Find out which bike wins off the track

Whether you’re a thrill seeker, techno buff or a motorcyclist seeking a ride you can make a fast getaway on, you should keep tabs on the Superbikes. Here, 400-pound curb weights and 150-plus horsepower are the norm, with a couple models flirting with the 200-horsepower threshold. This class of motorcycle boasts exceptional power-to-weight ratios, unlike any other production two-wheeler in existence. And after a three-year break due to an abnormally stagnant literbike class, Superbike Smackdown X on the Street returns.

The Superbike class of 2015 has been invigorated with fresh redesigns, which we discussed in greater detail in MotoUSA’s Track Shootout. The same bikes take the fight from Willow Springs Raceway to the public roads of Southern California, where we run the bikes through our usual street-biased scoring methods. Now, introducing the contenders …

Fresh off a decisive and first-ever win in the track shootout, Yamaha enters this contest with its racy YZF-R1 ($16,490). A complete, ground-up redesign for 2015, the R1 is engineered with genuine MotoGP R&D know-how, including a sophisticated electronics package that lives up to the hype. But will the Superpole-winning performance of the R1 transfer to the road?

BMW hopes to do better on the street with its lightning-fast S1000RR ($18,945). Despite rating second fiddle to the Yamaha at the circuit, the BMW’s array of street-friendly road amenities includes electronic suspension, cruise control and heated grips. These should all work to its favor during stoplight-to-stoplight evaluations, but will it be enough for Street supremacy?

Kawasaki’s Ninja ZX-10R ($14,599) proved its might on the track, placing third overall. But will the green machine’s track prowess lend itself as well during the workday commute as it does during a race? It’s certainly going have its work cut out for it, as the Ninja’s plastic is the oldest in design, last updated four years ago.

With its adept cornering skills, Aprilia’s RSV4 R APRC ABS ($15,499) was a serious contender on the track, despite its fourth-place result. Armed with an advanced, fully adjustable electronics package paired with a playful, snarling V-Four, the Aprilia is sure to cause a ruckus on the street.

Although a couple years old now, Suzuki’s GSX-R1000 ($13,899) is always a favorite on the street. Similar to the Ninja, it’s been a few years since it received any significant R&D attention, but that might work to its favor as the GSX-R competes with the most affordable price tag.

Year after year, Honda impresses with its fun and friendly CBR1000RR. Although it’s missing the electronics of some of the others, the 2015 CBR gets special paint, suspension and brakes with its premium SP specification ($17,299). While we love the Repsol Honda livery, will the upgraded hardware pay that much of a dividend on the road?

So gear up, because we’re going for a ride to find out which Superbike performs best on the open road.

Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R – 6th Place

A proven contender in Superbike racing trim, Kawasaki’s Ninja ZX-10R is now a four-year-old design. Team Green’s literbike offering impressed with a third-place result in the Track comparison, but how does it rate for the street rider?

Aside from the Aprilia, the Ninja’s bodywork is the oldest in appearance, having last been updated in 2011. And while we generally appreciate its styling, especially in last year’s flat white colorway, the premium $300 30th Anniversary green/white/black color scheme doesn’t do it for us visually. The paint scheme is so busy that it camouflages the signature features we love about the Ninja, including its sharp fighter-jet nose, as well as more subtle elements like the wingtips on the bottom fairing. Color plays a big part in the appearance of the motorcycle (just look at the Honda SP and Aprilia) and the Ninja’s 2015 colorway held it back in the Appearance scoring category.

On the road there isn’t a whole lot to find fault with in the Kawasaki. It feels lightweight, with pleasing ergonomics and features a fast, super-smooth-running engine. However, its engine is perhaps too smooth and muffled, with it giving off so little character that it makes the green bike ho-hum to ride compared to its more spirited rivals. On the plus side, the Kawasaki’s engine is least likely to annoy the neighbors, as it registered the quietest exhaust during our sound testing.

Power-wise, the green bike can be deceiving. Overly tall final drive gearing make it feel a little lethargic at lower rpm. However, get the engine spinning higher in the rev range and you’re rewarded with serious acceleration force.

