“You guys never say anything bad about the bikes you test.”
It’s a comment the MO staff occasionally hears, but to be honest, practically every motorcycle you can currently buy in the United States (we don’t have much experience with the small-displacement scoots sold in Asia) is pretty darn good. However, that doesn’t mean there haven’t been some bad apples in the bunch, and for this week’s Top 10 list we MOrons are going to satisfy your curiosity with 10 motorcycles that left us feeling a little disappointed after testing them. The main crew of Kevin, Tom, Evans, John, and Yours Truly have scanned our memory banks for motorcycles we were really excited to ride, but were instead left with a sour taste in our mouths. Here they are, in no particular order.
One of the earliest motorcycles I’d ever ridden, it’s a good thing I didn’t know much about riding when I hopped on the Suzuki Katana 600. My lasting memory of it was a motorcycle that was slow and heavy – a bad combination for a Suzuki with the letters “GSX” attached to its name badge. It wasn’t until hopping onto a friend’s Yamaha FZR600 that I realized how underwhelming the Suzuki really was. As a mode of transportation, the Katana was stone reliable, but as a sport-oriented motorcycle it didn’t hit the mark. To be fair, I’m talking about the bikes otherwise known as GSX600F models from the 1990s and early 2000s, not the original Hans Muth-designed Katanas. Those bikes were cool.
Senior Diaper Changing Editor Tom Roderick isn’t one to talk when it comes to looks or style, but he echoes the sentiments of many in regards to the styling of the Pierre Terblanche-designed Ducati Multistradas. “Probably the most hideously styled Ducati ever,” were Tom’s exact words. It’s a weird-looking bike, to be sure, with its insect-like styling and upper windscreen that moves with the handlebar whenever you turn it. But as Duke notes, once you’re riding it, you can’t see how ugly it is anyway. This was made easier by the fact the Multistrada 1100 was a functionally fantastic motorcycle, capable of burning miles with impressive performance and comfort. Still, you have to get off the bike eventually, and few can honestly say this is a beautiful sculpture to stare at. In terms of Italian beauty, the first-gen Multistrada missed the mark.
E-i-C Duke offers up the 2006 Kawasaki ZX-10R as the bike that left him feeling disappointed. Yikes. What in the world did Team Green’s ferocious literbike do to leave KD down? Here’s Kevin: “That ZX felt big and top heavy, especially compared to the previous edition, which was the lightest and lithest literbike at the time with an awe-inspiring ripper of a motor. The ’06 was still plenty fast, but its bulkier nature made it feel like a step backward.”
Tom’s at it again with his nomination of the 1992 Suzuki GSX-R600. The expletives he used when describing the Gixxer aren’t appropriate for a family site like this one – the word “overweight” the only one to make it by our corporate censors. A sleeved-down version of the superbike-worthy GSX-R750 meant the 600 variant was not only slower than its bigger, racier brother, but it was heavier, too. A lose/lose situation.
If you’re looking for a perfect example of a motorcycle that should have been awesome but failed miserably, both Burns and Duke agree the Bimota Vdue is it. The company’s first and only attempt at producing an engine on its own instead of borrowing from others, on paper it had two ingredients that should have made a recipe for greatness: 1.) 500cc 2.) Two-stroke
The reality, however, was an utter disaster. When JB and KD rode it at Streets of Willow back in 1997, its fuel injection system was simply terrible, and no amount of ECU twiddling fixed the horribly lurchy and unpredictable throttle response. It was so bad that JB remembers taking the bike out for just a few laps before calling it quits. Duke persevered but it never ran right. In fact, Bimota was never able to make it run properly, and it eventually caused the temporary demise of the little Italian company. Later efforts at bolting on carburetors cured the problem for track bikes, but they were no longer street legal. Relegated to an unfortunate corner of motorcycle trivia, the Vdue was a harsh way of telling Bimota to stick to what they were good at: building frames around other people’s engines.
