Choose Your Weapon: Best of the Best, 2006
2006 Suzuki GSXR-1000 v. 2006 GSXR-750 v. 2006 Triumph 675 Daytona
Where have all the 750s gone? After seeing the acclaim our testers gave the GSXR-750 in their notes, we were once again nostalgic for the days when this was a genuine class with more than one participant. After all, some of the most legendary sportbikes of the '80s and '90s are in this displacement category, like the Yamaha FZ-750 (and track-focused OW-01), the original Honda VFR750 as well as the RC-30, the Yamaha YZF-750 -- known for being the sweetest-handling big sportbike around -- and of course the O-G 1986 Suzuki GSXR-750, a bike that rewrote all the rules and made thousands of first-time bike owners aware of the term "highside".
This new GSXR-750 is truly worthy of putting on the big shoes of its forbearers. Introduced as an all-new model for 2006, the GSXR-750 is tiny, compact, and possessing of high style. Based on the diminutive 600 chassis, the 750 looks small parked next to the 1000, which isn't exactly a Boss Hoss either. Swoopy bodywork is counterbalanced with points and creases, making for a fresher look overall than the two year-old 1000. Pete complained that the "engine is a little more exposed than on the 1000, and the look suffers a little bit for it", and Lee didn't "care for the front end treatment", although he did find the seat to be "very sexy."
Pete liked the tiny snout of an exhaust poking out from under the fairing, and Gabe found the whole package to be "very satisfying, visually...Suzuki has found a distinctive voice in their sportbike designs." Ole was critical of the color scheme. Although he liked the blue color, he doesn't "like any sportbike with 'Denver Omelet' graphics." However, he went on to say that "compared to the 1000, it's more exciting and fun, even if I thought the same thing about the 1000 when it came out."
The all-new GSXR-750 is the latest of a long series of GSXR-750 sportbikes. They are known for being light, fast, and uncompromising. Suzuki has often used common components for different-sized GSXRs, so let's see how different this bike is from the 1000.
Suzuki's engineers started from scratch for the 2006. At the heart is the liquid-cooled, four-valve, four-cylinder 749cc motor. The dual overhead cam cylinder head is designed to pack big, narrow-angle titanium valves into a tiny space, compressing mixture to a 12.5:1 ratio. 70mm short-skirt pistons work in 48.7mm bores, compressing mixture sent in from the twin-barrel 50mm throttle bodies (made with air forced through the ram-air system) and multi-hole fuel injectors. We weren't able to dyno our test unit, (since it mysteriously shed a handlebar and footpeg during testing, ahem) but we could reasonably expect around 130 HP at the rear wheel. There are two balancer shafts to smooth out all that power going through the forged steel crank. A back torque-limiting clutch helps with racetrack downshifts and a compact, under-engine exhaust Â- complete with Suzuki's SET exhaust tuning system Â- completes a pretty innovative engine design.
The chassis sports lots of technology as well. As the chassis is based on the GSXR-600 Â- also new for 2006 Â- it emphasizes compact dimensions and light weight. The frame uses aluminum alloy castings everywhere for a strong, light structure. The braced alloy swingarm has a 25mm pivot and is 38mm longer than the 2005 version for better rear-wheel traction. The linkage uses forged pieces too, and the rear shock is fully adjustable, as are the 41mm inverted front forks. There are new radial-mount calipers and 310mm floating rotors on the front brakes, actuated by a radial master cylinder. The wheelbase is a compact 55.1 inches.
On board, we found a bike that is pretty focused, but not punishing to the rider. Lee said there's "lots of room to move around", and we noticed a tighter fit than the 1000, but with more room and better comfort from the slightly-higher clip-ons than the Triumph. The adjustable pegs aren't too high or far back, and the seat is soft and low enough that there were few complaints about it. It's no sport-tourer, but it's not the least comfortable bike here.
Controls and instruments are very serviceable. All controls and switches are easily reachable, although Pete said "it would be nice if the clutch lever were adjustable." However, he did say that the "speedometer and tachometer show all their information clearly and quickly", reflecting the observations of the rest of our testers. The gear indicator is a nice touch as well.
It's finished with new bodywork altered for a compact riding position and maximum aerodynamic efficiency. The tank is shorter, the seat is lower and the rider footpegs are adjustable. There's a new gear position indicator that all our testers found handy, as well.
All these improvements are delivered in a red, blue or yellow package for $9,999, just $300 more than the 2005 GSXR-750.
We get a lot of postings on our message boards informing us that an average rider will go just as fast at the racetrack on a well-prepped SV650 or similar machine than he would on the latest, hottest superbike. We decided to investigate a bit further by having Lee Parks bring his souped-up SV650 to the track to see how well Ole got around on it. We'll let him tell you in his own words what that was like.-Editor
Lee's SV is a very well put-together bike. It is stock except for the suspension, wheels, rearsets and handlebars. He added Heli-Bars to make it more streetable, and he took the front and rear suspension from his 2001 WERA National Endurance Racing Championship-winning SV650. Basically it has a Penske rear shock and highly-modified SV650 front forks with Honda CBR600F3 cartridges, Race Tech Gold Valves and springs, and YZF600 fork caps (set up for Lee, who weighs about the same amount as I do). To top it off it had cool-looking forged aluminum Carrozeria wheels (3.5 x 17 and 5.5 x 17).
