I just dropped off the GT at Orange County Harley-Davidson, and, while I’m taking the train home, I thought I’d pen my final report on the bike. Before I begin, though, there’s a good comparo of the GT650 model against the Suzuki Gladius at Motorcycle.com.
First off, the GT is a fun little bike. It’s relatively light, and easy to handle in traffic. While it takes some effort to turn in, it feels planted and stable through the corners. The steel twin-spar chassis is firm and not easily unsettled. For the price, it really has a lot of pluses. Just be careful at highway speeds in 3rd or 4th gear, because it will pop right past the 100MPH mark lickety split. And, at 100MPH, it seems like it’s going a lot slower. It’s also got a surprisingly comfy seat.
There are some drawbacks. The sportbike ergos feel punishing after a couple of hours in the saddle. My knees and lower back weren’t happy after that point. But, that’s true with any sportbike. The tranny is clunky. Positive, but clunky. And, after 1 week, I did manage to coax two false neutrals out of it. The OEM BT-56 tires don’t seem like the best choice for this bike, because I think they are the source of the resistance to turn-in.
On the whole, considering the bike’s budget price, you could certainly do worse for a low-cost intruductory sportbike.
If I was to tell you how packed my schedule has been this week, you’d be so bored you’d want to slit your own throat. So I won’t. But I do have time to take note of a few things.
The ATK/Hyosung GT650R I’ve been evaluating for ATK is doing fine. I’m convinced that, given some ergos more forgiving to my 46 year-old frame, it’d be a fine commuter/city bike. It’s easy to ride, with predictable performance, and has a surprisingly comfy seat.
Is the new Kawasaki ZX-10R good enough to beat the BMWS1000RR in a head-on comparo? No. Seems like a close call, though.
I got my FJR back from the shop on Saturday. Embarrasingly, I had managed to hang my good luck bell in the perfect place…to cut the main wiring harness with the edge of the bell in a full-lock left turn. I’m glad I was backing out of a parking space, instead of trying to do a U-Turn, when the engine went dead.
Instead of spending money on a second bike, I’ve begun wondering if I shouldn’t just get an exhaust system, PowerCommander, and K&N Air Filter.
After two days of living with the Hyosung GT650R I’ve got some observations, and come up with some improvement suggestions.
Before I begin, I should point out that, starting next year, the ATK version of these bikes will not be the stock Hyosung versions. Most of the components will come from Hyosung, but ATK is planning to make changes to the bikes, to include assembling them with non-Hyosung components as well. Part of what I’m doing with this test of the Hyosung is providing feedback directly to ATK CEO Frank White on suggested improvements to the stock model. So the bikes that ATK produces, while still oriented towards the budget beginning rider, will, hopefully, incorporate some of these changes.
Also, in answer to a commenter, this is not a 2010 EFI model, but an ’09 carbuerated bike. So I’m not going to be giving any advice about EFI mapping. But, I have noticed that, like all carb bikes, it doesn’t like running cold. Tends to stall out prior to warming up.
The ergos are hard to live with. They’re just overly aggressive. The only other bike I can think of with this aggressively committed posture is the Aprilia RSV4. Unless you’re going to take this thing to the track every day, it’s just ridiculous to have to live with race ergos on a bike the puts out 60 ponies. So, a good start is to move the pegs forward and down an inch or so. I don’t think, with the placement of the exhaust pipe, that you have room to do much more. For the clip-ons, replace them with a set of Helibars mounted to the top of the triple tree. That’ll move the bars up about four inches, and back about one inch. You’d still get a fairly aggressive posture for strafing the canyons, but a far less tortuous one for daily commuting. You’ll need a taller windscreen if you do this though, to reduce helmet buffeting.
The BT-56 Battleax tires probably aren’t the best tire for this bike. The GT has pretty aggressive geometry, and it should turn in better than it does. I’m thinking the profile of the BT-56 just isn’t well suited for this bike. If you’re going to stick with Bridgestone, then I’d try a move to the BT-016, which is the spec OEM tire for the GSXR-600, or maybe the Dunlop D220 used on the SV650.
When you are blasting along in third, then kick it down a gear for some engine braking before entering a turn, too much engine braking causes the rear wheel come loose a bit, and it unsettles the chassis, starting up a bit of side-to-side shimmy. I learned that while strafing canyon roads today. This can be disconcerting. Use caution.
