First Ride: Cagiva 650 Raptor

Can Less Be More?

In the SV650-powered Raptor, Cagiva has produced another key component in its mission to reinvent the Monster eight years on-and in doing so wrest sales from Ducati's best-selling M600, the hottest model in the crucial Italian home market.Although externally all but identical in appearance, the 650 Raptor differs from the 1000cc version in having a slightly different tubular steel chassis with a reinforced steering head and altered tube run, and a revised pivot for the oval-section extruded steel swingarm. Steering geometry is virtually the same as the 1000, with a 56.7-inch wheelbase. The 650 Raptor has a similar riding stance as its bigger brother:

You sit slightly, but not uncomfortably, forward. The broad, well-padded seat helps you feel as much at home hopping aboard for a quick blat down to the post office or caf as you do on a longer run.

The Raptor's SV650 engine is a flexible but also forceful friend, pulling cleanly away in top gear from as low as 2500 rpm without a glitch or any sign of transmission snatch. With Cagiva's revised exhaust system and altered airbox, the Suzuki engine has even better midrange than in SV650 guise. But as the revs build, so does your enjoyment level-because the 650 Raptor is a bike that stirs the senses and makes motorcycling such magic. The stock Suzuki gearbox is just fantastic, with perfectly matched ratios that even in the upper gears have no more than 2000 rpm between them. The junior Raptor has the same brake package as the Mille, and with the reduced weight of the bike as a whole, the twin 298mm front Brembos and their four-pot calipers do a great job in hauling it down from speed.

And the Raptor likes being flicked: The combination of that capable chassis, its ideal weight distribution, the stability delivered by that longish wheelbase and kicked-out geometry, and the good leverage from the widish bars, coupled with the comfy riding position and feeling of being at one with the bike, will encourage you to get radical with the Raptor. Because just as the Ducati 748 has proved more invigorating and more rewarding in real-world road riding compared with its 996 big brother, less can indeed be more-and Cagiva's 650 Raptor arguably presents a more capable and equally enjoyable all-rounder alternative for everyday riding than its Mille counterpart. Too bad we won't be seeing the baby Raptor in the States anytime soon.-A.C.