Three years ago in its maiden season, the Yamaha FZ-07 came out with both 80mm pistons blazing to take the win from five other tasty middleweights (including the KTM 690 Duke) in our 2014 Middleweight Mash-Up Six-Way Shootout! Last year, we threw the Yamaha in with the Duke 690 again – also the reborn Suzuki SV650 (alongside Gabe’s old SV, because why not?), and watched as the Yamaha lost out to the Duke by the slimmest of margins (a different set of testers…), on its way to beating up (barely) the new Suzuki SV.

This year, we decided to leave the KTM out of it, #1 because we didn’t have one, and #2 because we had a couple of other new players closer to the design brief to subject to the FZ-07/ SV650 litmus test: Harley’s new Street Rod, the new Kawasaki Z650 and the Benelli TnT 600. The fact that these new players exist tells us affordable, fun, practical middleweights is a an important category for the manufacturers. Not to mention being some of our absolute favorite every-day motorcycles to tear around upon (though we did get sidetracked and over-stimulated there for a few weeks by our Superbike comparison).

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As a matter of fact, the Suzuki was the first to try to horn in on a little of the action Ducati stirred up with its first Monster, which sort of created this class of bike in the modern era. We nearly included Ducati’s latest Monster here – the 797 – but decided against it since that bike sells for a hefty premium compared to the rest of these and has a bit more motor, at 796cc.

JB First Ride Review: Ducati Monster 797

Without further ado, may we have the envelope please. It’s LaLa Land! Not really.

Benelli TnT600

Guest tester Tamara Raye Wilson, who’s both taller and smarter than us (she just became a California Registered Mechanical Engineer), says the Benelli looks fast and its inaccurate speedo makes you feel fast.

Guest tester Tamara Raye Wilson, who’s both taller and smarter than us (she just became a California Registered Mechanical Engineer), says the Benelli looks fast and its inaccurate speedo makes you feel fast.

It really is too bad about the TnT, because there really is a lot to like. These are stamped out by Qianjiang in China, but design was by Benelli’s people in Italy. The undertail exhausts give away the fact that the design’s about a decade old now (though only recently offered in the USA), but the whole package has aged well. There’s a genuine steel-trellis frame tying the cast aluminum lower frame plates and swingarm and inverted 50mm fork together, along with their full-size wheels and tires. Overkill 320mm discs squeezed by Benelli-branded four-piston knock-off Brembo calipers give this one great stopping power when you give the lever a big squeeze.

Matter of fact, the whole bike is overkill: The 50mm fork sliders, for example, are clamped in triple trees that may have just been handed down from the 1130 TnT Triple of yore, and the whole plot, full of 4 gallons of gas, winds up tipping yon scales at 512 pounds – which makes it 123 pounds heavier than the lightest bike here, the Kawasaki Z650. That’s not light, but then this is the only bike here packing a 599cc DOHC inline four-cylinder, which should make enough power to mask that weight. In theory.

The Benelli’s wants to be more Grand Tourer than out-and-out sportbike, and in that role, it does pretty well. It has a firm-enough ride that’s always compliant, its cantilevered rebound-adjustable shock there on the right does nice work. The seat’s comfortable enough, the tapered aluminum handlebar puts the handles in the right spots, engine vibes are under control – and the overall fit and finish is so nice that, right until you ride away, you’d never think you weren’t about to be in for a treat on a perfectly nice exotic European motorcycle.

Below the trellis frame section are cast aluminum frame members that tie the chassis together.

Below the trellis frame section are cast aluminum frame members that tie the chassis together.

The claim is 82 horsepower, which would be semi-respectable for a torquey, mid-rangey four-banger. Unfortunately the Benelli’s engine only gets to 70.4 hp on a rear-wheel dyno, and not until 11,300 rpm. And at no point is its torque output anything resembling respectable: Max torque is a limp handshake 34.4 lb-ft, and you don’t even get that till 10,200 rpm. The torque king of the group, the Yamaha FZ-07, for comparison, is cranking out 46.6 lb-ft at 6500 rpm. Trying to hang with the other kids in the curvery stuff, the TnT builds revs painfully slowly till the tach approaches 7,000. Then, when you roll out of the “power” for an approaching curve, what feels like a really heavy crank just wants to keep spinning, providing very little engine braking.

The four-cylinder Benelli motor is in a different league than the slightly bigger engines in the Japanese bikes. Suzuki’s revvy SV650 (blue) has the best top-end punch, but the FZ-07 takes the honors for overall power production. The power from the Z650 disappointingly tapers off while the FZ and SV keep pulling.

The four-cylinder Benelli motor is in a different league than the slightly bigger engines in the Japanese bikes. Suzuki’s revvy SV650 (blue) has the best top-end punch, but the FZ-07 takes the honors for overall power production. The power from the Z650 disappointingly tapers off while the FZ and SV keep pulling.

