At the opposite end of the scale, so to speak, is the featherweight Suzuki. With its low mass (an amazing 426 pounds full of fuel), peakier engine and more softly calibrated suspension (an expected side benefit of its low weight), you'd expect the GSX-R to be a handful in the fast stuff-flighty, maybe, like a middleweight stuffed full of horsepower and adrenaline. Not so. In fact, it rails. Thanks in part to a longish wheelbase and superb suspension componentry, the Suzuki is totally composed in fast sweepers, yet retains the kind of maneuverability that is the whole reason engineers sweat grams and tenths of millimeters in weight distribution.
In fact, about the biggest task on the Suzuki is keeping the engine on the boil. As you'd expect by spotting the competitors at least 150cc yet still producing competitive peak power, something's gotta give. That something is the effortless midrange lunge the other three bikes place at your disposal. On the GSX-R, life begins at 10 grand. It's not weak in the middle by 750 standards-it is a torquer next to the previous GSX-R750-so the lack of midlevel grunt makes itself obvious when you hop off a torque-monster like the 9R or R1. Some of us loved that aspect-part of the challenge of sport riding is to keep the motor screaming and take command of the situation. Others-and we're not naming names, McQuide-preferred the shifting-optional power delivery of the full literbikes. Rev junkies, we know who you are.
Shifting-impaired riders of the world need look no further than the Yamaha R1 for their dream ride. For 2000, the tuning-forkers propped up the R1's lower midrange (around 4000 rpm) by a couple of foot-pounds to complement the bike's traditional top-end rush. As a result, the R1 never feels stressed or troubled, no matter how fast you want to go. Better yet, this year brings additional refinement in the form of improved throttle response. Sure, the R1 doesn't shift as well as the best, but it's not far off, and the extra dose of Honda-like refinement and civility in no way reduces the bike's ability to make your blood boil.
Chassis changes help the R1 stay svelte-although it's still heavier than the Honda or Suzuki-and make what was already a highly competent package incrementally better. Of particular note is the Yamaha's stability and ride composure. Even on our fast road's notoriously crumpled pavement the R1 charged around more like a low-flying warhead-delivery device than a ground-bound motorcycle. Choppy pavement has almost no effect on the R1's ability to hold a line, and although the bike moves around when you wick up the pace, it remains more serene than any of the others.
Ride the Yamaha like a goon and you'll be loving life. Just don't swap it for your buddy's CBR929RR. Imagine everything the R1 is-fast, slick and composed-and toss in a seat-of-the-pants profile that feels even slimmer, and steering that combines the R1's stability with GSX-R-like immediacy. (Did we really call the R1 fat and slow-steering? How time flies.) True, the Honda's engine is a bit buzzier and slightly less powerful than the all-conquering R1's, but the result is partially offset by the 929's lower weight (434 pounds with fuel). Velocity comes easily to the 929 even if the power isn't as immediate or as intoxicating as on the R1.
While we appreciate the Honda's engine just fine, it's the chassis that makes us take the long way to work. With amazing agility, the 929 turns with so little effort and commotion that you're tempted to set and reset your lines just to see the RR do its thing. (That's our excuse, and we're sticking to it.) Add in brakes that are by a slim margin the best here-immediate, progressive and predictable-and you've got a sublime fast-road package. You get the feeling that you could stand the Honda on its nose anytime, anywhere, and in complete confidence.