Road Test

Road Test: 2004 Supersports Test - 1000'S

Take sixteen of the best sportsbikes in the world to a circuit for three days, put them on identical tyres, add thirteen journalists from ten different countries and you have the most comprehensive test ever.




The Supertest began as an idea last year between Spanish magazines Solo Moto and el Periodico, Portuguese mag Motojornal, Italian magazine La Moto and Two Wheels Only. The idea of the test was to put all of the very best sportsbikes head-to-head on track in one huge, comprehensive test to find out which was the best according to several different criteria. In order to stop arguments, the bikes were all lap timed.

Now in its second year, the Supertest has become even more comprehensive. Every bike tested was supplied by the relevant manufacturer and came complete with a factory representative and technical support to ensure that it was performing to its absolute peak against the competition.

The original test team of just five magazines has expanded to include twelve publications from ten different countries all over the world. Riders involved include world class racers such as James Whitham and Olivier Jacque, national champions, race school instructors and journalists whose job it is to ride and rate every new bike launched each year.

For the 2004 Supertest, the bikes were taken to the challenging Almeria circuit in Spain, used by all of the British Superbike teams for testing, as it has a perfect combination of tight and twisty sections as well as a very fast straight to test all of a bike's performance. It's also one of the driest areas of Spain, so conditions are consistent for all three days.

Every bike was fitted with Michelin's brand new Pilot Power tyre to take out the inconsistency of varying original equipment tyres, and to give the riders the grip required to push the bikes hard enough to really sort out the winners from the losers.

The bikes were split into two categories - 1000s and 600s - and every rider filled in a form rating each bike in order, from best to worst, on five different criteria:

Motor - how well the engine performed

Comfort - how comfortable the bike was

Chassis - how the bike handled

Price - the cheapest bike in each country got the top score, the most expensive the worst

Equipment - what you get for your money, e.g. …hlins suspension, lap timer, rev light etc.

The number of coloured panels next to each criteria shows you where that bike placed in relation to the competition for that area of its performance.

The results were then put together and a 1000 and 600 winner decided - find out who tops the lists here...

APRILIA RSV-R FACTORY


Price £10,725

Power 117bhp

Weight 185kg

Comfort 4/9

Chassis 3/9

Motor 4/9

Equipment 3/9

Price 9/9

Final verdict 4/9

JAMES WHITHAM'S OPINION

The Aprilia felt really big, especially compared to the 1000cc fours, but once you were moving this soon disappeared. Like all twins, it didn't feel that quick but had a really linear power delivery, although I kept over-revving it and hitting the limiter, but this is probably just because I'm used to riding inline-fours. The front felt quite heavy, which meant I didn't really trust it in corners, and it needed more effort than the inline-fours to turn in. The brakes are best described as average, better than the RSV-R's but not even in the same county, let alone ballpark, as the Japanese bikes'. Jon complained he got his heels caught up in the pipes, but I never found this a problem. He must have big feet.

JON URRY'S SECOND OPINION

I didn't get on with either Aprilia, they just don't fit me. This aside, the handling is good, but slow to turn into corners, and the motor is easy to ride with a decent mid-range and good top end as well. The Aprilia is deceptively fast - you don't realise how well you are going until you see your lap times. Jon urry

WHAT THE WORLD'S MOTORCYCLE PRESS

Better suspension than the RSV-R with better feel, but too firm in my opinion - it makes it harder to control. I prefer something softer.

Kent Kunitsugu, Sport Rider - USA

The V-twin motor is strong and the ergonomics great for big riders like me. The design is simply superb. The Brembo radial calipers are a dream. Its character is unique and needs precision from the rider.

Eduardo Zampieri, MOTO! - Brazil

Like the RSV-R but with better suspension. Gives more feel, reactions are more direct and control of the bike is excellent. Fastastic! It's my second favourite.

Guido Kupper, MO - Germany

With lighter and higher quality components, the Factory weighs less than the R but is physically the same size. It's more manoeuvrable. It has great traction and is a really fun bike to ride.

Albert Escoda, Solo Moto - Spain

This bike is delicious! It really is a diamond on wheels and much more fun than the old Mille. It's a shame that it's up against these powerful Japanese fours.

Alkis Sinioris, 0-300 - Greece

The motor spins better at high revs and the cycle parts are the best there are. Brakes are the most powerful and suspension is perfect. Gearchange is a little hard and the riding position is more radical.

Mario Figueiras, Moto - Portugal.

APRILIA RSV-R

Price £8225

Power 117bhp

Weight 185kg

Comfort 3/9

Chassis 2/9

Motor 2/9

Equipment 1/9

Price 4/9

Final verdict 2/9

JAMES WHITHAM'S OPINION

The RSV-R felt just like the factory - which isn't that surprising really - but not quite as refined. The brakes felt the weakest of all the bikes I tested and the suspension wasn't as good as the Factory's by a long shot. In a corner, the budget stuff on the RSV-R didn't cope as well with the bumps around the Almeria circuit, which made it unsettled in corners. With a price difference of only £2000 between this one and the Factory you have to choose the Factory; it's just a full package for the money. Overall, the RSV-R just felt a bit softer everywhere than the Factory, except for the motor which was almost identical. It isn't a bad bike, but it loses out back-to-back with the Factory.

JON URRY'S SECOND OPINION

The RSV-R feels like it's about 80% of the bike the Factory is. The brakes feel weak (only it and the Ducati don't have radial brakes) and the suspension is harsher than the Factory's …hlins. The handling is almost as good, but again due to the suspension it just doesn't feel quite as planted in the corner.

WHAT THE WORLD'S MOTORCYCLE PRESS

The Aprilia spins up quicker than the Ducati and the transmission is better suited to the track than the 999, but I still prefer the Duke. That said, the RSV's brakes and chassis are better.

Kent Kunitsugu, Sport Rider - USA

The RSV suffered a little at Almeria - it's very big and can be tricky on the way in to corners. It also lacks the horsepower which helped the Factory perform so well.

