2004 Reality Bike Shootout

MotorcycleUSA Staff | April 29, 2004
2004 Reality Bike Shootout
Rambling through Pacific Grove, California in the springtime on $25,996 worth of reality.

We were amazed at how many of you wrote in wondering how the DL650 V-Strom was going to fare in this comparison, so we’ll cover that quickly. The DL is more of a touring bike than the four in this test, offering better wind protection, a comfier saddle, plusher suspension and greater fuel range. If this sounds like your kind of bike, then log off and go to tell your Suzuki dealer MCUSA sent ya. Those who are interested in something a little more sporting and stylish will want to keep reading.

If you took the cheapest bike of the group (SV) and the most expensive (599) and your “ciphering” was good, you’d find out the midpoint is $6499, exactly what Triumph and Yamaha are charging for their versions of reality. It’s these two that dominate the spec chart shootout, boasting more sporting pedigrees than the competition’s humble origins.

As you’ll remember from the FZ6 road test, Yamaha retuned the high-revving motor from the supersport YZF-R6 and stuck it in a new aluminum frame bespoke to the littler FZ. We fell for its host of features, relatively high horsepower and versatile demeanor, but reality bit when we were reminded of its wimpy midrange and abrupt clutch. As the only member of the group with anything more than a vestigial windscreen, it was going to be interesting to see how the Fizzer stacked up against the rest.

The Speed Four comes into this test ready to brawl, with a direct lineage to what was once Triumph’s sportiest bike, the TT600. Other than hacking off the TT’s fairing and slapping on the Speed Triple’s trademark micro-fairing above the familiar double headlight, the TT’s transformation into Speed Four consists of only a mild retune of the motor to shore up its midrange. That means you’ll still find a stiff aluminum frame, an eager motor and the only bike here with fully adjustable suspension pieces at both ends. At $6500, it’s $1000 less than last year, truly a screaming bargain.

Despite Duke’s legs being splayed obscenely  the 599 truly has a narrow midsection.
Despite Duke’s legs being splayed obscenely, the 599 truly has a narrow midsection.

Less obviously a bargain is the Honda 599, the spendiest bike here at $7099. And, as the only bike in the group not to have an aluminum frame or fuel injection, it’s a mystery at first glance why it’s half-a-grand more expensive than anything else in this quartet. The clue as to why is explained by a frame sticker that says it is built in Italy. The 599 is sold in huge numbers across the pond as the Honda Hornet, one of the most successful models in Europe. Building the bikes in Italy makes sense for the Continental market, but the recent high value of the Euro has forced a price premium on the 599.

At the other end of the price scale is the key player in this group, the SV650. The standard model like our test bike retails for a ridiculously low $5899, which is quite an accomplishment for a fuel-injected, aluminum-framed budget blaster. Adding an S to the SV650 and an extra $400 will get you the SV650S, but its stylishly edgy quarter fairing isn’t enough to offset the much less accommodating low clip-ons and high pegs that would’ve made it the oddball in this bunch.

The SV had a major revision after its fourth year in production. The 2003 model boasted a more contemporary style and a new aluminum trellis frame, along with some engine tweaks and the addition of fuel injection. Now packing 72 grunting ponies in its 645cc 90-degree V-Twin stable (up about 5 from the previous carbureted version) and with a stiffer frame, the SV650 is even more formidable than it once was. 

MotorcycleUSA Staff