BikesJames Evans

Fireblade vs GSX-R1000

BikesJames Evans
Fireblade vs GSX-R1000

CBR1000RR versus GSX-R1000

2017 is an epic year for road-going superbikes. We have witnessed the reboot of two iconic motorcycles, each carrying oodles of racing heritage and bags of historical significance in the fast-paced world of superbike development. Until recently, that is. Both Honda and Suzuki have been left behind since the launch of BMW's S1000RR, a bike that broadsided Japanese manufacturers when it arrived in 2009. Now both bikes are back on form, astonishing reviewers on sunny racetracks with newfound top-end power, balanced chassis and comprehensive electronics packages. The bar has been raised, but which machine clears it in the best way?

Suzuki's also thrown new technology into the boxing ring. The 1000's engine is complimented by something called Variable Valve Timing, or VVT. This technology only just manages to pass rules in MotoGP, where hydraulic and/or electronic systems aren't permitted. Their system is neither of these: it uses steel ball bearings running in grooves cut into the two halves of the engine's cam sprocket. At a certain RPM, the ball bearings fling themselves outward, forcing the cam sprocket halves away from each other, retarding timing and boosting peak power. This tech actually works in practice, boosting low RPM grunt, and peak power as well. But is it impressive enough to beat Honda's more traditional and buttery-smooth lump?

Image Conscious

Whatever these bikes feel like to ride, first impressions are seriously affected by their visual appeal. Take a look at how each bike compares to the other. Which one is your favourite?

 From the front, the flatter lights of the Honda suit its slightly bulkier fairing, whereas the slim Suzuki has a pucker central headlight with running light accents.

From the front, the flatter lights of the Honda suit its slightly bulkier fairing, whereas the slim Suzuki has a pucker central headlight with running light accents.

 
 Suzuki's narrow tail section is finished off with a sleek brake light, but that exhaust is a whopper

Suzuki's narrow tail section is finished off with a sleek brake light, but that exhaust is a whopper

 We think the Fireblade narrowly pips it on the looks front. There's less fussy fairing work present than on the Suzuki

We think the Fireblade narrowly pips it on the looks front. There's less fussy fairing work present than on the Suzuki

The Headline Numbers

Let's talk peak power. Let's talk torque. Which bike trumps the other when it comes to the figures their manufacturers are using to sell each of them?

Honda CBR1000RR Specification

Price: £15,225 base, £19,125 SP
Engine: 999.8cc, liquid-cooled, 16v four
Power: 189bhp
Torque: 82 lb.ft
Top speed: 186mph
Tank size: 16 litres
Economy: 49mpg (claimed)
Rake/trail: 23.3˚/96mm
Wheelbase: 1,404mm
Wet weight: 196kg
Seat height: 832mm
Colours: Victory Red, Matt Ballistic Black Metallic

Suzuki GSX-R1000 Specification

Price: £13,386 base, £16,236 R spec
Engine: 999.8cc, liquid-cooled, VVT, 16v four
Power: 199bhp
Torque: 86.7 lb.ft
Top speed: 186mph
Tank size: 16 litres
Economy: 42mpg (estimated)
Rake/trail: 23.2˚/95mm
Wheelbase: 1,410mm
Wet weight: 202kg
Seat height: 825mm
Colours: Metallic Triton Blue, Metallic Matt Black No.2

The GSX-R pulls ahead in the torque and peak power stakes, and clocks in at almost £2,000 less to own. But this isn't the only specification battle raging. On the ultimate editions, the bar is raised by both sides yet again. Suzuki have created the mind-melting GSX-R1000R – an engine complimented by Showa Balance Free Forks (BFFs: ask your kids what this really stands for), launch control, lean-sensetive ABS, and an incredibly useful bi-directional quick-shift system. Honda's Fireblade SP is nearly £20,000 but looks shockingly beautiful, rides on semi-active suspension made easy to set up thanks to an objective-based layout, and stops with quality Brembo calipers.

 An ultimate Honda Fireblade, as imagined by Honda's art department. We like the 'RR' detailing on stubby exhaust

An ultimate Honda Fireblade, as imagined by Honda's art department. We like the 'RR' detailing on stubby exhaust

If black's your favourite colour...

 
 Suzuki's base model GSX-R comes in striking black with red highlights

Suzuki's base model GSX-R comes in striking black with red highlights

 

Both bikes have pretty delicious black editions. But this isn't just a purely aesthetic, drool session: black bikes hold their value better than traditional versions in the used market, due to being more desirable to more people. If pushed to decide, we think our money's going to hold better value with the Honda.

 
 Honda's black CBR1000RR takes the biscuit in our sweepstakes

Honda's black CBR1000RR takes the biscuit in our sweepstakes

 

Performance versus Rideablility

If we had to characterise the bikes, the Honda still has its old easy-riding charm while now being a 189bhp beast. It doesn't have the explosive top end of the Suzuki, who, thanks to advanced electronics, allows every one of its 199bhp to be exploited in safety. On track, the Suzuki trumps Honda, especially if you compare the £16,236 GSX-R1000R to the base Fireblade, which is only £1,000 less.

For street work, the user-friendly and more attractive Fireblade will most likely be the better bike, but is it £2,000 better than its competitor? No, not when that extra saving allows Suzuki riders to splash out on more track days and machine control training. Buy the GSX-R1000 and get riding!

 On track the Suzuki is a finely honed razor blade

On track the Suzuki is a finely honed razor blade