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 contemporary 1988 Suzuki GSX-R750, was briefly ridden on public roads throughout engine break-in previous to being prepped to be used in roadrace competitors. After I joined the CW workers in 1990, I quickly realized the wellspring of testbikes requiring analysis miles left little time or want for a motorcycle of my very own. To not say I wasn’t tempted repeatedly.
Now a long time later, at age 60, I discover myself solid as a reentry purchaser. The current Cycle World Superbike Shootout performed at Thunderhill Raceway Park sparked a need to start procuring, albeit for a much more reasonably priced choice. I returned house 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 no bike of my very own within the storage.
The web has made the seek for a brand new or used motorbike extremely straightforward because of itemizing websites equivalent to Cycle Dealer. Only for grins, my first search was for bikes beneath $5,000, about what I had paid for my GSX-R Slingshot. Lo and behold I discover a 1996 Honda VFR750 for $4,500 situated an hour away. I contacted the vendor and drove to his place for a glance. The intense pink Honda V-4 had 28,000 miles on the clock, but was in immaculate situation. It was really too clear, in truth. Upon inspecting the VFR within the flesh I got here to a realization that subjecting the previous multitime Cycle World Ten Best 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 fashionable and versatile, a motorcycle 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 adventure– or sport-touring bike ideally matches the invoice, price of admission was an element. A self-imposed value level of round $10,000 tremendously 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 current addition of the Triumph Tiger Sport 660 warrants a contemporary take a look at the class to see how the British inline-three fares towards the Japanese parallel-twin and V-twin competitors.
Kawasaki affords two variations of Versys 650, the usual mannequin and the LT, that includes 28-liter saddlebags and hand guards as normal. 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 an odd ‘60s-era amphibious car, a considerably polarizing look which will or might not float one’s boat.
Pricing is on par with the competitors, with only a marginal value 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 not too long ago with the disclosing of its all-new V-Strom 800DE and 800DE Adventure, but it surely’s too quickly to overlook concerning 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 grime hearth roads threading the mountains the place I reside makes the V-Strom 650XT Journey an attractive choice.
That being mentioned, sport using stays the precedence on my checklist of two-wheel aspirations. Would possibly the brand new Triumph triple show to be the definitive nook carver of the lot? It definitely seems the half with sport/journey styling befitting a Pikes Peak International Hill Climb racer. Moreover, Triumph affords a line of equipment for the Tiger Sport 660 ($9,695) that embody built-in arduous luggage. Triumph was good sufficient to equip our take a look at unit with mentioned luggage, along with a twin-helmet prime field, but it surely’s price noting that doing so will eradicate any price 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 operating from Bagby Grade to Coulterville. Crooked as a declare jumper, I seek advice from this evenly traveled stretch as “Mom Load Street” 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 cool down with.
Becoming a member of me on the journey had been Cycle World testers Doug Toland and younger Evan Allen. Wanting to expertise the brand new Tiger Sport, I staked declare to its key for the primary stint of the day. This will likely not have been the wisest selection as a result of early morning chill and the Tiger’s lack of paw-protecting hand guards that come normal on the opposite two bikes. A savvy proprietor would possibly think about 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 degree, elevating the display 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 peak 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 gentle effort and has an excellent engagement really feel. Pulling away from a cease is extremely straightforward as a result of engine’s extremely easy supply at basement revs. An illustration of this trait was the Tiger’s uncanny skill 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 tender midrange supply. My preliminary hope was that its journey mode was set to Rain fairly than the sharper-responding Street 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 the complete midrange and has a light dip at 5,500 rpm that additional accents the Tiger’s comparatively tame demeanor throughout basic around-town using.
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 certainly a bonus. Nevertheless, being in the suitable gear and shifting at exactly the suitable second was completely essential. Get that left foot prepared as a result of when the 660cc inline-triple lastly did come alive, the rider solely had a number of thousand rpm to work with earlier than hitting a tough redline that seemingly made you go backward.”