First gear is pretty “meh”. You can launch the bike OK, but it’s not a huge lunge of power. The fun really begins at about 6500RPM in second. You can pretty much do anything in second gear, and you can go through the twisty bits at twice the recommended speed limit. Sixth gear on this bike allows you to sedately cruise down the highway, and it’s almost lugging at 70MPH. It’s as tame as a pussycat in 6th, with very low vibes and perfectly clear rear-view mirrors. You can cruise practically forever this way.
I don’t like the design of the rear views. The mirrors are a single module mounted on a swivel at the end of the stalk. So, when I hang my helmet on the mirror, it moves it out of adjustment. I realize that this is a personal problem, however, as this is a standard mirror design.
It’s kind of odd seeing an old-fashioned gas tank. I mean the big thing in front of the seat really is a gas tank. It’s not a cover for the airbox, with the actual tank hidden below the seat. You open the gas cap, and there’s a big old jug of explosive fluid. Just sloshing around. Right next to your nads.
I’ve put about 3 hours on the bike today, mainly in city and highway riding, although I did take a brief spin through some mountain twisties, because I couldn’t end my first ride without a little taste of the curvy stuff. Having done so, I’ve got a couple of initial observations about the bike.
Before I do so, let’s be sure to be clear about what we’re talking about here. This is not a high-end motorcycle. You can tell that just by the price, which is around $6,199. while that price compares favorably with close analogs like the $7,499 MSRP of the 2009 Suzuki SV650SF (which isn’t actually made any more) or the $7,199 Kawasaki Ninja 600R, the feature set of the bike is also commensurately reduced, as well.
It’s a budget bike, designed for people who don’t want to spend–or don’t have–the extra $1000 or so to buy a more sophisticated alternative. It’s a 90% solution for a V-Twin sportbike, so let’s measure it against that design standard.
Don’t get me wrong, if Suzuki’s press fleet had any more SV650SFs available, I would have tested the two bikes side by side. Maybe that would be unfair, but it’s what I originally wanted to do. Since that’s not gonna happen right now, let’s look at the GT650R for what it is.
Visually, it seems like a previous-generation sportbike to me. Simple instrument cluster. Fatter tail section than modern bikes. No LED lights or turn signals. Bulbous fuel tank. The most distinctive visual element is the twin-spar steel frame.
The instrument cluster really looks like a 90s-era set of gauges. There’s an analog tach, and simple LED display that shows a large digital speedometer readout, engine temp, and fuel gauge. There’s a odometer with a trip meter and reset buttons to the right. Above are simple and obvious function lights. No bells and whistles, but they are relatively easy to read.
The overall fit and finish is acceptable, though not completely to the standard of the Japanese marks, while the solid red paint job is functional, rather than exciting.
The riding position is committed, with the clip-on handlebars mounted below the top of the triple tree, and the footpegs set fairly high. After a couple of hours in the saddle, it was getting pretty cramped for my 32″ inseam, and my wrists were a bit sore. Sportbike ergos. They are what they are.
On the other hand, the seat is really decent, being wide enough to support my bum well, and with some room to move back to front a bit.
Starting it up rewards you with a pretty decent V-Twin growl. I mean, it’s immediately obvious what this engine is. It sounds nothing like the hum of the small-displacement I-4s. It was also a bit louder than I expected, and it’s got a rumbly, rather than bubble exhaust note, which I like.
The other thing I liked was that getting it rolling doesn’t require you to pump up the revs like a small I-4. A little twist of the throttle, and it’s ready to pull from the get-go, which is also a pleasant V-Twin characteristic. It has a fairly high redline at 10,000RPM, so the power at 3,00o-5,000 RPM is relatively sedate in 1st gear, but it’s certainly there. Of course, the way they’ve done this is to make 1st a very short gear. It pulls well from a stop, but it gets to the redline fast, requiring a quick shift into second.
Second and third gears, on the other hand, are very tall, and you can spend a lot of time there. I took a run up and down the mountain from Escondido to Lake Wohlford and back, and kept it in second for the whole run through the twisty bits…but we’ll talk about that in a minute.
The suspension is set fairly stiff, which is good for twisties, but was less good on the bumpy I-5 South, where it transmitted more road feel than I wanted to my butt at 85MPH. Having said that, at street speeds, did a surprisingly good job of absorbing the cracks and small potholes. The 41mm front fork is adjustable for compression and rebound damping, while the mono rear shock has adjustable preload. I was satisfied enough with it not to consider changing it after I got home.
