I’ve a confession to share with religious Cycle World readers. It’s been 34 years since I final bought a street-legal motorbike. And that bike, a showroom recent 1988 Suzuki GSX-R750, was briefly ridden on public roads throughout engine break-in previous to being prepped to be used in roadrace competitors. Once I joined the CW workers in 1990, I quickly realized the wellspring of testbikes requiring analysis miles left little time or want for a motorbike of my very own. To not say I wasn’t tempted again and again.
Now many years later, at age 60, I discover myself solid as a reentry purchaser. The latest Cycle World Superbike Shootout performed at Thunderhill Raceway Park sparked a need to start purchasing, albeit for a much more reasonably priced possibility. I returned residence from the two-day monitor take a look at not solely invigorated and impressed having dragged an elbow at deep cornering lean for the primary time in my life, however questioning why the heck I’ve been losing my waning years with out a bike of my very own within the storage.
The web has made the seek for a brand new or used motorbike extremely simple due to itemizing websites equivalent to Cycle Dealer. Only for grins, my first search was for bikes underneath $5,000, about what I had paid for my GSX-R Slingshot. Lo and behold I discover a 1996 Honda VFR750 for $4,500 positioned an hour away. I contacted the vendor and drove to his place for a glance. The brilliant purple Honda V-4 had 28,000 miles on the clock, but was in immaculate situation. It was truly too clear, the truth is. Upon inspecting the VFR within the flesh I got here to a realization that subjecting the previous multitime Cycle World Ten Finest winner to my gravel driveway and the roughest paved backroads in my neck of the woods would really feel akin to elder abuse.
My conscience recommended that what I actually wanted was one thing extra trendy and versatile, a motorbike that would tickle the sporting itch, facilitate an occasional two-up foray, and provide the comfort and practicality of removable baggage. Whereas an open-class journey– or sport-touring bike ideally matches the invoice, value of admission was an element. A self-imposed worth level of round $10,000 drastically narrowed the prospects of a “new” bike buy. I pared the pool to the trio of mid-displacement, adventure-style sport-touring bikes gathered right here. Whereas the Kawasaki Versys 650 and Suzuki V-Strom 650 are effectively confirmed, the latest addition of the Triumph Tiger Sport 660 warrants a recent have a look at the class to see how the British inline-three fares towards the Japanese parallel-twin and V-twin competitors.
Kawasaki presents two variations of Versys 650, the usual mannequin and the LT, that includes 28-liter saddlebags and hand guards as commonplace. Updates in 2022 included two-level adjustable traction management, a restyled fairing, LED lighting, and a brand new 4.3-inch TFT sprint changing the analog dial of its predecessor. The bow-like silhouette of its new nostril jogs my memory of a wierd ‘60s-era amphibious automobile, a considerably polarizing look that will or might not float one’s boat.
Pricing is on par with the competitors, with only a marginal worth enhance between the 2022 take a look at LT we have now right here and the 2023 mannequin, which retails for $10,099. For reference, the base-model Versys 650 retails for $8,899 to $9,099, relying on paint.
Suzuki made headlines lately with the revealing of its all-new V-Strom 800DE and 800DE Journey, but it surely’s too quickly to neglect in regards to the venerable V-Strom 650 that’s lengthy been a staple of the lineup.
Suzuki’s mid-displacement V-Strom is available in a trio of flavors constructed upon the cast-wheel-equipped base mannequin ($9,104). The XT version ($9,599) rolls on tubeless wire-spoke wheels together with the addition of plastic hand guards and engine cowl. My inclination nevertheless, was to go all-in with the XT Journey ($10,799) given its 37-liter panniers together with engine crashbars and a handlebar cross brace lending it a dose of off-road worthiness. The community of dust hearth roads threading the mountains the place I reside makes the V-Strom 650XT Journey an attractive possibility.
