Over the years I have had the opportunity to test and race a number of bikes produced by Utah manufacturer ATK. Owner Frank White (no relation) and I talk regularly about riding, racing and the business in general. Recently he invited me to come spend a few days riding around southern Utah to see the fall colors and put some miles on the bike that will spearhead his new venture into the street bike market – the ATK 700 (Read more about this in Can ATK Cruisers Help Harley-Davidson?).
If you have followed any of my adventures here at Motorcycle-USA, you might think that testing a cruiser motorcycle is a little off my typical beat. In a way it is, but there is just something about a cruiser that speaks to the heart of so many riders. The cruiser is a uniquely American creation. When I look back to the pictures of my grandfather, a Harley dealer, riding in the ‘30s and ‘40s, the bikes from that period were all styled with that distinctive long and low flare.
Built by S&T Motors in Korea, the 2011 ATK 700 offers riders the chance to carve memories throughout American canyons by bringing affordability to the entry-level cruiser market.
For as homegrown as that all seems, if not for the contributions of the Japanese manufacturers, our two-wheeled world might look very different today. While the metric cruisers of the ‘80s were not always the prettiest bikes, they were inexpensive, durable and plentiful. The huge popularity of these models brought motorcycling to a much larger audience of new riders.
Ultimately it would be those same riders that would help bring about the strong rebirth of Milwaukee in the 1990s as they looked to move up from their first bikes. The Motor Company that at one time was on the edge of extinction would soar once again. So as I find myself riding a cruiser once again, I cannot help but be struck by how much it is part of our collective consciousness and how natural it feels to be on the road on a good motorcycle, regardless of its origin.
The ATK 700 is manufactured in Korea by S&T Motors and ultimate plans call for assembly of these models at ATK’s Utah facility. It is built around a 687cc fuel-injected V-Twin engine. The liquid-cooled, four-valve mill has a mildly aggressive 11.5:1 compression ratio. The 90 degree cylinder angle is inherently smooth and keeps the overall height of the engine nice and low.
The ATK 700 sources a 687cc fuel-injected V-Twin with a 90 degree cylinder angle for a smooth and mellow ride.
The DOHC V-Twin is basically the same as that used in S&T’s 650cc sportbikes, so it always feels a little racy. Both the torque and rev characteristics are impressive for a bike in this class. Claimed performance numbers are a respectable 62 horsepower and 47 lb-ft of torque at 8000 rpm.
Power is transferred through the five-speed transmission to a toothed belt final drive. The transmission ratios are wide spread, but there is plenty of grunt to keep the power delivery smooth. The belt drive features an automatic tension adjuster; therefore it is practically maintenance free. The transmission shifts smoothly, although there was a little free play in the shift linkage that I found annoying.
Helping contribute to the wide and low-slung look are the machined aluminum wheels. The front rides on a 120 series 16-inch tire and the rear a 170/80/15. The wheels themselves are a nice blend of machined surfaces contrasted by painted black insets. The single 300mm floating front disc brake features a four-piston caliper. Out back is a 270mm disc with a two-piston binder. Braking power is strong, but does require a healthy amount of lever effort.
Overall the bike maintains the cruiser style through the flared fenders, exhaust and tank. Additionally, the tank mounted instrument panel (below) is designed well and has great contrast at night.
Our road trip started just outside St. George, Utah. As the bikes rolled up, my first impression was how much the ATK has a complete cruiser styling package. All of the styling details are in sync with each other. The dramatic flare of the fenders, exhaust and tank all flow nicely. The bike sits very low with a 27-inch seat height. The forward controls, pull back bars and tank mounted gauges all contribute to the cruiser’s stance.
I was a little concerned about my comfort level on such a low bike. As it turns out the forward controls stretch my legs out suitably well and the bars are an easy reach. The foot controls are adjustable and can be moved rearward to accommodate shorter riders.
Once I was instructed where to insert the key on the right side of the engine (I told you I’m not a cruiser guy), the 700 fired right to life. The exhaust note has a nice muted rumble, just enough to instill a little character. As I had literally jumped off a dirt bike and on to the cruiser, it took me a few minutes to get my bearings. Once settled I quickly became accustomed to the new surroundings and set out to enjoy the ride ahead.