Because of the fact that I also own a well-set up Honda Hawk, I've always been looking forward to the possibility of riding a well-set up SV650. Lee's bike lived up to my every expectation (and more). I first got to ride it on the stretch of Hwy 33 between Reyes Peak and Lockwood Valley (not an overly fast section of road, but very technical and full of interesting surface changes, with occasional bits of "gravel spray" thrown in to make it interesting). After getting off the Gixxer it at first felt very weird being on the SV650 until I reminded myself that it was just like my little Hawk, but with more power and much better suspension (and Michelin Pilot D.O.T. race tires).
Knowing how well it handled, and that the tire grip would be way beyond the limits which I chose to set, I pushed the SV down the mountain at a pace much greater than I would have if I'd been on my 675. Just like the Hawk, the SV650 makes it unbelievably easy to ride fast. The low center of gravity and high/wide bars make transitions from corner to corner as easy as just thinking about giving a little push on the bars. Although I knew that I probably could have gone slightly faster on my 675, I still had a total blast on the SV650.
On the second day of the test, I got to run quite a few laps on both my 675 and the SV650. As I'd already been riding my 675 for 5000 miles, I was pretty comfortable running her around Buttonwillow. After a couple of warm-up laps on the SV650, I quickly became totally at ease pushing it much harder than I did on my 675 (she's not prepped for the track yet, and I didn't want to take any risk with having to replace my stock bodywork).
I've already reported on how awesome the 675 is on the track. With the Triumph having nearly twice the power of the SV650, I was quite surprised to see that running laps at the same consistent (and safe) pace on both bikes my lap time on the SV650 (3:02) was only four seconds slower than a comparable lap on my 675 (2:58). Just like when I was riding the SV650 in the twisties (on the street), it was again a total hoot to ride on the track. Even at a safe pace (don't crash Lee's bike Ole!), I came away from every SV650 track session laughing at how easy it was to come to my turn points, slap the SV over onto my line, and power through the corners without a shimmy, squirm, wobble, or any untoward movements from anywhere on the bike.
The SV is an absolute joy to ride, but I'm not trading in my 675 for one. If I was in the market for a bike which I'd use only for the tightest and most technical roads or tracks, the SV650 would easily be my first choice. In most of the terrain where I ride my 675, its significantly higher power, nearly equivalent handling, and Triumph Triple sound and feel still makes it the bike for me.
If you ever have a chance to take an SV650 on a blast through some good twisty roads or to do a few laps on a nice technical track, take it! You'll have a great time. And isn't that why we ride?
Triumph 675: Good Things Come in Threes
Triumph's giant-killer crouches waiting for you with a stinkbug, ass-in-the-air, almost stark, monochromatic color scheme. Ole described his baby as having an "excellent blend of classic styling and cutting-edge design", and Pete said the styling was "slightly quirky, but works well." We would say the styling is almost bland, but it works because it lends the bike a light, modern appearance that will probably age well.
The 675 is definitely not the most comfortable bike we've tested, although we've sat on worse. The first thing we noted about the 675 was a high seat, followed by very compact dimensions; although low, the clip ons fall readily to hand, since the bike is so small. Gabe complained about the footpegs being too small; "my feet keep falling off of them". Pete said the "bar position was a little too aggressive for extended street rides", and even Ole got the stars out of his eyes long enough to admit that "this bike was not made for commuting." It's no tourer, but it is built to put you in a good position to control the bike.
We also liked all the cool read-outs in the bike's instrument display. The rider can toggle through four different screens to display fuel economy (like you care!), lap times, or other information. There's a gear indicator and a cool array of programmable blue LED shift lights that tell you when to row through the gear box in case you can't hear the triple's siren song. We thought the small speedometer was hard to read, especially when the clutch cable obscured the view.
The motor fires up quickly and easily, with that incredible exhaust note providing a soundtrack. The clutch works with a mild squeeze and the transmission is good, if lacking the "buttery smooth" action of the other bikes, according to Ole. "It's typical Triumph 'rifle bolt' action; solid and consistent, although sometimes it's harder to engage first gear than the Suzukis." Gabe thought the transmission had a little more "throw" than Japanese gearboxes, making for a "looser" feel.
Once in gear the motor wakes up, letting you know why this is such a popular bike. Once over a little flatness in the mid-range, the motor starts to make killer power at 9,000 rpm, which builds to a fever pitch and stays over 100 HP until about 13,000 rpm. That's not to say it's slow at normal-people speeds; it still makes plenty of torquey, responsive power where an R6-mounted person would be slipping the clutch. However, for maximum enjoyment, seven to ten grand is the G-spot on this bike, as it feels soft too much below that and vibration damps the fun at high rpm. "Hesitation at the lower rpm range, but otherwise [the engine] is perfect", says Lee, summing it all up. This is a great sportbike motor.