That being stated, sport driving stays the precedence on my record of two-wheel aspirations. Would possibly the brand new Triumph triple show to be the definitive nook carver of the lot? It actually seems the half with sport/journey styling befitting a Pikes Peak Worldwide Hill Climb racer. Moreover, Triumph presents a line of equipment for the Tiger Sport 660 ($9,695) that embrace built-in arduous luggage. Triumph was good sufficient to equip our take a look at unit with stated luggage, along with a twin-helmet high field, but it surely’s value noting that doing so will get rid of any value benefit the Triumph as soon as had over the competitors. That is very true if you are going to buy the color-coded infill panels. Our luggage-equipped take a look at unit is available in at $11,016.
Our deliberate take a look at journey was a run north from Oakhurst, California, alongside state Route 49 (aka the Golden Chain Freeway) to the city of Jackson for the evening. Then play it by ear on the next day’s return. Skirting the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada vary, SR49 hyperlinks collectively mining cities of the 1849 gold rush. If there’s a nugget nonetheless to be discovered, it’s the 15-mile black vein working from Bagby Grade to Coulterville. Crooked as a declare jumper, I check with this flippantly traveled stretch as “Mom Load Highway” and its proximity to my house is the very essence of why cornering clearance and dealing with are important traits for the bike I intend to calm down with.
Becoming a member of me on the journey had been Cycle World testers Doug Toland and younger Evan Allen. Desirous to expertise the brand new Tiger Sport, I staked declare to its key for the primary stint of the day. This may increasingly not have been the wisest selection because of the early morning chill and the Tiger’s lack of paw-protecting hand guards that come commonplace on the opposite two bikes. A savvy proprietor would possibly take into account the Tiger’s accent heated grips and hand guards, although our take a look at unit had neither.
The Tiger’s windscreen can nevertheless be adjusted with only one hand as you journey. Whereas its uppermost place subdued the chilly wind beneath shoulder stage, elevating the display screen induced a great deal of helmet-buffet rumble. The ergos are a bit extra sporting than its friends, although a pure attain to the bar and footpeg location offered my 32-inch inseam ample legroom for an prolonged journey in its broad, spacious saddle.
The Tiger seems tall, however the 32.9-inch seat top is on par with the Suzuki’s and shorter than the Versys by a negligible margin. At 185 kilos, my physique weight compressed the suspension of every bike sufficient to permit a agency footing at stops.
The Triumph slipper/help clutch is mild effort and has an excellent engagement really feel. Pulling away from a cease is extremely simple because of the engine’s extremely clean supply at basement revs. An illustration of this trait was the Tiger’s uncanny capability to purr alongside at idle (hand off throttle) up a reasonably steep incline in third gear. A stark distinction to this bottom-end bliss is the engine’s surprisingly delicate midrange supply. My preliminary hope was that its journey mode was set to Rain fairly than the sharper-responding Highway map. No such luck.
At 491 kilos moist, the Tiger is lightest and its inline three-cylinder powertrain produced essentially the most peak horsepower of the trio on the Cycle World dyno, with a supply curve that builds a top-end hit all the best way to the ten,200 rpm rev restrict. Torque manufacturing is lower than both of the twins all through all the midrange and has a gentle dip at 5,500 rpm that additional accents the Tiger’s comparatively tame demeanor throughout normal around-town driving.
Tugging the Tiger’s tail arduous sufficient unleashes an animalistic nature ensuing within the quickest quarter-mile run by a large margin. “Ripping velocity runs up the hill from the Bagby Bridge on the Triumph Tiger Sport 660, following two retired skilled roadracers felt nothing wanting an imaginary mountain-pass race,” enthused the son of CW head photographer Jeff Allen.
“Mirroring their strains and braking factors whereas aboard essentially the most highly effective engine of the bunch was absolutely a bonus. Nevertheless, being in the precise gear and shifting at exactly the precise second was completely vital. Get that left foot prepared as a result of when the 660cc inline-triple lastly did come alive, the rider solely had just a few thousand rpm to work with earlier than hitting a tough redline that seemingly made you go backward.”
Which works to say that the potential is there, however requires extra devoted focus than both of the twin-powered fashions.
