No question, our testers were convinced that it was easier to go fast (and enjoy it) on the Honda than on the Yamaha, which felt a touch ponderous and top-heavy. But let's also put that in perspective. While the Honda turns quickly, the R1 doesn't exactly change direction like an ocean liner. And while the Honda has a one-finger front brake, the Yamaha's stoppers are hardly single-leading-shoe drums. As we said before, the differences in these bikes are subtle, almost minute. But the inescapable conclusion is this: On a tight piece of blacktop, you'll go faster, easier, on the Honda than the Yamaha.
Finishing order for the tight roads: Honda noticeably ahead of the Yamaha, in turn conspicuously ahead of Suzuki and Kawasaki.
Commuting/touring Ah, the joys of retribution. For all the spanking the ZX-9R received during the back-road segment, the big Kaw fully redeemed itself for touring and commuting duty. It's not hard to see why. With taller handlebars and a roomier riding position than all the others-and a couch-like saddle that looks racy without being the slightest bit uncomfortable-the 9R positively coddles its rider. Add to the equation the smoothest engine of the lot, excellent wind protection, mirrors that let you see the world behind you and supple suspension and you've got the consummate touring rig of supersports. If your nearest twisty road is 100 miles away, stow your ego for a moment and grab the Kawasaki. You won't be sorry.
If there's a bit of a gap back to second place in the commuting/ touring Olympics, the slot is at least well filled by the Honda. With a slightly more humane riding position than the Yamaha, it takes second narrowly over the R1, whose suspension is slightly more compliant over concrete-slab highways. Blame the stinkbug riding position for keeping the R1 out of second place here. Say what you want about the look of a racing riding position or the need for it when you've got 130-plus horsepower and a 54.9-inch wheelbase; the bottom line is that a freeway drone on the R1 is not the most pleasant of experiences.
On the Suzuki, it's also the ergonomic package-in particular, the tiny riding position dictated by the GSX-R being a tiny bike-that overcomes what is otherwise a serviceable setup. The Suzuki's engine is impressively smooth and its suspension gobbles up all sorts of pavement nastiness. A reasonably large still-air pocket gives the rider good protection from the elements and even the mirrors work pretty well. If you're five-foot-five you may find this the best ride of the bunch, but for those of us with laminated Weight Watchers cards, it's just too confined.