Tiger 1050 Top British iron
lots of lovely attention to detail, from its banana swingarm to its underslung exhaust, petal-shaped discs and new dash display.
You can only explore the limit of a supersport 600 or 1000 on the track, which makes the Ninja 650 a sportsbike for the real world. It may not have the vibe-free power of the bigger MT-07 motor, but the Kawasaki can get a serious lick on and handles with unruffled poise.
Although you can make it sing through leafy B-roads, the Ninja is more practical than a race replica. It’s roomy, painless on long journeys, has decent wind protection, plus is docile and friendly at normal speeds.
Can a Harley-davidson for just £6745, be any good? Is the new Street Rod more tin can than American iron? Well, those who fancy getting a foot on the first rung of the cruiser ladder won’t be disappointed. The Harley is a class piece of kit. It costs £750 more than the base-model Street 750, but it’s faster, has tighter handling and, with its blacked-out styling, it looks meaner, too. You also get upside-down forks, two front discs, adjustable twin shocks and an analogue/digital-mix dash.
Forget all those Harley prejudices because the Street Rod is no lumpy, meandering cruiser with limited ground clearance and scary brakes. Weighing 242kg, it’s way heavier than its seven grand rivals, but the 70bhp, High Output Revolution X liquidcooled 749cc V-twin has a strong, smooth, urgent spread of power.
The Street Rod’s steering is crisp and direct and it doesn’t wobble or weave at high speed or carving through long sweepers, and you’ll need to be going some to scrape the pegs. Funky wheels are shod with Harley-branded tyres built for mileage and not grip, but as they’re normal 17-inchers there’s a huge range of stickier replacement rubber out there.
Flip-up pegs are mounted oddly high
The affordable adventure
In terms of acreage of metal and plastic, the generously proportioned Versys 650 is the most bike for your money. It’s a bike you can comfortably commute on, or ride the breadth of Europe – and all for less than a grand a year on PCP.
Like the Ninja 650, the Versys 650 is a direct descendant of the ER- 6N, powered by Kawasaki’s bulletproof 649cc parallel-twin. It started life as a skinny ER-6 on stilts in 2006, but in 2015 it flowered into the mini adventure bike it is today.
It doesn’t have the lightweight, newgeneration chassis of the new Ninja 650, or its suspension or engine tweaks, but it has the performance, poise and practicality to fool you into thinking it’s a far bigger machine than it is.
Over the years, the Versys 650 has been a consistent MCN group-test winner, and its latest high-profile scalp is the Mt-07-based Tracer 700, which has similar performance but doesn’t come close to being as roomy as the Kawasaki, or have its all-enveloping wind and weather protection.
Although the finance costs the same as that for the other bikes here, it has the most expensive ticket price, crossing the seven grand threshold. However, you get more for your cash, with adjustable forks, remote preload knob and an adjustable screen.
‘Forget the Harley prejudices, the Street Rod is fast and handles well’ and forward, but that’s the only quirk in an otherwise pleasant ride.