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Haven't read enough 2004 bikes reviews? Here's MD's. (LONG)

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  • Haven't read enough 2004 bikes reviews? Here's MD's. (LONG)

    Personally, no matter how how good the reviews of the ZX-10R can be I could never bring myself to buy something that farkin' ugly.
    Say it was going for half price, and all the plastic came off easy then it might be worth considering.
    Hell you could put roll-cage on the bastard and ppl wouldn't notice, they'd still be going. "Damn, that's one ugly front end."

    *end rant* :twisted:

    Kawasaki ZX-10R (First Place)

    Two of our testers chose the Kawasaki ZX-10R as their favorite bike (including yours truly). For one of those testers (again, yours truly), it was a very close choice between the ZX-10R and the Yamaha R1. For the other tester, the ZX-10R just nosed out Honda's CBR1000RR. It was that close.

    At the same time, we have no qualms about labeling Kawasaki's ZX-10R the ultimate open-class sport bike. This is the highest performance motorcycle ever available to the general public. In terms of performance, the ZX-10R doesn't do everything well, it does everything brilliantly, and, indeed, sets new standards.

    Beginning with the engine, the ZX-10R combines the greatest peak power with the broadest spread, and one of the smoothest, most linear deliveries in this group. Despite a first gear nearly as tall as the Yamaha R1's, the Kawasaki refused to lose any of our roll-on contests (with the Honda hanging right with it, up to a point, where the ZX-10R would walk away rather briskly). This bike delivers you from corner to corner quicker than any other, and quicker than you are ready for (at least, until you re-calibrate your mind to deal with it).

    The Kawasaki also has great brakes (it really needs great brakes). Depending on who you ask, they are either the best in this class, or darn close. Despite relatively small discs, Kawasaki has engineered an extremely stiff caliper and pad combination that provides excellent feel and power. The ZX-10R doesn't have the initial bite of the Honda's front binders, but its ultimate power and feedback is in the same class.

    With the shortest wheelbase and the lightest weight, it is probably not surprising that the ZX-10R comes closest to achieving the holy grail of open-class handling (i.e., the feel of a 600).

    This bike changes directions, accelerates and stops like an extremely small, light machine. It is these things, of course, and the engineering feat most remarkable is that the bike is not nervous despite the coupling of its tiny dimensions with the monster engine of the class.

    Some publications have referred to the ZX-10R as nervous, or prone to headshake. We emphatically disagree. The ZX-10R is neither nervous, nor prone to headshake (despite the lack of a steering damper). What it is, is "immediate". The ZX-10R does exactly what you ask it to do, and it does it right now. There is no slack in this machine's handling. In this regard, it feels just like a race bike.

    The tachometer on our ZX-10R is essentially useless. This is the single biggest flaw on this bike, but it is easily outweighed by its virtues.

    The last time I rode the ZX-10R during our test, I came to a stop at a red light, laughed out loud in my helmet and shook my head. The analogy in my mind was a video game. A video game where you can ride a motorcycle and make it do crazy things. Wheelies, stoppies and burn outs. You almost feel like you could do a pirouette. But you could also trundle along slowly and comfortably, obeying the laws of man and nature. The 2004 Kawasaki ZX-10R makes you feel like you are capable of all these things, but you are in the real world on a real motorcycle. Simply amazing.

    Not all of our testers agreed that the ZX-10R should win this comparison test. In the end, however, the only important thing the ZX-10R lacks is the ability to suffer fools. You need to be alert, and paying attention when you ride this motorcycle. It's immediacy is wonderful when you are in the mood for it. It can be annoying when you are not.

    So, each of you can draw your own conclusions (as our four experienced testers did) about these four bikes. Our aim was to give you information helpful in doing that. I hope we accomplished this. Take a close look at our tester's individual rankings and comments below. If you buy any one of these motorcycles, treat it with the utmost respect, and you will experience a level of performance that street motorcyclists could only dream of just a few years ago.



    Willy Ivins

    Oh boy, my head has been spinning! What a stunning group of motorcycles these machines are! There is something here for everyone. In a street environment, all these bikes are overkill of the highest order, but it is where a vast majority will live out their lives and so we tested them in this environment. Truly, you can buy any of these machines based on whatever criteria you deem suitable and ride away on the winner. Because of this, I can't say which one is best for you, but I can say which one is best for me and why, so here is my list, in specific order.

