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Test riding naked middleweights

Discussion in 'Bike Reviews, Questions and Suggestions' started by Dekker, Jul 1, 2008.

  1. Well, I've got some time off work and I'm looking for a new bike, so I thought I'd use these forums as a place to collect my thoughts on the various bikes I've test ridden this week. Perhaps someone else will find it useful. :)

    First off, some background.
    I've been riding the GS500 for a year and 10 months now, during which time I've clocked up around 25000km of mostly weekend riding. Once a week I commute to work on it, which is a 37km trip through Sydney's joyous peak hour sprawl. I love my bike but wouldn't mind something that is a little more high-tech and perhaps a bit more accomodating of my lanky 190cm / 78kg frame. Recently I have been venturing onto some unsealed roads, which is fun, but I don't think the gs appreciates it so I'll treat some dirt ability as a bonus in my quest to find a mainly street-orientated bike.

    This morning I rode Honda's new 600 Hornet. My initial impression centred on the smoothness of the engine (this being the first inline 4 I've ridden). Coupled with the light clutch, the bike dispelled any concerns of stalling it while riding out of the dealership. It had an 'instantly familiar' feeling that bouyed my confidence.

    Below 6k rpm, the engine is sedate but will pull cleanly from just below 3k rpm. Above 6k the exhaust note changes and the Hornet gets a hurry on. The large digital speedo was useful in quantifying exactly how screwed I would be should I see any cops along the way. It shares its LCD space with a temperature readout, odometer, clock and fuel display. The transmission was very smooth. I found myself getting into 6th gear very quickly and looking for a 7th. 3k rpm is about 58km/h in 6th.

    The handlebars are narrow, while the slightly convex mirrors do an adequate job of showing what's behind you. Handling felt secure, while the suspension handled the few minor bumps that got thrown at it without fuss. It didn't feel as nimble as I expected, that might be to do with the narrow bar. The brakes are excellent. I don't really have anything bad to say about the Hornet, it looks like it would be a great commuter and weekend twisties bike. A minor gripe would be the somewhat dull exhaust note, but that can be changed.

    In the afternoon I had a go on a BMW F650GS. This was the new 800cc twin rather than the older model single. I found the seating position is a lot more upright than I was used to, which is not a bad thing since it afforded more legroom. The bike felt big but not heavy; I could still get both feet flat on the ground when stopped. Low speed maneuvering was surprisingly easy thanks to the wide handlbars and a tonne of steering lock available. The wide bars also helped with leaning the bike into turns at speed, where it feels remarkably agile. Longer travel suspension makes road surface irregularities a non-event, although there is some dive under brakes. The brakes themselves do a decent job of stopping the bike, however the front could do with a bit more bite. The ABS is easy enough to activate at the rear end, where you can feel the pulsing through the pedal. I wasn't feeling brave enough to try this when entering a corner though. :)

    'Tractoresque' is the word I would use to describe the engine. It has loads of grunt down low from 3000 to 4500 rpm. After that, it feels like there's a dip in the torque curve before it has another go at 5500rpm and then runs out of puff by 7500. Definitely not a revvy engine, its area of expertise is ambling along at low revs where the torque can be used effectively. 100km/h in 6th sees the revs ticking over at 3600rpm. I was disappointed at how vibey the engine felt above 4500rpm; it seemed excessive even taking into account the fact it's a bigger twin. First gear is quite long, and allows the 650gs to get up to 80km/h very quickly when pushed. The stock exhaust has a blat-blat note that makes it sound like a big dirt bike, which was kind of cool. Transmission was nice and smooth when shifting, although the shift lever has a bit more travel than normal.

    The indicator controls are completely different to the usual thumb-switch arrangement, and I found myself embarrassingly honking the horn instead of signalling left on more than one occasion (I expect you'd get used to this though). The digital readout has heaps of functions, while the analogue speedo and tach are clear and easy to read. Overall fit and finish quality could be improved; there are some very exposed looking wires around the engine, while some of the clips and shrouds looked insubstantial. While the RRP doesn't look too bad, dealer charges and the optional ABS quickly bump up to the price to $17 grand mark. While a fun bike to ride, it's way overpriced for what you get and so I've crossed it off my list.

    I still hope to have go at the Kawasaki ER6 and Versys, Aprilia Shiver. Given the praise its engine is getting, I may have to try the Triumph Street Triple as well, although sitting on one in the showroom it felt a little cramped to me. It's going to be a fun week :grin:
  2. I have an ER6 so I'm biased but there are some nice suzukis, sv650, gsr600 to look at as well.
  3. Had a ride of the "new" F650GS as well. The buffetting was nearly the worse of any bike I've been on - how did you go being taller? Did most things OK though, and priced well above a 650 Strom which would be much better value IMHO

    Also rode a Shiver - now that's a fun bike - different to the above two, but a HUGE smile machine
  4. Interesting review on the 600 hornet .. thx

    Possibly my next upgrade
  5. stick a micron or devil exhaust on it and you will crack a big woody.
  6. I almost bought this today, but got cold feet at the last second.