Eduardo Zampieri, MOTO! - Brazil

It's got good power, albeit less than the Japanese. It's stable and gives confidence, although the back end gets too light on the brakes. It's the most neutral in corners

Guido Kupper, MO - Germany

This bike nevertheless comes out well on the track, but it is slightly bulky and heavy. The front end is a little slow in action. The power is very elastic - more than the Ducati and transmits great sensations.

Albert Escoda, Solo Moto - Spain

There isn't much to split the R and the Factory at a standstill. Once on the move, the differences aren't that noticeable - equal comportment, with huge brakes and great feel from the suspension.

Alkis Sinioris, 0-300 - Greece

The motor works as well as the Factory's, but the big differences show in the chassis and cycle parts, it just lacks the consistency and feel of its sister machine.

Mario Figueiras, Moto - Portugal.

BENELLI TORNADO

Price £13,500

Power 115bhp

Weight 185kg

Comfort 2/9

Chassis 1/9

Motor 1/9

Equipment 4/9

Price 1/9

Final verdict 1/9

JAMES WHITHAM'S OPINION

I was pleasantly surprised by the Tornado - before I rode it, I thought it would be a bag of shit. The engine is lovely - a totally different feel to the others - and it sounds fantastic. It's not the fastest, quite steady away, but it's quick enough for most riders. The brakes are good, but the slipper clutch didn't work quite as well as the Kawasaki's and the back hopped around a bit under really heavy braking with hard downshifts as well. The handling is secure and stable, mainly because the engine doesn't have the power to upset it, and it was good fun to ride. Don't think of it as a big, scary litre bike but more of a 600 with a decent amount of poke in the mid-range that looks brilliant and sounds great as well.

JON URRY'S SECOND OPINION

On the face of it, the Benelli should get totally out-classed by all the other bikes here, but it doesn't. The triple motor is really smooth to use and sounds brilliant when it's revved. The handling is balanced and forgiving and, like the 600s, the Tornado's lack of power makes it fun to ride.

WHAT THE WORLD'S MOTORCYCLE PRESS

It has less power than the other superbikes, but it has very good traction out of the curves. It's not easy to make it turn, but the brakes are excellent. I can't say much about the chassis except the suspension is too firm for me.

Kent Kunitsugu, Sport Rider - USA

A surprise! The motor is powerful and at a track like Almeria, chassis and engine compliment your efforts. Comfort and protection aren't good.

Eduardo Zampieri, MOTO! - Brazil

I love it. Emotionally, it's my favourite. You can't stop revving the engine to hear the sound. It's like a big dog that wants to bite you! Brakes are among the best here. Handling is good, but it's heavy.

Guido Kupper, MO - Germany

It's not at the same level as the rest of the hypersport bikes here. But it's a good sports-tourer. The character of the motor is very different to the others. Brakes and stability good.

Albert Escoda, Solo Moto - Spain

It's very distinct from the rest of the bikes here - the feel of the motor, the riding position. The seat and the suspension are too hard, but the brakes are very good. Detail changes would bring great improvements.

Alkis Sinioris, 0-300 - Greece

The exotic option. Ergonomics could be improved, but the motor is very interesting, the brakes good and the gearchange is precise.

Mario Figueiras, Moto - Portugal.

DUCATI 999S

Price £13,950

Power 117bhp

Weight 199kg

Comfort 1/9

Chassis 7/9

Motor 3/9

Equipment 5/9

Price 2/9

Final verdict 3/9

JAMES WHITHAM'S OPINION

I liked the Ducati. Although it looked long, it feels really together and sorted. Fair enough, it doesn't have the manic power of the big fours, but it just felt really nice and smooth to ride, and really grunty in the mid-range. The handling felt lovely: you put it into a corner and it just sticks there. Running into the corners it wasn't that good and it could do with a slipper clutch to control the rear, which did bounce and hop about a bit but overall, the 999 just felt really well put together and was easy to ride. It had the feeling of a well sorted package about it and you can tell that a lot of development time has gone into the chassis. A good racing pedigree that has been transferred to the road bike.

JON URRY'S SECOND OPINION

Every time I ride a 999 on track, it almost does enough to make me forget how ugly it is. The Duke is built for the track and this is where it works perfectly. The riding position is terrible on the road but perfect on track. The handling is so balanced in corners it feels like it can be leant over for ever.

WHAT THE WORLD'S MOTORCYCLE PRESS

I adore its handling. It's very balanced, very easy to ride. Sport riding, the position is perfect. Turns well into corners - it's brilliant to race. The motor is smooth and fun.

Kent Kunitsugu, Sport Rider - USA

I think the design isn't as likeable as the old 998, but that's just a personal thing. I expected more of the motor; it's 'decaffeinated' - not to my taste. Going into bends and holding a line though, it's spectacular.

Eduardo Zampieri, MOTO! - Brazil

It's incredibly stable and precise in bends, although somewhat heavy. It takes a bit to turn it in corners. It has the power and brakes, but is still left behind by the Japanese superbikes .

Guido Kupper, MO - Germany

It's the easiest around the track, but not the most exclusive - especially a red one. In its favour are its excellent …hlins suspension units and responsive, fuel-injected big twin motor.

Alkis Sinioris, 0-300 - Greece.

Continues to be a precision instrument in twisty areas. The speed in corners is blinding and the ground clearance allows anything. Although it hasn't radial brakes, they are powerful.

Mario Figueiras, Moto - Portugal

The difference in low rev power delivery sets it apart from its rivals and gives the best traction out of corners - and it's the fastest bike here into the corners thanks to the excellent chassis.

Sergi Mejias, El Periodico - Spain.