    1st - Kawasaki. This bike is the one that has best fulfilled all of the performance parameters that the competitors of this class have boasted about through the last several years. Lightest in class, and lighter than some 600s, it exhibits true, 600-class handling that's stable, too, despite the lack of a steering damper. Compact, but comfortable ergonomics keep the rider off the chiropractor's Christmas card list, while high quality suspension provides a firm, but not jarring ride. The king-kong engine keeps all comers at greater than arm's length in "all" situations, despite the tall gearing. The brakes could stop the space shuttle short on a carrier landing, with all the control and feel you could wish for. Gearbox issues experienced during the intro are nowhere to be found on the production model. The instrument cluster still sucks, though. This bike is a shot of adrenaline straight to the heart. I could go on and on, but there isn't room…. I'll take one in blue, please.

    2nd - Honda. It took a little while for me to warm up to the Honda. It's not in-your-face about performance, it just goes about its business in a quiet, but inevitable manner. It's sneaky fast, like the butler in the movie Mr. Deeds. My time aboard it made me realize that while it doesn't have the brute power of the ZX or YZF, it does have gearbox ratios and midrange power to keep the Kawi in sight and (up to a point) the YZF in its mirrors. Its chassis isn't as nimble as the Kawasaki's or Yamaha's, but it is reassuring and confidence inspiring, with brakes that nearly equal the class leader. It's only let down for me is the suspension. I, and most of you I bet, modify the bike's suspenders to suit, a relatively easy and inexpensive solution (compared to rearranging an engine's powerband) that would put this bike a step closer to equaling the Kawasaki's street competence.

    3rd - Yamaha. I thought, as many did, that this bike would knock all comers flat on their backs. Super model looks, huge horsepower bolted into an all-new chassis, excellent fit and finish, etc. Indeed, the YZF's chassis and suspension combine to give the rider aboard the most feedback and confidence of the group, and you don't need to have years of track experience to enjoy this handling bliss. The brakes were great, but didn't measure up when run alongside the Kawasaki and Honda anchors. The engine, while hugely powerful at its peak, feels a little flat below 7000 due to a track-oriented set of gearbox ratios and a top-heavy powerband. Gear for gear against the Honda and Suzuki, which have street oriented transmission ratios, the Yamaha was repeatedly playing catch up during roll-on acceleration that got worse the higher you rose in the ratio selection. Ridden in isolation, or strictly in the meat of the power, you may never come to realize this, but I infrequently see sport bikes ridden out of a group, or (in the liter class) revving above 7K rpm all time. Heat from the underseat exhaust was bothersome, as well.

    4th - Suzuki. Once top of the heap, it now is an also-ran. It never did anything wrong or badly, it just always seemed two steps (or three behind the ZX) behind the freshly updated warriors of the class. In comparison, the chassis feels long and slightly lazy, and the suspension felt a little untidy. The quick-revving, torque-laden engine kept the bike in the hunt, but never up front. Brakes, once as lethal as the engine, have been toned down considerably. The initial bite, feel and overall power lag behind the others. Ergonomics felt rangy, with a longish reach to the bars. The seat felt quite cushy compared to the Honda's.

    What a privilege it has been to swing a leg over what is the current pinnacle of motorcycle performance. Without a doubt, these machines are the ultimate arm-stretching, eyeball-flattening devices of velocity and kinetic energy - for this year, anyway. It's difficult to imagine how, but they always get better each year. As with any motorcycle, but these especially, skill, maturity and respect must all be present in massive quantities to fully access / appreciate their capabilities and to use those capabilities in a responsible, appropriate manner. Enjoy, but be careful out there.


    Jeff Whitmer

    4th place - The Suzuki GSX-R1000
    * good chassis
    * great brakes
    * a little down on power here
    * styling becoming dated
    * very comfortable

    The GSXR is starting to show it's age when mixed with this crowd. By no means is the Suzuki a bad bike, when ridden back to back with the others, it just feels a little slower and a little heavier.
    3rd place - The Kawasaki ZX-10RR
    * excellent chassis
    * excellent brakes
    * the engine makes massive power but it feels slow (like a heavy flywheel)
    * the styling is nice, but only nice
    *definitely a racy seating position

    The Kawasaki felt the most like a race bike when riding it. The engine makes incredible power but still feels a little slow.
    2nd place - The Honda CBR1000RR
    * excellent chassis, although a little softly sprung
    * very, very good brakes
    * a well balanced engine package, nice grunt, revs quickly, feels fast
    *excellent styling, the only complaint is the matte finish lower fairing
    * a relaxed seating position, a little heat felt from the under seat exhaust

    The Honda is an excellent package, it just lacks the suspension of the Yamaha. The engine is the most user friendly of the bunch
    1st place - The Yamaha YZF-R1
    *awesome chassis
    * great brakes
    * missing a little grunt but it makes up for it on top
    * gorgeous styling, almost European looking
    * not a bad seating position, the seat gets a little hot from the under seat exhaust

    This is the bike that made me giggle the entire time I rode it. With the soft power at the bottom of the rev range you have to ride it like a 750 or 600 and keep the rpm's up. The chassis is near flawless with excellent ride quality and stability.