“It has some grunt – it absolutely has a lot of brute power,” says professional freestyle street rider Aaron Colton. “Easing it on in the bottom sometimes on/off throttle can be [too] much to handle. I’m sure with some tuning that can be softened out. But I actually enjoyed riding the bike in the middle power mode [‘M’] instead of wide open [‘F’ power] because it was a little easier and more friendly to ride through canyons.”

As Colton mentions, the Kawasaki’s throttle response can be a little jerky feeling at slower speeds, which is strange as we’ve generally had favorable experience with previous Ninja model years since its last redesign four years ago.  Like the rest of the bikes, with exception of the Honda, the Ninja offers three different engine power modes, in addition to its three-way traction control (with integrated wheelie control). Despite being a little older in design, Kawasaki’s TC works well, though we wish it had finer adjustment options – like the Aprilia, BMW and Yamaha setups.

A unique LCD display, with color horizontal bar-graph-style tachometer, keeps tabs on the engine’s vitals. But the display is difficult to read at a glance, and the flashiness of the tachometer can be disruptive to the eye while riding.

On the dyno the Ninja’s engine proves more than capable, producing the second-most peak horsepower next to the BMW. But its super tall final drive gearing hurt it slightly in the acceleration tests, as it recorded the second-slowest 0-60 time. It also only tied the Suzuki through the quarter-mile, despite having almost 10 more horsepower. But on the plus side, that tie was for second-fastest, trailing only the BMW.

The Kawasaki feels larger than the rest of the bikes and takes a little bit more muscle to get turned too. True, its ergonomics are a little stretched out, but we wouldn’t necessarily rate them as bad – just different. Through turns the green bike handles acceptably, but it lacks the same connected cornering feel as the other five bikes.

“The suspension I felt was pretty good – but the overall balance of the bike kind of put you over the front of the fork, and the stability wasn’t there for me,” complains Jason Abbott, regular MotoUSA/Cycle News test rider. “Going through the corners on the uphill it was great. But when you’re going downhill and you’re on a flat surface, the amount of weight on the front end of the Kawasaki made it really nervous. If the forks were raised a little bit more, or the shock was brought down a little bit more, I think the bike would definitely benefit from this.”

Certainly the Kawasaki’s chassis has no lack of adjustment with it offering ride height shims to get the position of the bike right where you want it. Maybe this would have helped Abbott, but for the rest of us the Kawasaki’s handling was simply uninspiring and average by comparison.

The same can be said for its brakes. While they function well enough, they aren’t as sharp-feeling as the BMW, Aprilia or Yamaha’s. The ZX-10R also recorded the second-longest stopping distance in our braking test.

Smooth, quiet and deceptively fast, the Ninja is the sleeper of the group. It’s also one of the most accessible with its second-lowest MSRP ($14,599). Despite its polished demeanor, the Kawasaki’s tall gearing, average handling and ordinary character made it the least captivating to ride and left it ranking at the tail end.

Ninja ZX-10R Settings

Suspension

Fork

  • Ride Height: 7mm (clamp to top of fork tube cap)
  • Preload: 5 (Turns in)
  • Compression: 4.5 (Turns out)
  • Rebound: 3.75

Shock

  • Ride Height: 10mm shims
  • Preload: Standard +3 turns (14mm)
  • L/S Compression: 1.75
  • H/S Compression: 1.75
  • Rebound: 1.75

Drivetrain

  • Power Mode: Full
  • S-KTRC: 2

Ninja ZX-10R Highs & Lows

Highs

  • Makes the least amount of noise
  • Super smooth engine
  • Competitive price tag

Lows

  • Could have more thrill factor
  • Overly tall final drive gearing
  • Soft bottom-end engine power

Aprilia RSV4 R APRC ABS – 5th Place

Riders seeking the most visceral street experience will love Aprilia’s RSV4 R. With its playful V-Four engine and suave Italian stance, the Aprilia is the bike to have for those who want to be seen and heard.

