on the Panigale in any of its traction control settings not including Off, which is how we had to run the system in order to get our fastest lap on that bike. The 1299’s system is not an absolute lap-time killer, mind you, but in anything outside of level 3 (of 8) it starts making cuts that feel overly abrasive. Similarly, the wheelie control systems on the BMW and Ducati feel like they are less consistent than on the Yamaha; on one lap the front wheel lifts to a certain point, and then the next lap it reacts differently.

The R1’s systems are not only seamless in their intervention but also more consistent lap after lap. Crank traction control up and you’ll feel power being reduced off the corner but no big cuts, while with wheelie control even at level 2 you’ll have the front wheel coming to almost the same exact point lap after lap. Admittedly, we couldn’t even feel the Slide Control System working, only see the dash flashing. Seamless intervention…

The other advantage to the Yamaha is its chassis, which remains more composed than either of the other chassis and provides the perfect amount of feel when cranked over. The BMW feels numb by comparison, and it tends to bind up when you are trailing brake and have loaded the chassis. And while the ’15 model’s rear end no longer pumps while driving off a corner (electronic suspension probably helps here), the bike steers heavier through a transition and requires more strength from your legs.

2015 Literbike Comparison Test - Yamaha YZF-R1

The Ducati is the exact opposite, as it flips from one side to the other with ease and steers into a corner with the lightest of inputs. Unfortunately, once the bike gets moving, like in a slide off the corner, it’s tough to get settled down, and at some point you feel like you’re just along for the ride. Exciting? Yes. Scary? A little. Despite having updated the pegs on the 1299 with Superleggera-derived bits, our feet would still slip off during aggressive transitions, plus the bike is more difficult for taller riders to climb around on as the gap from the back of the seat to the front is tight. The R1, in contrast, offers a ton of room in the saddle area and much better aerodynamics, which enables you to actually relax while running up the front straight. Not something you can normally say about a 164-hp motorcycle.

If it sounds like each bike—the S 1000 RR, 1299 Panigale S, and R1—gives something up in one category and gets it back in another, that's because they do. BMW's new S 1000 RR is an absolute powerhouse, and updates to the electronics have made the bike much easier to get off the corners. But despite updates to the chassis, there is still room for improvement in an otherwise stellar package that somehow makes 180 hp seem reasonable for street use.

Likewise, Ducati has made a huge leap forward with its 1299 Panigale. A year ago, we wrote this off as one of our least favorite literbikes to ride at full tilt, and yet this year it’s the one we looked forward to riding the most. It’s a viscerally exiting motorcycle that, albeit work to ride, reminds us why we ride motorcycles: fun. You know that girl you just know is trouble but you keep going back because of how alive she makes you feel? Well that’s the Panigale: sexy, fun, and hot as hell, figuratively and literally.

But none of that offsets the advantages of the so finely tuned R1, its user-friendly engine, confidence-inspiring chassis, and faultless electronics coming together to provide a riding experience you’ll have a hard time finding words to describe.

At least words your mother would approve of…

2015 Literbike Comparison Test - BMW S 1000 RR
The biggest change to the S 1000 RR’s chassis is at the rear section of the bike’s twin-spar frame (shown), which uses a reduced wall thickness for increased chassis flex. Interestingly, each of the test riders still felt that the frame was too stiff.

Test Notes

BMW S 1000 RR
+ Monster power
+ Great ergos for street
- Lacks front-end feel at corner entry
- Steers heavier than R1 or Panigale
- Brake fade
= We'll let the 180 hp (at rear wheel) do the talking

Ducati 1299 Panigale S
+ Improved rider comfort
+ Awesome low-to-mid power
+ Light steering
- Gets way too hot around the seat
- A little unstable
- Very demanding to ride at speed
= Ducati just cut the gap between it and the competition in half

Yamaha YZF-R1
+ Great chassis feel
+ Seamless electronics that are easy to adjust
+ User-friendly power
- Brakes lack power and feel
- On/off throttle is abrupt in Power Mode 1
= This R1 is everything Yamaha said it would be. And more.