HONDA CBR1000RR FIREBLADE

Price £8799

Power 151bhp

Weight 178kg

Comfort 8/9

Chassis 4/9

Motor 6/9

Equipment 6/9

Price 5/9

Final ranking 6/9

JAMES WHITHAM'S OPINION

The motor doesn't feel as gutsy as the Suzuki, Kawasaki or Yamaha, but it did want to rev more. The Blade has a 600 feel to it - a lot smaller than the Suzuki and you feel like you are sat on top of it rather than in it. The brakes are brilliant - better than the Suzuki's - and close to the ZX-10R's when it comes to power, the handling felt firm and gave a really nice ride. You could always run past the apex, then bring it back in. I went quicker on the Honda than the Suzuki but it didn't feel like I had, which is probably a good sign. The Honda also has a typical Honda refined feeling about it. The damper makes it very stable and where the other 1000s were getting skittish, the Blade never did.

JON URRY'S SECOND OPINION

I found the Fireblade the least intimidating 1000. It's typical Honda - you just get on and ride it. Despite having a huge amount of power, it never feels like it will get out of control, and the chassis is superb; totally balanced and very forgiving with excellent brakes. Dull? No, just very, very good.

WHAT THE WORLD'S MOTORCYCLE PRESS

Very good engine with excellent mid and high range. Excellent clutch action. Chassis is very rigid, brakes powerful, but not as good as the R1. At the limit, it hasn't the same feel as the R1.

Kent Kunitsugu, Sport Rider - USA

Fantastic! It has incredible power and is almost as agile as a 600. Impressive brakes, good riding position, even for me at 1.88m tall. One criticism: I can't read the rev counter.

Eduardo Zampieri, MOTO! - Brazil

For me, the undisputable winner. Great handling, power is incredible, and the brakes so strong. Shame I haven't got one, but who knows - soon?!

Guido Kupper, MO - Germany

It's a bright green bomb! Accelerates like a rocket, and the engine pushes with incredible energy. It's easy to manoeuvre and place it at the apex. It's light to change direction and gives much confidence. The brakes are world class.

Albert Escoda, Solo Moto - Spain

It's quick, quick, quick! It's so fast and so exciting - but it can go to your head. This Kawa is a welcome surprise not just for the excitement it gives, but for the excellent finish. But you need all five of your senses while riding as you must remain very alert.

Alkis Sinioris, 0-300 - Greece

The ZX-10R is a track bike for the road! Explosive power, race gearbox, agile but gets the power down. Lookstunning

Mario Figueiras, Moto - Portugal.

KAWASAKI ZX-10R

Price £9045

Power 160bhp

Weight 170kg

Comfort 6/9

Chassis 8/9

Motor 9/9

Equipment 7/9

Price 6/9

Final ranking 8/9

JAMES WHITHAM'S OPINION

The kawasaki has such a strong engine with two really distinct power surges. Just when you think the power has finished, it takes off again like a bloody rocket. It's the least compromised; this is built to race and no mistake. Generally, the handling is really good but it shakes its head a bit and the front is a bit vague in fast corners. It could really do with a steering damper. The brakes are really good and the slipper clutch works really well, which means you can drag the brakes right up to the corner without fear of the back locking up, although the really tall first gear may also help this. The biggest surprise for me was the size of the ZX-10R: it feels absolutely tiny - even for me - and I'm not that big!

JON URRY'S SECOND OPINION

With the ZX-10R you are never sure who is in control - you or the bike. It's immensely powerful and pulls like a bastard all the way through the rev range, but the front never feels planted in corners. It turns in beautifully like a 600, but it feels twitchy on the power, which is worrying.

WHAT THE WORLD'S MOTORCYCLE PRESS

Very good engine with excellent mid and high range. Excellent clutch action. Chassis is very rigid, brakes powerful, but not as good as the R1. At the limit, it hasn't the same feel as the R1.

Kent Kunitsugu, Sport Rider - USA

Fantastic! It has incredible power and is almost as agile as a 600. Impressive brakes, good riding position, even for me at 1.88m tall. One criticism: I can't read the rev counter.

Eduardo Zampieri, MOTO! - Brazil

For me, the undisputable winner. Great handling, power is incredible, and the brakes so strong. Shame I haven't got one, but who knows - soon?!

Guido Kupper, MO - Germany

It's a bright green bomb! Accelerates like a rocket, and the engine pushes with incredible energy. It's easy to manoeuvre and place it at the apex. It's light to change direction and gives much confidence. The brakes are world class.

Albert Escoda, Solo Moto - Spain

It's quick, quick, quick! It's so fast and so exciting - but it can go to your head. This Kawa is a welcome surprise not just for the excitement it gives, but for the excellent finish. But you need all five of your senses while riding as you must remain very alert.

Alkis Sinioris, 0-300 - Greece

The ZX-10R is a track bike for the road! Explosive power, race gearbox, agile but gets the power down. Lookstunning

Mario Figueiras, Moto - Portugal.

SUZUKI GSX-R750K4

Price £7649

Power 127bhp

Weight 163kg

Comfort 7/9

Chassis 5/9

Motor 5/9

Equipment 2/9

Price 9/9

Final ranking 5/9

JAMES WHITHAM'S OPINION

This is exactly what God intended a 600 to be. It's just like a 600, but faster. It revs its tits off, makes you change gear and makes you work on it, which I like. Because you have to work the GSX-R, you get satisfaction when you get it right. It's quicker than a 600 where you need it in the mid-range, but you can't be as lazy with the engine as you can on a 1000, which makes it fun and rewarding to ride. The handling is as good as the 600s, but I found the brakes a bit weak, although this could be something to do with it being thrashed for the last two days solid around the track - I rode one in the UK and they were fine. The GSX-R is a good compromise if you want a 600 with some kick.

JON URRY'S SECOND OPINION

All the fun of a 600 and with the useable part of the 1000's power, the GSX-R750 is the bike we should all own. The handling is as light, fast and balanced as a 600 and the engine has enough power to be fun without intimidating or threatening to land the rider in trouble. A brilliant bike.