If you hop on the Benelli and ride it like you stole it, i.e., keeping the tach between 7 and 11,000 rpm the whole time, it’s fairly spunky and fun to ride. But constantly revving it out grows old in a hurry when you’re commuting, and it’s not made any easier that the bike changes gears in an old-fashioned way: Clutch pull is not light, and shift lever throws feel long and sloppy after climbing off the other bikes here, because they are.

As for the shifting, you could get used to it and build character. As for the engine, we can’t help thinking there’s a great motor in there yearning to breathe free via the right engine map, but the TnT is such a small-batch item in the U.S., we can’t find anything to make it right. The Benelli seems so close to being a great little exotic bike, but as delivered, it’s so far away… about one ECU away.

“Most of the TnT’s flaws could be forgiven if not for the flaccid engine that spoils the rest of the experience,” observes EiC Duke.

Some motomasochist who knows their way around a dyno and Power Commander could probably make an amazing motorcycle out of this Benelli building block. All the hardware is there.

Some motomasochist who knows their way around a dyno and Power Commander could probably make an amazing motorcycle out of this Benelli building block. All the hardware is there.

What’s the Thai Long Ly verdict?

Beautiful bike. Love the MV-esque tank and the dated high pipes. Like a sexy Italian model, this bike looks great from every angle. Unfortunately, the engine has the pull of 7, perhaps 8 Alpine Marmots, offering all the excitement of jury duty. The bike sounds fast, with an intoxicating wail and whine worthy of a MotoAmerica paddock, but the absolutely anemic inline-Four packs the punch of an anorexic coke whore.

Harley-Davidson Street Rod

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Hey, the Street Rod won the “Cool Factor” on our Scorecard with a solid 88.5% – fully six points more than the Kawi Z650 in second place.

“It draws a lot of attention,” says Tamara, “I received more than a half-dozen unsolicited comments from other motorists and pedestrians at lights, gas stops, etc., on a short 50-mile test ride.” Tamara is six-feet tall with long red hair and wearing leather pants. But the rest of us experienced the same thing.

“It’s one of the most exciting Harleys I’ve ridden,” Duke raves, “with a rompin’ motor and undeniable curb appeal.” Nine out of 10 bystanders agree.

Speaking of romping, she also did well in the engine department, nipping at the heels of the SV and FZ-07 in the tester’s subjective rankings. The biggest engine in the test (750cc) didn’t make more torque than those two, but the `Rod does crank out its comparable 45 lb-ft at only 4100 rpm, which gives it a really broad, Harley-esque powerband. Less Harley-esque is that it revs on out to 8800 rpm and 63 horses. It’s a really fun motor that reminds some of us of the 90-degree Twin in the Suzuki (which squeezed 72 horses from its 645cc).

With the biggest engine in this group, Harley’s Street Rod (orange) kicks out the most most low-end grunt, followed by the second-biggest motor of the FZ-07. Kawi did a good job tuning more bottom-end power than the venerable SV650, but its advantage doesn’t last far up the rev range.

With the biggest engine in this group, Harley’s Street Rod (orange) kicks out the most most low-end grunt, followed by the second-biggest motor of the FZ-07. Kawi did a good job tuning more bottom-end power than the venerable SV650, but its advantage doesn’t last far up the rev range.

“It’s actually quite nimble through the canyons,” noted Thai Long Ly after it acquitted itself on the mountain course. “I was surprised at its ability to stay with the pack of smaller, more nimble bikes as the day wore on. It’s not a bike you immediately climb on and haul ass with. It takes some time to unlock.”

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With a wheelbase three or four inches longer than the Japanese entries, and carrying a bunch more weight, the H-D still turns and burns surprisingly well, with the least trail of any of these at just 3.7 inches and nicely balanced suspension at both ends. It’s even got okay ground clearance, though it will start dragging its peg feelers before the other bikes.

“The engine has a great sound and a romping personality”, says Evans. “Handling is okay. Braking is decent. This really could be a great bike.”

That sums up how we all felt about the Street Rod: It could be a great bike and we all wanted it to be. But it’s not, and it’s all down to the abysmal ergonomics enforced by H-D’s insistence on using the same exhaust system as the Street 750. Arranging mid-mount footpegs around that system results in too little legroom for even short riders and awkward airport men’s room wide-stance Senatorial foot positioning for everybody. The people have spoken:

Tamara: Immediate discomfort in your hip flexors. The aggressive riding position feels to be signatory to H-D attitude but impairs performance when you can’t feel your legs after a few commuter miles.

Brasfield, Evans: The riding position is an atrocity. Having my lower body in such an awkward configuration ruins what could be a really fun motorcycle.

Thai: The “Rat Fink” riding position is only appreciated by yoga masters, pilates champions and dominatrixes. Pick a safe word and thumb the starter. The semi-forward controls combined with the super-wide flat bar will have your hip flexors cringing.”

Duke, who also bitched about the “tortured ergonomics” of the Street Rod, wants to know why the shocks are chrome when everything else is black and unshiny. Our Street Rod could be ridden off with the kickstand down, so be careful!

