Tired of be­ing bat­tered into sub­mis­sion by an un­com­pro­mis­ing race replica? Maybe it’s time you con­sid­ered a more real-world sports­bike

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Comment -

MCN guest tester Age 39 Height 6ft 2in CV 14 years of road test­ing and a used bike ex­pert

James Do­herty

Guest road tester Age 35 Height 5ft 8in CV For­mer R6 Cup racer and reg­u­lar MCN guest tester

Gareth Har­ford

Free­lance pho­tog­ra­pher Age 37 Height 5ft 9in CV Mo­togp snap­per, and KTM rider

for the sec­ond time). There are al­ready sev­eral softer sports­bikes cur­rently avail­able in UK deal­ers, each one of­fer­ing a slice of sport­ing fun, all wrapped up in a far more re­laxed pack­age that’s tar­geted at road rid­ers rather than track­day fa­nat­ics or rac­ers.

We’ve grabbed three of the best – the Honda CBR650F, Kawasaki Z1000SX and Suzuki GSX-S1000FA – and pointed them all at the Isle of Wight to test their real-world sport­ing po­ten­tial.

Straight-line sports

In many ways the orig­i­nal CBR600F was the pi­o­neer for the real-world sports­bike. Up un­til the launch of the full-on RR ver­sion, Honda had al­ways man­aged to blend sports and per­for­mance into its su­pers­port of­fer­ing. But then Honda dropped the F-model from the range, only to re­alise the er­ror of their ways and hastily rein­tro­duce it as a new model in 2011. But this new 650 gen­er­a­tion is a very dif­fer­ent beast.

The CBR650F is no World Su­pers­port con­tender, it is a bud­get naked (the CB650F) that has been dressed up to look sporty. Where once the CBR gen­uinely could win a race on Sun­day and be used to pop to the shops on Mon­day, this lat­est ver­sion is all about road rid­ing and not even a flashy red frame or ur­ban camo paintscheme can hide that fact. But is that a bad thing? The Kawasaki Z1000SX and Suzuki GSX-S1000FA can also trace their roots back to naked bikes rather than sports­bikes, so maybe this is the way for­ward and ex­plains why Du­cati are bas­ing their Su­pers­port around the Mon­ster fam­ily, while it takes its styling cues from the Pani­gale. But there are pit­falls to be wary of when treading this path…

The first leg of our jour­ney to the Isle of Wight in­volved a mun­dane mo­tor­way slog to Portsmouth, in­clud­ing the hor­ror of the M25. This (slowly) mov­ing car park of a road meant mile upon mile of fil­ter­ing through traf­fic, some­thing that would be tor­tur­ous on a cramped sports­bike with clip-ons, but which should have been a breeze on a real-world bike such as the ones we were rid­ing. An­noy­ingly, this wasn’t the case for all of these ma­chines.

Suzuki ini­tially de­vel­oped the GSX-S as a naked bike be­fore adding a fair­ing and terming the FA a ‘real-world sports­bike’. Pre­sum­ably in Suzuki’s real world there are no traf­fic jams as the GSX-S is ab­so­lutely ter­ri­ble at low-speed work. Naked bikes are of­ten de­signed with a bit of ag­gres­sion in them, as this suits their ethos, but Suzuki haven’t re­moved this in the FA model and it ruins the low-speed ride qual­ity. The ini­tial throt­tle re­sponse is so bru­tal you’re in dan­ger of giv­ing your­self whiplash while the fu­elling is so bad it stut­ters and per­sis­tently hunts at small and steady throt­tle open­ings. Try­ing to make gen­tle progress through lines of sta­tion­ary traf­fic is a night­mare and no amount of gear danc­ing man- ages to over­come the is­sue. The rest of the bike has the po­ten­tial to im­press on mo­tor­way jour­neys as the rid­ing po­si­tion is com­fort­able in a typ­i­cal naked bike way and the fair­ing is ef­fec­tive (a taller screen is an op­tional ex­tra), but then af­ter a few miles the vi­bra­tions start to an­noy, which was a com­mon

‘A slice of sport­ing fun, all wrapped up in a far more re­laxed pack­age’

com­plaint amongst all three bikes here.

Un­like the Suzuki, both the Honda and Kawasaki come with fuel in­jec­tion sys­tems that, al­though a bit feisty in the case of the SX, are far more con­trolled. Yet both suf­fer also from vi­bra­tion is­sues. In­line-fours gen­er­ally aren’t that vibey, but both the Kawasaki and Suzuki, and to a lesser de­gree the Honda, made all of our testers’ fin­gers start to go numb at con­stant mo­tor­ways speeds. As all three of these bikes have the po­ten­tial to cover over 160 miles be­tween fill-ups, and with their re­laxed rid­ing po­si­tions you can cer­tainly achieve this, but quite quickly the vi- bra­tions mean you are shak­ing numb hands back into life. On bikes that are de­signed to be used day-to-day, or in the case of the Z1000SX even taken tour­ing, that’s not very good. But that wasn’t the only sur­prise, as we found out at the first fuel stop.

