Ringleader: Barry Burke
Average Fuel Mileage: 33 mpg
Accessories And Modifications:
Race Tech suspension revalve, Ferodo brake pads, Continental Sport Attack tires, Zero Gravity windscreen, RK chain, Drive Systems sprockets
When Catterson asked me if I wanted a long-term testbike, I didn't hesitate. The GSX-R1000 has been the open-class leader for years now, and this year's updates make a big difference. Some staffers figure the new Gixxer is too much of a good thing, but I don't think so. It's easy to ride and the engine is great fun on the street or at the track. Bring on the horsepower, I say! This might be the most fun you can have with your clothes on. Power delivery is smooth and predictable.
The three-position S-DMS switch (Suzuki Drive Mode Selector) accommodates changing track conditions from dry to drizzle to downpour. Here's another way of looking at it: Setting A is for Amazing; let the games begin. B stands for Balls Lost; what happened to the power? As for setting C, well...never mind-it would just get edited out anyway. It's the sissy switch. A welcome idea back in New England where I grew up, but it doesn't rain much in Southern California these days. And when it does, most bikes stay in the garage. Maybe drop it down a notch when traction is compromised, but if you want 600-class power, buy a 600.
Like its literbike competition the GSX-R comes geared to the moon, so a lower final-drive setup was first on the list. It also uses a #530 chain, so I changed it to a #520 RK Gold ($225.95) for reduced friction. Sprockets came from Drive Systems: a one-tooth smaller 16 on the countershaft ($29.95) and a stock-sized 43 in the rear ($67.95). That combination makes a huge difference both at track days and on the street. The re-geared GSX-R pulls harder exiting corners and you can now get out of third on the street.
Tires were my next upgrade. Continental Sport Attacks ($180 front, $245 rear) get along well with the GSX-R's geometry. That said, I'm experimenting with different ride heights in the rear and, so far, having good luck raising it a bit. I'll keep you posted.
The suspension also needed some attention, as the stock shock felt worked after one day at the track. Race Tech rebuilt both ends and I dialed it in at a Fastrack track day. As always with Race Tech, this was a massive change and a big improvement over stock. I went with Race Tech Gold Valves ($550 front, $375 rear) but kept the stock springs, which work fine for my 165-pound weight.
The stock windscreen is like looking through a plastic picnic plate, so I swapped it for a Zero Gravity RS Series ($74.95) version: crystal-clear optics. Now I can actually see the front chicane at Fontana growing like a cartoon at warp speed. Now that I can see, I'd like to be able to slow down. I installed Ferodo's Array Cooling front brake pads ($39.95 per caliper), because their Carbon/Ceramic variety require more rotor prep than I was willing to do. The stock rotors still wilt under hard use, and they're starting to warp. I ordered Axis Iron Rotors from Brake Tech, which should be a big improvement. I'm not happy with the stock bars and am currently searching for a replacement. Since I'm no fan of folding footpegs, rearsets are on my list as well.
Suzuki's new self-adjusting hydraulic clutch beats last year's version, but it's still a little inconsistent, with some feel problems at low speed. Otherwise, this bike is pure pleasure, even in L.A. traffic. The track-inspired package works so well I just can't wipe the smile off my face.
Honda ST1300 ABS
Ringleader: Tim Carrithers
Average Fuel Mileage: 42 mpg
It's easy to overlook the ST1300. Nobody paid much attention after I rolled it out back in March. Ruthless efficiency is undervalued around here. Meanwhile, it's been racking up the miles: 3037 in the past five months. That's a bit off the pace, but I chipped a tooth chewing through these restraints to get out of here and ride the thing. Plus, one of our ad guys failed to heed the 10-pound load limit on the luggage rack. Judging by those two huge cracks, a Givi top-box full of anvils was too much. But I've done more than my part with scheduled maintenance.
We changed the oil at 6000 miles because it's cheap insurance after spending too much time deep-frying in L.A. traffic. I'd been waiting to crack open a gallon jug of Repsol Moto 4T Sintetico 10w-40 ($25.95) in honor of Nicky Hayden and the RC212V anyway. A genuine Honda filter ($11.98) went on as well in a generally straightforward operation, but keep drainage off the headers or expect a smoky startup.
Shop Yeoman Michael Candreia levered on a set of Michelin Pilot Road 2 radials ($161 front, $199 rear) at 7000 miles to replace the thinning OE Bridgestones. Steering feels a bit sportier, as does the extra grip. I'll get back to you on the wear as soon as I can sneak down to the garage without getting busted by the hall monitor.