Duke, who also bitched about the “tortured ergonomics” of the Street Rod, wants to know why the shocks are chrome when everything else is black and unshiny. Our Street Rod could be ridden off with the kickstand down, so be careful!

Whoever’s first to build some kind of comfort kit for this thing will probably make a small fortune. There seems to be room under the engine for a muffler (maybe give Erik Buell a call about that), and then you’d be able to put the footpegs in a position that takes the human body into account. In fact, why am I not working on assembling such a kit right now instead of typing this?

The Hog’s also the most expensive bike here, starting at $8,699 for shiny black, but you can run the bottom line up there quickly if you want our silver bike ($8,994), and ABS is a $750 option.

Suzuki SV650

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Revitalized and renamed back to SV650 for the 2017 model year, the SV remains a crowd favorite, partly because of its illustrious history, partly because it’s the closest thing you can get to a Ducati Monster without buying a Ducati. Even though it was disguised for a number of years behind aliases like Gladius and SFV, it remains as familiar as your mom’s old Army boots. Matter of fact, it won the Ergonomics/Comfort category on our Scorecard, along with Clutch/Transmission. There’s also high praise for its suspension, a category it lost by a mere 0.5% to the 2nd-place finisher.

070617-2017-middleweight-naked-shootout-suzuki-sv650-6778

That 90-degree V-Twin produces the most horsepower, cranking out nearly 72 horses, and 45 pounding feet of torque is right there in the ballpark too. Carrying a few extra ell-bees compared to its newer Japanese rivals, riding on a longer wheelbase than any bike but the Harley, and with more trail than any of them (4.1 inches), the SV feeds back a sense of reassuring, stable handling to everyone who rides it, and still steers quick enough.

“The SV felt the most planted when leaned over,” according to Evans and other testers. “I attribute that to the well-sorted suspension. Turning requires a little more effort than either the Z or the FZ, but it never feels heavy. The SV just prefers a firm hand.”

The SV does a lot with what it’s got, including two-piston front calipers riding a classic 41mm fork.

The SV does a lot with what it’s got, including two-piston front calipers riding a classic 41mm fork.

On Tamara’s scorecard, the SV came out on top:

“Great ergonomics, especially for a 6-foot rider. Decent pull and bottom-end torque. Tight handling. Smooth power delivery with non-twitchy EFI.”

Nice tach across the top tells you to keep the Suzuki between 5 and 10k rpm and you're good to go, with 6000 rpm producing a smoothish 83 mph. Nice big numbers and gear-position indicator.

Nice tach across the top tells you to keep the Suzuki between 5 and 10k rpm and you’re good to go, with 6000 rpm producing a smoothish 83 mph. Nice big numbers and gear-position indicator.

EiC Duke awarded the SV his personal favorite:

“The SV650 again impresses for its ability to feel like a mid-displacement Ducati Monster, despite its relatively inexpensive cost. The sound from its 90-degree V-Twin can fool the ears of Italian cognoscenti, and its trellis chassis feels the most composed and secure in this group. Stable and surefooted, best for racetrack, love the motor. In terms of appearance, the Suzuki hits my eyes best for its nicer-flowing lines and classic stance.”

Personally I’m with Thai Long Ly, who says, “The fit and finish aren’t exactly jeweler’s quality – it feels a bit budget.”

With its plethora of hoses, wires, and big Adam’s apple of an oil filter, the SV’s beauty is in the eye of the beer holder.

With its plethora of hoses, wires, and big Adam’s apple of an oil filter, the SV’s beauty is in the eye of the beer holder.

For me, the SV’s a perfectly okay bike that reminds me of the cost cutting Suzuki did by getting rid of the original bike’s OVER Racing-inspired oval-section aluminum frame. It reminds me of wanting those first blue suede Adidas but only being able to afford the Kinney’s knock-offs. You could take off the silver Ss on the tank and put on desmo ones, and most people would never know. But you would know.

And the runner-up is … Kawasaki Z650

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That parallel-Twin isn’t close to all-new, but the bike Kawasaki built around it is. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then it looks like Kawasaki was a big enough fan of the Yamaha FZ-07 to replicate it right down to its semi-trellis steel tube frame with MotoGP-style “controlled flex” ears that reach down to carry the front engine mounts, and banana swingarm.

Our man Troy Siahaan liked it a lot upon first setting cheek to Z last November, and our test crew all seemed to agree. If it’s a sporty bike for attacking backroads you’re after, the second lightest bike in the test, at 412 pounds complete with ABS, is hard to argue with – especially since it won the Handling and Suspension categories on our Scorecard.

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Thai Long Ly ranked the Z number one:

Was it the comfortable position or the excellent motor? Perhaps it was the planted suspension and the solid brakes? Whatever is was, it was my favorite bike here. It just did everything well and I was left searching for negatives. Of which I have none. Dancing through the canyons all day, she was composed and smooth. I could ram it into a corner at any speed and she kept calm and collected. This bike reaffirmed my belief that you don’t always need 175 hp and 90 lb-ft to enjoy biking.”