WHAT THE WORLD'S MOTORCYCLE PRESS

Excellent engine, great on the track. Light, manageable like a 600, but with better response thanks to its larger capacity. Transmits feedback to the rider really well.

Kent Kunitsugu, Sport Rider - USA

Despite having 250cc less, it holds its own with the 1000s with thanks to its greater agility. Quick response in turning and acceleration are its strong points.

Eduardo Zampieri, MOTO! - Brazil

An excellent mix of handling and useable power. Good brakes, but seemed a little unstable through some corners. Maybe the suspension was a little soft.

Guido Kupper, MO - Germany

The most balanced superbike. Good through all corners, good chassis and suspension. Radial brakes are excellent and the engine drives hard. With the right settings, it can be the fastest.

Albert Escoda, Solo Moto - Spain

This outsider is a very valid option among the superbikes. I agree with my colleagues, it has handling like a 600 with the extra power of a superbike. It's a successful revival.

Alkis Sinioris, 0-300 - Greece

Light and small like its 600cc sister, but with a motor with much more midrange. It's really easy to use on the circuit and the most balanced package of them all.

Mario Figueiras, Moto - Portugal.

SUZUKI GSX-R1000K4

Price £8549

Power 153bhp

Weight 170kg

Comfort 9/9

Chassis 7/9

Motor 7/9

Equipment 3/9

Price 7/9
Final ranking 7/9

JAMES WHITHAM'S OPINION

I found the GSX-R1000 very comfortable, mainly because it felt quite big physically, especially compared to the tiny ZX-10R. The engine is really strong, no surges in power and it pulls smoothly from really low down with really good fuel-injection. It's an easy bike to ride; like a big armchair. Just open the throttle, hold on tight and go. There is a little bit of movement hard on the brakes, but it holds a line well once sat in the corners. It didn't want to tuck back under and tighten its line while in a corner though. Alongside the new breed of 1000s, the GSX-R1000 does look a bit old hat and is starting to show its age, but it's still a very good, very fast bike, especially considering the price.

JON URRY'S SECOND OPINION

Last year, the GSX-R was easily the best 1000, but now it has been left behind. The motor is still very powerful but it feels raw and vibrates and just doesn't have the same kick compared to the new 1000s. The handling is very good, but the brakes feel lacking, especially compared to the Honda's.

WHAT THE WORLD'S MOTORCYCLE PRESS

It has a huge motor and very good feel, very natural. It's very easy to go quickly. Good brakes, though not at the same level as the R1 or ZX-10. Good suspension but could do with a slipper clutch to stop tyre-hop.

Kent Kunitsugu, Sport Rider - USA

It's a 1000 with the dimensions of a 600. Like all new generation Suzukis, the fuel injection gives a quick response throttle. Good protection, comfort.

Eduardo Zampieri, MOTO! - Brazil

An excellent bike. It's comfy, manageable, stable and has good power which can be controlled perfectly. The fuel injection is precise, as are the brakes.

Guido Kupper, MO - Germany

Riding position is comfortable and its engine is very fast and measured. It turns in well, but is less easy to change direction on than the R1 and ZX-10R, because of its greater bulk. Brakes should be better.

Albert Escoda, Solo Moto - Spain

The winner of the last Supertest is now a golden oldie! It seems big compared to the new 2004 superbikes. Even so, its handling and motor are its strong points, helping it to third place overall.

Alkis Sinioris, 0-300 - Greece

It's the one bike among the 1000s without changes, but it's still very effective. It has the most powerful motor in the low- and mid-range and it's easy to use thanks to its overall balance.

Mario Figueiras, Moto - Portugal.

YAMAHA YZF-R1

Price £9399

Power 154bhp

Weight 172kg

Comfort 5/9

Chassis 9/9

Motor 8/9

Equipment 8/9

Price 8/9

Final ranking 9/9

JAMES WHITHAM'S OPINION

I immediately went quicker on the R1 than the other 1000s. Although it doesn't feel as refined as the Honda, it's similar to the GSX-R in power - just one big kick in the ass with no discernible jumps, but it feels a bit smoother than the Suzuki through the whole range. When it did slide it was easy to control due to the linear power, but I did find the R1 a bit skittish when the front went light, due to the racy set up, where the Honda never was. But having said that, in a corner you can easily drag it back into line and it's very planted. The steering damper did slow it down a bit on the initial turn-in, but it wasn't really a huge problem and did make it feel a bit more solid in the corner. And it looks ace as well.

JON URRY'S SECOND OPINION

The R1's engine is beautiful; really smooth and extremely powerful with excellent throttle response. In corners, the chassis feels slower to turn but has a reassuring, planted feeling about it mid-corner which the ZX-10R is lacking, probably due in no small part to its steering damper

WHAT THE WORLD'S MOTORCYCLE PRESS

Mmm... it's a very good bike, without doubt. The engine is incredible high up, especially after 7000rpm. Excellent brakes and chassis, really good finish.

Kent Kunitsugu, Sport Rider - USA

It's so much better than the '03 model, as much for the chassis as the motor. The character of the motor could be improved with a little more punch under 8000 with less aggression above.

Eduardo Zampieri, MOTO! - Brazil

I'd take this before the ZX-10R. It's more forgiving and not as aggressive. It's manageable and you can control it in any situation. the brakes are at the same level as the ZX-10R, with more useable power.

Guido Kupper, MO - Germany

It wins on aggression and confidence. Very stable and with a really controllable front end.The motor is sensational and develops brutal power which you can feed in easily.

Albert Escoda, Solo Moto - Spain

It doesn't surprise me that this is the winner. It has some incredible brakes, a delicious engine and great handling. Most importantly, it turns in easily and guarantees smooth riding.

Alkis Sinioris, 0-300 - Greece

Very impressive all round. The motor is incredible at high rpm, gearchange really quick, stupendous brakes and suspension. Truly, Yamaha has surpassed itself.

