Honda CBR1000RR vs. Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R vs. Suzuki GSX-R1000 vs. Yamaha YZF-R1 | The Big Four's Big Four

Class of 2012 Part I

By Ari Henning, Photography by Joe Neric, Adam Campbell


When we embarked on this comparison, we suspected we were going to have a hard time making distinctions between these four bikes. Seat time cleared up that concern, and by the fifth fill-up one bike was already pulling into the lead.

We’re huge fans of the Honda CBR1000RR’s engine and 600-like handling, but restrictive ergos limit its appeal to smaller riders, and that midrange-rich engine makes it a handful at the racetrack. It still hauled ass, but it would be even faster with traction control and fresh brakes.

The Yamaha YZF-R1 is charismatic and impressive in its own right—not to mention unique. But it’s also the only bike with real problems—namely abrupt throttle response, torturous engine heat and a portly build that makes for sluggish handling.

We weren’t expecting much from the Suzuki GSX-R1000, but this old-school design still works, especially at the racetrack. With shorter gearing it would be an even better streetbike, but there’s no denying that the Gixxer has fallen behind the times and is past due for a comprehensive redesign.

The only bike we couldn’t nit-pick was the Kawasaki ZX-10R. It feels the most refined and sophisticated, and proved the easiest to go fast on once we got the chassis sorted. Kawasaki has made the biggest investment in recent years, and it’s paid off. Riders want progress, and the ZX-10R delivers—as a streetbike and as a track tool.

Team Green isn’t in the clear yet, though. The ZX-10R’s victory here only assures pole position amongst its countrymen; it still has to face off against the winning European bike. Will the Ninja battle the Aprilia RSV4 Factory APRC, BMW S1000RR, Ducati 1199 Panigale or MV Agusta F4RR Corsacorta? Check back next month to find out… MC

Bridgestone R10 Tires
Up To The Task
Words: Ari Henning
Photo: Adam Campbell

You never want traction to be the limiting factor in a comparison test. So rather than slide around Chuckwalla Valley Raceway on stock street tires, we outfitted all four testbikes with Bridgestone’s latest DOT-approved R10 racing buns. Rory O’Neill from Performance Tire Service in Indianapolis and Brian Davenport from Bridgestone Americas in Nashville served as bead-breakers over the course of our two track days, and kept us rolling on fresh rubber that was always at the right temperature and inflated to the proper pressures.

The R10s are the successors to the BT003s we used during our “Class of ’09” comparo, and have undergone a few key developments aimed at improving grip and handling. A new tread pattern is the most obvious change. The R10s now feature a unique “3D” groove design that’s said to enhance stability and feel entering and exiting corners and aid in quick warm-up and rider feedback. An optimized crown profile with a steeper peak and flatter shoulders helps quicken steering and puts more rubber on the road at full lean.

The R10s also use new, more versatile rubber compounds that allowed Bridgestone to reduce the number of compound choices from three to two. Rears are offered in a Type 2 and 3 (hard and medium, respectively) and fronts in Type 3. We went with the hard rear and it was an excellent choice. Chuckwalla’s abrasive track surface combined with the coarse desert sand that blows across it have a reputation for tearing up tires, but the Bridgestones wore well and delivered all the traction and handling we needed to exploit our testbikes’ capabilities. The aggressive crown profile improved all the bikes’ handling, most notably by hastening turn-in and boosting stability at full lean.

The R10s are available in a 120/70ZR-17 front size for $161, and 180/55ZR-17 and 190/55ZR-17 rear sizes for $231 and $241, respectively. As race tires, the R10s are only available through authorized race tire distributors. Visit to find a vendor near you.

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