We last performed this public service in 2017, when your Yamaha FZ-07 prevailed over the Kawasaki Z650, Suzuki SV650, the new Harley-Davidson Street Rod, and the new and indeterminate Benelli TnT 600, in that order. The FZ-07 has since morphed into the MT-07 amidst a host of well thought-out upgrades in 2018, and then again for 2021. The Z650 got a modern instrument pod in 2020 with a few other tasteful refinements, and the SV650 hasn’t changed a bit (God bless it). The Benelli is still around but didn’t get the call this time, and the H-D Street Rod has been withdrawn from the market under a hail of ridicule. Sad.

Luckily for us all, two brand-new motorcycles have dropped into our laps for 2021 to challenge the status quo: the Aprilia Tuono 660 and the Triumph Trident 660. I mean three. Let’s not forget the easily forgettable Honda CB650R.

Why is this happening?

From Ryan Adams’ MT-07 review in 2018: “According to Yamaha, the Hypernaked category, which in these statistics include all manufacturers, is up by a staggering 260% since 2012. As supersport sales have decreased, we see these more versatile machines rise in popularity.”

At the launch of this year’s MT, Troy learned Yamaha has sold more than 25,000 FZ/MT-07s to owners spanning age groups from 25 to 55, with most buyers in their early 30s, but only by a few percentage points.

As the rich get richer and demand ever-more sophisticated superbikes and ADV machines but fewer of them, the time is again ripe for great motorcycles in the $8,000 range for the rest of us peasants – UJMs that no longer necessarily come from Japan. And the suddenly fierce competition in this class has happily gotten us to the current situation, where there are absolutely no stinkers left in the group. Though the stinkiest would be the…

6. Suzuki SV650 ABS

2021 Suzuki SV650

Ryan Adams: 6th place, 76.0%
John Burns: 6th place, 77.9%
Troy Siahaan: 5th place, 79.2%

See what I mean? Every time we’ve done this before, the Suzuki’s always nipped right at the Yamaha’s heels. Alas, the Yamaha and Kawasaki have both evolved, while Suzuki has stood pat with the SV since reintroducing it for 2017 as a motorcycle not much changed since 2009. That was the year the bike got its current steel frame and was saddled with the name Gladius, which is a short Roman sword, supposedly.

2021 Suzuki SV650

In 2021, the SV is no longer all that short, with a wheelbase longer than all the others except the Honda, which is necessitated by the fact that its twin-cylinder engine is a 90-degree V, unlike the three Parallel Twins here. And its 438-pound wet weight means it’s now out-porked only by the Honda. The lightest, the Aprilia, is 37 lbs. or about 9% lighter.

But our Performance Bias slip is showing, because unless your main goal is to tear around on curvy mountain roads all day, it barely matters: 72 horsepower and 43 pound-feet of torque are plenty, and the SV’s original design brief to be the poor man’s Ducati is as viable as ever. (The rich man’s new Ducati Monster goes for $12k to the SV ABS’s $7,700.)

2021 Suzuki SV650 engine

That lusty little L-Twin still makes all the right sounds: It grabbed a solid third place in the Engine category on the official MO Scorecard, even as it chalked up a solid 6th place in nearly every other category including Cool Factor, where it registered a dismal 63%. To the SV’s credit, it beat both the Honda and the Aprilia in maybe the most important category: Grin Factor. Do not question the MO Scorecard.

Troy, who can’t quit the SV, ranked it not last, and ahead of the Honda: I’m a sucker for the SV650. Everyone knows that. But for good reason: that engine is still so good. It’s the only V-Twin in this group, and its beauty is the healthy amount of power it makes in the mid-range. Better still, it can rev to 10,000 rpm and the power drop-off isn’t too bad. Two decades later (albeit with a few improvements, but basically the same), the SV engine still holds its own.

2021 Suzuki SV650

She’s just a bit old-fashioned, but others would call that classic. The LCD instrument panel that was kind of cool ten years ago is now embarrassing. The seat seems to rotate your pelvis a tad forward, which gets old on long freeway stints, when the thinness of the foam begins to assert itself… but she runs smooth and true at 80 mph and would make a fine commuter/ bike-about town with a bit more stuffing in the seat. Also, the SV’s slightly larger dimensions tend to make it a hit with larger, taller persons. Drive a hard bargain.

