Motorcycle News - Church of MO: 2008 Supersport Shootout
Thou art Pete, and upon this Briquette you shall write the 2008 Supersport Shootout. Ten years ago, the Great Recession was gathering steam and the middleweight sportbike class was a place every manufacturer had to be, including Triumph. The results may not surprise you.
2008 Supersport Shootout: CBR600RR Vs Daytona 675 Vs ZX-6R Vs R6 Vs GSX-R600
By Pete Brissette Jun. 17, 2008
Photography by Alfonse Palaima Video by Alfonse Palaima
“These things don’t belong on the street!”This has become the cry of the rational motorcyclist when the subject of modern literbikes comes up. But what if you could have virtually all of the same performance-driven componentry and research and development that go into most superbikes in a motorcycle with roughly 30-35% less spank? Would most riders, young and old, veteran and newbie, feel like they could handle such a bike? Apparently, yes.
Supersports, or more commonly, 600s, are red-hot sellers. Editor Duke reported back from his time at the U.S. launch of the 2008 R6 that the tuning fork company claims “the 600cc segment makes up 51% of what Yamaha calls the Supersport market, a segment that is up in sales a huge 52% since 2001.” Yep, these things are pretty important.
The contenders in Motorcycle.com’s 2008 Supersport Shootout.
Changing of the guard?
As a matter of fact, the supersport class may become even more important to OEMs than it already is –whether they like it or not. When the AMA essentially admitted to its ineptness at handling American pro racing and announced in March of this year that Daytona Motorsports Group was granted rights to promote, sanction and manage various AMA racing series, one of DMG’s first moves was to change the current structure of road racing. Starting in 2009, the premier class will likely be the “Daytona Superbike” class. As of the writing of this story, DMG hasn’t yet released specific rules for the new class but has stated that the collection of contenders will include Twins, Triples and four-cylinder bikes, and will have “middleweight performance horsepower limits,” said to be 140 rear-wheel horsepower. In effect, this opens the door for six more brands that DMG says fit the bill: Aprilia, KTM, Triumph, BMW, Ducati and Buell.
Well then, guess it’s a good thing we got around to testing at least 5 of the 10 bikes potentially eligible for the new Daytona Superbike class.
The ‘08 CBR600RR returns to the supersport fray unchanged from last year and undaunted by the task of taking on updated models from Suzuki and Yamaha.
Like our literbike shootout from last month, this battle supreme has a couple of freshened-up entrants mixed in with a couple of models not yet at the end of their model cycles. AMA Formula Xtreme reigning champ, Honda, is naturally in the fray with its CBR600RR unchanged from last year; same goes for Kawasaki’s 2007-08 Daytona 200-winning ZX-6R.
Though it can’t lay claim to any U.S. championships, the Daytona 675 from Triumph – unrevised since its ’06 intro – is a champion of the hearts of many and has taken top honors in the Supersport class at the Spain-based track-centric Supertest three years running now, and three-peated this year in the same category in a similar uber-evaluation called Masterbike run by the Spanish sportbike mag Motorciclismo. Tooting our own horn a bit while paying further accolades to the English Triple, the 675 won Motorcycle.com’s 2006 Supersport shootout as well as our 2006 Best of the Best comparison. Phew! That’s a tough act to follow.
Triumph’s Daytona 675 is the old man of the group being unchanged since its 2006 introduction. This bike doesn’t need Depends though; the world seems to love it!
This leaves the two newest bikes: the Yamaha R6 and Suzuki GSX-R600. Both bikes received a healthy dose of revision but not so much as to make either wildly different from last year.