The Aprilia is the oldest-looking Superbike in this contest. Yet somehow it still appears relevant even in the shadow of the fully-redesigned Yamaha and the re-shaped BMW. We especially love its matte black paint, black wheels and polished aluminum frame and swingarm. It’s like the Italian equivalent of a two-wheeled Batmobile. Our only gripe is the dated-looking instrumentation; the setting and menu navigation also isn’t as slick as those on the Yamaha or BMW.

Still, once you figure out the Aprilia’s switchgear quirks, it’s impressive how much adjustability it offers. Traction, wheelie and launch control are all standard, as is ABS. Three different engine/throttle map power modes are also offered. While we appreciate the most direct "T" setting at the track, on the street we prefer "S" as it mellows out the initial hit of the engine when the throttle is initially cracked – but still gives full access to the Aprilia’s 161 ponies (Similar to Yamaha’s "2" setting and BMW’s "Sport" setup). And the best part is that you can disable each setting individually.

Similar to the Yamaha, the Italian bike feels like a racer first and foremost. The seat is tall, footpegs high, and it feels very short from front to back. Smaller riders will appreciate the cockpit of the RSV4 with it fitting them like a glove. Taller folks, not so much.

“The seat sits so high that you actually feel like you’re riding on top of the bike. Where some of the other bikes you’re in them; the Suzuki or the Honda you’re in the bike,” says Abbott, describing the RSV4’s slightly top-heavy feel.

“I was over the top of the bike and it was very rigid,” agrees Jason’s long-time riding bud and first-time MotoUSA test rider, Mike Spasbo. “The whole bike felt very stiff. So when I would get into the corners and there were a little bit of bumps or whatever, you’d feel all of it.”

As Mike mentions, the Aprilia’s chassis felt especially taut – and while we appreciated that through faster third- and fourth-gear turns at Willow Springs Raceway, through the slower street corners and on the freeway the suspension wore us out faster than the other bikes, again with exception to the Yamaha.

“Maybe for a more aggressive rider that’s going to push it into that zone – it might be good for that guy. But for me, I just wasn’t feeling it,” sums up Jason.

From the moment you fire up the Aprilia, it’s clear that it’s powered by something special. In fact the RSV4’s engine is one of the best-sounding engines ever made, with it unleashing a roaring pulse from idle all the way to redline. It sounds so infectious to the ear that you’re tempted to ride full-throttle virtually everywhere you go. And it’s this sort of frantic pace in which the RSV4’s engine responds best. Although power is soft off the bottom, get it spinning in the midrange and at high rpm and the Aprilia goes like a bat out of hell.

“It’s fast, really, really fast,” confirms Spasbo. “It’s a little bit boggy on the bottom but once that motor comes alive you’re going for a ride.”

“Without a doubt the Aprilia hauls,” agrees Abbott. “I mean, straight line, it gets up and goes. It is really amazing.”

But the engine’s lackluster bottom-end power paired with a super tall first gear make it tricky to get moving from a stop – even with launch control. Acceleration testing helps demonstrate this with RSV4 recording the slowest 0-60 and quarter-mile times. Its extra weight certainly doesn’t help things either, tipping the scales 16 pounds heavier than the BMW and 30 more than the class-leading CBR.

“I wish there was a little bit of that sewing machine smooth bottom-end going into the midrange, 'cause that would make that engine package absolutely great,” Colton says.

In spite of its extra girth, the RSV4 achieved the shortest-stopping distance from 60 mph (Level 1 ABS). In terms of feel and power its Brembo setup was ranked second only to the BMW.

If this shootout were graded strictly on thrill factor, the rip-roaring RSV4 would be a clear winner. But soft bottom-end power, overly compact ergos and questionable fuel mileage relegate it to fifth place in this competitive group.