It's matched by a chassis that lets the rider have fun while still giving him excellent control and feel. Gabe described the suspension as "spot on", and Ole declared it "beyond what mortal riders are capable of". For street use we didn't find it overly harsh or jouncy enough to make our middle-aged man-boobies jiggle on uneven or bumpy pavement. The chassis is very nice as well, allowing a snappy, quick turn-in while still tracking wonderfully through high-speed sweepers. It's a great balance of nimble for the tight stuff and ride-on-rails stability during high-speed maneuvering.
On the racetrack, the 675 is rewarding to ride for just about any skill level. Ole is of course in love with the bike, but Lee also raved about the solid handling. Gabe said the 675 was like "the world's fastest SV650", which speaks volumes about the bike's confidence-building handling and poise. Pete claimed he could "get the front to protest with a little head shake" from time to time, but the 675 always calmed right down, thanks to the steering damper tucked in under the steering head.
So can you guess if we liked it? Here's what our guys had to say:
"I had the most fun [on the 675]", said Pete."Such a wonderful sound" says Gabe.
"The best sound, feel and torque" opines Ole.
"Finally, a bike that's uniquely a Triumph", chimes in Lee.
Once every five or so years a sportbike comes along that really inspires passion in consumers, even if it's not the fastest or most radical-handling. The Honda VF750F of 1983 was such a bike, as was the Yamaha YZF 750. Ducati's 916 is still such an icon that many Ducati fans turn their noses up at the faster, better-handling and more reliable 999-series.
The 675 is such a bike. It's styled right and makes very competitive power for the middleweight class. The handling is good enough to please an expert without intimidating less-skilled riders. And it does it all using unique elements like the sexy aluminum frame and sexier three-cylinder motor.
With this bike Triumph shows it can build a bike that not only competes with Japanese and other European factories on their own terms, but also retain a character that is unlike any other marque. It's not the most comfortable bike Â- in fact it's the least comfortable sportbike we've parked editorial tushies on since the Aprilia RSV1000 -- but we think a few inexpensive modifications should fix that right up.
675 Tech Talk
The bike we've been wishing Triumph would make for a long time, the 675 uses a lot of cutting-edge technology to create a bike that will beat the giant Japanese factories at their own game. The heart is an incredibly compact, liquid-cooled 12-valve three-cylinder motor. The pistons are jumbo-sized, with a 74 mm bore and 52.3 mm stroke. The compression ratio is a sporty 12.65:1 and fueling duties are handled by a multipoint sequential electronic fuel injection system managed by an inductive digital ignition and an electronic engine management system. Triumph claims 123 hp at the crank, numbers right in line with our reading of 108 hp at the back wheel on the MO Dynojet Dyno.The 675 is definitely not the most comfortable bike we've tested...
The chassis is also innovative, with the extruded aluminum frame spars arching over the motor to give it a slender, compact feel. The wheelbase is a stubby 54.8 inches and the chassis geometry is fashionably aggressive with 23.5 degrees of rake and 86.8 mm of trail. Suspension is handled by a pair of gold-anodized 41 mm inverted forks, adjustable for preload, rebound and compression damping. The rear shock works through a linkage and is also three-way adjustable. It also has a ride-height adjuster, if you can scrounge the right sized washers and don't mind taking the shock out to adjust it. Brakes are radial-mount four-piston calipers and 308 mm free-floating discs.
The bike is topped off with swoopy, modern-looking bodywork and an all-steel tank, a welcome thing if you've got a tankbag. The instrument panel is loaded with features, but there is no anti-theft system built into the ignition. With a price of just $8,999, the Triumph is priced right in line with its Asian competitors.
This text is from our 2006 Open Middleweights Comparison Test.
Triumph's latest middleweight is the most impressive new sportbike we've seen in many years save its narrow, poorly angled handlebars that were optimized for significantly reduced. We only wish we could have tried them at the track as we'd bet they would have been worth a full second a lap. On the street the change meant an additional 30-40 minutes of comfort before our backs and wrists began to get sore. That could be the difference between deciding to take the bike somewhere or opting for the much lamer but more comfortable four-wheeled option.
It's always nice to find a product that can make life better for both the street and the track rider. While we would have liked to have seen the bars use clamps with replaceable tubes in case of a crash, Heli President Harry Eddy says that that design produces too much of a compromise in strength or bulk in this particular application. With product liability lawsuits being what they are in this country, we can understand his hesitation. In any case, the solid design also looks extremely trick and the improvement in steering/comfort more than justifies the asking price.
Now it's time to look over our notes and tally the votes. Does that character and ease-of-use overcome the 675's huge power disadvantage? Or will our riders listen to reason and vote the more traditional sporting machines number one?