Tamara liked “the light, easy handling and easy clutch. Certainly no fear of arm pump for female riders. The suspension is dialed, and the seat is comfy and ergonomic.”

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Brasfield says he “could really flip a coin between it and the FZ-07 and be completely happy with either one.”

EiC Duke says: “You’d be disappointed in the Z’s power only if you looked at the dyno chart. In normal use and even at elevated speeds, the Kawi’s midrange stonk feels as strong as any bike in this group. It’s got better suspension than the FZ, with greater control, and its brake feel is the most confidence-inspiring of this group. It also has a contemporary and fresh appearance, with its green trellis frame an arresting highlight on its future-forward visage.”

The Versys 650 took a big step forward a couple years ago when Kawasaki gave it rubber front engine mounts; in the Z, that engine’s mounted solidly.

The Versys 650 took a big step forward a couple years ago when Kawasaki gave it rubber front engine mounts; in the Z, that engine’s mounted solidly.

If you did check the dyno chart, though, you’d see that Kawasaki’s 649cc parallel Twin lags quite a bit behind the others; it’s 10 horses down on the SV and 8 behind the FZ-07. You can also feel it trying harder than the other bikes.

The price it pays for being lightest is that a bit more engine vibration finds its way up into the grips and pegs. Duke notes, it “buzzes hard around 7-8000 rpm; otherwise vibes are not an issue for me, as cruising rpm is below this annoying zone.” Brasfield says “the Z650 has more high-rpm vibration than the other bikes, but it never becomes annoying.”

Why do I always have to be the heavy? Riding home on the freeway at my usual 80-ish mph pace after our day in the mountains, I detected noticeably more vibes through the handlebar, pegs and tank than the other bikes. The Z’s light skinniness makes it a perfect lane-splitter, but that slight buzziness renders it a bit less pleasant of a carpool buddy commuter compared to the SV and the FZ.

The LCD “analog” tach reminds me of the clock on my coffee maker. While the SV and FZ keep building power past 10,000 rpm, the Z’s rev limiter begins kicking in just past 9k.

The LCD “analog” tach reminds me of the clock on my coffee maker. While the SV and FZ keep building power past 10,000 rpm, the Z’s rev limiter begins kicking in just past 9k.

On the official MO Scorecard, the Z also took the win in the Quality/Fit and Finish category, and it was runner-up to the Harley in Cool Factor. Its “Pearl Flat Stardust White” paint is pretty striking against the green frame and helps you overlook areas occupied by more mundane components, like the old switchgear from Japanese bikes of yore. In short, it’s a personable little motorcycle everybody instinctively likes to be around and enjoys flogging (just like the Versys 650). In the Engine category on our Scorecard, however, the Z manages to beat only the Benelli. And so it could not win this thing.

The winnah and STILL the middleweight champ! Yamaha FZ-07

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It doesn’t make more peak horsepower than the Suzuki, but the FZ does use its 40 extra cc to bust out just a bit more torque in the critical 6-8000-rpm range, which makes it more thrilling to ride in the hands of experienced riders.

The ladies are supposed to like the bad boy, but Tamara sort of didn’t. Actually she did like the FZ, ranking it second just 0.6% behind the SV, but she sensed its extra power: “It definitely let’s you know you’re in gear, throws you back into the seat with each shift, with enough potential to get a new rider in trouble in the twisties.”

Anyway, the FZ engine carried the win on the Scorecard, along with its Brakes (which are four-pot calipers), even though Duke said they feel “a bit wooden.”

The FZ’s clean and simple instrument panel took a win in Instruments, too; Yamaha even went so far as to design new switchgear for it when it was a new model.

The FZ’s clean and simple instrument panel took a win in Instruments, too; Yamaha even went so far as to design new switchgear for it when it was a new model.

The Yamaha took its lumps in the Handling and Suspension categories, where it tied for second and finished third, respectively. With the least trail, shortest wheelbase, and its light weight, Duke describes it as “incredibly agile… edging toward flighty when the throttle is hammered.”

Now we light the Thai comment and stand clear:

The front end feels floppy and light as a nun’s nipple. Though she steers quickly, she doesn’t exactly inspire any confidence when pushed against an apex. The mechanical grip is there, you just have to trust it. This bike is all about the motor. The engine spins up quickly and is super playful. The midrange is strong and the bike pulls creamily to redline.”

(It’s interesting how differently people perceive vibrations. Thai says the FZ is smoothest, Tamara notes “some buzz at around 7000 rpm in 2nd and 3rd gear,” and Evans says “buzziest of the bunch, but it never crosses over into annoying. Where the Z650’s vibes increase at higher rpm, the FZ’s remain mostly the same, making it easier to overlook.”

Kawasaki lifted the Z650’s frame directly from the FZ, which lifted the concept of flexy front engine mount ears directly from the M1 MotoGP machine. Both the FZ and Z650 turn right now.