RSV4 R APRC ABS Settings

Suspension

Fork

  • Preload: 3 (Turns in)
  • Compression: 7 (Turns out)
  • Rebound: 10

Shock

  • Preload: Three thread lines showing
  • Compression: 10
  • Rebound: 3.5

Drivetrain

  • Engine: S
  • ATC: 1
  • ALC: 1 or "Off"
  • AWC: 1 or "Off"
  • ABS: 1 or "Off"

RSV4 R APRC ABS Highs & Lows

Highs

  • Fun and thrilling V-Four engine
  • Excellent brakes
  • Versatile electronics package

Lows

  • Compact riding position
  • Soft bottom-end power
  • Could stand to lose a few pounds

Yamaha YZF-R1 – 4th Place

Yamaha sets its sight on the top of the class with its all-new YZF-R1. Featuring genuine MotoGP technology, the R1 is the closest thing to a racebike on the street.

Looking at the R1 straight on its pretty clear how similar it looks to Yamaha’s YZ-R prototype and was unanimously voted the best looking. The LED headlights are positioned discreetly beneath the front fairing, and the top clamp and fuel tank have a nearly identical shape to the M1. It’s also graced with the nicest looking dash display, which is also full color. The R1 dash is also easy to manipulate and toggle through the various settings at a stop.

“I loved being able to play with the ECU settings because it was so easy to use,” explains Red Bull-sponsored rider Colton. “I felt like someone stuck an iPhone 6 right in the dash, and you can go through all the parameters of wheelie control, traction control and the power output.”

In the electronics department the Yamaha certainly impresses – especially at the racetrack. On the street, however, it doesn’t offer the same useful amenities of the BMW, including heated grips and cruise control. Auto-blip downshift functionality would be a nice add-on as well. Still Colton really appreciated the thought engineers put into the dash display:

“I think Yamaha really nailed it with how user friendly and readable the gauges are to quickly cycle through the different parameters that it has.”

Aside from the ultra-compact RSV4, the Yamaha is the second raciest feeling machine when seated at the controls. So it’s no surprise that it’s also one of the least comfortable to ride for more than a tank of gas. Stiff-riding suspension compounds the issue, making the Yamaha one of the bikes we wanted to get off the quickest.

On the other hand, those looking for an aggressive, sporty-feeling Superbike on twisty roads will love the R1. It steers quickly from side to side, and its athletic chassis simply loves corner speed.

“The handling definitely was of more sport handling,” agrees Colton. “It’s a bike that you kind of have to be on top of more because it is ready to rip.”

Most riders will also enjoy Yamaha’s delightful engine. It’s smooth, fast and rich in thrills due in part to its crossplane crankshaft design.

“Right off the bottom you crack the throttle and it just takes off,” says Abbott of the R1’s sharp initial throttle response. “The amount of traction and how the bike puts the power to the ground – it just blows me away. From the bottom, through the mid, to the top, it is just super, super impressive.”

Like the BMW, the R1 offers four engine power mode maps. We preferred setting "2" (our same preference on the track) as it softens the engine hit when the throttle is cracked, yet doesn’t limit the engine’s outright power output. Still, setting "2" isn’t perfect and lacks the well-calibrated smoothness of the BMW’s "Sport" mode or the conventional non-ride-by-wire Honda, Suzuki and Kawasaki.

Short final drive gearing and a super close-ratio six-speed gearbox make the most of the Yamaha’s wide powerband, which peaks with just over 164 horsepower at the back tire. Yet the R1 was just a tick slower than the Honda and BMW to 60 mph. It was also bested by the GSX-R1000 and more powerful Ninja ZX-10R though the quarter-mile, but only by one-hundredth of a second. However, considering the enthralling wail of the engine and how hard the engine forces the rear tire into the ground, the R1 feels the fastest aside from the 190-horsepower BMW.

“It might be a little too much for someone getting into that particular bike,” says Spasbo. “I love the sound – the motor is really smooth. All around, I loved that bike.”

A unique feature for a sportbike, the R1 comes equipped with linked brakes and full-time ABS. And the system works well, with the R1 recording the third-shortest stopping distance from 60 mph. Our only gripe is that the features can’t be disabled, unless you install the non-street-legal accessorial Circuit ECU. While the R1’s braking electronics perform invisibly, we still prefer having the option to manually disable it, like you can on both the Aprilia and BMW.