2021 Suzuki SV650 LCD display

Nothing too confusing here, at least.

Ryan says: I want to dislike the SV more than I do. It is the definition of resting on one’s laurels. The thing is it’s still a pretty good bike. Riding here side by side with the others just further illustrates that fact. The motor is one of my favorites with strong punchy torque when you want it, and it offers a unique feel from its 90-degree V-Twin engine. The suspension is somewhat firm compared to the others in the group, and the damping feels less than refined. At least the rear end doesn’t feel like it’s made from a pogo stick like the MT-07’s shock. [We all agreed the MT was much improved after we dialed in more rebound damping – an adjustment only found on the MT and the Aprilia.]

As far as ergos go, the Zuk’s rider triangle feels a bit small – not as much as the Kawi though. The seat is fairly small and slightly angled forward which kept causing me to have to push myself back after sliding forward over time.

5. Honda CB650R

2021 Honda CB650R

Ryan Adams: 3rd place, 82.3%
John Burns: 5th place, 81.3%
Troy Siahaan: 6th place, 77.1%

If it didn’t say CB on the side and have an R on the end, you might go easier on this Honda, but since it does… On these class V sporty SoCal backroads, you can’t forget how good all Honda’s CBR600Fs used to be, F2, F3, F4i… heck, all the CBs, whether they end in F or R. Nearly all of them have had a magical blend of handling, power and/or utility.

Honda CB650R Review – First Ride

The 650R, with its neo café retro look, makes everybody want to like this modern iteration, but its flaccid engine performance makes it a hard motorcycle to love.

2021 middleweight naked shootout torque dyno

The dynamometer doesn’t always tell the whole tale, but in this case, the Honda’s torque curve is a very accurate reflection of how its engine feels on the road. We’ve come to expect a little top-end peakiness from Inline-Fours (the beauty of the old CBR600s is that they weren’t very), but the 650R is not only weakest in the mid-range, you’re also left waiting for a horsepower peak that never comes: 82? Is that all there is, my friend?

2021 middleweight naked shootout hp dyno

Well, 82 horses is the second-most here, but having to spool up to 11,000 rpm to access it is just too much like work, especially on the gnarly, bumpy backroads that made up the bulk of this test loop. All the other bikes (except one) are just getting off work and having a beer, and the Honda’s checking in for the night shift.

2021 Honda CB650R

Which is a shame, because the rest of the package is pretty swell, including an inverted fork, good brakes, nice ergonomics… On the other hand, Honda doesn’t even bother with plastic modesty panels like the others to cover its steel frame’s join welds. And the signature, CB400F-homage stainless “waterfall” exhaust headers have already begun to discolor in an unpleasant way, just like the ones on the CB1000R did. (Click the pic to zoom in.)

2021 Honda CB650R

Ryan Adams liked the Honda well enough to rank it #3 on his Scorecard, and furiously defends it thusly:

I think the CB650R is one of the best looking bikes in this comparison. The color palette used throughout the bike lends a really mature and classy look to the Honda, keeping it in vogue with the Neo Sports Café line-up.

I didn’t really have any complaints about any of the transmissions out of this group of bikes, but the Honda’s slipper clutch is on an entirely different level. Pull at the clutch lever is incredibly light; you can bang downshifts with reckless abandon and its slipper clutch smooths out your poor choices before they make it to the rear wheel.

2021 Honda CB650R engine

Around town the CB’s 649cc mill is sewing machine smooth and delivers linear power as it climbs through the revs, but it doesn’t provide the low to mid-range punch that the Twins or the Triple here have. If you’re really looking to tap into the meat of the Honda’s power out on canyon roads, its Inline-Four is going to need to be between 10,000 and its 13,500 redline which makes it feel a bit manic compared to the others here that deliver torque almost anywhere you want it in the rev-range. With that top end power you’re also getting a lot of high-frequency vibration throughout the entire bike, starting at 5,000 rpm. What that all boils down to is a less than stellar riding experience from the engine when you’re pushing its limits.

The Showa suspension components on the CB650R were some of the best in this test. Despite the Honda’s 42 pounds over the lightest bike in our group, the Showa components kept the Honda composed in most scenarios better than the rest. Its longer trail, longest wheelbase, and most rake keep the Honda stable, though with its low wide handlebar, it’s still easy to bend through corners.