SR Ratings

Bike BMW S 1000 RR Ducati 1299 Panigale S Yamaha YZF-R1
Fun to Ride 8 8 9
Quality 10 10 10
Instruments & Controls 8 7 9
Ergonomics 8 7 9
Chassis & Handling 7 7 9
Suspension 9 9 8
Brakes 7 9 7
Transmission 8 8 8
Engine Power 9 8 8
Engine Power Delivery 9 8 9
Ratings Total 83 81 86
2015 Literbike Comparison Test - Yamaha YZF-R1
Yamaha catapulted itself from the Stone Age with the introduction of a TFT display of its own. Perhaps an allegory for the bike, it is, in one word, faultless.

SR Opinions

Eric Nugent
Age: 49
Height: 6'0"
When you're riding three bikes of this caliber, there are bound to be surprises—and some things that aren't so surprising. Start with the 1299; the changes Ducati has made (and looks alone) make this a hard bike to resist. But the fact that your ass is on fire from the five-minute mark on and that the gauges are almost unusable is not that surprising.

Then there’s the BMW, which surprised me only because I actually liked it less than the R1 (tall first gear and narrow bars in mind). The norm would almost guarantee the S 1000 RR gold in these shootouts, and while its power is awfully fun to use, the R1 is simply a better overall package. Surprise, surprise!

Kent Kunitsugu
Age: 54
Height: 5'8"
These three showcase the latest in electronic rider aid trickery, but what's ironic is the reason one particular bike was my favorite had literally nothing to do with that. The BMW is the horsepower king, but the overly stiff chassis feel on corner entry and mid-corner gave me pause, as did the brake fade and quirky quickshifter. The 1299 is an absolute twin-cylinder beast, and it exploits that engine's advantages fantastically. But it's very hard work to ride fast, both physically and mentally. The R1 has the chassis feel that inspires confidence because it always gives you the right amount of information about what's going on at the tire contact patch—no more, no less—in all aspects of cornering. Stack on top of that a supremely flexible engine, excellent suspension, and, yes, class-leading electronics, and you've got my winner.

2015 Literbike Comparison Test - Ducati 1299 Panigale S
The 1299 Panigale’s seat (“borrowed” from the 899 Panigale) turns the big Duc into a moderately comfortable streetbike. It’s a shame about the engine heat forced on your leg though.

Bradley Adams
Age: 25
Height: 6'3"
Part of me can't believe that these bikes are available to anyone and everyone. The other part is glad that they are because 165 to 180 hp on two wheels is something everyone should have the chance to experience. There is nothing like it.

Even still, as much as we love it, the truth is that power is not everything. Yamaha understands that and has developed an engine that’s not quite as quick but noticeably easier to manage. Add an electronics package that’s more refined than the Ducati’s and chassis that offers up more feel than the BMW’s, and you have the ingredients to one of the best sportbikes ever made. I hope you or someone you know goes and buys an R1 because this is absolutely something you need to experience for yourself.

2015 Literbike Comparison Test
Yamaha built a track bike, as evidenced not only by the lap times but also the ergonomics. Each test rider claimed, however, that the more aggressive riding position (compared to the BMW) was offset by the R1’s performance outside of city streets.