Whereas I felt the Tiger chassis gives mild intuitive dealing with, respectable stability, and essentially the most sporting journey of the lot, Allen wasn’t so sure. “The suspension seemingly acquired in the best way, blowing by means of the compression stroke too shortly earlier than rebounding again at the same price. In the end the bike felt busy, unsettling, and at occasions unpredictable when driving at respectable speeds,” he added. Every of those bikes provide rear spring-preload adjustment by way of a handy hydraulic adjuster. Kawasaki additionally options adjustable fork spring preload and rebound damping and the Suzuki shock has adjustable rebound damping.
Regardless of its comparative lack of suspension tunability, Triumph hit the mark in Toland’s view, as he acknowledged: “The Tiger feels essentially the most balanced entrance to rear, each by way of suspension and general rigidity.” A journey behind the lad helped settle the controversy, as Allen’s exuberant driving fashion seemed to be the wild card at play. To paraphrase a joke, the outdated bull walks down the hill with function. As is commonly the case, worth level concessions deliver efficiency limitations, and to various levels all three of those softly suspended bikes reply greatest to fluid rider enter when pushing the tempo.
With its bigger 19-inch-diameter entrance wheel, 6-inch-longer wheelbase, and extra relaxed steering geometry, the Suzuki V-Strom is extra forgiving of assertive rider inputs. Coming off both of the 17-inch-wheeled bikes you instantly discover the steering enter effort the Suzuki requires regardless of its wider and taller handlebar. Just a few miles within the saddle to recalibrate muscle reminiscence and the XT’s steering character feels proper as rain given its extra spacious ergos, touring-worthy saddle, and general measurement and weight. “Including somewhat extra enter to show the massive 650XT Journey was one thing I used to be comfortable to do,” Allen reported. “However when pushing arduous and getting on the facet of the tire at velocity, the Suzuki would begin to chatter the entrance and rear tires.”
Toland and I every skilled the identical mild patter because the Strom’s adventure-spec Bridgestone Battlax tires communicated you had been approaching the bounds. We additionally famous that the Suzuki’s entrance brake gives much less preliminary chunk and requires extra effort on the lever to maximise stopping potential. In equity, Suzuki’s selection of tires and brake really feel are constructive attributes when venturing off the pavement.
All of us agreed the V-Strom is arms down the bike of selection for journey. “Connecting thrilling sections of pavement on Freeway 49 got here with stretches of upper speeds and straighter strains, a straightforward activity for the V-Strom 650,” Allen remarked. “Its massive rider triangle, tall windscreen, and wraparound hand guards proved to be designed for what makes up for almost half of journey and touring miles—simply getting there.”
The 90-degree twin feels relaxed at freeway speeds and is blessed with very linear supply and a soothing engine vibe all through the center of its rev vary. Whereas Toland and I favored the Strom’s wind safety when seated in a freeway cruise posture, its fastened placement didn’t go well with all. “The windscreen top not solely brought on lots of buffeting round my helmet, however at occasions protruded my imaginative and prescient within the twisties,” Allen commented. On-the-fly adjustment is a pleasant contact, and one thing Suzuki’s rivals didn’t neglect; the Kawasaki Versys’ display screen is four-position adjustable, however takes each arms to take action. Switching between the Strom’s trio of display screen top positions is harder but, requiring a couple of minutes and use of the underseat instrument package.
The up to date Kawasaki Versys 650 LT might not stand out in any explicit space, however its new TFT sprint lends premium seems and performance to a well-recognized platform that proved stable throughout the board in engine, chassis, and braking efficiency. The Kawasaki parallel twin has good low-speed grunt and outshone the competitors in high gear roll-on pulls at freeway speeds. Whereas Suzuki and Kawasaki have higher, extra usable bottom-end and mid-power/torque based mostly on our dyno chart, the Kawasaki holds a bonus till about 7,000 rpm, earlier than tailing off extra on high than the Suzuki twin. If you happen to dwell within the midrange, as most of us are inclined to do throughout in-town and freeway driving, the Versys delivers high quality of life energy and response. And though it might not match the Suzuki’s off-road chassis chops, its parallel twin presents inherent tractability worthy of an occasional detour down a clean hearth street. As with every of those bikes, two ranges of traction management sensitivity may be chosen on the fly in addition to being able to disable TC whereas the bike is stationary.