Mario Figueiras, Moto - Portugal.

AND SO TO CONCLUDE...

Despite only actually topping the results chart in handling, the Yamaha R1 takes top honours in the 2004 Supertest. Consistency won the day.

According to the views of the collected journalists from all over the world, the R1 simply offers the best combination of power, handling, value for money and comfort of the current crop of 1000cc superbikes.

The tables below break down exactly where the various magazines placed the bikes in order from first to last (one to nine), so low numbers are good. The overall result is then calculated from the individual categories. As you can see, not everyone agreed on the result...

The poor showing from the Italian bikes could be down to the Almeria circuit, which does favour powerful inline-four engines, but is mainly down to the fact that the Japanese have made huge leaps forward in bike design. For several thousand pounds less, the Japanese bikes handle as well - if not better - than the Italians, look as good and come with the same quality components. A few years ago, only the most top-spec bikes came with inverted forks, radial brakes, slipper clutches, lap timers and the like. Now these are commonplace.

So congratulations to Yamaha. The R1 is a true international winner, scooping the 2004 Supertest title.

The Supertest began as an idea last year between Spanish magazines Solo Moto and el Periodico, Portuguese mag Motojornal, Italian magazine La Moto and Two Wheels Only. The idea of the test was to put all of the very best sportsbikes head-to-head on track in one huge, comprehensive test to find out which was the best according to several different criteria. In order to stop arguments, the bikes were all lap timed.

Now in its second year, the Supertest has become even more comprehensive. Every bike tested was supplied by the relevant manufacturer and came complete with a factory representative and technical support to ensure that it was performing to its absolute peak against the competition.

The original test team of just five magazines has expanded to include twelve publications from ten different countries all over the world. Riders involved include world class racers such as James Whitham and Olivier Jacque, national champions, race school instructors and journalists whose job it is to ride and rate every new bike launched each year.

For the 2004 Supertest, the bikes were taken to the challenging Almeria circuit in Spain, used by all of the British Superbike teams for testing, as it has a perfect combination of tight and twisty sections as well as a very fast straight to test all of a bike's performance. It's also one of the driest areas of Spain, so conditions are consistent for all three days.

Every bike was fitted with Michelin's brand new Pilot Power tyre to take out the inconsistency of varying
original equipment tyres, and to give the riders the grip required to push the bikes hard enough to really sort out the winners from the losers.

The bikes were split into two categories - 1000s and 600s - and every rider filled in a form rating each bike in order, from best to worst, on five different criteria:

  • Motor - how well the engine performed
  • Comfort - how comfortable the bike was
  • Chassis - how the bike handled
  • Price - the cheapest bike in each country got the top score, the most expensive the worst
  • Equipment - what you get for your money, e.g. Öhlins suspension, lap timer, rev light etc.

The results were then put together and a 1000 winner decided - find out who tops the lists here...

2004 Aprilia RSV-R Factory Review

APRILIA RSV-R FACTORY

Price £10,725
Power 117bhp
Weight 185kg

Comfort 4/9
Chassis 3/9
Motor 4/9
Equipment 3/9
Price 9/9

Final verdict 4/9

The Aprilia felt really big, especially compared to the 1000cc fours, but once you were moving this soon disappeared. Like all twins, it didn't feel that quick but had a really linear power delivery, although I kept over-revving it and hitting the limiter, but this is probably just because I'm used to riding inline-fours. The front felt quite heavy, which meant I didn't really trust it in corners, and it needed more effort than the inline-fours to turn in. The brakes are best described as average, better than the RSV-R's but not even in the same county, let alone ballpark, as the Japanese bikes'. Jon complained he got his heels caught up in the pipes, but I never found this a problem. He must have big feet. - James Whitham

I didn't get on with either Aprilia, they just don't fit me. This aside, the handling is good, but slow to turn into corners, and the motor is easy to ride with a decent mid-range and good top end as well. The Aprilia is deceptively fast - you don't realise how well you are going until you see your lap times. - Jon Urry

Better suspension than the RSV-R with better feel, but too firm in my opinion - it makes it harder to control. I prefer something softer.
Kent Kunitsugu, Sport Rider  - USA

The V-twin motor is strong and the ergonomics great for big riders like me. The design is simply superb. The Brembo radial calipers are a dream. Its character is unique and needs precision from the rider.
Eduardo Zampieri, MOTO! - Brazil

Like the RSV-R but with better suspension. Gives more feel, reactions are more direct and control of the bike is excellent. Fastastic! It's my second favourite.
Guido Kupper, MO - Germany

With lighter and higher quality components, the Factory weighs less than the R but is physically the same size. It's more manoeuvrable. It has great traction and is a really fun bike to ride.
Albert Escoda, Solo Moto - Spain

This bike is delicious! It really is a diamond on wheels and much more fun than the old Mille. It's a shame that it's up against these powerful Japanese fours.
Alkis Sinioris, 0-300  - Greece

The motor spins better at high revs and the cycle parts are the best there are. Brakes are the most
powerful and suspension is perfect. Gearchange is a little hard and the riding position is more radical.
Mario Figueiras, Moto - Portugal.

