Sometimes the simplest forms of competition are the best. We headed to Bruntingthorpe for a no bulls**t straight-line willy waving contest to the ¼ mile mark and beyond. Who could piss furthest up the wall?
The fastest poser – Ducati Diavel Carbon
162bhp – 239kg
The sports bike – Yamaha YZF-R1
182bhp – 206kg
The race bike – Kawasaki ZX-10R FIM Superstock spec
192bhp – 179kg
The ridiculous dirt bike – KTM 500EXC
56bhp – 117kg
The hyper-tourer – Kawasaki ZZR1400
200bhp – 268kg
The drag racer – Suzuki Hayabusa Turbo
260 – 360bhp – 225kg
Let’s get one thing straight (excuse the pun) – we bloody love going round corners. Nothing beats the feeling of scraping a peg on a local back road, or pressing a slider hard into the deck around a long sweeping turn. But in the right situation, a straight line can be just as entertaining and equally addictive. I mean, not even Casey Stoner could use 200bhp in the middle of a corner, but we still love having that power once we’re upright. Whether you’re nailing a supercar’s hat on at the traffic light GP, or sneaking in a cheeky three-figure run on a quiet bit of dual carriageway; going fast in a straight line is brilliant. If we had lawyers, they’d probably insist we add “…and very illegal” at this point, but we don’t and we know that’s part of the fun. Meh. To celebrate the courts letting Shaun keep his license, we laid on a spread of speed to satisfy even the most ravenous of speed merchants. From the unexpected (a dirt bike that does almost 100mph) to the ridiculous (Ducati’s Diavel or a turbo Suzuki Hayabusa- take your pick), we hammered ‘em from a standstill to see who was best. No corners were bothered in the making of this test…
This isn’t the first time we’ve lined up a bunch of bikes, strapped on dataloggers and charged the horizon. I would argue that this is probably the first time these particular models have been entered into a race against each other. A super-cruiser, a sports bike, an enduro bike, the sports touring rocketship, a proper 1000cc race bike and a drag bike – that’s not exactly your usual group test line up is it? But that’s the point really, we’ve all got theories about which bikes are quickest off the line, which accelerate hardest and which feel the fastest, but without numbers it’s all just chat. And to end all of our bragging rights, John roped in a proper drag racer to come and kick our collective butts into next issue. So, let us explain our choices – what the bikes are and why each of them is sat pointed at the blurry end of a long-ass straight in the midlands.
When Ducati launched the Diavel, their headline claim was that this muscle cruiser thing was faster from 0-100mph-0 than the 1198SP, at the time their flagship sports bike. Completely unbelievable to those who hadn’t ridden it, and that just about sums up the Diavel. To look at, it’s a cartoon bike, a caricature of a cruiser crossed with a sports bike. The rear tyre looks like it was drawn by an excitable 6-year old, the LED rear lights must have been hijacked from a space ship and the overall styling makes me think of an over-the-top Japanese cartoon about a rebel biker outlaw. But once you’ve ridden one you understand that this is, above all, still a Ducati and thus unlikely to be a slow, ill-handling show pony. The 1198cc motor delivers frankly obscene amounts of drive and the long ‘n’ low chassis lets you use all of it. Not that it matters much here, but to answer your question, yes, it does go round corners too. Surprisingly well. JH thinks he’s faster off the line on a Diavel than anything else. We’ll see about that.
Representing the road-going sports bike posse, the Yamaha R1 might not be the fastest of the current litre bike field, but a good torque curve and smooth clutch (once it’s warm) make it a gem off the line. The cross-plane crank motor gives a great spread of power, so you don’t need to rev the valve shims out of the thing to get it off the line quickly. A cold clutch on a Yamaha R1 needs more finesse than an Olympic gymnastics team, but once it’s warm you can control it perfectly. Less weight than the Diavel or ZZR will give it an advantage in the physics department, but trying to control wheelies could level this out. Whatever happens on the strip, it’ll win in the noise department. Yes, a BMW S1000RR has almost 30bhp more, but have you tried using all of that in first gear?
