Cycle World - - Front Page - By Bradley Adams

Yamaha’s FZ-07 bat­tles Kawasaki’s new Z650 and Suzuki’s SV650 for mid­dleweight-twin class supremacy. To the most ver­sa­tile ma­chine go the spoils.


Have a lit­tle mercy on the de­sign teams re­spon­si­ble for the Kawasaki Z650, Suzuki SV650, and Yamaha FZ-07. To leave a mark on the mid­dleweight-twins cat­e­gory, a bike has to be ev­ery­thing from new-rider friendly to sporty enough for rid­ers with a few years un­der the belt. The bike has to be stylish but cost-ef­fec­tive (which is not to be con­fused with cheap), com­fort­able but not too re­laxed. Oh, by the way, if it un­der-de­liv­ers in any one cat­e­gory, then there’s a sim­i­larly styled op­tion right be­hind it that’ll gladly take over the top spot—and prob­a­bly for a few less dol­lars. Con­sider fail­ing to hit the right marks the equiv­a­lent of ush­er­ing po­ten­tial cus­tomers onto the com­pe­ti­tion’s show­room floor. No pres­sure, team.

Since its 2015 model-year un­veil, Yamaha’s FZ-07 has missed the fewest marks. It’s top­pled Suzuki’s Gla­dius­turned-sfv650 and even out­shined Kawasaki’s oth­er­wise suc­cess­ful Ninja 650. In a class where you have to be a wide range of things to an even wider range of en­thu­si­asts, the FZ-07 has been the most af­ford­able, flex­i­ble, and fun op­tion. With their new SV650 and Z650, have the Suzuki and Kawasaki de­sign teams done enough to close the gap? We ren­dezvoused at the Cy­cle World of­fice and then chased blue skies to­ward Bor­rego Springs—via a mix of high­way and flow­ing back roads—to find out.


The 2017 Z650 is Kawasaki’s at­tempt at sat­is­fy­ing the throng of naked-bike fans left hang­ing when it pulled the ER-6N from the US lineup in 2011. In­tro­duced along­side the fully faired Ninja 650, this bike jet­ti­sons Kawasaki’s tra­di­tional dou­ble-pipe perime­ter frame for a lighter-weight trel­lis-style frame. The en­gine is up­dated with smaller, 36mm throt­tle bod­ies. There’s a new as­sist and slip­per clutch, a glitzy gauge clus­ter with gear-po­si­tion in­di­ca­tor, and ABS is

op­tional (our test­bike came so equipped).

Fit and fin­ish is ad­mirable, though the Z650’s look never re­ally caught the eye of our testers, who were drawn to the less-ag­gres­sive lines of the SV650 or more mod­ern-look­ing FZ-07. Per­sonal opin­ion, yes, but as a whole, that kind of sums up the Z650. It at­tempts to strike a mid­dle ground be­tween the straight­for­ward and clas­sic SV650 and sportier FZ-07. Only, in do­ing so, it fails to be bet­ter than ei­ther bike. The en­gine has more midrange grunt than Kawasaki twins of yes­ter­year thanks to the new throt­tle bod­ies, but past 4,500 rpm, it also gen­er­ates enough vi­bra­tion in the seat, han­dle­bar, and foot­pegs that any amount of com­mut­ing seems la­bo­ri­ous. Over­all gear­ing feels short, and the bike pro­duces the least power of the trio (59.9 hp at 7,960 rpm).

Our test rid­ers cov­ered the height ga­mut, but none could come to grips with the Z’s er­gonomics. This is spoiled by a seat that feels even lower than it is (seat height is an ad­mirable 30.6 inches), an overly nar­row han­dle­bar that feels high by com­par­i­son, and a tank that widens where your knees rest. A 41mm KYB fork and preload-ad­justable shock have a smoother ac­tion than the sus­pen­sion on the SV650 or FZ-07, though over­all han­dling is heav­ier than the FZ and front-end feel is lim­ited at cor­ner en­try. At 414 pounds (wet, with ABS), Kawasaki has done a good job of keep­ing the bike light, but it’s still no less than 10 pounds more than an FZ-07.

In a cat­e­gory where bikes are so

closely matched, you can’t af­ford to give any­thing up. With its awk­ward er­gos and extra vi­bra­tion, the Z650 quickly fell be­hind the SV650 and FZ-07 and by mid­day was the bike we were least ex­cited to climb back on.


Suzuki’s mid­dleweight-twins plat­form has borne some rather unin­spir­ing mod­els since the move from SV650 to Gla­dius to SFV650. With its 2017 SV650, Suzuki prom­ises a re­turn to the plat­form’s roots. An up­dated V-twin en­gine has no fewer than 60 new parts for more power, while a re­worked steel frame con­trib­utes to a claimed 15-pound (!) weight sav­ings over the out­go­ing SFV. Add in a fuel tank that’s 2.5 inches nar­rower than the SFV’S tank, op­tional ABS (omit­ted on our test model), Suzuki’s one-push easy-start sys­tem, and lowrpm as­sist fea­ture, and you have a bike that, from a spec-sheet per­spec­tive, fi­nally does the SV name proud.