2004 Aprilia RSV-R Review

APRILIA RSV-R

Price £8225
Power 117bhp
Weight 185kg

Comfort 3/9
Chassis 2/9
Motor 2/9
Equipment 1/9
Price 4/9

Final verdict 2/9

The RSV-R felt just like the factory - which isn't that surprising really - but not quite as refined. The brakes felt the weakest of all the bikes I tested and the suspension wasn't as good as the Factory's by a long shot. In a corner, the budget stuff on the RSV-R didn't cope as well with the bumps around the Almeria circuit, which made it unsettled in corners. With a price difference of only £2000 between this one and the Factory you have to choose the Factory; it's just a full package for the money. Overall, the RSV-R just felt a bit softer everywhere than the Factory, except for the motor which was almost identical. It isn't a bad bike, but it loses out back-to-back with the Factory. - James Whitham

The RSV-R feels like it's about 80% of the bike the Factory is. The brakes feel weak (only it and the Ducati don't have radial brakes) and the suspension is harsher than the Factory's Öhlins. The handling is almost as good, but again due to the suspension it just doesn't feel quite as planted in the corner. - Jon Urry

The Aprilia spins up quicker than the Ducati and the transmission is better suited to the track than the 999, but I still prefer the Duke. That said, the RSV's brakes and chassis are better.
Kent Kunitsugu, Sport Rider - USA

The RSV suffered a little at Almeria - it's very big and can be tricky on the way in to corners. It also lacks the horsepower which helped the  Factory perform so well.
Eduardo Zampieri, MOTO! - Brazil

It's got good power, albeit less than the Japanese. It's stable and gives confidence, although the back end gets too light on the brakes. It's the most neutral in corners 
Guido Kupper, MO - Germany

This bike nevertheless comes out well on the track, but it is slightly bulky and heavy. The front end is a little slow in action. The power is very elastic - more than the Ducati and transmits great sensations.
Albert Escoda, Solo Moto - Spain

There isn't much to split the R and the Factory at a standstill. Once on the move, the differences aren't that noticeable - equal comportment, with huge brakes and great feel from the suspension.
Alkis Sinioris, 0-300  - Greece

The motor works as well as the Factory's, but the big differences show in the chassis and cycle parts, it just lacks the consistency and feel of its sister machine.
Mario Figueiras, Moto - Portugal.

2004 Benelli Tornado Review

BENELLI TORNADO

Price £13,500
Power 115bhp
Weight 185kg

Comfort 2/9
Chassis 1/9
Motor 1/9
Equipment 4/9
Price 1/9

Final verdict 1/9

I was pleasantly surprised by the Tornado - before I rode it, I thought it would be a bag of shit. The engine is lovely - a totally different feel to the others - and it sounds fantastic. It's not the fastest, quite steady away, but it's quick enough for most riders. The brakes are good, but the slipper clutch didn't work quite as well as the Kawasaki's and the back hopped around a bit under really heavy braking with hard downshifts as well. The handling is secure and stable, mainly because the engine doesn't have the power to upset it, and it was good fun to ride. Don't think of it as a big, scary litre bike but more of a 600 with a decent amount of poke in the mid-range that looks brilliant and sounds great as well. - James Whitham

On the face of it, the Benelli should get totally out-classed by all the other bikes here, but it doesn't. The triple motor is really smooth to use and sounds brilliant when it's revved. The handling is balanced and forgiving and, like the 600s, the Tornado's lack of power makes it fun to ride. - Jon Urry

It has less power than the other superbikes, but it has very good traction out of the curves. It's not easy to make it turn, but the brakes are  excellent. I can't say much about the chassis except the suspension is too firm for me.
Kent Kunitsugu, Sport Rider - USA

A surprise! The motor is powerful and at a track like Almeria, chassis and engine compliment your efforts. Comfort and protection aren't good.
Eduardo Zampieri, MOTO! - Brazil

I love it. Emotionally, it's my favourite. You can't stop revving the engine to hear the sound. It's like a big dog that wants to bite you! Brakes are among the best here. Handling is good, but it's heavy.
Guido Kupper, MO - Germany

It's not at the same level as the rest of the hypersport bikes here. But it's a good sports-tourer. The character of the motor is very different to the others. Brakes and stability good.
Albert Escoda, Solo Moto - Spain

It's very distinct from the rest of the bikes here - the feel of the motor, the riding position. The seat and the suspension are too hard, but the brakes are very good. Detail changes would bring great improvements.
Alkis Sinioris, 0-300  - Greece

The exotic option. Ergonomics could be improved, but the motor is very interesting, the brakes good and the gearchange is precise.
Mario Figueiras, Moto - Portugal.

2004 Ducati 999S Review

DUCATI 999S

Price £13,950
Power 117bhp
Weight 199kg

Comfort 1/9
Chassis 7/9
Motor 3/9
Equipment 5/9
Price 2/9

Final verdict 3/9

I liked the Ducati. Although it looked long, it feels really together and sorted. Fair enough, it doesn't have the manic power of the big fours, but it just felt really nice and smooth to ride, and really grunty in the mid-range. The handling felt lovely: you put it into a corner and it just sticks there. Running into the corners it wasn't that good and it could do with a slipper clutch to control the rear, which did bounce and hop about a bit but overall, the 999 just felt really well put together and was easy to ride. It had the feeling of a well sorted package about it and you can tell that a lot of development time has gone into the chassis. A good racing pedigree that has been transferred to the road bike. - James Whitham

Every time I ride a 999 on track, it almost does enough to make me forget how ugly it is. The Duke is built for the track and this is where it works perfectly. The riding position is terrible on the road but perfect on track. The handling is so balanced in corners it feels like it can be leant over for ever. - Jon Urry

I adore its handling. It's very balanced, very easy to ride. Sport riding, the position is perfect. Turns well into corners - it's brilliant to race. The motor is smooth and fun.
Kent Kunitsugu, Sport Rider - USA

I think the design isn't as likeable as the old 998, but that's just a personal thing. I expected more of the motor; it's 'decaffeinated' - not to my taste. Going into bends and holding a line though, it's spectacular.
Eduardo Zampieri, MOTO! - Brazil

It's incredibly stable and precise in bends, although somewhat heavy. It takes a bit to turn it in corners. It has the power and brakes, but is still left behind by the Japanese superbikes .
Guido Kupper, MO - Germany

It's the easiest around the track, but not the most exclusive - especially a red one. In its favour are its excellent Öhlins suspension units and responsive, fuel-injected big twin motor.
Alkis Sinioris, 0-300 - Greece.