If cruisers are meant for, well, cruising, then that implies a cruiser should be able to travel in relative comfort. Consider the Suzuki Marauder the exception to the rule. It should have been a good motorcycle, with its inverted fork, 800cc V-Twin, chain drive, five-speed trans, and fresh looks. But the harsh reality was that it missed the mark. Nominated from the man currently setting up Motorcycle.com’s Sturgis, South Dakota post, Evans Brasfield, Fireball isn’t a fan of the Marauder, and neither were we when we tested it against its peers back in 1997. Evans wasn’t a part of that test, but he hates the Marauder’s seat “that lined up exactly with my coccyx.” The 1997 MO crew weren’t fond of their bike either, saying it started to irritate “in under five minutes.” To make matters worse, the Zook had terrible carburetion and uncomfortable ergos to go along with the awful seat.
Our apologies to Suzuki fans who have suffered the nomination of three bikes to this list. The barrage to your brand is now over.
Oh, the poor Honda Pacific Coast. If ever there was a love-it-or-hate-it motorcycle from the past two decades, the PC 800 would be it. Capable of securely carrying a week’s worth of groceries for a small family, the MO staff of 1998 called the bike “The station wagon of motorcycles,” and depending how you feel about station wagons you either take that as a compliment or an insult. Personally, I like station wagons.
However, there’s no denying the PC 800 is an ugly bike. It’s not the most masculine, either – that’s the price you pay for supreme practicality. And if you’re of the camp that despises the Pacific Coast, like our minivan editor Roderick, then the sight of the picture above probably makes you want to throw up in your mouth a little. Says Tom, “The PC800 was the original maxi-scooter before maxi-scooters even existed. Hold on… describing the PC800 as a maxi-scooter is disparaging to BMW’s C650 Sport which would embarrassingly outperform the Pacific Coast.”
Sorry, Ducatisti, but the Streetfighter, in my mind, had a lot to live up to and fell short of those expectations. I was skeptical when Ducati decided to split its naked bike segment and give the Monster air-cooled engines and the new Streetfighter line liquid-cooled mills. As a fan of the Monster lineage the styling of the Streetfighter didn’t appeal to me – the Monster is beautiful and attractive, the Streetfighter a member of Fight Club – and yet if I wanted maximum performance from a Ducati naked bike, the SF was where I’d find the 1098’s monstrous V-Twin.
Sure that engine is a ripper, but power application is jumpy at low speeds and once it got roaring there was an imbalance between it, the chassis, and base model suspension (the 848 version was much better balanced). Then once you look past the enormous power you’re greeted by a stiff and grabby dry clutch, a tall seat, slippery pegs, and an enormously annoying exhaust shield that forces your right heel to point awkwardly outward. It would seem as though I’m not the only one who was let down by the Streetfighter, since Ducati axed the SF line and brought the big engines back to the Monster.
We gotta give props to small boutique brands like Confederate for even putting forth an effort, and in the case of Confederate, its efforts are some of the best looking we’ve seen in the cruiser (if you want to call it that) category. That said, boutique brands are subject to growing pains just like everyone else, and in the case of the Confederate America GT there were definitely some oversights.
Cruiser guy Brasfield got his hands on an America GT while he was at another publication, and while it soaked up the attention of everyone’s eyeballs, once EB got to riding it, it was his clothes that soaked up a gallon of gasoline – the five-gallon tank’s poor sealing meant you could only put four gallons in it without risk of it sloshing out. Then there was the poor fueling issue and terrible vibration that all combined to let the bike down. The America GT sure is a looker, though, and that makes up for a lot. At least for a little while.
Speaking of small boutique brands, we can’t forget about Cleveland Cyclewerks. We gotta give this small company credit for its well-styled and affordable motorcycles. If you’re pinching pennies to the extreme yet still want a new bike that has attitude, CCW is worth a look. Take Tha Heist, for example (yes, that’s its full name). We think it looks pretty good for a hardtail. When new in 2012 it cost $3,200 and even came with a 12-month warranty.
You’ll likely need it if our short time with Tha Heist was any indication, as the tail light and one of the footpeg assemblies vibrated itself loose within the first 50 kilometers of riding it. Everything stayed in place after we tightened the bolts back up, but other concerns included a sticky front fork, questionable handling, oil seepage from its Chinese-made Lifan air-cooled Single, and overall lack of quality compared to its Japanese rivals.