Parked along­side the Z650 and FZ-07 at break­fast on a crisp South­ern Cal­i­for­nia morn­ing, the Suzuki ap­pears sim­ple and modest in de­sign. Clean. I ask the group what they think about the muted lines and the sim­ple stripe run­ning the length of the fuel tank, to which they re­ply—al­most sur­pris­ingly—with ku­dos. Some­times it’s okay to not ov­erengi­neer a mo­tor­cy­cle, which is what Suzuki has done, from the out­side in.

The SV650’S mel­lowed yet re­lat­able charm is more ap­par­ent on the road. It’s not the light­est-han­dling bike in the group, but it’s the most sta­ble, pre­dictable, and planted on a twist­ing canyon road and feels to­tally re­fined. It’s the only bike that won’t tickle your ex­trem­i­ties with vi­bra­tions at 5,000 rpm and be­yond, and its er­gos are the most com­fort­able, the wider han­dle­bar and nar­row tank/seat junc­tion of­fer­ing up a good feel­ing of con­trol. Like ev­ery other Suzuki mid­dleweight-twin, it does ev­ery­thing with­out fuss—in the end pro­vid­ing the con­fi­dence needed to make newer rid­ers feel com­fort­able. To ride bet­ter. Safer. Con­fi­dently.

The SV makes more peak power than the FZ-07 but less torque (44.2 pound­feet at 8,000 rpm ver­sus 46.3 pound­feet at 6,290 rpm). As we work our way into and out of the quiet oa­sis that is Santa Ys­abel, I no­tice how the SV650 is less will­ing to jump off the line at a stop. It’s a trait that would’ve earned it extra crit­i­cisms back in the mess that is LA traf­fic but goes mostly un­no­ticed here. The bike makes lots of great ex­haust/in­take noises and fu­el­ing is the smoothest, by com­par­i­son.

That pol­ished feel, mixed with com­fort­able er­gos, good peak power, and re­duced vi­bra­tion, leads to bet­ter feel on the high­way, and of the group, the SV feels like the best com­muter bike. It’s not quite as ex­cit­ing as the FZ-07, but it is an over­all great pack­age none­the­less.


Third-gear wheel­ies.

I could leave our thoughts on the FZ07 at that, though it would hardly do the FZ-07 plat­form jus­tice. Be­cause while the FZ-07 is more en­ter­tain­ing than any af­ford­able, mid-level bike to come be­fore it (and does in­deed do third-gear wheel­ies with rel­a­tive ease), it’s also a very well-rounded mo­tor­cy­cle that doesn’t over­look newer rid­ers. For 2017, that’s even more true, Yamaha fi­nally up­dat­ing the plat­form with ABS.

Our bike is a non-abs 2016 model and tipped the Cy­cle World scales at just 401 pounds, ul­ti­mately putting Suzuki’s 429-pound non-abs SV650 to shame (Yamaha and Suzuki claim 403 pounds and 434 pounds for their ABS mod­els, re­spec­tively). Steer­ing is as quick as those fig­ures sug­gest, the FZ-07 tip­ping in to a cor­ner with less ef­fort and

tran­si­tion­ing from side to side with an adept­ness the SV or Z650 could only hope to have. Throt­tle out of the cor­ner and it shines again, with enough lowend power to eas­ily gap the com­pe­ti­tion by one or two bike lengths.

The en­gine’s broader range of power makes it more flex­i­ble and, in turn, makes shift­ing more of an op­tion than a re­quire­ment. There are more vibes than the Suzuki at the han­dle­bar but sig­nif­i­cantly less than the Z650.

De­spite the FZ-07 steer­ing so quickly it never feels twitchy. Sus­pen­sion is bal­anced front to rear, though over­all rates feel soft and al­low the bike to move around when you’re not smooth with your in­puts. Brakes carry the per­for­mance-minded torch, the FZ-07’S stop­pers of­fer­ing up more power and feel as we worked our way down a beau­ti­fully twisty sec­tion of road, to­ward South­ern Cal­i­for­nia’s bar­ren desert floor.

Back on the su­per slab, the FZ-07 sur­prises with a rider tri­an­gle that’s com­fort­able enough for big­ger rid­ers. The sad­dle is as thin as the Suzuki’s (both start to feel hard af­ter about 60 miles) but much flat­ter, which keeps you from slid­ing up in to the tank—all good so long as you can deal with the taller, 31.8-inch seat height. Speak­ing of tanks, the FZ has the small­est of the group, at 3.7 gal­lons, but with su­perb fuel mileage num­bers, that was a non-is­sue. Even if it was, the ques­tion re­mains: Is rid­ing a mo­tor­cy­cle about smiles per gal­lon or miles per gal­lon?


To us, rid­ing mo­tor­cy­cles is sup­posed to be fun. The best ones—the ones that make a last­ing im­pact on the in­dus­try— man­age to be that while still tai­lor­ing the ex­pe­ri­ence to­ward the in­tended con­sumer, which in this case means ev­ery­one from new rid­ers to re­turn­ing rid­ers to com­muters to the guy at­tend­ing the oc­ca­sional trackday.

The SV out­shines the Z650 through a more re­fined feel that makes it a great op­tion for the ev­ery­day rider. And yet the FZ-07 out­does both, ul­ti­mately turn­ing each ride into a new and ex­cit­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. It’s as ca­pa­ble as it is user-friendly. Fun as it is pretty. Put sim­ply, Yamaha's de­sign team knocked this one out of the park. Pres­sure: off, at least for now.


Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.