Toland and I each discovered the Versys driving place a bit cramped, noting that its ahead sloped saddle ushers its rider up near the tank, bars, sprint, and display screen. Carrying a well-fed quick man (even with empty saddlebags) the suspension felt softest of the lot when hustling a winding stretch of street, but harshest over bumps throughout normal driving.
Suggestions from our shorter featherweight buddy provided a extra constructive perspective. “Its barely delicate, but comfy suspension didn’t really feel too delicate at my weight (125 kilos) and held up within the stroke when grabbing a handful of entrance brake,” Allen stated. “The Versys does have a decent rider triangle even for my stature, however rides like a Cadillac when slaying freeway miles,” he added.
And when it got here to maintaining alongside Mom Load Highway? “Hammering on the throttle, even when leaned over, by no means appeared to disturb me or the bike. Equally, its brief wheelbase of 55.7 inches (similar to the Tiger) made the bike particularly agile and simple to show, and for me essentially the most rider-friendly motorbike of the comparability.”
Reaching a normal consensus on a multi-bike, multi-rider comparability take a look at is usually a problem. This explicit journey took place resulting from my intent on buying considered one of these three bikes for my very own private enjoyment. To that finish it turns into a detailed toss-up between the Triumph and Suzuki. If the Tiger possessed a bit extra Road Triple–impressed engine or chassis efficiency, I might be offered. However as issues stand at this worth level, the V-Strom 650XT Journey presents the better bang for the buck. It’s almost nearly as good a nook carver whereas being extra versatile within the general sense, significantly true for adventuring within the better Gold Nation.
I’ve yet one more confession for readers of this evaluate. Every week previous to driving these bikes I got here throughout a brand new itemizing on Cycle Dealer (2018 Aprilia Tuono RR, 4,998 miles, delicate baggage included, $10,000 agency) positioned 60 minutes’ drive from Jackson. I promptly Googled a Cycle World comparability that included the Tuono and was persuaded by a evaluate I had written that named the Tuono winner by unanimous resolution. In a second of sincere self-reflection, ardour overruled practicality. Lengthy gravel drive be damned, it was excessive time I put my cash the place my mouth was.
These not distracted by the sporty efficiency discovered elsewhere within the motorcycling world, and who’re intent on proudly owning essentially the most well-rounded, road-focused middleweight ADV, the motorbike with Suzuki badges is not going to disappoint.
2022 Kawasaki Versys 650 LT Specs
|MSRP:||$9,999 (2023: $10,099)|
|Engine:||DOHC, liquid-cooled parallel twin; 4 valves/cyl.|
|Bore x Stroke:||83.0 x 60.0mm|
|Cycle World Measured Horsepower:||59.32 hp @ 8,340 rpm|
|Cycle World Measured Torque:||41.50 hp @ 7,140 rpm|
|Gas System:||DFI w/ Keihin 38mm throttle our bodies|
|Body:||Metal double-pipe perimeter|
|Entrance Suspension:||41mm hydraulic telescopic fork, rebound and preload adjustable; 5.9 in. journey|