    It's a hot bike and all, but not something that would keep me walking out into the garage late at night to spend time looking over her.

    Anyhoot - My theory is that after the initial excitement wears off you still want something that keeps you feeling all warm and fuzzy. Unfortunately this bike isn't for me, but maybe it could it be the right bike for you and somethign worth looking in too????

    They are asking $14k for this with 6000km on the clock if I recall.

    Pictures courtesy of me :)

  7. I wonder what exhaust this is... I bet it sounds good :)

  8. Guru: Love the pic :) . The Shiver looks fantastic in the metal. If you want wacky headlights , have a look at the Kawa Versys... that's 'thought provoking' styling!

    Twistngo: I did sit on the sv650 and gsr600, but felt they were both lacking a bit of legroom. How do you find the ER6? Any complaints so far?

    Toecutter: As far as I'm concerned, the 'windscreen' on the f650 may as well not exist. I consider it a full naked bike, and as such I don't think the buffeting was any better or worse than my gs500. I did find if you go into a full racer speedtuck position it actually does something, but doing that on a bmw makes you look like a ponce. :LOL:

    Respi: I'm trying to pick out a sensible upgrade here and you go and post those pictures up! You're making my job difficult .:p Now I have to convince myself I don't need that much power.
  9. respi, what is that bike?
  10. Nice to see someone else considering looking at ER6's, i've got one asndits a fantastic bike, comfortable upright position, enough room i think but handle bars are bit narrow, your better off sitting/test riding one for ur height and weight etc, im 176cm.
    I dont like the look of Versey's and not really a fan of big tourer's, but thats my 2 cents. The Aprilia is a nice bike and would be the best of the lot followed by the Honda.
    Depends on how much you want to spend, the kawasaki is the cheapest of the lot. Im considering selling my bike actually cause of other committments, PM me.
  11. Ok, day two summary.

    A couple of green Kwakas are the first in line for a test ride. As you'd expect with bikes sharing the same engine, the throttle response, clutch and gear shift are quite similar on the ER6n and the Versys. The Versys' slight weight and power disadvantage are not immediately noticable. Both bikes have a nice broad spread of torque that begins at just above 3k rpm and drops off by 9k. Shifting is generally smooth and definite, but I did find on both bikes when quickly downshifting multiple gears I had to ensure that the shift lever returned fully to its central position before stepping down another cog. This is not something I've had to put any thought into on other bikes, but maybe an adjustment of the lever will fix this. Gear ratios are very similar (the same maybe) on both bikes, 100km/h in 6th is 4500rpm. Exhaust note is a discreet growl at low revs that I quite liked.

    The roads around the dealer didn't give much opportunity to test out the bike's handling, but I didn't notice any particular flaw in the way either bike steered. Despite the Versys having more suspension travel, the spring rate doesn't seem any softer than the ER6's. Lean angle would probably be more easily controlled with the Versys' wider bars. It was quite windy today and it was interesting to see that while the Versys windscreen does reduce the frontal wind blast, it seems more susceptible to wandering caused by cross-winds. I guess the larger profile area and the higher centre of gravity are the cause of this. The Versys offers a more upright seating position but no real extra legroom.

    The instrument cluster gives you the basics; analogue tacho with large digital speedo. Versys has a multi-segment LCD display for the fuel while the ER6 just has a warning light. I'm not a huge fan of the styling of either bike, its kind of like praying mantis vs. the Punisher, but that wouldn't stop me from buying them. The ER6n especially is fantasic value for money.

    Next up is the Shiver, and just from the rear tyre width you can tell this bike is in a different class to the others. The engine fires up with a deep rumble. The clutch is heavier and the take-up point earlier than the other bikes I've tested and as a result I stalled it when first trying to move off. The latest version of the ECU firmware has three switchable modes: Sport, Touring and Rain. I started off in Sport, which was probably not the best idea as it makes the throttle super sensitive. Together with the long first gear ratio, I was having trouble holding a constant speed while dawdling through traffic. You can switch modes while on the move via the starter button (in case you're wondering, this doesn't fire up the starter motor because of the ride-by-wire controls). I found the Touring mode much better suited to traffic conditions due to its softer throttle response. Rain mode is softer again and limits the maximum power you can put through the rear wheel. Speaking of power, this bike has plenty; I could find no discernable weakness anywhere in the rev range. That said, I didn't test the upper reaches as I wanted to keep my license thank you very much. I'm sure lofting the front wheel would not be a problem.