Bike BMW S 1000 RR Ducati 1299 Panigale S Yamaha YZF-R1
MSRP $15,500 ($19,440 as tested w/ Premium Package) $24,995 $16,490
Type Liquid-cooled, transverse DOHC inline-four, 4 valves/cyl. Liquid-cooled, DOHC V-twin, 4 valves/cyl. Liquid-cooled, transverse DOHC inline-four, 4 valves/cyl.
Displacement 999cc 1285cc 998cc
Bore x stroke 80.0 x 49.7mm 116.0 x 60.8mm 79.0 x 50.9mm
Compression ratio 13.0:1 12.6:1 13.0:1
Induction BMS-KP EFI, single-valve 48mm throttle bodies, dual injectors/cyl. Mitsubishi EFI, elliptical throttle bodies w/ 67mm equivalent dia., dual injectors/cyl. Mikuni EFI, 45mm throttle bodies, dual injectors/cyl.
Front suspension Sachs 46mm semi-active fork adjustable for spring preload and damping; 4.7-in. travel Öhlins 43mm semi-active fork w/ electronic compression and rebound damping adjustment; 4.7-in. travel KYB 43mm fork adjustable for spring preload, compression, and rebound damping; 4.7-in. travel
Rear suspension Sachs semi-active shock adjustable for spring preload, compression, and rebound damping; 4.7-in. travel Öhlins semi-active shock w/ electronic compression and rebound damping adjustment; 5.12-in. travel KYB shock adjustable for spring preload, high-/low-speed compression, and rebound damping; 4.7-in. travel
Front tire 120/70ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP 120/70ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP 120/70ZR-17 Bridgestone Battlax RS-10FG
Rear tire 190/55ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP 200/55ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP 190/55ZR-17 Bridgestone Battlax RS-10RG
Rake/trail 23.5°/3.8 in. (96.5mm) 24.0°/3.8 in. (96.5mm) 24.0°/4.0 in. (102mm)
Wheelbase 56.6 in. (1438mm) 56.6 in. (1437mm) 55.3 in. (1405mm)
Seat height 32.1 in. (815mm) 32.7 in. (830mm) 33.7 in. (855mm)
Fuel capacity 4.6 gal. (17.5L) 4.5 gal. (17.0L) 4.5 gal. (17.0L)
Weight 451 lb. (205kg) wet; 423 lb. (192kg) dry 428 lb. (194kg) wet; 401 lb. (182kg) dry 439 lb. (199kg) wet; 412 lb. (187kg) dry
Fuel consumption 34–41 mpg, 38 mpg avg. 33–39 mpg, 37 mpg avg. 31–36 mpg, 33 mpg avg.
Quarter-mile 10.19 sec. @ 151.46 mph (10.26 sec. @ 150.23 mph w/ launch control) 10.36 sec. @ 148.83 mph 10.31 sec. @ 148.12 mph (10.62 sec. @ 146.19 mph w/ launch control)
Roll-ons 60–80 mph/2.41 sec.; 80–100 mph/2.33 sec. 60–80 mph/2.27 sec.; 80–100 mph/2.83 sec. 60–80 mph/2.89 sec.; 80–100 mph/3.35 sec.
2015 Literbike Comparison Test

AiM Solo Data Analysis

At our trackday at Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch in Pahrump, Nevada, we mounted our AiM Solo GPS lap timer to each bike during Bradley’s hot laps. The Solo, in addition to recording lap times via GPS, records speed, lateral and longitudinal acceleration, other GPS-derived data, and segment times for each portion of the track. The SMMR facility continues to expand; the track we used for our test is a variation on the new 2-mile circuit we used last year in our “Displacement War” test (Dec. ’14), using most of the same layout but bypassing one short section at the back of the track.

BMW S 1000 RR: 1:07.880
Ducati 1299 Panigale S: 1:07.981
Yamaha YZF-R1: 1:07.444

Not much in it for lap times, with less than a half second covering the three bikes. Unlike most tests where it’s easy to point to aspects of the data and say that certain bikes excel in certain areas compared to the other bikes, in this case it’s not that simple: These three literbikes are clustered close to the top of the sportbike heap, and the differences as shown in the data are minimal. While the numbers here reflect the quickest of Bradley’s laps on each bike, we had to look at several laps from each bike to confirm the findings.

The main straight on the SMMR course is close to 3/8 of a mile long, with all three bikes reaching close to 150 mph. As you’d expect, the powerful BMW is quickest by a healthy margin on such a long straight, but on other straights that is not necessarily the case. Corner-exit speeds factor in to how fast each bike goes at the end of each straight, and the Ducati and Yamaha have higher speeds in many segments; on the shorter straights, the BMW cannot negate that advantage the other bikes have.