    Quentin Wilson

    Honda - The Machete. I would purchase this bike for street/track day duty above the others. Heavy and down on top end, but easiest to ride hard and most comfortable to go fast on. Two words: Confidence Inspiring. Great front-end feel and fantastic brakes make for superior corner entries and supple mid-corner feel. I could also make mistakes, having to adjust my line mid-corner, changing lean angles and throttle position, without the bike getting upset. The power was nearly perfect, enough to get into serious trouble and to have lots of fun, but not so much that the bike feels as if it will wheelie at the slightest provocation. Corner exits are a snap, just pick the line and twist on the throttle and the great gear ratios and superior engine feel toss you to the next corner or down the next straightaway. The dash and controls were superior to the my next pic, the Kawasaki, as was the fit and finish. I suggest that this is the most handsome of the four, especially fantastic from the rear 3/4 view.

    Kawasaki - The Razor Blade. I would purchase this bike for race/track day duties above all others. The engine is magic, pure smooth power and linear torque make it easy to modulate. So fast that it is scary in every gear, but relatively controllable especially in reference to the Yamaha. The chassis is the smallest and lightest feeling, but the engine revs slower and feels like it has a lot of mass, which makes a nice balance. The brakes are on par with the Honda with not quite as much feel. It changes direction very easily, but does not reward sloppy riding or mistakes. The slipper clutch is worth its weight in gold, allowing deep corner entries. This bike makes you feel as if you are Shinya Nakano on the Kawi MotoGP bike. And it looks the part, very fantastic styling. The dash is really bad, hard to read and poorly laid out. A nice Motec digital dash sitting on a race fairing bracket would take care of that. This bike nips at the heels of the Honda on the street but would smoke it on the track, of this I am certain.

    Yamaha - The Steak Knife. I would not purchase this bike with the Honda and Kawasaki available. The gear ratios, clutch, and powerband are awful. The engine does not make good power low enough in the rev range, and the gear ratios are such that street riding becomes a pain in the ass. The clutch felt weak, the brakes were merely adequate and the seat got extremely hot. The chassis is good, feeling much like the Honda in corner entry and mid corner, but exiting the corner was hard due to the poor gearing and engine character. The fit and finish was ok, the dash was ok, and the seating position was ok. Once on boil this bike is extremely fast but that is of little consequence if the Kawasaki has already accelerated to top speed while you are waiting for this bike to boil up.

    Suzuki - The Box Cutter. As strange as it sounds, this bike needs an update. It will have to be much closer to the new-for-2004 GSX-R750's stature to come close to the other machines on the street. The power is good, but not linear, spiking early, then running out of breath, then screaming at the top end. The engine is not as useful as the Honda or the Kawasaki. The seating position and cockpit are ready for a trip from LA to NY. I would pick this bike to super-tour on. The side mounted exhaust allows storage space under the seat, which is missing from the Honda and Yamaha. The fit and finish, and general layout are not refined, not even as much as the 750. The chassis did not do anything I wanted it to do, whereas the 750 does it all. If the 2004 Suzuki GSX-R750 were in this test I would have picked it as 3rd (behind the Kawasaki).


    Dirck Edge

    For me, the Kawasaki ZX-10R represents the high water mark in sport bike design. Aside from the horrible tachometer, there is little I can criticize about the Kawasaki. Is it the right bike for everyone? No. This is the ultimate "race bike with lights", demanding, perhaps, greater skill and precision than the others to be ridden near its limits. If you are not comfortable with the front wheel in the air, don't buy the ZX-10R. If you have the skills, however, this bike rewards like no other.

    The Yamaha R1 was a very close second for me. The handling is superb. It feels fluid and, for this group, is very easy to ride at a quick pace. The suspension is excellent, and the occasional warm butt really isn't an issue for me. At least, in mild weather. It dropped a tick behind the Kawasaki ZX-10R due to its gearing (yeah, I know, a sprocket change could largely solve this) and top-end biased powerband.