    Handling felt rock solid, as did the seat, but at least it was well shaped so I wasn't uncomfortable. I'd be interested to know how it would feel after a longer ride. The gearbox was a bit clunky and I had some trouble finding neutral while stopped / idling. I can't remember much about the instrument panel, probably because I was more focused on the road. I really like the futuristic industrial-strength styling. The bike is a step up in rider involvement and is not as effortlessly user-friendly as the others I've tested. It is also more expensive and would probably chew through tyres and chains faster. As yet I'm still undecided on it.
  12. MV Brutale

    That MV brutale sure looks hot, I'm tossing up between the new Brutale 1078 or the Ducati 1098 R.
    Naked or Sports ?? i'm riding a FZ1 N 2006 at the moment and looking to upgrade to an Italian machine.
    34K or 55k...hmmm tough decisions to be made soon.

    Im not sure if my dodgy back can handle the riding position of the Ducati.

  13. Respi is clearly insane and should not be trusted with sharp instruments. Ignore everything he has to say until the meds kick in and he starts loving MV Augustas.


    I've ridden a 750 Brutale and it had sex with my ears. It is the best sounding I4 ever made. Period. There is no arguement or discussion that will sway me for facts are facts. It is class, all class, and great fun to ride. I just need to convince chairman to let me throw it through some serious corners to really understand it's soul.

    Apart from the Man Bike, this is my next favourite bike. It's a biking switchblade - sharp, all business and fricking cool as hell.

    Sorry..I really like Brutales.... :grin:
  14. Yeah, and I've heard they're also about as comfortable as a switchblade to sit on :)

    Dekker, since you rode the Hornet and Er6 pretty much back to back, how do you think they compare - on paper the Hornet has quite a few more ponies; did you feel much difference?
  15. Aside from the subjective styling differences, choosing between the er6 and the hornet is mainly about choosing how many cylinders you want in your engine.

    Keep in mind that the extra power the hornet makes is done at the expense of its low rpm torque. Personally, I prefer the twin's power delivery, and in a drag race between the two I think you'd be well into illegal speeds before the honda had any real advantage.

    Handling and suspension wise there was not much difference, but I wasn't really pushing either bike to its limit. Er6n is two grand cheaper, which is nice.

    My final choice is going to be between the er6 or the new contender; review will go up tonight :wink: .

    PS: No, the 'new contender' is not the street triple, buggered if I'm gonna wait around for monthes while my bike ships.
  16. well the other contender has to be the suzuki offerings

    GSR650 or the SV650

    let us know about it all:D
  17. Don't forget the SV650 as others have said. And have you tried the er6f? Its the less weird, 6n's cousin :wink:

    For around town the twin is just so much more pleasant from my experience than the i4. Both have their advantages though. If you want to try my 650 let me know.
  18. Well the new contender is actually the KTM Supermoto 950 (not what you were expecting, was it? :p). I realise it's not exactly a 'middleweight', but KTM have dropped its price into the realms of possibility for me. I took one for a test ride yesterday in near hurricane conditions.

    Its a tall bike, but I can still get a foot flat on the ground when stopped. I really liked the seating position; heaps of legroom and easy reach to the wide handle bars. The clutch was surprisingly light and, unlike the Shiver, the throttle was not snappy at low revs. It might be something to do with having carbies instead of FI, because I found the 950 more docile and easier to ride around slowly than the Shiver. Thats not to say this thing can't move when it wants to; its got more power and torque than the Aprilia. KTM's have a bit of reputation as hooligan bikes and I'm happy to report that the 950 is no exception :D. I'd never had the front wheel airborn before yesterday, but the 950 was happy to demonstrate how it was done. Some tests of the brakes suggest it wouldn't be hard to do the same with the rear wheel. The shift and rear brake levers are stubby and took some getting used to, but by the end of the test ride I didn't have an issue with them. The stock gearing is long, and you can't go below 85 in 6th without the engine laboring.

    It's safe to say that the cornering ability of this bike far exceeds my own. Taking turns at a speed I would typically employ on the gs500, the bike felt like it had a lot more to offer. The suspension handled all the bumps thrown at it without fuss, and I'm pretty sure I wasn't using anywhere near the travel available. The instrument panel has a digital speedo and no tacho. This doesn't bother me much, as I've gotten around for years in a manual car with no tacho, although I'm not sure how the break-in procedure will be worded (probably something along the lines of 'keep the front wheel altitude below 50cm for the first 1000km').

    So at the moment I'm trying to decide whether to be captain sensible and buy the fun and affordable er6, or go for the expensive and awesome ktm.