The Honda CB650R feels like it would be the best fit for larger riders out of the group. The Triumph and Yamaha aren’t bad either, but the Honda feels like the biggest motorcycle here while also offering the most open rider triangle.

2021 Honda CB650R

Troy ranked the CB dead last. We’ll just print the nice things he had to say about it:

Grown-up ergos are nice. The Honda feels like a proper, full-size motorcycle. Not a toy. The seat is wide and the tank is relatively wide, so when you’re sitting on it, your knees don’t feel like they’re about to touch each other.

Chassis and suspension is the Honda’s saving grace. It feels very composed and handles the choppy roads with far less flex than some of the others. Inverted forks, though non-adjustable, definitely help with chassis rigidity. Brakes are soft, but I guess that’s to be expected with these budget bikes. The Honda’s extra weight doesn’t do it any favors in the braking department.

2021 Honda CB650R front wheel

LCD gauges are hard to read, especially in direct sunlight, though it’s nice to be able to turn TC on or off with a dedicated button and the indicator light is right there on the dash to see.

Excellent slipper clutch and light pull: Could go all the way down the gears with no drama.

2021 Honda CB650R display

Neo retro chic is sometimes impossible to read.

The Honda’s styling is pretty cool. It looks futuristic, elegant, and modern. But it’s the second-most expensive motorcycle in this test, and I’m having a hard time justifying the cost. Like I said before, if the engine made its power a lot earlier – and with a few counterbalancers thrown in – it would help the CB650R’s case. As it is, I just don’t see it.

It’s true. Just like the SV650, in the urban milieu the CB seems to prefer – where you’re competing against cars instead of corner exits and Yamahas – the CB feels plenty powerful and smooth. Still, there’s no getting around the Scorecard’s final all-seeing category: Grin Factor. This rather non-charismatic Honda finishes dead last.

4. Kawasaki Z650 ABS

2021 Kawasaki Z650

Ryan A: 4th place, 81.9%
JB: 4th place, 82.1%
Trizzle: 4th place, 80.0%

The Z650 sprung from Kawi’s loins for the 2017 model year, packing the tried-and-true 649cc Parallel-Twin into a new steel trellis frame that got high marks for, well, everything. It won our Handling and Suspension categories that year on its way to finishing second behind the then FZ-07, amidst universal praise.

For 2020, Kawasaki gave the Z a few tasty upgrades: new styling to include LED headlights, a new colored TFT dash with smartphone connectivity, Dunlop Roadsport 2 tires, and increased passenger comfort. Sadly, we have no passengers.

2021 Kawasaki Z650

This year, the test route was way bumpier and the competition fiercer.

At heart, the smallness and nimbleness of the thing is still the deal with the Z. At 412 pounds, it’s not quite the lightest, its wheelbase and trail aren’t quite the shortest, and its seat isn’t quite the lowest… but it feels like it’s all those things, especially when the road goes all twisty – maybe because it and the Suzuki are the only ones with 160-section rear tires instead of 180s. It also feels like it’s got the lightest-sprung suspension, which all combine to let you flop the Z onto its side pretty much instantly trail-braking into corners, which allows you to point it down the next straight and get back on the gas a tic quicker than any of the others. If you don’t mind its sproinging up and down over the bumps, anyway, which I don’t – and even kind of enjoy since it lets you feel the contact patches more.

2021 Kawasaki Z650

If the next straight is short, you can keep up with anything thanks to the Z’s competitive torque output. If it’s long, you’ll need to stay in the draft of the other bikes or be left behind, since they all have significant horsepower advantages.

Ryan A: I think I was most surprised by the Z650. It has the same solid torque curve that I liked in the Suzuki, which makes it easy to squirt around town or from apex to apex on canyon roads. Not to mention the intake howl from the Kawi is intoxicating.

The chassis of the Z650 is probably one of its downfalls among this group. Both it and the Yamaha’s backbone frames have a lot of flex, which makes them feel a bit noodly on bumpy canyon roads. At speed, you also move through the suspension stroke fairly easily on the Z650. It’s still a fun machine to ride at a sporting pace, but you reach the chassis’ limits faster than the other bikes.