Kawasaki ZX-10R FIM Superstock spec
A road going ZX-10R is a light and obscenely fast motorcycle. It’s in the select group of three bikes (including the BMW S1000RR and Ducati Panigale) that properly redefined how fast a 1000cc sports bike could be. This particular one was prepared by Reactive Parts and still smelled of the Macau GP when we picked it up. Being a superstock bike, the engine is pretty standard but everything around it makes up for that. The carbon fibre bodywork and front subframe had us all dribbling with excitement. Underneath the woven composite loveliness sit a race kit ECU, race wiring harness and a quickshifter. With gearing good for 180mph and a nice sticky set of race slicks, the ZX-10R was in the right form to show a the other straight line merchants that going around corners didn’t hamper it’s ability to get to them first. The only worry was a warning as we left the bike’s owner that any damage would be taken out on my kneecaps…
Kawasaki ZZR1400 Performance Edition
It’s hard to explain just how fast the ZZR is, especially given its imposing size. It may look like a small, bright green cruise ship, but the 1400 is multo rapido – it makes a Suzuki Hayabusa feel a bit ordinary. Previous experience with the Kwack tells us that the strain of getting this beast off the line will eat a clutch before you get ahead of a sports bike. But once it’s rolling everything else gets sucked in and spat out the back while the ZZR charges hard up to the rev limiter in top gear, somewhere near 190mph. It’s not going to get any holeshot awards in this test, but over the ¼ mile the engine’s ridiculous power will claw back some yards. And by the end of the first mile it should be into its stride and quicker than everything. Except maybe that Hayabusa.
Suzuki Hayabusa turbo dragster
Destined to seek revenge on the standard Hayabusa’s nemesis, the Kawasaki ZZR. The ZZR might be quick, but it’s not even on the dial compared to this turbo-charged drag racer. Big power, a custom long swingarm and a lock-up clutch that takes the guesswork out of launches mean the Turbo ‘Busa is stupidly fast off the line. Once it’s rolling, a pneumatic gear shifter wastes no time upping the ratios and making the most of the 300+bhp being force-fed through the billet machined airbox. The only thing holding the drag bike back was grip – it’s tuned and developed for a high-grip drag strip. Take it away from its natural habitat and onto a concrete airfield and it becomes a right handful. Even with the boost turned down to give ‘only’ 260bhp and the wheelbase shortened to get more weight on the rear tyre, it was still spinning the wheel as soon as the turbo spooled up. Could it be tamed for long enough to get a quick time?
If you’ve ever ridden a motocross or enduro bike, you’ll understand exactly why this is here. It doesn’t seem to matter how long you’ve been whizzing around on 200bhp superbikes for; when you hop on a dirt bike and pin the throttle they feel, well, frankly lethal. With headline power figures just nudging over 60bhp, it’s hard to see how they can feel so bloody fast. But low weight is key – less weight to get rolling should mean 60bhp is more than enough to get a lightning fast start. The only trouble is that a short wheelbase and high centre of gravity make backflipping from a standstill a definite possibility. If we could keep the circus tricks at bay, the EXC should surprise and upset a few bikes over the first five metres. Not sure how well that knobbly tyre will hook up on concrete though…
Anyone can go fast in a straight line, right? Well, yes, but only if they’ve got the bottle. And only if they’ve got the clutch skills to pay the launching bills when it comes to getting off the line. And therein lies the exquisite simplicity of drag racing and perhaps the clue to why it can be so addictive. ‘All’ you have to do is get off the line cleanly and keep it pinned until the ¼ mile mark, easy. But when you break that down into all the elements involved as a rider, it doesn’t come across so black and white. What revs should you use? Do you set them high and risk putting too much power down, or set them low and end up almost stalling the engine? And the clutch, do you ping it out all in one go, or slip it away until the revs match? You’ve got to get your body position right, strike a balance between wheelies and wheelspin, nail the shift from first to second without getting neutral, keep the thing in a straight line, and do all this as fast as humanly possible. When we’re talking in tenths of a second, one slight error and your time is goosed. If you’re still cynical at this point, I have to admit, I can understand – with corners being so much fun, why the hell would I want to race in a straight line, right? But don’t knock it until you’ve tried it, that’s all I’ll say. I used to think straight-line races were pointless, but the first time I spent a day racing Mr. Hogan down Bruntingthorpe’s straight, I was converted.
All our straight-line testing was backed up with a datalogger, giving us some numbers to put behind what we were feeling and seeing. It also meant that when John rolled back to the van punching the air claiming a victory, I could pull the data out and make sure he hadn’t paid Shaun off. But sitting here reeling off zero to sixty times and ¼-mile figures would send us all to sleep, what it’s really all about is racing each other. Two bikes, a straight line and a man saying “Go!” – simple, addictive racing fun. Questions will be answered, clutches will be abused and John will do at least one terrifying rolling burnout on the Diavel. Let’s race.
Tune in tomorrow to see how we got on…
Words: Chris Northover
Pics: Phil Steinhardt