“Brakes on the Yamaha don’t have the power or feel as the rest,” Bradley said after his hot laps, and he pointed to the Panigale’s binders as having the best power and feel. The R1’s brakes do, however, stand out in the data as providing the best performance over the course of the lap. In almost every braking zone, the R1 makes time on the other two bikes—marginally over the Ducati but as much as 2/10 of a second to the BMW. “The BMW brakes fade and have over-aggressive initial bite,” Bradley says of the S 1000 RR. “I continually got in hot on the BMW.” The BMW does show the highest deceleration of the three bikes in some corners, but Bradley consistently gets to maximum braking quickest on the Yamaha, which is a more important factor in the track’s many short braking zones.

It’s worth pointing out that on Bradley’s quickest lap on the R1, he braked significantly earlier and not as hard as on other laps, losing quite a bit of time to the other two bikes. If he had braked as hard as he did entering turn one on the previous lap, the lap time difference between the R1 and the other bikes would have been a couple tenths of a second greater.

The next most important section of track is the high-speed turns one and two, which stresses front-end confidence and feel. In turn one, the R1 has the slowest apex speed of the three bikes, though he is still recovering from braking early for the corner; on other laps, apex speed is similar to the other two bikes. Still, he recovers enough in turn two with the highest apex speed of the three bikes. “I felt like, in turn one especially, I was able to open the throttle at least a few feet earlier [on the Yamaha] because the bike was already planted. Front-end feel is a little more numb on the BMW, so not enough confidence to get back to the throttle, and the Ducati is moving around a bit all the way to the apex, which keeps you from opening the throttle if you’re not Chaz Davies brave.” On the BMW in this section, Bradley is able to get a better burst of speed (and matching brakes) between turns one and two, and this lets him post the quickest segment time here—and even better than the Yamaha’s segment time in its other laps.

In terms of corner speed, it’s the BMW and Yamaha that show the most speed in the single-apex corners over the middle third of the track, with the Yamaha showing a slight edge in the majority of the corners. In the latter half of the track, which is more a combination of transitions rather than single corners, the Yamaha steadily marches away from the other two bikes with the quickest segment times. In those final transitions, it’s the Yamaha with the highest roll rate from side to side, even though Bradley felt otherwise: “The BMW feels the heaviest in a transition, requiring a little more effort from your lower body to get the thing from one side to the other. Yamaha is a bit better and the Ducati like a bicycle. I noticed this in the tight flip-flop section and in going from right to left in the second-to-last corner of the track.” A lot here could be that the Yamaha’s chassis is so composed that Bradley feels more comfortable throwing it from one side to the other with more aggression.

The Yamaha’s performance in the last half of the track—with all those transitions—is what really separates it from the Ducati and BMW. In the first half of the track, the three bikes are fairly evenly matched aside from Bradley’s miscue braking on his Yamaha hot lap, with segment times, apex speeds, and straightaway speeds all mixed and matched between the three bikes. But in the second half of the track, the Yamaha makes up for the braking issue and then some, recouping almost the entire lap time difference in the final segment alone.

In the end, it’s fair to say all bikes are strong performers, with the difference being how comfortable they allow the rider to be and where it allows him to push.

2015 Literbike Comparison Test - Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP V2

Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP V2 Tires

Just as production motorcycles have evolved at an alarming rate over the years, so too have production DOT tires. For this year’s test at Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch, Pirelli offered up for each literbike a set of its Diablo Supercorsa SP V2 tires, the street version of its SC race rubber.

A bi-compound tire that puts special emphasis on high-speed stability, the Diablo Supercorsa SP also uses a tread design with larger naked slick shoulder area than in previous Pirelli street tires. On the 200/55ZR-17 Supercorsa SP, that bi-compound design is said to increase mileage (good for street/trackday guys looking to stretch their budget) while also providing better grip at lean, all this possible thanks to a 25-percent wider soft-compound area (versus previous Supercorsa SP); the soft-compound area now accounts for 35 percent of the tire’s side. Additionally, the SP compound uses different polymers for quicker warm-up.