Kawasaki lifted the Z650’s frame directly from the FZ, which lifted the concept of flexy front engine mount ears directly from the M1 MotoGP machine. Both the FZ and Z650 turn right now.

Evans Brasfield (who’s a bit heavier than Thai and Duke and loads the suspension a bit more) says:

The FZ makes me feel like I’m riding right over the front wheel. It’s steering response is immediate and precise. I feel like a hero after a series of corners (and I need all the help I can get). While the suspension does get a little boingy at times, the underdamped nature never interferes with being able to make good time on a windy road.

Vogue Manor indeed: Six-foot Tamara likes the FZ’s ergos but isn’t a big fan of the thin (but wide) seat. Note the full-size 180/55 rear tire and powerful four-piston brake calipers up front. The FZ is not a toy.

Vogue Manor indeed: Six-foot Tamara likes the FZ’s ergos but isn’t a big fan of the thin (but wide) seat. Note the full-size 180/55 rear tire and powerful four-piston brake calipers up front. The FZ is not a toy.

The Yamaha scored second in Comfort/Ergonomics (behind the Suzuki), second in Quality/Fit and Finish (behind the Kawasaki). And however many nits were picked, and despite the fact that two testers ranked the SV650 number One, and one tester put the Z650 on top – the FZ still emerged a clear winner. Perhaps most importantly, the FZ outpointed the others by a massive 2.5% gap in the all-important Grin Factor category.

Seems like another clear-cut, if close, win for one of our favorite motorcycles of the decade, and a win also for everybody who likes more choices in one of our favorite categories; the Z650 and SV650 are this close if the FZ-07 just doesn’t do it for you.

Normally we’d say there are no bad choices here, but there are two of them. And all they need is a little love. You can’t go wrong.

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  • Zentradi

    Will you pit the winner against the upcoming Honda CB650F?

    • Stuki Moi

      To my mind (and I’m looking to get one of them…..), the Hondas (both CB and CBR) seem closer to the new (now CA legal, I believe) GSX-S750. The Suzuki is obviously more powerful, but both seem targeted to people who want a 600, but have “outgrown” repli racer ergonomics…….

    • Born to Ride

      I don’t think it’s any different mechanically from the CBR650f which has been tested and compared in the past by the MO crew. Evidently it is buzzy and uninspiring.

  • john phyyt

    Four Bikes under $7500. And they are all very good. Cheaper than off road bikes; but with warranties and long service intervals.
    Even if your mom doesn’t want a motorcycle in the garage it is hard to go past this class. You do know that they will start every time ; and give years of service . Also you can ride the canyons for some real fun.

    (Hey Thai sounds like you have so much experience. I wonder when you get time for motorcycles. The local Nuns would have to have a say…… Sundays.. Perhaps? )

  • Starmag

    Thai: The “Rat Fink” riding position is only appreciated by yoga masters, pilates champions and dominatrixes.

    “The front end feels floppy and light as a nun’s nipple.”

    I’m resisting the urge to ask how he knows about the content of either of those two sentences. That’s some quality humorous color.

    • BDan75

      Nun’s nipple? What does that even *mean*?

    • jon

      Ha! Haven’t heard the words “rat fink” for eons!

    • hipsabad

      i’ve ridden the FZ and agree completely with Thai. A bit like a 675 Street Triple, the front end is floppy and light, too little rake and/or too little trail, most noticeable at lower speeds. Both bike’s have short wheelbases (1400mm and 1410mm respectively) and steep steering head angles (24 and 23.4 degrees respectively). Less fork offset would increase trail, would that help, i wonder…

      • Mad4TheCrest

        I’ve just downsized from an 1198 to a Street Triple 675 so that dramatic transition might have me seeing things differently, but I just don’t find the Striple’s front light or flighty. Sure it turns quickly and easily but that feels a good thing after the workout the big Ducati required. And that easy turning with generous lock makes slow speeds a pleasure. I haven’t maxed it out but I did hit pleasantly quick speed over a poorly surfaced road and the Triple was stable enough. If the FZ is similar that’s got to be good.

        • hipsabad

          it’s odd you’d say that cuz the steering lock on the ST675 is often commented on in the owner forums as being ungenerous. Everything’s relative of course and a 1198, like most sportbikes, is not gonna have a lot. I was ripping around on a KTM690 today and it was a bit floppy too. Seemed less so than the FZ but still not what i’d call neutral. And that’s probably down to my preference since i quite like a rakey supermoto kind of feel to my front end

  • Taylor Ames

    You might want to check the weight on the kawasaki. The kawi website claims a wet weight of 405-410lbs but you have it at 389.

    • Zentradi

      I agree, something seems off with that figure. The faired Ninja 650, which is basically the same bike, tips the scales right under 426 lbs, so a 37 lb difference between faired and non-faired version doesn’t make much sense.

      • john burns

        It was weighed on the same scales as all the other bikes. But we probably shoulda checked to make sure the tank was full, bec. it is pretty unusual for our measured weight to be less than the manuf. claim…

        • dbwindhorst

          Speaking of weights: sorry if I missed this, but was the FZ an ABS model or non-?

