Cycle World 2017 Superbike Shootout Part 2: Street

Rain is the only thing that could put a damper on a 350-mile day aboard the latest crop of literbikes. And it’s raining. Not hard. But strong enough to have us second-guessing our ride plan. “Maybe if we ignore it and just keep riding, it’ll go away,” I think. It works. Or at least the sky starts to play nice during our run down the 5 freeway then completely clears by the time we finish our (late) breakfast and prepare to head inland. A little suffering for a full afternoon of fun. We can live with that.

Keys get tossed around quickly as we regroup. A few wide-open back roads cutting through Santa Ysabel are all that separate us from the tighter sections of asphalt crisscrossing their way up Palomar Mountain, and already, it's clear that the winner in this final stretch of straight road will be anyone on the Suzuki GSX-R1000 or Honda CBR1000RR—the two most forgiving bikes of the group.

Cycle World 2017 Superbike Shootout Part 1: Track

The GSX-R is the more accommodating motorcycle—ergonomics-wise. With a neutral seating position and relatively plush seat, it offers some reprieve to wrists and bottom ends, especially when compared to the R1 (which puts more weight on your wrists) and RSV4 (which has a more firm, sharp-edged seat). The problem? Suzuki has ditched the balancer shaft on this latest engine, and as a result, the bike has a propensity to vibrate your extremities at anything higher than 6,000 rpm. This was more noticeable on the track, where you sustain higher revs for longer, but still a frustrating point on the street—a blemish in an otherwise very street-friendly package.

suzuki gsx r1000 static side view
Suzuki GSX-R1000Jeff Allen

Honda’s CBR1000RR is velvety smooth by comparison. Most of the aggressive on/off throttle transition that we felt at the track is gone due to the less-aggressive nature of our riding here, and while the clip-on angle feels a little more assertive, the seat is plush enough to be considered comfortable. The only real downside is a lack of bottom-end grunt that’s felt when ridden alongside the throaty RSV4 or R1, with Mark Hoyer going on to add that: “The riding position, seat comfort, and engine smoothness made a two-hour freeway drone perfectly tolerable. My all-day sportbike for sure.”

honda cbr1000rr on road action
Honda CBR1000RRJeff Allen

Sean would argue that the RSV4 fits well, while Hoyer countered that the ergonomics are too compact. One thing everyone could agree on is that the Aprilia has the most seamless fueling of the group and is the most emotionally stirring motorcycle here. Similarly, everyone agreed the RSV4's new dash and switches were a nice touch but took a bit longer to work around. "I could figure the Honda display out on my own, right away, whereas the Aprilia I still can't quite figure out how to change settings," Aaron Colton says. We should add that standard cruise control is more of a benefit than you realize, and that suspension is supple enough to make racetrack performance seem manageable on the street.

aprilia rsv4 rr static side view
Aprilia RSV4 RRJeff Allen

Rider-aid adjustments on the rest of the bikes—Suzuki and Yamaha—are done easily, with the difference being the Suzuki's dash appears a touch less glamorous. It fits the bike but not the group. A common theme: You're almost always wishing for a touch more nicety from the Suzuki.

The CBR’s lightweight handling sets the bike apart when a road turns tight, making it one of the easiest bikes to hustle up a hill. The RSV4 feels heaviest in any part of the corner, while the Suzuki and Yamaha feel slightly heavier through a transition (the Suzuki more so here) and at corner entry (the Yamaha more so there). Fortunately for these two bikes, the chassis are so sure-footed that you can get more aggressive and close the gap to the Honda rather quickly. You will miss having a quickshifter on this Suzuki and be wishing for an auto-blip downshifter on the Yamaha as well. Things to come?

yamaha yzf r1 on road action
Yamaha YZF-R1Jeff Allen

Parked at the top of the hill, attention turns toward the Honda and Yamaha. The R1 is, without doubt, the most capable motorcycle of the group. You simply have to sacrifice a little comfort. The CBR is a gentler animal. It feels and looks more refined than the GSX-R yet tackles public roads with a sense of user-friendliness that the more potent RSV4 and R1 can’t match.

If you’re of the opinion that a little suffering is worth the added fun you'll experience in return, then the Yamaha is absolutely the bike for you. And if not, consider that the Honda is the most polished and formidable streetbike of the group.

More photos from the Superbike Shootout on the Road:

aprilia rsv4 rr wheelie action
Aprilia RSV4 RRJeff Allen
honda cbr1000rr on road action
Honda CBR1000RRJeff Allen
suzuki gsx r1000 on road action
Suzuki GSX-R1000Jeff Allen
yamaha yzf r1 static side view
Yamaha YZF-R1Jeff Allen

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