Continues to be a precision instrument in twisty areas. The speed in corners is blinding and the ground clearance allows anything. Although it hasn't radial brakes, they are powerful.
Mario Figueiras, Moto - Portugal

The difference in low rev power delivery sets it apart from its rivals and gives the best traction out of corners - and it's the fastest bike here into the corners thanks to the excellent chassis.
Sergi Mejias, El Periodico - Spain.

2004 Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade

HONDA CBR1000RR FIREBLADE

Price £8799
Power 151bhp
Weight 178kg

Comfort 8/9
Chassis 4/9
Motor 6/9
Equipment 6/9
Price 5/9

Final ranking 6/9

The motor doesn't feel as gutsy as the Suzuki, Kawasaki or Yamaha, but it did want to rev more. The Blade has a 600 feel to it - a lot smaller than the Suzuki and you feel like you are sat on top of it rather than in it. The brakes are brilliant - better than the Suzuki's - and close to the ZX-10R's when it comes to power, the handling felt firm and gave a really nice ride. You could always run past the apex, then bring it back in. I went quicker on the Honda than the Suzuki but it didn't feel like I had, which is probably a good sign. The Honda also has a typical Honda refined feeling about it. The damper makes it very stable and where the other 1000s were getting skittish, the Blade never did. - James Whitham

I found the Fireblade the least intimidating 1000. It's typical Honda - you just get on and ride it. Despite having a huge amount of power, it never feels like it will get out of control, and the chassis is superb; totally balanced and very forgiving with excellent brakes. Dull? No, just very, very good. - Jon Urry

2004 Kawasaki ZX-10R Review

KAWASAKI ZX-10R

Price £9045
Power 160bhp
Weight 170kg

Comfort 6/9
Chassis 8/9
Motor 9/9
Equipment 7/9
Price 6/9

Final ranking 8/9

The kawasaki has such a strong engine with two really distinct power surges. Just when you think the power has finished, it takes off again like a bloody rocket. It's the least compromised; this is built to race and no mistake. Generally, the handling is really good but it shakes its head a bit and the front is a bit vague in fast corners. It could really do with a steering damper. The brakes are really good and the slipper clutch works really well, which means you can drag the brakes right up to the corner without fear of the back locking up, although the really tall first gear may also help this. The biggest surprise for me was the size of the ZX-10R: it feels absolutely tiny - even for me - and I'm not that big! - James Whitham

With the ZX-10R you are never sure who is in control - you or the bike. It's immensely powerful and pulls like a bastard all the way through the rev range, but the front never feels planted in corners. It turns in beautifully like a 600, but it feels twitchy on the power, which is worrying. - Jon Urry

Very good engine with excellent mid and high range. Excellent clutch action. Chassis is very rigid, brakes powerful, but not as good as the R1. At the limit, it hasn't the same feel as the R1.
Kent Kunitsugu, Sport Rider - USA

Fantastic! It has incredible power and is almost as agile as a 600. Impressive brakes, good riding position, even for me at 1.88m tall. One criticism: I can't read the rev counter.
Eduardo Zampieri, MOTO! - Brazil

For me, the undisputable winner. Great handling, power is incredible, and the brakes so strong. Shame I haven't got one, but who knows - soon?!
Guido Kupper, MO - Germany

It's a bright green bomb! Accelerates like a rocket, and the engine pushes with incredible energy. It's easy to manoeuvre and place it at the apex. It's light to change direction and gives much confidence. The brakes are world class.
Albert Escoda, Solo Moto - Spain

It's quick, quick, quick! It's so fast and so exciting - but it can go to your head. This Kawa is a welcome surprise not just for the excitement it gives, but for the excellent finish. But you need all five of your senses while riding as you must remain very alert.
Alkis Sinioris, 0-300  - Greece

The ZX-10R is a track bike for the road! Explosive power, race gearbox, agile but gets the power down. Look stunning
Mario Figueiras, Moto - Portugal.

2004 Suzuki GSX-R750K4 Review

SUZUKI GSX-R750K4

Price £7649
Power 127bhp
Weight 163kg

Comfort 7/9
chassis 5/9
motor 5/9
Equipment 2/9
Price 9/9

Final ranking 5/9

This is exactly what God intended a 600 to be. It's just like a 600, but faster. It revs its tits off, makes you change gear and makes you work on it, which I like. Because you have to work the GSX-R, you get satisfaction when you get it right. It's quicker than a 600 where you need it in the mid-range, but you can't be as lazy with the engine as you can on a 1000, which makes it fun and rewarding to ride. The handling is as good as the 600s, but I found the brakes a bit weak, although this could be something to do with it being thrashed for the last two days solid around the track - I rode one in the UK and they were fine. The GSX-R is a good compromise if you want a 600 with some kick. - James Whitham

All the fun of a 600 and with the useable part of the 1000's power, the GSX-R750 is the bike we should all own. The handling is as light, fast and balanced as a 600 and the engine has enough power to be fun without intimidating or threatening to land the rider in trouble. A brilliant bike. - Jon Urry

Excellent engine, great on the track. Light, manageable like a 600, but with better response thanks to its larger capacity. Transmits feedback to the rider really well.
Kent Kunitsugu, Sport Rider - USA

Despite having 250cc less, it holds its own with the 1000s with thanks to its greater agility. Quick response in turning and acceleration are its strong points.
Eduardo Zampieri, MOTO! - Brazil

An excellent mix of handling and useable power. Good brakes, but seemed a little unstable through some corners. Maybe the suspension was a little soft.
Guido Kupper, MO - Germany

The most balanced superbike. Good through all corners, good chassis and suspension. Radial brakes are excellent and the engine drives hard. With the right settings, it can be the fastest.
Albert Escoda, Solo Moto - Spain

This outsider is a very valid option among the superbikes. I agree with my colleagues, it has handling like a 600 with the extra power of a superbike. It's a successful revival.
Alkis Sinioris, 0-300  - Greece

Light and small like its 600cc sister, but with a motor with much more midrange. It's really easy to use on the circuit and the most balanced package of them all. 
Mario Figueiras, Moto - Portugal.

