2009 Hyosung GT650R | Doin' Time

Staffers' Rides

Photography by Joe Bonello, Putter Power Media

Ringleader: Eric Putter
MSRP (2009): $6099
Miles: 3953-6247
MPG: 43
Mods: Continental Conti Race Attack tires, Hyperpro fork springs and steering damper, YSS shock

During its 12-month tenure in the Doin' Time test pool, our clip-on-equipped Hyosung GT650R was ridden bone-stock for its first 1200 miles, then turned into a high-barred, half-faired beauty. In this fourth and final installment, it threw down another 2300 sport-touring miles and spent a day at the racetrack.

Throughout the past year, we scoured the Internet (www.korider.com is a particularly good source of information) and devised inexpensive solutions to the 'Sung's various shortcomings. This time around, we worked on suspension and handling.

To better deal with demanding sport riding and prepare the GT for its track-day debut, we sought out quick-and-dirty suspension mods. The bike was first sent to Markbilt Racing (www.markbiltracing.com), whose decision to simply swap the stock fork oil for thicker stuff made the front end mildly firmer but far from compliant.

We next rang up Matt Kellerman (www.hyosung.biz), who won a CCS Southwest Regional Lightweight Championship on a Hyosung 650. He gave us two options: Modify the swingarm to accommodate the wide-body OE shock from a modern middleweight sportbike or install a freshened-up, revalved narrow-body shock from an early Suzuki GSX-R750, neither of which was inexpensive. This harsh reality led us to contact EPM Performance (www.epmperf.com), who installed relatively inexpensive Hyperpro progressively wound fork springs ($139) and a YSS shock ($339 utilizing the stock spring). These upgrades made the bike much more pleasant to ride on the street and elevated its handling on twisty backroads. But would they work at the racetrack?

For our track day, Frank and his crew at Moto Clinic kindly spooned on a set of Continental Conti Race Attack tires in the sticky "Comp" compound ($150 front, $195 rear; www.conti-moto.com) and added preload to the shock. During this operation, we discovered that the taller front tire contacted the fender. Thus the fender's mounting holes were drilled out to provide a little more clearance.

The tires stuck like glue, endowed the bike with lighter handling and wore very little in 200 track miles. Aside from bouncing off the rev limiter every few minutes and needing a bit more braking effort than my Kawasaki ZX-6R, the Hyosung impressed me and surprised many others.

After our track day, the GT went in for scheduled mainten-ance at Hyosung of New Jersey (www.vespametuchen.com) and passed the inspection with ease. However, during its final 2300 miles a few issues cropped up. After a major dousing, the horn stopped working. An error code occurred at one point, and was diagnosed by a sharp technician as having been caused by an exposed wire in the tail section-easily remedied. Another electrical gremlin-this one manifesting as repetitive taillight failures-cropped up toward the end of the 650's stay. It was probably another electrical short, but the bike was returned before I was able to find out. Aside from these two glitches, the only other issue was with the clutch, which started to show signs of wear surprisingly early. By the 5000-mile mark, an annoying amount of slip indicated the need for new plates.

Although we do our best to keep an open mind, the Hyosung arrived surrounded by a palpable cloud of suspicion. Would this Korean-built Suzuki SV650 wannabe hold up to our abuse or leave us stranded on a mountaintop in rural West Virginia? Would its ethnic name and reputation elicit snickers at every gas stop and get it laughed out of the track-day paddock? Would our year with this low-tech, slow, heavy, overbuilt bike drag on, or would it be fun?

The answers are yes, no, no, no, no and yes. For the record, the GT has been quite reliable mechanically; the only real problems were the wonky front brake lever and busted starter button mentioned in a previous update. With a long list of modifications and aftermarket upgrades, the bike did everything asked of it, and never complained or threatened to toss its rider to the tarmac. It may not have started out as a perfect motorcycle, but the Hyosung GT650R got progressively closer with each update, and ended up being damn fun to ride. There's no need to fear putting one in your garage!

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