2021 Kawasaki Z650

The Z650 is definitely the best bike here for smaller riders. That low seat height offers pros and cons: After some time on the freeway it didn’t take long to become keenly aware of just how much my knees were bent. If I were to consider the Kawi, I’d pop for the $176 extended reach seat which adds an inch to its seat height.

At higher rpm, vibrations begin to make their way through the seat, but cruising at 80 mph (6,000 rpm) it’s smooth as buttuh.

TFT display is bright and vivid offering an easy to read display with just the right amount of info to process at a glance.

2021 Kawasaki Z650 display

What does Troy the Road Test Editor think? I’m a fan of the Z650’s immediate, usable, power. There’s a generous amount of torque down low, it’s pretty smooth, and though it doesn’t make as much as some of the others on top, there’s still a decent amount of top-end power. The 180º firing order of the Kawi’s Parallel-Twin doesn’t excite me much, but the intake growl at full-gas is pretty cool. I’ve heard this engine with open exhausts. It still doesn’t sound very good.

Bars are placed just right. The bendy and flexible chassis prefers smooth inputs and pavement. Engine pulls nicely in the mid range. Over the bumpy and choppy part of our ride, the entire bike would get really unsettled. You can feel the chassis flex a lot and the front end gets unstable.

New TFT gauges are a huge plus in this price range – really nice to look at and easy to read.

The Z’s just a happy little motorcycle, and if you’re a happy little person, its lighter-sprung suspension, low seat, and sprightly nature could be just right. Not that more experienced and larger riders can’t like it too. (See also the ever-popular Versys 650: same engine, more Versatile System.)

3. Yamaha MT-07

2021 Yamaha MT-07

Ryan A: 5th place, 80.2%
Jabbles: 2nd place, 87.5%
Treezle: 3rd place, 80.8%

Even with the winning engine, second place finishes in Ergonomics/Comfort, Suspension (a tie with the Honda), and GRIN FACTOR… our former champ is relegated to third place.

2021 Yamaha MT-07 First Ride Review

Ryan A: The motor is definitely the star of the MT-07 show. It delivers punchy torque throughout the rev-range any time you want it. It’s an excellent motor for the MT, and even better suited – in my opinion – to the Ténéré 700.

2021 Yamaha MT-07

The lack of a slipper clutch combined with the punchy Parallel-Twin makes the MT-07 the most difficult bike to ride smoothly out of this sextet. It’s not a friendly motorcycle to the inexperienced and certainly not a motorcycle I would recommend to new riders

The riding position is nicely neutral. Not too much of a sit-up-and-beg position, like the Trident, but a bit more leaned forward with a flatter handlebar. The seat is large and easy to move around on, but it’s not the most cush out of this group.

The Yamaha just gives off a bit of a cheap feel to me. The motor is great, but that’s about it. The suspension feels cheap, the lack of a slipper clutch makes it feel cheap, some of the finishes don’t feel great – but I guess it is pretty cheap as far as its pricing too.

2021 Yamaha MT-07

Trizzle thinks: Despite the fact the backbone frame and traditional fork bend and flex and bob and weave when the road turns ugly, Yamaha’s CP2 engine is so great I don’t really care.

During normal riding or around town, the suspension and chassis are nice and comfortable and well damped. Slow down the rear rebound (basically the only thing you can adjust on any of these bikes anyway), and the ride is actually pretty nice.

2021 Yamaha MT-07 engine

Back to the engine – it’s the definition of “usable power.” Power where you want it, when you want it. This is obvious when looking at the dyno chart, too. Basically from idle, the MT-07 torque curve towers over the other five. It runs out of steam a little on top, but that doesn’t matter for normal riding.

The seat’s wide and fairly well padded. The bars are a little closer to the rider. Since you’re sitting so upright, on the freeway it makes you a sail at 80 mph.

2021 Yamaha MT-07 front wheel

The front brake is abrupt, with little feel, and it would be nice to have a slipper clutch. I guess they had to save something for the R7.

2021 Yamaha MT-07 display

LCD gauges aren’t anything to write home about, but at least the info is visible in direct light.