Of all the features of the Supercorsa SP, the quick warm-up period was the one we noticed most, having brought tire warmers to the test but forgetting to put gas in the generator on multiple occasions. D’oh! In many cases, this would lead to a full lap or two with the tires squirming at corner entry as they try to come up to temp, but that wasn’t the case with the SP. Instead, the tire never moved around on us and was ready for quick laps almost right away. For guys who don’t want to spend money on tire warmers or a generator to power those warmers, this is a huge advantage.

Of course the tires hardly faltered when being punished by a 180-hp literbike either, offering a surprising amount of grip at corner entry and exit, with great front-end feel and precise steering to boot. When the tires did begin to slide, the slide was very controlled.

The SPs seem to be sensitive to tire pressure, so check with a tire representative before heading out for your first session. Otherwise, leave your worries in your wallet and enjoy realizing how far along street motorcycle tires have come.

2015 Literbike Comparison Test
BMW has retained top honors in the horsepower category, its S 1000 RR putting down an impressive 180 hp at the rear wheel on the dyno. Ducati’s big twin didn’t go down without a fight, of course, the 1299 putting down almost 175 hp just before redline.
2015 Literbike Comparison Test
Ducati’s twin shows its much-anticipated advantages in terms of torque, while Yamaha’s R1 displays a curiously lackluster curve in the low-to-midrange.

What about the other literbikes?

2016 Aprilia RSV4 RR - Bucine Grey

2016 Aprilia RSV4 RR - Bucine Grey

Aprilia RSV4 RR
Aprilia's 2016 RSV4 RR (RF tested elsewhere in this issue) is the bike most likely to give the BMW S 1000 RR, Ducati 1299 Panigale, and Yamaha YZF-R1 fits, its electronics package, confidence-inspiring chassis, and updated engine having the performance to back its bark. A late-'15 introduction meant one wouldn't be here in time for this year's literbike test, but rest assured one will be going head to head against the competition shortly.

2015 Honda CBR1000RR Red

2015 Honda CBR1000RR Red

Honda CBR1000RR
Honda updated its CBR1000RR in 2014 with new cylinder head, intake ports, and exhaust ports, in addition to a new screen, footrest position, and clip-on angle. However, these alone were not enough to keep the BMW S 1000 RR in sight during the ensuing bout ("Serious Weaponry," Oct. '14), and in the end we were still left hoping for a little more power out of the CBR, plus some form of electronic rider aids.

2015 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R 30th Anniversary Model

Kawasaki ZX-10R
Prior to Yamaha, Kawasaki was the last Japanese manufacturer to completely overhaul its 1,000cc package. All the way back in 2011… The ZX-10R hasn't received much attention since then, updated in 2015 but only with the 30th anniversary graphics seen here. While the bike is still an honest performer with good electronics and power, it'll be interesting to see how Kawasaki responds to the competition in the year(s) to come.

2015 KTM RC8 R

2015 KTM RC8 R

KTM's RC8 R is the little bike that could, offering up "just" 145 hp at the rear wheel during the last literbike comparison it was included in ("Superbike Slugfest!" Sept. '12). We still have a soft spot for the RC8 R though, going on to say in that test that its chassis is more agile and provides more mid-corner feedback than almost anything else in the class.

MV Agusta F4
MV Agusta's brutish F4 went unchanged for 2015, but rumors suggest the storyline will be a bit different in 2016, with MV working hard to bring its F4 and F4 RR (shown) to the front of the literbike category. In the last shootout it contested ("Italy's Best," Sept. '13), we praised the bike for its rock-solid chassis and monstrous engine. None of that, however, was enough to offset the performance of its underperforming electronics.

2015 Suzuki GSX-R1000

2015 Suzuki GSX-R1000 Metallic Triton Blue / Pearl Glacier White

Suzuki GSX-R1000
Suzuki's GSX-R1000 has always been a very solid performer and actually finished a respectable third place in the last literbike shootout it contested ("Superbike Slugfest!" Sept. '12) after a few modest tweaks to the engine. For 2015, updates start at new graphics and end at ABS; however, those revisions won't go far in keeping the newest mounts from Ducati, Yamaha, or BMW in sight. Maybe next year, as Suzuki is looking to kick off its 30th anniversary of the GSX-R in style.