    When I tested the Honda with this group, I was probably able to adapt to it quickest. Ergonomically, everything is in the right place and the instrumentation is excellent. The motor is right there with the ZX-10R on the street due, in part, to better gearing. Ridden back-to-back with the R1, I agreed with another tester that the stock suspension was just too soft and underdamped. For a lighter rider (I weigh 210), the suspension might not be an issue, but both the Kawasaki and Yamaha suspension systems worked better for me. Also, you won't find better brakes than those on this bike.

    The Suzuki is last on my list, but not because it has any glaring faults. It feels a little bigger and less refined than the competition this year, and that ends up making the difference. The motor is relatively smooth and linear, but less so than the competition, and this is a very important factor when evaluating bikes this powerful. Also, Suzuki mysteriously took a step backwards from its awesome front brakes on the 2003 model. As with all these bikes, when you have this much "go", you need plenty of controllable "whoa".


  • #2
    Good read Dugy. I don't have the same problem with the Kawasaki's looks but I'd have to admit to a huge shortfall in ability & it would be wiser(both financial and health reasons) for me to stay away from these beasts.

    I gotta put many many more k's down before touching anything remotely as powerful.


    • #3
      Yeah, same reason I'm happy to stick to my TRX for the time being.
      I gotta start wearing out the sides of my tyres before the middle before I upgrade.
      (Although a VTR or SV might be the next toy in a year or so. )

      *looks over shoulder* Or kick the G.F. off the back. :twisted:
      (She actually went and got her L's recently. *beam's with pride*
      So if any of the girls on 250's are going to sell-up she might be interested.)

      Edit: Oh bugger, no more posts in the babes section from me if she starts logging onto PSB.


      • #4

        Edit: Oh bugger, no more posts in the babes section from me if she starts logging onto PSB.

        yeah no shit its a problem man

        I'm the noob you all pwn!


        • #5
          I reckon the Kwaka looks the goods in the black. The other colours are a bit iffy though, especially the orange.


          • #6
            I go 4 the ZX-10R all the way
            Your Life Expectancy Is Directly Related To Your Right Wrist!!!!!


            • #7
              Well I could've gotten any of them and the ZX10R was far and away the best bike. It also looks the goods in black - I admit the other colour options aren't the most attractive options for the die-hard trendies, and wonder why Kawasaki Australia didn't bring the blue into the country.

              People who just want to say they ride a litre class sportsbike while riding something essentially street orientated should buy the Honda, retro people & triffids should buy the Gixxer & image conscious poofters like Jeff Whitmer should buy the R1 - note that his ratings go entirely on 'style'. :roll:

              At the end of the day though, compared to all that came before them, these are 4 truely awesome bikes.

              To each his own.


              • #8
                People who just want to say they ride a litre class sportsbike while riding something essentially street orientated should buy the Honda, At the end of the day though, compared to all that came before them, these are 4 truely awesome bikes.

                To each his own.
                The Honda is street orientated :roll: I think that the term user friendly may be more appropriate.
                I am the old bloke on the black and yellow cbr1krr


                • #9
                  Don't you think it's wierd that you never see photos of the cockpit (if you could call it that) in many bike reviews. This is the bit of the bike that when riding you spend most of your time looking at (unless you are particularly tallented and can ride facing backwards).

                  They say the ZX-10R "instrument cluster still sucks" ... well show us it so we can make our own minds up!

                  Obviously the bike itself has to look good too, especially when you are sitting next to it with a beer just admiring it!

                  I spose I could just go look in the show rooms :roll:


                  • #10
                    They say the ZX-10R "instrument cluster still sucks" ... well show us it so we can make our own minds up!
                    Apparently the the main bitch is when the sun is on the gauges you cant see any of the readouts.


                    • #11
                      Is it the same instrument cluster the Zthou has? With the tacho bar on the circumference of the instrument cluster? If so, it LOOKS cool, at a standstill, but in use, sheesh... What a dog.
                      Work Buy Consume Die


                      • #12
                        I think thats the one yeah


                        • #13
                          mate .... ru on farkin drugs the zx10 is sex on wheels ,,it just oozes aggro ,,like catch me if you can !!! i admit some of the colors are not the best but the way it goes displaces that


                          • #14
                            Is it the same instrument cluster the Zthou has? With the tacho bar on the circumference of the instrument cluster? If so, it LOOKS cool, at a standstill, but in use, sheesh... What a dog.
                            Yeah that's the one, & to be honest with you (All mine is best bullshit aside), I did find it harder to keep track of than a straight needle to begin with, but once you get used to it there is no issue at all - sun doesn't matter too much as it is fairly well insulated from it inside the nose. Looks the best of the clusters as well.