Once the engine gets above 6,000 RPM, the vibrations start to kick in. It gets pretty vibey under your butt, and the mirrors begin losing clarity pretty fast. On the other hand, the rubber footpegs and the handlebars do a decent job of isolating you from the vibes. Not once did I get any numbness in my hands during a 1.5 hour trip home. The vibration is going to be a point of contention for some, but not for me. I like V-Twins, and some vibration seems to me to be part of the character of that engine. Yes, the Ducati twins are much smoother. They also cost three times as much.
Handling on the GT650R requires a lot of rider input. I think it’s the OEM tires, because the 25° rake and relatively short 56.5″ wheelbase should make the handling a bit sharper than it is. The handling is, in fact, rock solid, it’s just not telepathic. You have to tell it what to do, and it complies happily, but you really have to tell it what to do. There’s no simple “look & go” like a GSX-R. On the other hand, it’s not twitchy, like the CBR. It just requires that you apply the appropriate amount of countersteer to make the magic happen. It’s been solid and planted at every lean angle I’ve put it through so far, though I’ve had to keep pushing the bars to keep a tight line. At low speeds, the GT has a much wider turning radius than it should, with a full-lock U-Turn taking up the whole street, as much as my FJR.
The engine’s power is very manageable for street riding, and not intimidating at all, though it can be deceptively fast if you flog it. Again 2nd or 3rd gear is suitable for almost any street riding speed. At highway speed, 6th gear at an indicated 80MPH shows 5,000RPM on the tach, the vibes are very muted, and the rear-view mirrors are surprisingly clear. A kick down to fifth is suitable for quick passing. Air management with the stock shield at highway speeds could be better, and I experienced buffeting around the head while traveling down the I-5 at 85MPH. But, then again, you can say that about a lot more expensive sportbikes, too.
The transmission is solid and dependable, if a bit clunky, but there were no false neutrals. Clutch pull was bit heavy, though, making surface street riding a bit tiring to the left hand. Maybe my AE model FJR has spoiled me.
Braking is OK, with two fingers on the front brake sufficing for most things. The braking is progressive, although it takes an excessive amount of finger travel on the front brake lever. The rear brake has decent feel, far better than the wooden feel of say, the rear brakes on a Buell.
So far, I’ve found a only a couple of things to complain about. There’s a lot of travel in the clutch lever, and it’s hard to find the friction point. It’s just really vague between no clutch and full clutch. While I didn’t have any false neutrals while shifting, once you put it in neutral, it really wants to stay in neutral. I haven’t yet found the magical combination of clutch, throttle, and foot pressing to get reliably out of neutral on the first try. Or the third, for that matter. Also, it’s not super-fast, but, OK, I’m a bit jaded, as I haven’t ridden a bike of less than 1000cc displacement for a couple of years, so we probably need to give it a pass on that. It weighs 474lbs wet, so all the supersport guys are gonna call it a porker, which probably explains why it’s a bit slow. But, again, I ride a 650lb FJR every day, so it seems marvelously light to me.
So, after my first day’s experience, do I like it? Yes, I do like it, considering what it is.
Here’s the thing: once you’ve spent a couple of years poncing about on 145+ HP bikes with $12K+ price tags, you get used to a certain level of power and amenities. So, going back to a basic 650cc intro sportbike–and a twin, at that–is a bit of a disappointment. You have to look beyond that.
The GT650R is a budget bike for beginners. It doesn’t have any weird spikes in the powerband to surprise you. It doesn’t pull your arms out of their sockets or frighten the bejeezus out of you give it a bit too much throttle. It doesn’t wander about the line in a curve, requiring a high level of finesse and technical skill. It’s got a pretty sedate power curve in town, but decent power for highway riding. It handles lean angles and rider input without complaint, and without going all squirrely on you. It’s not a great bike like a GSX-R, but it’s competent, and probably pretty exciting for a beginning rider.
No, it isn’t as pretty or sophisticated as a CBR or Ninja, but it also costs a bit more half of what a CBR600 costs, and $1,500 less than a base-model V-Strom. It’s a bike designed to give beginning riders a budget alternative to introductory sportbikes, and so far, it seems to me that it does that fairly well.
Speaking of ATK, Frank White informed me this evening that a shiny red GT650R sportbike is waiting for me to pick up at Orange County Harley-Davidson.
I actually had a fantastic idea, which was to see if I could get hold of a Suzuki SV650RS to test alongside the GT. After all, Hysosung, the original manufacturer of the GT650R, have had a long-standing and close relationship with Suzuki. Even though the GT is not a Suzuki design, but rather a natively-created Hyposung bike, I thought a comparison between the products of these sister companies would be quite interesting to experience, and write about. Sadly, Suzuki’s PR guys in Brea told me that, since the SV is not a current model, they don’t have access to one to loan me.