  • DickRuble

    Feels like the TnT (the smallest at 600cc) was added to the comparo just so that the Harley doesn’t finish last one more time.

    • Stuki Moi

      It’s a naked middleweight……..

      • Kevin Duke

        And pretty much the identical price to the Asian bikes…

        • DickRuble

          The TnT costs way less than the Harley, has more power, weighs less, has better cornering clearance, is way more comfortable (everyone says you can’t ride the Harley more than two miles) and still loses…

          • Bmwclay

            And now you got a Harley made in India. That’ll cut the riding distance down to about a mile before it blows.

          • Sayyed Bashir

            I am sure you won’t have to deal with it.

  • Sentinel

    I own an SFV650 (Gladius), and it’s been overall a fantastic bike. My only real complaints are the torturously painful seat that always wants to munch and crunch “the boys”, and adjusting the valves was quite a PITA on this engine. The valve service was such a PITA because, for one it’s a “V”, which meant two heads, four cams, two cam-chains, and two CCTs to deal with. And speaking of CCTs, the one for the front cylinder was damn near impossible to get to and work on. The engine area was also super cramped, and made the whole experience just that much more frustrating.

    Out of the bikes in this test, the FZ-07 and the updated SV650 are the only two that I’d be really interested in owning. I think that much flatter seat on the FZ-07 would be a welcome change from the nut-muncher on the SV650, and surely the valve service would be a whole lot easier as well; I suppose those two things alone would make the FZ-07 number 1 for me.

    • c w

      Have you been on the 17 SV? The seat was reshaped from the SFV if memory serves. It didn’t feel bad on the one I tested, and one of my big concerns about the new bike was whether it pushed one’s two into the tank

      • Sentinel

        Maybe the new one would be ok then. A few things it looks like they’ve changed that I don’t like, is that from what I can tell, they greatly reduced under-seat storage, and also removed the two helmet lock hooks that my bike has. Those were both really bad moves as far as I’m concerned. I use every bit of the under-seat space my bike has, and I always use the lock hook to secure my helmet, and even that of a friend on the second one as needed.

        • c w

          For whatever reason, helmet hooks are disappearing.

          I loved the ride of the SV, but went with a Bandit because it still has the two features from my GS500E that I wanted in a newer bike: a center stand and helmet hooks.

          • Sentinel

            Love the center stand on my good ol’ 1983 GS450E!

          • jon

            I had a 1982 GS450ST. The ST came with nice chrome bar end mirrors, and an old style BMW type mini sports fairing. Great little roadster! I had to pull the carbs and shim the needles, as it was WAY lean running. That did the trick. And, it got about 65 mpg.

          • Sentinel

            I’m about to strip, clean, and rebuild the carbs on mine for the first time. It can’t even be ridden in it’s current state until I do.

          • elgar

            jon – awesome bike! I had the similar 1981 GS400S, black with red stripe, gold painted alloys and 4valve heads…the bar end mirrors and flat seat were great! One of the few bikes that I regret selling…my 1984 GPz550, D’oh!!

          • Sayyed Bashir

            Helmet hooks are disappearing because people ride with helmets on them which is a safety hazard. Which Bandit did you get? I bought a nearly new maroon 2007 Bandit 1250S a couple of months ago and love it.

          • c w

            So long as there is nothing dangling from the helmet, why is it a safety hazard? I’d think reduced overhead would be a more legitimate reason.

            ’09 1250S

          • Sayyed Bashir

            Straps getting caught in the chain. I assume people put the D-ring through the hook so the helmet is hanging loose from the bike and swinging around, maybe getting caught in the wheel. There must have been some liability claims reducing their popularity. Aftermarket hooks are available. The previous owner had put helmet hooks on the license plate of my 1250S. I took them off.

      • Sentinel

        I went to a dealer today and had a sit on the new SV and also the FZ. While the new SV seat felt a little bit better, it wasn’t better enough for me. On the other hand, the FZ seat felt many times better, and no issues in the nether regions. Also the overall ergonomics felt almost as if they were designed just for me. Overall the FZ is way ahead in this regard for me. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to take one out for a test ride at some point.

  • c w

    Dear Mo staff,

    I would like you to add commentary on headlight performance to the middleweight/naked articles. I always wonder if the newer, non-round designs work better than the traditional 7-inch designs.

    Not a sexy topic I suppose, but it is something commuters should think about…

    • Sentinel

      A bit above middleweight I suppose, but check out the video on YouTube where an FZ-09 owner shows that the new light setup on that bike makes going around a corner on a dark road a game of Russian Roulette. I haven’t heard of such issues with any of these particular bikes in the review though.

    • Born to Ride

      Poor illumination was a factor in my choice to axe my last commuter. Definitely an overlooked trait.