Which matches 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 gentle intuitive dealing with, first rate stability, and essentially the most sporting journey of the lot, Allen wasn’t so sure. “The suspension seemingly bought in the best way, blowing by way of the compression stroke too rapidly earlier than rebounding again at the same price. In the end the bike felt busy, unsettling, and at instances unpredictable when using 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 said: “The Tiger feels essentially the most balanced entrance to rear, each by way of suspension and total rigidity.” A journey behind the lad helped settle the controversy, as Allen’s exuberant using model gave the impression to be the wild card at play. To paraphrase a joke, the outdated bull walks down the hill with goal. As is commonly the case, value level concessions convey efficiency limitations, and to various levels all three of those softly suspended bikes reply finest 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. A couple of 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 total measurement and weight. “Including a bit extra enter to show the massive 650XT Journey was one thing I used to be completely satisfied 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 gentle patter because the Strom’s adventure-spec Bridgestone Battlax tires communicated you had been approaching the boundaries. We additionally famous that the Suzuki’s entrance brake gives much less preliminary chew 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 fingers 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 simple activity for the V-Strom 650,” Allen remarked. “Its giant 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 mounted placement didn’t swimsuit all. “The windscreen peak not solely precipitated plenty of buffeting round my helmet, however at instances 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 overlook; the Kawasaki Versys’ display is four-position adjustable, however takes each fingers to take action. Switching between the Strom’s trio of display peak positions is harder but, requiring a couple of minutes and use of the underseat software 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-known 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 prime 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 prime than the Suzuki twin. In the event you stay within the midrange, as most of us are inclined to do throughout in-town and freeway using, the Versys delivers high quality of life energy and response. And though it could not match the Suzuki’s off-road chassis chops, its parallel twin affords inherent tractability worthy of an occasional detour down a easy hearth highway. As with every of those bikes, two ranges of traction management sensitivity might 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 using place a bit cramped, noting that its ahead sloped saddle ushers its rider up near the tank, bars, sprint, and display. Carrying a well-fed quick man (even with empty saddlebags) the suspension felt softest of the lot when hustling a winding stretch of highway, but harshest over bumps throughout basic using.
Suggestions from our shorter featherweight buddy provided a extra constructive perspective. “Its barely tender, but comfy suspension didn’t really feel too tender at my weight (125 kilos) and held up within the stroke when grabbing a handful of entrance brake,” Allen mentioned. “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 Street? “Hammering on the throttle, even when leaned over, by no means appeared to disturb me or the bike. Equally, its quick wheelbase of 55.7 inches (akin 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 basic consensus on a multi-bike, multi-rider comparability take a look at generally is a problem. This explicit journey happened on account of my intent on buying one in all these three bikes for my very own private enjoyment. To that finish it turns into an in depth toss-up between the Triumph and Suzuki. If the Tiger possessed a bit extra Road Triple–impressed engine or chassis efficiency, I might be bought. However as issues stand at this value level, the V-Strom 650XT Journey affords the higher bang for the buck. It’s almost pretty much as good a nook carver whereas being extra versatile within the total sense, notably true for adventuring within the higher Gold Nation.
I’ve one more confession for readers of this evaluate. Every week previous to using these bikes I got here throughout a brand new itemizing on Cycle Dealer (2018 Aprilia Tuono RR, 4,998 miles, tender baggage included, $10,000 agency) situated 60 minutes’ drive from Jackson. I promptly Googled a Cycle World comparability that included the Tuono and was persuaded by a review I had written that named the Tuono winner by unanimous choice. 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|
|Gasoline 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:||Forged aluminum; 17 in. / 17 in.|
|Tires, Entrance/Rear:||120/70-17 / 160/60-17|
|Floor Clearance:||6.7 in.|
|Seat Top:||33.3 in.|
|Gasoline 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.|
|High-Gear Roll-On, 40–60 mph:||4.73 sec.|
|High-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|
|Gasoline System:||PGM-FI w/ 34mm throttle our bodies|
|Engine Administration/Ignition:||Gasoline 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.|
|Gasoline 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.|
|High-Gear Roll-On, 40–60 mph:||5.06 sec.|
|High-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|
|Gasoline 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:||Forged aluminum; 17 x 3.5 in. / 17 x 5.5 in.|
|Tires, Entrance/Rear:||Michelin Street 5; 120/70R-17, 180/55R-17|
|Floor Clearance:||N/A in.|
|Seat Top:||32.9 in.|
|Gasoline 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.|
|High-Gear Roll-On, 40–60 mph:||4.72 sec.|
|High-Gear Roll-On, 60–80 mph:||6.11 sec.|
|Braking, 30–0 mph:||34.85 ft.|
|Braking, 60–0 mph:||140.77 ft.|