2004 Suzuki GSX-R1000K4 Review

SUZUKI GSX-R1000K4

Price £8549
Power 153bhp
Weight 170kg

Comfort 9/9
Chassis 7/9
Motor 7/9
Equipment 3/9
Price 7/9

Final ranking 7/9

I found the GSX-R1000 very comfortable, mainly because it felt quite big physically, especially compared to the tiny ZX-10R. The engine is really strong, no surges in power and it pulls smoothly from really low down with really good fuel-injection. It's an easy bike to ride; like a big armchair. Just open the throttle, hold on tight and go. There is a little bit of movement hard on the brakes, but it holds a line well once sat in the corners. It didn't want to tuck back under and tighten its line while in a corner though. Alongside the new breed of 1000s, the GSX-R1000 does look a bit old hat and is starting to show its age, but it's still a very good, very fast bike, especially considering the price. - James Whitham

Last year, the GSX-R was easily the best 1000, but now it has been left behind. The motor is still very powerful but it feels raw and vibrates and just doesn't have the same kick compared to the new 1000s. The handling is very good, but the brakes feel lacking, especially compared to the Honda's.  - Jon Urry

It has a huge motor and very good feel, very natural. It's very easy to go quickly. Good brakes, though not at the same level as the R1 or ZX-10. Good suspension but could do with a slipper clutch to stop tyre-hop.
Kent Kunitsugu, Sport Rider - USA

It's a 1000 with the dimensions of a 600. Like all new generation Suzukis, the fuel injection gives a quick response throttle. Good protection, comfort.
Eduardo Zampieri, MOTO! - Brazil

An excellent bike. It's comfy, manageable, stable and has good power which can be controlled perfectly. The fuel injection is precise, as are the brakes.
Guido Kupper, MO - Germany

Riding position is comfortable and its engine is very fast and measured. It turns in well, but is less easy to change direction on than the R1 and ZX-10R, because of its greater bulk. Brakes should be better.
Albert Escoda, Solo Moto - Spain

The winner of the last Supertest is now a golden oldie! It seems big compared to the new 2004 superbikes. Even so, its handling and motor are its strong points, helping it to third place overall.
Alkis Sinioris, 0-300  - Greece

It's the one bike among the 1000s without changes, but it's still very effective. It has the most powerful motor in the low- and mid-range and it's easy to use thanks to its overall balance.
Mario Figueiras, Moto - Portugal.

2004 Yamaha YZF-R1 Review

YAMAHA YZF-R1

Price £9399
Power 154bhp
Weight 172kg

Comfort 5/9
Chassis 9/9
Motor 8/9
Equipment 8/9
Price 8/9

Final ranking 9/9

I immediately went quicker on the R1 than the other 1000s. Although it doesn't feel as refined as the Honda, it's similar to the GSX-R in power - just one big kick in the ass with no discernible jumps, but it feels a bit smoother than the Suzuki through the whole range. When it did slide it was easy to control due to the linear power, but I did find the R1 a bit skittish when the front went light, due to the racy set up, where the Honda never was. But having said that, in a corner you can easily drag it back into line and it's very planted. The steering damper did slow it down a bit on the initial turn-in, but it wasn't really a huge problem and did make it feel a bit more solid in the corner. And it looks ace as well. - James Whitham

The R1's engine is beautiful; really smooth and extremely powerful with excellent throttle response. In corners, the chassis feels slower to turn but has a reassuring, planted feeling about it mid-corner which the ZX-10R is lacking, probably due in no small part to its steering damper. - Jon Urry

Mmm... it's a very good bike, without doubt. The engine is incredible high up, especially after 7000rpm. Excellent brakes and chassis, really good finish.
Kent Kunitsugu, Sport Rider - USA

It's so much better than the '03 model, as much for the chassis as the motor. The character of the motor could be improved with a little more punch under 8000 with less aggression above.
Eduardo Zampieri, MOTO! - Brazil

I'd take this before the ZX-10R. It's more forgiving and not as aggressive. It's manageable and you can control it in any situation. the brakes are at the same level as the ZX-10R, with more useable power.
Guido Kupper, MO - Germany

It wins on aggression and confidence. Very stable and with a really controllable front end.The motor is
sensational and develops brutal power which you can feed in easily.
Albert Escoda, Solo Moto - Spain

It doesn't surprise me that this is the winner. It has some incredible brakes, a delicious engine and great handling. Most importantly, it turns in easily and guarantees smooth riding.
Alkis Sinioris, 0-300  - Greece

Very impressive all round. The motor is incredible at high rpm, gearchange really quick, stupendous brakes and suspension. Truly, Yamaha has surpassed itself.
Mario Figueiras, Moto - Portugal.

Conclusion

AND SO TO CONCLUDE...

Despite only actually topping the results chart in handling, the Yamaha R1 takes top honours in the 2004 Supertest. Consistency won the day.

According to the views of the collected journalists from all over the world, the R1 simply offers the best combination of power, handling, value for money and comfort of the current crop of 1000cc superbikes.
The tables below break down exactly where the various magazines placed the bikes in order from first to last (one to nine), so low numbers are good. The overall result is then calculated from the individual categories.

As you can see, not everyone agreed on the result...

The poor showing from the Italian bikes could be down to the Almeria circuit, which does favour powerful inline-four engines, but is mainly down to the fact that the Japanese have made huge leaps forward in bike design. For several thousand pounds less, the Japanese bikes handle as well - if not better - than the Italians, look as good and come with the same quality components. A few years ago, only the most top-spec bikes came with inverted forks, radial brakes, slipper clutches, lap timers and the like. Now these are commonplace.

So congratulations to Yamaha. The R1 is a true international winner, scooping the 2004 Supertest title.

Latest Reviews

Review
Review

Latest Videos

Feature
Article
Article