  • Loki Pushparaj

    The Benelli TNT600 is in fact a Keeway RK6 rebadged as a Benelli. Doesn’t matter as the Qinjiang group owns both brands now (Keeway, Benelli). The basic design is a clear ripoff of the Aprilia Shiver (google it) and the engine is a old Yamaha R6 block. These things have been on sale in parts of Asia for a while now. The only true Benellis are the TNT899 and the 1130 which are built in Italy.

    • Jon Jones

      Good info.

    • john burns

      y’know I bumped into a Shiver right after I wrote this and said Aha! I knew I’d seen it somewhere before. The Shiver’s a great bike. Duke conjectured finding an R6 motor in a junkyard might be easier than reflashing the Benelli. Then you’d have something.

      • Sentinel

        I think the Shiver looks to be a really nice bike. The only thing that kills it for me is the “micro” fuel tank they have on it.

        • ColoradoS14

          I own one it is not too bad I don’t think, but then again I don’t have much other experience. Tank is 4 gal. and I typically get about 125 mi. between fill ups. Are other naked bikes really better than that? Out of curiosity I looked at some of the other forums (Street Triple 675, etc.) and they all seem to be within 15mi or so of there.

          • Sentinel

            The fuel capacity you gave for the Shiver 750 is incorrect. The fuel tank capacity is nowhere near 4 gallons, it’s actually only 3 gal. 7.7 oz., so that’s 3.06 gallons, or about “3 gallons”, not 4, which is considerably less than it’s competitors. The fuel millage is very sub-par as well, and is right at the very bottom for the category. Fuel millage for that bike averages 41 Mpg. So that would literally put you out of gas at around 125 miles as you said, which means you had better be getting to a gas station quite a bit before it gets that low. That’s simply unacceptable to me, as well as a lot of other people to be sure.

            So here’s the Stats,

            Aprilia Shiver 750
            Fuel Capacity: 3.06 Gal.
            Average Miles Per gallon: 41 Mpg.
            Travel Distance on Full Tank: 125 Miles

            Now consider a few of the Shiver’s competitors,

            Kawasaki Z650
            Fuel Capacity: 4.0 Gal.
            Average Miles Per gallon: 49 Mpg.
            Travel Distance on Full Tank: 196 Miles

            Triumph Street Triple
            Fuel Capacity: 4.6 Gal.
            Average Miles Per gallon: 44 Mpg.
            Travel Distance on Full Tank: 202.4 Miles

            Yamaha FZ-07
            Fuel Capacity: 3.7 Gal.
            Average Miles Per gallon: 55 Mpg.
            Travel Distance on Full Tank: 203.5 Miles

            Suzuki SV650
            Fuel Capacity: 3.8 Gal.
            Average Miles Per gallon: 55 Mpg.
            Travel Distance on Full Tank: 209 Miles

            Moto Guzzi V7 III
            Fuel Capacity: 5.0 Gal.
            Average Miles Per gallon: 48 Mpg.
            Travel Distance on Full Tank: 240 Miles

            So now you see my point. Again, the fuel capacity of the Shiver is very sub-par, as is its Mpg. for the class. This is why I’d never even consider buying that bike.

          • ColoradoS14

            You used the fuel capacity with reserve for every bike but the Shiver. The Shiver with reserve is just under 4 gallons.

          • Sentinel

            Well that’s interesting, because on Aprilia’s own site the fuel capacity is listed as “15lt”. But for the sake of argument, I have found it listed elsewhere as “3.96 gal.”, so calculating for that we get,

            Aprilia Shiver 750
            Fuel Capacity: 3.96 Gal.
            Average Miles Per gallon: 41 Mpg.
            Travel Distance on Full Tank: 162 Miles

            So that still puts it at the very bottom in regards to Mpg. and range, and no where near the average for the class; my point still stands.

  • Tanner

    Look at the dyno of the SV and the FZ. See how it flattens and then drops off before the redline? This is pure EPA compliance fuckery.

    A simple ECU reflash would unlock power from the upper RPM, I’d bet both of these bikes are capable of at least 80bhp without exceeding their engineering limits.

    • c w

      yes. how dare the EPA continue to require smog controls to, you know, control smog and stuff.

      • Sayyed Bashir

        Its noise control, not smog control.

        • ColoradoS14

          I doubt it, how do much larger, much louder bikes with exhaust flapper valves get by then? A Tuono is much louder than the SV and yet… I believe that it is emissions, regardless I am certain that more proficient tuning could cure either scenario.

          • Sayyed Bashir

            See the first sentence of July 3 MO article “Where’s The Missing Horsepower?” : “The GSX-R1000 and the other Japanese literbikes are all afflicted by tuning strategies that limit top-end power so that they meet the EPA’s noise-emissions regulations.”

        • c w

          An EVAP can is not for sound.

          Air injection into exhaust flow is not for sound.

          Cat converters are not for sound.

          • Sayyed Bashir

            Obviously you didn’t read my reply to Colorado below. It is the noise control strategy that cuts the power at the top end.

          • Tanner

            it’s not the cat or the evap that’s the reason power is limited at higher rpm inside the ECU.. It’s noise.