For ’08 the R6 gained YCC-I (Yamaha Chip Controlled-Intake), first seen on the 2007 R1. Both supersport and liter machines from Yamaha now have throttle-by-wire (YCC-T) and YCC-I. In addition, the middleweight mill received upwards of some 50 tweaks, a couple of them being increased compression and substantially larger crossover pipes in the exhaust headers; the targeted goal being improved mid-range. To augment engine improvements, the R6’s frame was updated to enhance both rigidity and controlled flex in all the right areas. The aluminum subframe was tossed in favor of one constructed from magnesium. Finally, things like altered clip-on placement, new EFI, 0.5mm thicker rotors for improved heat dissipation and revised bodywork join numerous other changes that add up to what Yamaha calls a “brand new bike from the tires up.”
This year was revision year for the formidable R6.
Suzuki has reason to be proud of the GSX-R600. According to Garrett Kai, American Suzuki’s Senior Communications Specialist, it is the best-selling machine of all the products in the company’s catalog. The little Gixxer got a gaggle of improvements this year, and like the R6, a heavy focus was on mid-range power improvements. Compression was pushed from 12.3 to 12.5:1, intake ports were reshaped, valve lift was reduced on the intake cams and exhaust pipe diameter was reduced by a scant 3mm while overall muffler volume increased. Fueling was enhanced and ventilation between cylinders was increased marginally to reduce pumping losses. Though the chassis remains largely unchanged from last year, the GSX-R600 picked up an electronically controlled steering damper. Improvements to braking come via changes to increase pinching power without increasing effort at the lever. Oh, and we almost forgot, to complete the circle, so to speak, the 2008 GSX-R600 now, like all current Zook sport bikes, has the A-B-C of Suzuki–Drive Mode Selector.
Not only did the 2008 GSX-R600 get engine and chassis updates, it also got a new look. Other motorcyclists commented on it every time we parked it somewhere.
Back in the saddle
With the players in place we summoned a motley collection of hapless riders eager for a spin on the latest 600cc hardware and a free meal at Outback Steakhouse. Fresh from our literbike rumpus is ex-Limey, Steve “Speed” Kelly. Steve’s a salty veteran of the motorbike courier world, first in Ol’ Blighty, then sunny L.A. He’s owned more bikes – and sold ‘em at a profit! – than George Barber, holds a WSMC racing license (sourced from an I-5 rest-area bathroom) and has countless miles round a track. He’s plenty qualified, but we just like his accent.
Also returning – and still suffering mental duress – from the literbike battle is Alexandra Bongart. Alex owns a late-model GSX-R600, knows her way around the pits and track, and is an accomplished street rider. She brings a fresh, female perspective to Motorcycle.com, which is very important these days and rarely, if ever, seen in most publications. I hate to admit it, but I’ve had a hard time keeping her out of my mirrors during street rides.
‘…we logged hundreds of street miles through twisted mountain pavement, urban sprawl and droned the superslab’
New to the tomfoolery is Kaming Ko. This incredibly friendly character has a lengthy resume in Formula car racing a well as a ‘70s motorcycle racing survivor. Kaming’s riding style is a dead give-away to his age, as some fused vertebrae keeps him from laying over the tank in a sportbike tuck, but he still rides faster than most us who have a fully functional spine! Again, like the other two above, we really keep him in the mix for ulterior motives. He has owned some of the coolest sportbikes ever built, like the Desmosedici RR he recently let Editor-in-Cheese Duke and me bumble around Willow on.
Finally, this time we added someone as sharp with a keyboard as he is with a twist-grip. Mark Gardiner is to motojournalism like a wrongly-accused inmate is to death row: full of time served and glad to be out. Jesting aside, it needs to be known that Mark worked at Motorcyclist magazine for a stint, raced in the Isle of Man TT, and is an accomplished author with his well-received book, Riding Man, about his TT experience.
Over the course of several days we logged hundreds of street miles through twisted mountain pavement, urban sprawl and droned the superslab. Mix in one nearly perfect day on the Big Track at Willow Springs Raceway in Rosamond, CA, where we doubled-up on sessions courtesy of trackday company, Take It 2 The Track, and we were ready to cast ballots in hopes of a clear-cut winner. Clear-cut? Pfft!