The Yamaha is basically the opposite of the Honda, in terms of the engine making a massive difference. If it weren’t for the engine, the MT-07 would be pretty far down the rankings. The black plastic fork covers to fake the appearance of inverted forks is pretty lame, but that’s what you get on an inexpensive bike.

Personally, I don’t know what’s wrong with today’s youth? In the old days, we would say the MT’s chassis has a lively feel, thanks to springs a bit stiffer than the Kawasaki’s but softer than the other contestants. It does weave and bob through the bumps, but never shakes its head or does anything frightening. The MT’s got the least trail – just 3.5 inches – and you can almost bend over and look into its beady eyeball you’re sat so far forward on it; only the 30%-more expensive Aprilia is 5 pounds lighter. All that means the MT turns instantly, like the Z650.

2021 Yamaha MT-07

All I know is, when I felt like I was really flying on the Aprilia, I’d glance in a mirror and there would be the MT and Triumph right on my six. And when we dialed up more rebound damping in the MT’s shock on day two (the only bike here with that adjustment besides the Aprilia), she was even better. The Michelin Road 5 tires the MT gets (and the Triumph) as standard equipment definitely don’t hurt its performance.

2021 Yamaha MT-07 seat

The best place for wide loads.

It all adds up to a motorcycle that never feels all that fast, but just is. And easy to ride, to boot. As for everyday and freeway use, well, I had a 2018 MT on long-term loan there for a while. A stellar, smooth-running, gas-sipping everyday bike that definitely belongs in the top two of these six bikes, which is where I ranked it.

2. Aprilia Tuono 660

2021 Aprilia Tuono 660

Ryan A: 2nd, 86.9%
John B: 3rd, 85.8%
Troy S: 2nd, 82.9%

The real battle was for second place, with the new Aprilia edging out the Yamaha by a mere 0.3%. An obtrusive mid-range flatspot and high-rpm buzz relegated the Tuono’s most-powerful engine to next-to-last place, but the optional quickshifter secured it the win in the Transmission category. It also took the win in Handling, picked up a big win in Technologies (courtesy of its IMU, advanced rider aids, and cruise control) – and grabbed another first place in Cool Factor. But the racy Aprilia ranked dead last in Ergonomics/Comfort (even though it’s not at all bad) and next to last in Grin Factor. This is a serious sportbike, people, not a toy. Wipe that smile off your face!

2021 Aprilia Tuono 660 Review – First Ride

Ryan Adams loves the Tuono:

When I mentioned the Honda was one of the best looking bikes here instead of the best looking bike, it was because the Tuono 660 is equally – albeit at the other end of the spectrum – a fantastic looking bike. The way the matte and gloss finishes interact with the overall styling to create its uniquely Italian sportbike flair is, in a word, stimulating. Like many things, auditory pleasure is subjective, but the Tuono 660 should come with a “likely to induce eargasm” warning.

2021 Aprilia Tuono 660

The electronics on board the Tuono 660 not only blow everything out of the water here, but also compete at the higher displacement level and price with other bikes on the market. The Aprilia offers rider modes including two completely customizable modes that allow you to fine tune the machine to just the way you want to ride it. The other way of looking at this though is, does one need all of this adjustment on a 659cc Parallel-Twin?

The quickshifter is nice at high rpm, but not nearly as smooth if you’re just being lazy.

2021 Aprilia Tuono 660

I never thought the Tuono 660’s 32.3-inch seat height was all that bad until I started jumping on and off the other bikes here. It’s not only the tall seat height, the Aprilia is much wider at the seat, which makes getting one’s feet on the ground more challenging.

Despite its bigger brother offering sportbike-like steering sweep from lock-to-lock, the Tuono 660 has plenty of sweep, which is great for maneuvering through traffic or doing endless photo and video passes on canyon roads.

The Tuono chassis is infinitely more stable than most bikes in this group. It is the most composed at speed leaned over and generally while cruising. On the highway though, sharp bumps can harshly make their way through to the rider.

Troy is less enamored of the sexy Italian nymphet:

I’m conflicted with the Tuono. There are some categories on the scorecard it clearly wins: Appearance, Technology, Cool Factor, and Handling. Those wins elevated the bike so much on the cards it masks how awful the engine is in the real world.