But, all may not be lost. First, I asked Suzuki if they had a GSX1250FA sitting around. I’d really like to write up a test of what seems, on paper, to be a lighter and torquier (torque-ier? Torqier?) alternative to the big sport-tourers. We’ll see how that goes. Second, Hell For Leather’s Wes Siler has indicated he might be able to scrape up an SV from somewhere. Again, we’ll see how that goes.
In any event, I’ll be heading up to Orange County Harley-Davidson sometime this week to pick up the test bike. And then, I guess we’ll see how that goes, too.
ATK CEO Frank White informs me that he is setting aside one of these for me to pick up on Saturday:
Except mine is red, i.e., the fast one. It looks like I’ll be driving up to Orange County first thing on Saturday to pick it up. I’ll be keeping it for at least a week, so I’ll be able to give a fairly detailed review of it.
I suspect riding this V-Twin supersport will be…slightly different from my FJR1300.
UPDATE: Not so fast. There’s been a delay on getting the bike to the dealership, so it looks like another couple of weeks before this will happen.
ATK Motorcycles are getting their new bikes off to selected Harley-Davidson dealers soon. I had a brief phone conversation with ATK CEO Frank White on Friday, and he indicated he’d be getting a test bike to me in the near future. Meanwhile, Hell For Leather’s Wes Siler has already gotten to ride them, and in a brief twitter exchange, gave me a few impressions. He’ll have a full report coming up later this week, so tune in there to get a full report. But he did say the cruisers were surprisingly good.
I’m looking forward to getting hold of one of them–and hopefully a sport model too–in the next month or so.
ATK motorcycles has, as I’ve mentioned previously, been working on getting small-displacement V-Twins sold through some selected Harley-Davidson dealerships. In what seems to be keeping with direction, the company announced that they’ve brought Jon Syverson, a former Harley-Davidson Sales Manager, on board as Executive Vice President.
ATK’s stated goal is to offer entry-level bikes to customers at Harley-Davidson dealers in order to help catch a younger generation of riders, and have them convert to the bigger Harleys in the fullness of time.
ATK, the Utah-based dirt-bike manufacturer has been in the news a fair bit recently, with the deal to assemble and badge Hyosung motorcycles at their Utah manufacturing facility, and sell them in select Harley-Davidson dealerships. The idea is to create entry-level motorcycles for new riders that the Harley dealers can, in the fullness of time, convert to HD customers. We’ve written about it a fair amount here, and the most recent national coverage of that deal is at Motorcycle USA.
After building gas bikes for 25 years, Salt Lake City based ATK USA plans to enter the electric motorcycle market with the ATK-Le (Law Enforcement). ATK has built an electric supermoto and dualsport based on their successful ATK 450, which they plan to sell to police and authority customer agencies, or departments. ATK had previously supplied a rolling chassis to build the Electric Moto prototype I covered last December. I loved it for its traditional 12-inch travel Ohlins suspension, Talon/Excel wheels, and premium spec combined with a race proven aluminum chassis. No deal was struck with Electric Moto so ATK is now building the bike on its own. However, they don’t believe electric motorcycles are ready for mass consumption by civilians, at least not yet. They think the simplicity and quiet nature of electric drive makes it perfect for urban patrol duty.
ATK already has a top-flight fleet sales team, and it will be interesting to watch how this pans out, in terms of getting police agencies interested in a zero-emissions alternative to gas off-roaders.
The company is going public with the news now, because as ATK CEO Frank White tells me:
We have been working on this stealth project for some time now and are now going public with it because we need to shake out some more vendors and suppliers who are involved on the battery powered side of the biz.
This is more interesting news from ATK, as, over the past 14 months or so, they’ve been aggressively looking to expand their dirt-bike business into new markets.
Previously, I’ve reported on the American dirt bike manufacturer ATK getting into the street bike business. Previously, ATK had a deal to assemble and badge 250cc and 650cc Hyosung (S&T Motors) sport bikes and cruisers here in the US. Well, last week, during Speed Week at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, ATK unveiled an entirely new cruiser, a 700cc bike for the US market.
Not only that, but S&T’s chief operating officer, Jimmy Park, piloted the new cruiser to a speed in excess of 100MPH on the salt flats.
Details and specs on the new cruiser are lacking, but presumably will be released in due course. The full press release from ATK is here (PDF).