Easing my way through town quickly brought up two of the very few shortcomings of the ATK. Over uneven pavement the suspension action leaves a bit to be desired. Both ends are harsh and it hobby horses around. Once out of town and at speeds over 25 mph, this issue disappeared and the overall ride quality on the highway was very good.
The other issue is that the fuel injection is abrupt at low speeds. In stop-and-go situations it takes a gentle hand to keep the power delivery smooth. Again, once on the road the throttle response is excellent.
Out on the open highway the ATK is torquey and runs smoothly in each gear thanks to its fuel injection.
We head south out of Hurricane, Utah working our way towards Kanab. As the road opens up I get a chance to really focus on the ride quality. My initial reaction is just how solid the torque characteristics are. For the most part highway riding is a matter of just putting the 700 in high gear and leaving it there. It will pull from low revs smoothly and with some authority, acting like a much larger mill.
This brings into view the other nice features of the fuel injection. The engine runs clean and strong through the entire rev range. It never has that feeling of being plugged up. On the second morning of our ride we wake up to a strong layer of frost. One stab at the starter and the ATK fires to life and settles into idle with no fussing.
The tank mounted instrument cluster works fairly well. The dial speedometer is paired with digital displays for trip meters and fuel gauge. The cluster has a nice color contrast and the illumination at night makes it easy to read without being overly bright. The digital readouts are a little small to read at speed.
The fuel gauge never seemed to move and when it finally did I was convinced that it must not be very accurate. Yet that evening when we fueled the bike it took less than three gallons. As our pace was rather leisurely through the national parks of southern Utah, we never burned a whole tank of fuel in one day, but I estimate the mileage at nearly 60 mpg. That should easily net a range of over 200 miles-per-tank.
As the miles added up I found that I was pleasantly surprised by my time on the ATK. The seating position is typical cruiser, putting most of your body up against the wind. The seat is well padded and as long as I remembered not to slouch too much I was fairly comfortable for extended riding sessions.
With a claimed 62 horsepower, the ATK always delivered slightly more than expected and offered our contributor the chance to sit back and enjoy the cruiser experience.
The motor always gives just a little more than expected, both power and torque. Of course we are not talking about setting any performance records here, but with a claimed 62 horses it stands up well against the competition in the class.
As for the chassis, other than the rough suspension action at low speeds, the ride is always spot on. It will handle a spirited romp through the mountains with ease. There are no protruding parts to hit the ground and the suspension holds the bike up well under braking and cornering. The chassis turns into the corner with little effort and tracks well, though there is a slight tendency to stand up under braking. With minimal effort and smooth riding the 700 will hustle along pretty good.
For the open road the nearly 66-inch wheel base gives a solid road feel. Blasts from oncoming trucks don’t upset the bike. The stock Shinko tires are reasonably suited to the task. The low seat height helps make the 700 act lighter than its claimed 530-pound curb weight. The good overall balance makes it easy to manage at low speeds.
I give it high marks for overall fit and feel. The LED taillight integrates nicely and the rear projection head lamp works well. Some of the trim parts are chrome over plastic design but few of those can be recognized beyond ten feet. The action of the forward control shifter is a little sloppy. It was one of the few things that I felt gave the bike a cheap feel.
Our test bike is a preproduction model as some of the final styling elements have yet to be decided, particularly the color choices and final graphics. I wasn’t that wild over the black and brown color scheme of this unit. Frank was in agreement with me, so expect some changes in the production versions.
Although it’s labeled as an entry-level cruiser, many will find that the ATK 700 meets or exceeds that categorization.
One of the things I enjoyed most about my time with the ATK 700 was that it put me in that “cruiser” mode. I spent more time enjoying the ride versus being concerned about the destination. I also received more thumbs up and positive comments from onlookers than I have seen in the last year. No one asked what it was or where it came from, they just liked it. I am not sure that there is a whole lot more one could ask of the motorcycling experience than that.
This is being billed as an entry level bike. I’m not sure that everyone will get on board with that concept. It seems like a pretty complete package and many riders may find this is all the bike they desire.