|Rear Suspension:||Single shock, preload adjustable; 5.7 in. journey|
|Entrance Brake:||Nissin 2-piston calipers, twin 300mm petal discs w/ ABS|
|Rear Brake:||Nissin 1-piston caliper, 250mm petal disc w/ ABS|
|Wheels, Entrance/Rear:||Solid aluminum; 17 in. / 17 in.|
|Tires, Entrance/Rear:||120/70-17 / 160/60-17|
|Floor Clearance:||6.7 in.|
|Seat Top:||33.3 in.|
|Gas Capability:||5.5 gal.|
|Cycle World Measured Moist Weight:||502 lb.|
CW Measured Efficiency
|Quarter-Mile:||13.44 sec. @ 97.06 mph|
|0–30 mph:||1.78 sec.|
|0–60 mph:||4.34 sec.|
|0–100 mph:||15.29 sec.|
|Prime-Gear Roll-On, 40–60 mph:||4.73 sec.|
|Prime-Gear Roll-On, 60–80 mph:||5.78 sec.|
|Braking, 30–0 mph:||33.92 ft.|
|Braking, 60–0 mph:||133.52 ft.|
2023 Suzuki V-Strom 650 XT Journey Specs
|Engine:||DOHC, liquid-cooled 90º V-twin; 4 valves/cyl.|
|Bore x Stroke:||81.0 x 62.6mm|
|Cycle World Measured Horsepower:||66.85 hp @ 9,210 rpm|
|Cycle World Measured Torque:||43.04 lb.-ft. @ 6,560 rpm|
|Gas System:||PGM-FI w/ 34mm throttle our bodies|
|Engine Administration/Ignition:||Gas injection w/ SDTV|
|Entrance Suspension:||43mm telescopic fork, nonadjustable; 5.9 in. journey|
|Rear Suspension:||Monoshock, preload adjustable; 6.3 in. journey|
|Entrance Brake:||2-piston Tokico calipers, twin 310mm discs w/ ABS|
|Rear Brake:||1-piston Nissin floating caliper, 260mm disc w/ ABS|
|Wheels, Entrance/Rear:||Spoked tubeless; 19 in. / 17 in.|
|Tires, Entrance/Rear:||110/80R-19 / 150/70R-17|
|Floor Clearance:||6.7 in.|
|Seat Top:||32.9 in.|
|Gas Capability:||5.3 gal.|
|Cycle World Measured Moist Weight:||524 lb.|
CW Measured Efficiency
|Quarter-Mile:||13.23 sec. @ 97.18 mph|
|0–30 mph:||1.67 sec.|
|0–60 mph:||4.13 sec.|
|0–100 mph:||15.01 sec.|
|Prime-Gear Roll-On, 40–60 mph:||5.06 sec.|
|Prime-Gear Roll-On, 60–80 mph:||5.96 sec.|
|Braking, 30–0 mph:||32.79 ft.|
|Braking, 60–0 mph:||136.3 ft.|
2023 Triumph Tiger Sport 660 Specs
|MSRP:||$9,695 ($11,016 as examined)|
|Engine:||DOHC, liquid-cooled inline-triple; 4 valves/cyl.|
|Bore x Stroke:||74.0 x 51.1mm|
|Cycle World Measured Horsepower:||71.82 hp @ 10,100 rpm|
|Cycle World Measured Torque:||40.83 lb.-ft. @ 8,570 rpm|
|Gas System:||Multipoint sequential EFI|
|Clutch:||Moist, a number of disc, slip and help|
|Body:||Tubular metal perimeter|
|Entrance Suspension:||41mm inverted Showa SFF fork, nonadjustable; 5.9 in. journey|
|Rear Suspension:||Showa monoshock, distant preload adjustable; 5.9 in. journey|
|Entrance Brake:||Nissin 2-piston sliding calipers, twin 310mm petal discs w/ ABS|
|Rear Brake:||Nissin 1-piston sliding caliper, 255mm disc w/ ABS|
|Wheels, Entrance/Rear:||Solid aluminum; 17 x 3.5 in. / 17 x 5.5 in.|
|Tires, Entrance/Rear:||Michelin Highway 5; 120/70R-17, 180/55R-17|
|Floor Clearance:||N/A in.|
|Seat Top:||32.9 in.|
|Gas Capability:||4.5 gal.|
|Cycle World Measured Moist Weight:||491 lb.|
CW Measured Efficiency
|Quarter-Mile:||12.90 sec. @ 103.42 mph|
|0–30 mph:||1.77 sec.|
|0–60 mph:||4.00 sec.|
|0–100 mph:||11.58 sec.|
|Prime-Gear Roll-On, 40–60 mph:||4.72 sec.|
|Prime-Gear Roll-On, 60–80 mph:||6.11 sec.|
|Braking, 30–0 mph:||34.85 ft.|
|Braking, 60–0 mph:||140.77 ft.|