2021 Aprilia Tuono 660 engine

The Tuono’s 659cc Parallel-Twin admittedly sounds awesome with its 270° firing order, but it’s absolutely gutless in the midrange where the majority of riders spend their time. Yes, it has the most power, but you only feel that once the engine is screaming.

In the canyons, where a bike like this will likely spend some time, trying to get drive out of a corner is downright frustrating, as you’ll open the throttle and nothing will happen. Then, suddenly, you’ll hit the pipe and it feels like a two-stroke.

Also, once you get the Tuono 660 up in the power, it vibrates and buzzes so much it dulls your hands. Good thing it has cruise control, so at least you don’t have to worry about it on the freeway.

2021 Aprilia Tuono 660

Adding insult to injury, the fueling surges under steady throttle. Different power modes don’t make a difference. No matter how smooth I tried to be with the throttle, the power application was twitchy. Even steady throttle on the freeway I could feel the bike surging back and forth. Cruise control cured this, but you can’t always put CC on. The mid-range dip and flat spot are so egregious they really detract from the motorcycle.

It’s clearly very sporty and the most sport-oriented of the group. The chassis is much more communicative than all the other bikes.

It’s the only bike with an autoblipper, but it is an option (Triumph offers one too.) So is the IMU. That said, I think both are options you should get.

The electronics suite is impressive, but it comes at a cost. The Tuono 660 is the most expensive bike here, by far. Do you really need that many ride modes, different levels of TC, ABS, engine braking, and wheelie control on a bike with no torque? I’d argue you don’t. Or at least not to that extreme.

Like the Honda, if the gutless midrange (and low-rpm flat spot) were cured, the Tuono 660 would easily punch above its weight. As it is, I think it’s lucky to have placed second.

2021 Aprilia Tuono 660 display

As for me, JB, I thought I was being generous to rank the Tuono third, which it won mostly by dint of being the only one with standard cruise control. Riding it home from our mountain testing grounds on day four, the Tuono gave me one of the finest commutes of my life. Tail-end pandemic traffic does weird things, and I’ve never seen that stretch of I-5 so empty through LA, one section of which is brand new and about five lanes wide. The Tuono’s top speed exceeds 120 mph, and if there’s a governor on the cruise control it’s somewhere above 95. It’s still a bit vibey up there, but at that speed everything else is working great. And it’s nice to have a small fairing for sure at higher speeds.

2021 Aprilia Tuono 660 seat

Not a bad place for longer-legged, thinner people.

Most of the time, though, I’m going to have to take the Siahaan line on the Tuono: The big flat spot in the midrange – right where a Twin is supposed to excel (and accel) – kind of ruins it for me, along with high-rpm vibration that’s worse on the handlebarred Tuono than it was on the clip-on RS. As soon as somebody finds a fix for those things, I heartily endorse the rest of the sportiest package here.

Winner: Triumph Trident 660

2021 Triumph Trident 660

Ryan A: 1st place, 87.5%
John B: 1st place, 90.4%
Troy S: 1st place, 86.3%

The Trident racked up wins in Ergonomics/Comfort, in Instruments/Controls, and in Quality/Fit/Finish – before destroying the runner-up Aprilia in Grin Factor 92.5% to 72%. Every bike but the Honda elicited more Grins than the Aprilia, matter of fact.

The sweet 660 Triumph triple ranked less than 1% behind the winning Yamaha twin for best Engine. The Yamaha’s torque curve is the clear winner on the dyno, but that advantage isn’t nearly as clear on the road. The Trident tied the Aprilia for first in Brakes and Suspension, and finished no worse than second in any category, including Cool Factor.

2021 Triumph Trident 660

2021 Triumph Trident Review – First Ride

Even Ryan has nothing negative to say about the Trident: Who would’ve thought the Triumph Trident 660 would be the sleeper bike in this crew? The 660cc Triple is as smooth as the Honda’s mill, but builds up into the meat of its power much sooner and still offers an exciting rush above 7,000 rpm.

Ergos aren’t my favorite, but they are perfectly neutral and very comfortable around town. It’s out on bumpy fast canyon roads that I felt I had to work to keep weight over the front tire to feel confident with the front end. The suspension is firm but doesn’t seem as well damped as the Tuono 660 and CB650R.