A true racebike for the street, the R1 certainly ignites the senses like nothing else in the class. But aggressive ergonomics and stiff track-oriented suspension make it less comfortable during long hauls, with the racy R1 ranking in fourth place.

YZF-R1 Settings

Suspension

Fork

  • Preload: 9 (Turns in)
  • Compression: 17 (Turns out)
  • Rebound: 7

Shock

  • Preload: Standard/149.5mm spring length
  • L/S Compression: 10
  • H/S Compression: 3
  • Rebound: 12

Drivetrain

  • Power Mode: 2
  • TCS: 1
  • SCS: 1
  • LCS: 1 or “Off”
  • QSS: 1
  • LIF: 1 or “Off”

YZF-R1 Highs & Lows

Highs

  • Looks like VR46’s M1 prototype
  • Colorful and easy-to-read dash display
  • Engine has fun and unique character

Lows

  • Demanding riding position
  • Stiff suspension compromises comfort
  • Can’t disable ABS or linked brakes

Honda CBR1000RR SP – 3rd Place

A past Superbike Smackdown favorite, Honda gives riders something special with its SP variation CBR1000RR. But will the added Ohlins suspension and Brembo braking hardware bling be worth the extra price?

Like the Suzuki, in current form the CBR has been around the block for three years since its last facelift in 2012. However, dressed in its up-spec Marc Marquez 93 livery the SP looks like a Repsol Honda candy cane, with our testers deeming it the best looking of the Japanese bikes, aside from the top-rated Yamaha R1. Still, it’s hard to compete against the more contemporary silhouettes of BMW or the matte black RSV4. Pricing is an issue as well, because despite its relative age, the SP spec jacks MSRP to $17,299 – a full $700 more than the all-new R1.

Devoid of fancy electronic aids (aside from its electronic steering damper and fuel-injection, of course), the Honda offers a totally manual riding experience. But for the right type of rider, that’s not necessarily a bad thing – and it's a testament to the precision design and engineering synergy that has made the CBR1000RR one of the most popular sportbikes of all time.

“Overall, the Honda’s probably the easiest bike to get along with out of all these 1000s,” says Abbott. “The power is super smooth. It doesn’t really have a gnarly hit like, say, the Yamaha or the BMW – but that’s probably one of its best features. It just runs through the power. It really is easy to control.”

Despite not offering any rider-adjustable engine/throttle mode mapping, the CBR’s engine and throttle response are atop the class. Power is soft off the bottom, but not quite as dull and boggy-feeling as the Aprilia. Torque ramps up quickly, giving the rider plenty of passing power right when you need it. True, power peters out sooner than the rest of the class, but as long as you’re not drag racing a Bugatti or an S1000RR across the freeway, you’re probably not going to miss it. What you might miss is the roaring sound and playful engine character of the Aprilia and BMW.

“The Honda CBR1000RR definitely struck a little bit better cord on the street than it did on the track,” shares Colton. “Some of the features [that] some of the newer models have come out with, the different electronic and suspension systems that lack on the CBR1000 are something that aren’t always necessarily needed on the street.”

Despite belting out the lowest peak horsepower, the lightweight CBR posted the quickest 0-60 time, proving how adept it is at zooming from stoplight to stoplight. Through the quarter-mile it recorded a competitive time, just under three-tenths off the class-leading BMW. And while the Honda’s drivetrain lacks an electronic quickshifter and the auto-blip downshift functionality of the BMW, it performs seamlessly with above-average feel and engagement response.

“It is what it is,” says Abbott of the Honda’s relatively simple platform. “It has an on/off switch with a starter button. It’s simple – it’s just a motorcycle without all the junk added onto it.”

Like the Suzuki the Honda impresses with its versatile handling, which remains sporty though curvy sections of asphalt but comfortable over rough pavement as well. Its ergonomics were well received too amongst our testing troop despite not offering footage adjustment of the Suzuki or Kawasaki.