  • Patriot159

    Though I have a ’99 SV650 race/track bike which I love, I’d still have to go with the Yamaha from this group. I heard one with a throaty slip on once and it sounded sweet! What I really want though is an FJ-07 ADV/Dual Sport done right (or the new KTM 800 coming out).
    Got to agree with Evans on the HD ergos. I could not ride that thing, my hips hurt watching you all riding it!

  • Phil Rounds

    With no time in the saddle, i’d consider the SV or the FZ. The power and ergs look good and of course, they come in RED!

  • Eric

    Good writeup, guys! The 7 or 8 marmots comment was priceless. Too bad about the HD’s foot peg problem, looks like a nice bike otherwise. I really like the FZ07, but hate the styling. Can we PLEASE get the Euro-spec, restyled version (don’t recall what it’s called)?!?

  • Mad4TheCrest

    Great review, although I am still trying to calibrate marmot-power; no reliable marmot performance testing seems to exist …

  • Douglas

    For me, std black sportster bars and a 2″ higher, mostly flat seat (ala 70’s UJM) and the Street Rod would be my pick…and ditch that goofy molded thing around the headlight and replace w/a functional 12-14″ windscreen and mount provision for a usable tail rack. (Don’t want too much, do I? Oh well, I’m done buying bikes anyway; I’m down to 3 & that’s enuf.)

    • Sayyed Bashir

      There’s always room for one more.

  • DeadArmadillo

    Interesting test and wouldn’t disagree with the findings. But WTF, who cares about Ducati other than a few Starbucks hanger ons? Why do you insist about throwing the name Ducati (and/or KTM) around in everything you write? I ride a lot and hardly ever see either of those bikes. Is it a California thing?

    • elgar

      I used to feel the same way until I rode a Ducati. I’ve owned 3 and absolutely nothing rides or feels or sounds like a ‘sorted’ Duc. Also, I live in on a tiny island with a population of approx. 30k, and pretty much know every motorcycle and motorcyclist in the country – approx. 40 – and there are 3 Ducati bikes here, one of them mine. I encourage you to try one DeadArmadillo!!

      • DeadArmadillo

        I have and agree that they are good bikes with one of the best sounds around. But, they have a pretty sparse dealer network, smallish gas tanks, and are uncomfortable (at least for me). I tend to ride long distances and they just don’t fit the bill for me. However, that’s not my gripe. It’s that the writers would have to throw in mention of Ducati and KTM if they were evaluating a wheelbarrow.

        • spiff

          Hmm, an orange, or red wheelbarrow? I’d go orange, but either way you can be sure it would have a single sided swingarm.

        • Sayyed Bashir

          They purposely kept the KTM and Ducati out because they would have trumped all the bikes here.

    • hipsabad

      I don’t know, maybe it’s a Canadian thing. 😉 I think in this comparison the KTM690 would slay the other contenders, both in terms of motor and in terms of handling, though it might not be the best choice for beginners or ‘laid back’ riders

    • ColoradoS14

      Maybe because the Monster is the hands down, defacto, trellis-framed, v-twin powered, naked bike and of course the SV650 reminds people of that bike….

    • LS650

      Strange – I’m not in California and I see Ducatis and KTMs about as often as Suzuki or Triumph. Someone I know just bought a Duke 390. Maybe we have better dealer support in my neck of the woods?

      • DeadArmadillo

        I can agree about the Triumphs. Not a lot of them around but there are quite a few Suzuki’s. Just a lot of different models.

  • Craig Hoffman

    I have not ridden an FZ-07, but really enjoyed ripping around on a borrowed SV650 with a Leo Vince can on it. Punchy compact little bike, did great wheelies, made good noise and had that magical “just ride the shit out of me, it will be alright” quality to it. That SV was a perfect city hooligan bike. Gotta suppose the ’07 is more of the same. Good stuff.

  • Dale

    Hello,

    I can second getting cramps in my hips riding the Harley. I almost instantly cramped up in the hip flexors when I got on it to ride. I stood up a couple of times and kept going and it was fun to ride however. Then I started cramping up again. The same thing happened to me previously when I rode the Sportster Roadster. I cramped up really bad on that one instantly and had to get off.

  • Lawrence of Bavaria (Piglet)

    Thought Kawasaki was known as an “engine company”? Update the engine to make competitive power and the Z650 would seem to be the bike of choice. Confidence inspiring suspension and handling trumps everything else, particularly if the bike is also used at track days.

  • Philip Egner

    @disqus_nCmctsf938:disqus If you don’t mind my asking, what is the jacket you’re wearing in the video for this review?

    • john burns

      It’s a Dainese i got a few years ago, soft brown leather almost like suede, and perforated, nice and cool… a keeper for sure.

  • Mahatma

    Sometimes I wonder if the manufacturers have cut back in the design department on an agreed upon basis.None look desireable.

  • Dubstep Electro

    My baby girls is Benelli Tnt 600 https://motorhaberleri.com/tnt-600-benelli.html