Single, Twin, Triple or Four? | 1-2-3-4

Adding up the ultimate 650cc solution

By Alex Hearn, Photography by Kevin Wing

It looks the part, too. Stripped to the waist, bog-eyed and Spartan, but clean-none of the Byzantine nightmare of hoses, wires and clamps usually inflicting the engines of naked sportbikes. You can see where Triumph saved some cash in the segue from Daytona 675 to Street Triple. Suspension bits that are adequate for general use are also minimally adjustable: preload only in the rear and no external adjustments on the 41mm Showa fork. Somewhere down the line those shortcuts turn into a problem, for somebody. The twin-piston Nissin front calipers may not be flash or fashionable, but do work well and come with braided-steel plumbing. The sculpted postage stamp of a flyscreen actually does provide minor freeway protection. And you know there'll be a ton of racy bolt-ons for the Street Triple, just as with its bigger 1050cc brother. OK, so the power spread is nowhere near as broad as that of the Versys, and the Keihin fuel injection is a bit abrupt unless you're very smooth on the throttle. But most of the time you just won't care. The engine is that good.

Joe Neric, Art Director
Off The Record

Finally, some competition for the SV650. The SV sat on top for so long it had become the bike to get when you got your license. I'm glad to see the 650cc market getting some attention. So which bike do I want? I spend 90 percent of my time on a bike commuting and 10 percent having fun. The Versys is the most comfortable and practical while the Street Triple is sportier and sexier. While the Versys is the sensible choice, I'd still pick the Street Triple. Sorry...sex sells.
Age: 32
Height: 5' 9"
Weight: 235 lbs.
Inseam: 30 in.

For a grand less, Suzuki's GSX650F should-on paper, at least-offer a whole lot more than the gnarly Street Triple. The fact that it doesn't shouldn't come as a surprise. After all, it's a gussied-up Bandit with a raft of GSX-R fixtures and fittings to help sell it. But its minuses could feel like pluses to some riders. While devoid of any discernible character or edge, the 656cc, 16-valve liquid-cooled four is extremely smooth and cooperative, with an efficient six-speed gearbox to match.

Punch it hard and the GSX accelerates enthusiastically, though it seems to generate more noise than actual thrust in the upper register. But the dyno says otherwise. With 75 peak horsepower delivered at 9250 rpm, there's enough power. It's just killed by a lumbering 535 lbs. of all-up weight. All that flab deadens steering response and makes everything happen slower. You work harder than with the others, heaving the Suzuki about in the pursuit of sporting happiness. Though they're predictably workmanlike, brakes and suspension are more than equal to the substantial job of shepherding all that mass.

All things considered, the GSX is a low-resolution sportbike. It looks the part from a distance, but up close or on top you see it's actually not. That's pretty much how it performs, too. A comfortable, tubular Superbike bar bolted to the top yoke replaces GSX-R-esque clip-ons. The riding position is a good thing on the street, especially if you're not up for the contortions enforced by hard-core 600 Supersport ergonomics. People are going to get a bike like the GSX650F en route to something sportier, or maybe on the way back. Either way, it won't inflict permanent damage in the process, just dependable transport with a hint of sporting street cred. If that's enough for you, so is this Suzuki.

So there you have it. Our single is either a tragic underachiever or the answer to a question nobody asked. At least the Xmoto rider can take some solace in genuine exclusivity. You definitely won't see many on the street. The four is so functional it would disappear without the GSX-R lines and paint. But that's precisely what some will love about it. The GSX provides reliable, comfortably responsible, non-threatening sportbike propulsion with no harsh aftertaste.

Which leaves two complete opposites crowned middleweight kings: the Kawasaki Versys and Triumph Street Triple. The Versys is all about what it does, not what it is-canyon carver, tourer or short/long-distance commuter. It'll do whatever you want, and do it well. Somebody around here described it as the working-man's Multistrada. They were spot-on.

And the Street Triple? We'd like an SP version, thanks, painted flat black with the Daytona 675's fully adjustable suspenders, front and rear, plus its nasty-boy brakes. Failing that, we'll take the stocker and tweak it ourselves. This is the only bike here you'd want to spend money on and keep on the books long-term, and a little cash would go a long way toward making an already superb middleweight almost perfect.

Alex Hearn, Editorial Director
Off The Record

The BMW Xmoto? A complete and utter waste of time-sometime soon there'll be a big pit full of these things deep in a Bavarian forest, or at the very least they'll be free with every K1200 purchase. The GSX is better...than taking the bus, anyway, but it failed to leave any sort of impression.I like the Versys, but then I would coz I'm European and we like these kinds of bikes. But I love the Street Triple. Yeah, yeah...not because it's British, simply because it's bloody good.
Age: 39
Height: 5' 10"
Weight: 13 stone
Inseam: 32 in.

By Alex Hearn
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