In spite of the addition of a premium Brembo monobloc front brake setup, the Honda’s anchors weren’t rated as highly as the BMW, Aprilia or Yamaha’s. Like the Suzuki, initial bite is soft but ramps up faster with superior progression and consistency to the Suzuki’s slightly spongy setup. In the 60-0 mph stopping test the Honda recorded the shortest stopping distance of the non-ABS equipped bikes.

“That’s what I like about it,” sums up our guest tester, Spasbo. “There’s not much going on. There’s not much you have to worry about. Turn it on, turn it off, put gas in it, see how fast you’re going. That’s really all you need.”

As usual, the CBR1000RR SP is a highly adept road bike. What it lacks in electronics it makes up with sensible ergonomics and a peppy yet easy-to-master engine, making the third-place CBR a solid choice for racking up mileage on the street.

CBR1000RR SP Settings

Suspension

Fork

  • Preload 6 (Turns in)
  • Compression: 12 (Turns out)
  • Rebound: 12

Shock

  • Preload: 6 (Turns out)
  • Compression: 15
  • Rebound: 16

CBR1000RR SP Highs & Lows

Highs

  • Friendly powerband
  • Still weighs the least
  • Best-in-class fuel mileage

Lows

  • Second most expensive
  • Needs more top-end power
  • Zero electronic rider aids

Suzuki GSX-R1000 – 2nd Place

Value-oriented riders desiring street-friendly open-road performance should take a second look at Suzuki’s tried-and-true GSX-R1000. Although a couple years old, the GSX-R impresses with its everyday versatility.

Looks-wise, there’s nothing really fancy about the Suzuki, which is reflected in an appearance rating that beats only the last place Kawasaki. True, as racing enthusiasts we appreciate the GSX-R’s fresh MotoGP livery, but it isn’t as classy or appealing to the eye as the Repsol Honda version.

Still, when you consider the Suzuki’s cost ($13,899), it’s hard to argue against the value proposition the GSX-R brings to the table. It undercuts the priciest offering, BMW’s S1000RR ($18,945), by more than $5,000. And with a big windscreen, relatively upright ergonomics, a cozy seat and easily adjustable rider footpegs, its one of the most comfortable, too.

“On some of the other more racy-feeling bikes I was having a great time going through the canyons,” says Colton. “But some areas going to and from [the curvy roads] I was wishing there were more creature comfort. And the Suzuki actually brought that. I actually thought it was a great bike on the street. I think if I went on a longer ride that might be a good choice.”

“The cockpit and the feel when you’re riding it, I really, really enjoyed it,” agrees Abbott. “It’s really comfortable when you’re riding it down the street. I thought it was great.”

But Abbott adds: “When you get in the canyons, that’s when the suspension kind of counteracts that feeling. The forks kind of chatter and the rear kind of moves around. If the suspension on the Suzuki was better, I would probably enjoy riding it more. But when you’re really pushing it in the canyons, I just wasn’t feeling it.”

Although Abbott had mixed feelings about the Suzuki’s suspension in the canyons, the rest of our testing troop thought favorably of it, noting its good overall balance between sport and comfort.

The Suzuki’s engine performs well on the street. From bottom-to-top there is plenty of muscle on tap to get the blood flowing. Plus, the engine has considerable character, at least for a Japanese Inline Four, emitting a throaty intake roar anytime the throttle is open. Yet, the exhaust note is actually quiet – a big plus for riders that don’t want to attract attention from neighbors or the law. Despite not employing fancy ride-by-wire electronics like the Aprilia or Yamaha, we actually prefer the crisp, organic sensation of the GSX-R’s cable-driven setup. Another nice touch is the A/B power mode mapping, which allows less experienced riders to get more comfortable with the motorcycle before switching to the full-power "A" mode.

On the dyno the GSX-R pumps out respectable peak power, with 163 ponies registering just shy of 12,000 revs. That places it on par with the YZF-R1 but still 10 hp down on the Ninja and 17 less than the rocket ship BMW.