At con­stant mo­tor­ways speed and a fair few miles of fil­ter­ing, you would have ex­pected the smaller-en­gined CBR’S fuel econ­omy to suf­fer. But it didn’t. In fact, dur­ing the whole test the CBR av­er­aged 20-30% bet­ter econ­omy than the big­ger bikes. Quite how it achieved this I’m not sure, but fair play to Honda, when they build a prac­ti­cal bike they cer­tainly know how to get the ba­sics right. It may feel a bit like an in­flated 125 to ride as you sit perched up on the CBR and it is phys­i­cally fairly small, but thanks to a light clutch, slick gear­box and oddly com­fort­able rid­ing po­si­tion, when it comes to churn­ing out com­mut­ing miles it was more than a match for the big­ger ca­pac­ity ma­chines both in town and on the mo­tor­ways. But could it keep up when the traf­fic jams gave way to open cor­ners?

Out and about

Real-world sports­bike rid­ing doesn’t in­volve beau­ti­ful clear roads with smooth tar­mac, it in­volves over­tak­ing traf­fic and deal­ing with un­even sur­faces, and that’s where the CBR’S lim­its start to show. The small­er­ca­pac­ity en­gine and gear­box needs to be thrashed to keep up with the big­ger bore SX and FA, es­pe­cially when it comes to mak­ing over­takes, while the Honda’s fairly bud­get sus­pen­sion is ob­vi­ously more aimed at com­fort than sport­ing prow­ess.

It may feel the light­est of the bunch in terms of turn­ing agility, but with no real sus­pen­sion ad­just­ment and soft set­tings, the CBR is the least sporty here and doesn’t do its race an­ces­try any jus­tice at all. But with a price tag that is £3000 less than the other two, com­pro­mises have to be ex­pected. So what is the £9999 GSX-S’S ex­cuse?

The front end of the Suzuki, which is fully ad­justable, is fairly good, but in­tro­duce a set of bumps to the rear shock and it all gets hor­ri­bly harsh, jolt­ing the rider out of the seat and ru­in­ing the ride qual­ity. By com­par­i­son the Kawasaki’s sus­pen­sion feels sig­nif­i­cantly plusher as the damp­ing ac­tu­ally does its job of re­duc­ing the jolts while still keep­ing the chas­sis feel­ing nice and com­posed. If you didn’t know its her­itage you would guess the SX was based around a sports­bike’s chas­sis as it feels very good in bends and isn’t ac­tu­ally that much of a com­pro­mise in terms of agility. True, when the roads smooth out the GSX-S1000FA can run it close, but once again the Suzuki’s en­gine does its best to ruin the party.

The FA’S mo­tor may be based around the K5 GSX-R, but it has a to­tally dif­fer­ent feel. When on the power it is ac­tu­ally a bit of a sur­prise just how fast it is and how strongly it pulls, eas­ily keep­ing up with the Kawasaki, but the prob­lems arise when you tran­si­tion on and off the power due to the poor throt­tle con­nec­tion. Where you can hap­pily roll the power on and off on the Z1000SX, try this on the Suzuki and it chimes in too abruptly and quickly starts to ag­gra­vate, as it won’t let you re­lax or ride it smoothly. Again, this trait may suit the naked ver­sion of the bike, but it cer­tainly doesn’t suit the half-faired’s sup­posed re­laxed out­look on life. Add to this brakes that are muted in both their feel and power

‘If you didn’t know its her­itage you would guess the SX was based around a sports­bike chas­sis’

Tour­ing ver­sion of the Kawasaki Z1000SX comes with pan­niers for £10,299 Af­ter rid­ing south the testers ar­rive in Portsmouth When the speeds re­duce, the Suzuki can’t match the Kawasaki for lowrpm smooth­ness vi­taspin­nakerup,theteam­set­sail­tothe­isle­ofwightser

Fairly fru­gal, you only need to stop ev­ery 160 miles A trip to the coast isn’t com­plete with­out do­ing this... The least-sporty CBR strug­gles to hang on to the punchy, ag­ile Z1000SX on the twisties Slim­line sport­sters are light­weight and easy to park On a

The least-sporty CBR strug­gles to hang on to the punchy, ag­ile Z1000SX on the twisties Nice bike, shame about the paintjob. The Honda’s pink-painted frame pleased no one

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.