We employed the same scoring method as in this year’s liter comparo wherein we took a cumulative sum of scores over 12 categories – with the same bias toward the Engine category – that encompass the things we care about in a motorcycle.
Let the testing begin!
Surprise! Not exactly, but the Honda’s powerplant, being as linear as it is, can’t quite compare to the 675’s, according to the unblinking Dynojet at our friends at Area P. In classic inline-Triple fashion, the Daytona makes the best use of its shootout-leading 47.9 ft-lbs of torque in a very manageable way starting from as early as 3,000 rpm where it’s making 36 ft-lbs. At that same mark the CBR, the next most potent powerplant, is only making 21 ft-lbs. This middleweight represents with near perfection the characteristics we look to consider when assessing the engines. Power comes on early and isn’t absent in lower rpms like so many flaccid 600cc mills. The smooth on/off throttle transitions of the 675 translates into the most tractable bike here. Driving into and through Turn 8 at Willow revealed a rheostat-like quality: dial the power in, roll it off gently, and then turn it back up. On the street, Mark and Kevin kept using the phrase “cheater motor” after climbing out of the saddle with silly grins on their faces.
As you can tell from the orange line, the Triumph’s motor makes more power at nearly every point on the graph. The Honda (red) and Suzuki (light blue) trade spots for best among the four-cylinder bikes. The R6 has big power up top but lags behind the others everywhere else, which greatly affected its street performance scores.
Set the oddball aside for a moment and the CBR is clearly the best powered of the four Fours. In many ways it mirrors the 675. It, too, has an exceptional amount of user-friendliness, as it doesn’t require its neck be wrung for maximum fun. Feed the throttle in from way down the rpm range and the Honda pulls more like a 750cc Four, its powerful grunt belying its displacement. “Not sure how the hell Honda does it, but this bike rips out of corners,” exclaimed Speed Kelly. That’s a good observation considering it shares identical bore and stroke figures (67 x 45.2mm) with the other three Japanese machines. The simple answer is that the CBR is just a tick shy of the 675 in terms of horsepower and torque. With 105 ponies peaking at 14,100 rpm and 46 ft-lbs maxing out in the 12,500 rpm neighborhood, it’s a force to be reckoned with and understandable why the bike has been so successful in AMA Formula Xtreme.
The 675’s smashing success in the Engine category was thanks to all the wonderfully torquey things its inline-Triple mill offers.
It seems Suzuki’s efforts paid dividends in the search for more mid-range usability. It doesn’t have the stonk of the 675 but pulls with authority – save for a soft spot around 7,000 – as early as 4,500 rpm making 30 ft-lbs. The GSX-R600 actually outpaces the CBR’s torque figures by 2-3 lbs on average from just below 3k until about 8k where the CBR leaves the Gixxer behind. The strange thing here is that seat-of-the-pants sensation is quite the opposite. We’re attributing the Honda’s shorter gearing for its extra-torquey feel. The Gixxer offers smooth throttle transitions and trouble-free fueling that are the work of Suzuki Dual Throttle Valve system, and a new ECU controls fueling as well as a valve in the exhaust system. Torque is quickly becoming the new catch-phrase in supersport tuning. The end result is a more robust spread of power that brings the GSX-R closer to the CBR and Daytona in terms of greater everyday usability. One small negative with the Zook’s mill is that seemed to be buzzier than most on the freeway.
The current ZX-6R is likely at the end of its lifecycle, and it’s starting to show in the face of the competition. Before all the Ninja loyalists start planning to burn us at the stake for such blasphemy, we fully and readily acknowledge the ZX as a very excellent choice, and the Ninja’s motor seemed the smoothest among the buzzy inline-Fours. But, the Green Machine was dead last in the horsepower race, posting a sub-par 97.7 hp in stock form, according to our pals at AreaP and their reliable Dynojet dynamometer. There’s something of a minor controversy regarding the tuning of the ZX, something you’ll want to read more about in the below sidebar.
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July 8, 2018 at 12:22PM