Yet in acceleration tests the Suzuki still impressed tying the Kawasaki as second-fastest through the quarter-mile, trailing only the BMW. In 0-60 testing was less impressive, edged out by the Honda, BMW and Yamaha.

Although the Suzuki’s clutch and gearbox perform without flaw, it still doesn’t come equipped with a quickshifter from the factory as do the Aprilia, BMW and Yamaha. Still, final drive gearing is reasonable for everyday street riding.

In the braking department the Suzuki’s setup certainly gets the job done, but it also recorded the longest distance to stop from 60 mph. Another small gripe is that the front binders aren’t as sharp-feeling as the BMW, Aprilia, or Yamaha setups. But this trait actually helps make them easy to modulate – a good thing considering the GSX-R doesn’t yet employ ABS.

In spite of a few squawks, Colton still deems the Suzuki a capable ride: “I would actually have to rank the Suzuki pretty high up there as it was a comfortable motorcycle that I felt confident riding on the street.”

If versatility and affordable performance top your shopping list, you can’t argue with the runner-up GSX-R. Sure, it’s not the newest or flashiest literbike on the road, but it is one of the most comfortable, making the GSX-R the bike of choice for long days in the saddle.

GSX-R1000 Settings

Suspension

Fork

  • Preload 5 (Turns in)
  • Compression: 5 (Turns out)
  • Rebound: 4

Shock

  • Preload: Standard/184mm spring length
  • L/S Compression: 2.25
  • H/S Compression: 3
  • Rebound: 2.75

GSX-R1000 Highs & Lows

Highs

  • Attractive price tag
  • Most comfortable to ride
  • Pleasing engine character for an Inline Four

Lows

  • Looks dated
  • Could have stronger brakes
  • Rudimentary electronics

BMW S1000RR – 1st Place

BMW enters this street shootout with its revamped S1000RR. Wearing an assortment of creature comforts, the S1000RR brings modern luxuries to a hardcore sport riding experience.

With sleeker bodywork and lustrous red paint, the BMW looks better than ever. While to a certain degree it has become similar visually to the competition, a keen eye can spot the BMW’s trademark asymmetrical headlight and shark-like gill cutouts in the side fairings. Still, its appearance didn’t excite us as much as the futuristic-looking R1 or the matte black tuxedo-wearing RSV4R.

What did excite us is the BMW’s Inline Four. It’s staggering how much muscle is available deep inside its aluminum engine cases. With nearly 190 horsepower the BMW is, hands down, the fastest through the quarter-mile. The Beemer also snapped up the second shortest sprint to 60 mph, trailing only the speedy Honda. The Beemer certainly sounds the part, too, emitting the loudest, most rambunctious exhaust note aside from the thrilling Aprilia.

Thankfully, the BMW’s easy-to-use push-button power mode setup allows the rider to tailor the powerband to their liking. In super slow first gear twisties, "Rain" mode makes it especially easy to control. Conversely, when the road stretches out, "Sport" mode is the preferred setting, offering full access to the engine’s muscle, but with a smoother, more gentle throttle response.

Generally, we prefer "Race" (and optional "Slick") mode during closed-course track outings, but those who desire the most direct throttle response might prefer this setup on the street as well. And therein lies the beauty of the S1000RR: customization. Riders can easily tailor the riding experience based on conditions or personal preference, from full power with no electronic restrictions in the form of traction or wheelie control to a more intrusive setting for the electronic aids.

“I think the BMW is hard to beat,” says Abbott. “It has tons of electronics, with all these different features that are easily manipulated by the hand controls. The look is cool, the sound is cool, the motor is amazing. That BMW is pretty darn good.”

More handy electronic wizardry comes in the form of the BMW’s exclusive auto-blip system, which automatically blips the throttle for clutch-less downshifts (as well as upshifts, too). The system works without any hint of stability loss or chassis pitch/weight transfer.

“One of the most evolutionary things that I’ve ever ridden is that auto-blip shifter – it’s amazing,” says Colton. “The confidence that you can have from high rpm up or down.”

