On the face of it, this is a pretty odd bunch of motorcycles. Take the motors for instance - a 781cc V4, an 955cc inline triple, and an 899cc inline four. Hmm, not exactly the most comparable bunch on the planet.
But then these bikes are a bit of a mixed bag. There's the ZX-9R, whose normal habitat these days is being shot to pieces in a group test with the FireBlade, R1 and GSX-R1000, the VFR which can generally be found romping off with the sports touring crown whenever that little test comes to town, and the 955i - a bike no-one quite seems to have been able to place just yet. Triumph themselves stressed at the launch it wasn't built to take on the big-bore track massive of the R1 and co, but clock the spec sheet and you'll find 137bhp, 188 kilos and some sharp geometry which suggest a pretty serious motorbike lies beneath that innocent-looking fairing regardless of what the bike is or isn't 'supposed' to do.
So if these bikes are apparently so different, why on earth are we testing them together?Well, slotting bikes neatly into categories - 600s, 750s, big twins, etc - is all very well, but as you can see from the variety of the three bikes here, it doesn't always work because some bikes just don't suit pigeonholing. Either because they've fallen behind in the class they started life in (ZX-9 anyone?), and now need looking at in a different light, or because they're so competent they can handle being tested up against pretty much anything (that'll be the VFR then), or because they simply don't fit squarely into any one class (here we welcome the 955i).
But these bikes do all have a few things in common. They're all bloody fast - as in the dark side of 170mph fast in the case of the Kawasaki - they're all perfectly suited to riding on the road either in a flurry of flat-out madness or in a gentle pottering about and enjoying the scenery kind of way, and just to make things even better, they're all very easy to live with. And nor do any of these three come with the associated aches and pains of a pure sportsbike or suffer the outright speed and grunt limitations of anything below 600ccs.
Instead they all get on with going as fast or as slow as you like, for as little or as long as you like, and manage to do all this with some seriously impressive handling thrown in should outright silliness overcome you from time to time.
In a nutshell these are real bikes. Bikes you can honestly live with and that'll take in pretty much anything you care to throw at them and leave you grinning every time, and best of all, they're above becoming unfashionable after six months when they're replaced by a new 'must have' model.
Just for good measure, and because it was the only part of the UK promising sunshine that week, we took them up North to the stunning scenery and roads of the Peak District, strapped them to a dyno for accurate power readings, and then sat back with a large pot of tea and a tin of biscuits (all served on the finest bone china of course), to determine a winner.
Continue for the Kawasaki ZX-9R Review - 2/5
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