2021 Triumph Trident 660

The Trident feels like a quality machine on par with the Honda and Aprilia. The finishes are great, the dash looks clean and modern, and the color options for the bike are equally so.

Smooth is a great word to describe the Triumph. The engine is just as fun around town as it is in the canyons and delivers smooth power with little to no vibration getting through to the rider at any rpm.

2021 Triumph Trident 660 engine

Three cylinders seems to be an excellent compromise in the class.

Troy, who said he knew the Triumph would emerge Triumphant after only about ten miles on it, is down: Initial thoughts: Triumph is really good!

It’s narrow and easy to touch feet down. So, it’s great for even newer riders. Not sure I’d call this, or any of these bikes, good first bikes though.

Triumph has been making three-cylinders for a long time, and the 660 is proof of how that constant refinement is paying off. It’s smooooth. There’s very little vibration, even at high rpm. Not to mention that sweet Triple sound is every bit as cool sounding as the Aprilia’s bark. The Trident makes nice, linear power. There’s a tiny delay at tiny throttle openings, but then it’s very strong in the middle with great fuel delivery. It runs out of steam up top compared to the Tuono, but it’ll still rev pretty high. Plus, the power drop off isn’t drastic.

2021 Triumph Trident 660 front wheel

Not the latest braking hardware but more than adequate for the 427-pound Trident (which is probably closer to Triumph’s 417-lb claim, since ours has optional passenger grab rails and engine guards).

Strong brakes! I’m surprised to see steel brake lines, but maybe I should be surprised a lot of the others still use rubber nowadays. Not a ton of feel though. After coming off the Aprilia’s Brembo lever, the Trident lever is thin and kinda flimsy. But if this were your bike, you’d get used to it or you’d change it anyway.

Two ride modes – Road and Rain – come with pre-mapped power and TC settings. You can also turn TC off entirely, but not ABS. All of these impressions are from the standard Road mode which, if you haven’t noticed by now, is really impressive.

One of the few with inverted forks, the chassis was composed and neutral. But the Trident is also not a Street Triple or Daytona. It doesn’t handle the bumpy roads nearly as well, but among this crowd of bikes, it’s one of the more composed. For normal riding, it’s every bit a stable, compliant, and comfortable ride. For the occasional canyon ride, I’d like more weight over the front, but again, that’s a nitpick instead of a complaint.

When I first saw it, the styling didn’t really do anything for me. I was kinda hoping for a different headlight instead of a round one. Then I realized that bike is called the Street Triple. That said, the LED headlight is the best and brightest here, by far, in the daytime anyway. I could see it from a mile away – and that’s the low beam!

2021 Triumph Trident 660

I could make arguments for rearranging the final order of all the bikes, but I think we’re all in agreement in placing the Triumph at the top of the list. It’s comfortable, stylish, and has a great overall package with a killer three-cylinder engine.

2021 Triumph Trident 660 display

Triumph, like Paul Masson, will release no wine before its time. Which makes it difficult to understand why any major manufacturer would, knowing we hypercritical motojournalists are going to get our hands on it first? It’s brand new, but everything about the Trident worked seamlessly right out of the crate, and continues to – just like every Triumph we’ve had the pleasure of testing in the modern era (with the possible exception of the TT600 20 years ago).

It’s not perfect, but the Trident’s about as close as it gets for $8,095 (and its maintenance requirements are likewise affordable). A smidge less high-speed compression damping in its otherwise very good suspenders wouldn’t be bad, as we learned over some of our worst third-world California pavement. There is a bit of tingle through the grips around 6000 rpm and 80 mph, and it would be nice if there was cruise control so you could mitigate it by giving your right hand a rest – and that’s the end of my complaints. For $8,095, you can afford to add the optional quickshifter, heated grips, and maybe a flyscreen.

The End, almost…

The MT is dead, long live the Trident. Really, and happily, the MT is far from dead; it remains a fantastic choice (alongside the retro-styled XSR700, which is powered by the same CP2 270-degree twin-cylinder), along with the four other contenders here. Weaker members of the herd have been left behind, sacrificed to the gods of progress, and let us observe a moment of silence in their memory.

Right, time’s up. Here’s to the new Trident, the great minds that built it, and a great bunch of affordable motorcycles that are probably doing more to grow our little hobby than any other class.

 


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