Then there’s cruise control and heated grips – and while those doodads may seem strange for a sportbike, during cold rides on a boringly straight stretch of highway, these add-ons make all the difference in the comfort department.

“For me, it was probably my favorite all around because I like to go long distance,” says Spasbo. “It has heated grips, the motor is strong, it’s really, really comfortable.”

Despite not being sold on the technology at knee-puck-scraping speeds at the circuit, during more casual paces we appreciated the damping qualities of the BMW’s optional Dynamic Damping Control suspension. The system automatically adjusts the damping properties of the fork and shock based on road and vehicle conditions according to the selected power map.

Additionally the fork and shock damping character can be easily fine-tuned via a few pushes of a button. This allows the rider to easily tailor the action of the suspension whether you’re riding on rough, bumpy patches of freeway or smooth, twisty tarmac in the canyons.

“I’ve never been a fan of the electronic-valved suspension before,” continues Colton. “But I think this bike definitely had an improvement from the track to the street. It handled very well in the street conditions that we had changing throughout the day.”

The BMW’s braking capabilities were also rated the best in class, despite not employing the same high-spec Brembo hardware of the Aprilia or Honda. Simply put, the BMW’s brakes function fantastically, and with the sharpest pad bite. However, in the braking test it recorded a slightly longer stopping distance (Slick mode) than the Aprilia (Level 1).

Fast, fun and comfortable, the high-tech BMW does the best job of marrying mechanics and electronics on the street. While it packs the highest asking price, the Beemer proves, once again, it’s the finest overall street package with the mighty S1000RR finishing at the top of the Superbike class.

S1000RR Settings

Suspension

Fork

  • Preload: 6 rings showing
  • DDC: Sport
  • DMP: +2

Shock

  • Preload: 0, open
  • DDC: Sport
  • Compression: +1
  • Rebound: +3

Drivetrain

  • Power Mode: Sport
  • DTC: Sport
  • ABS: ON (Sport)

S1000RR Highs & Lows

Highs

  • Easily the fastest in class
  • Best electronics for street riding
  • Comfortable to ride

Lows

  • Nearly $20 grand as tested
  • Could weigh less
  • Loud exhaust can attract unwanted attention

Superbike Smackdown X Shootout: For My Money

Adam Waheed, 36, Road Test Editor – 6’0”, 179 pounds – BMW S1000RR

If I was racing then for sure I’d pick the YZF-R1, but on the street it’s way too racy. And that’s where the BMW comes in. It’s fast and handles well – not great, but good enough for me on the street. Plus, it is super comfortable. Cruise control and heated grips are really important to me, and the auto-blip downshift is icing on the cake. Yeah, it’s a little on the pricey side, but you get a lot of features for your money. But if money was tight I’d pick up the GSX-R1000 for sure.

Jason Abbott, 36, MotoUSA/Cycle News Test Rider – 5’11”, 195 pounds – BMW S1000RR

I’d buy the BMW. It’s definitely a little expensive, but it’s got everything you need. The motor is one of the fastest I’ve ever ridden, yet when you tune it down in "Sport" mode it’s still really smooth. It's still not quite as comfortable on the freeway as the Suzuki, but it's close – and the way you can change the damping character of the suspension is key.

Aaron Colton, 23, Street Freestyle Rider – 6’2”, 178 pounds – Yamaha YZF-R1
For sure the R1 is the raciest of them all on the street, but it’s something I can live with. The sound of the engine is like nothing else on the road. It handles like a dream and it’s got an iPhone 6 for a dash display. The only thing I don’t like about the R1 is that you can’t turn off the ABS. But I’m sure there will be an aftermarket fix for that soon. No question: I’d turn and burn on the R1.

Mike Spasbo, 38, Guest Test Rider – 5’6”, 158 pounds – BMW S1000RR
The BMW is the bike for me. It’s my pick because it’s the best overall. The settings allow you to set it up for different road conditions, and you can make it anything from mild to wild. I also liked that it had heated grips and cruise control. Those features are huge for me, because I travel far distances often in cold temps in the winter months.