FIRST RIDE: 2004 Honda 599

Big Red slugs one into the (not so) cheap seats

How long have we wondered when someone, anyone, would launch a true competitor to Suzuki's SV650? (Right after we and Suzuki realized how much of a hit the SV was, actually.) For five years now, Suzuki's had the category--a reasonably sporty and inexpensive middleweight with a big grin factor and a modicum of character--all to itself.

Now the field is starting to fill, first with Yamaha's new FZ6 and now with Honda's 599. Europhiles will recognize the bike as the Hornet 600 sold overseas. The Euro Hornet was substantially revamped for 2003--wider rims and bigger tires as well as more fuel capacity (now 4.5 gallons), all to a bike that's been scoring regularly since its '98 introduction. For us, the Hornet changes only in its name and new-found U.S. availibility.

For more First Ride impressions and details you can find them in the [HOLIDAY ISSUE!