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2-3-4 Middleweight Street Bike Comparison

Monday, March 14, 2011

Explosions. A series of thousands upon thousands syncopate in the controlled chaos that is an internal combustion engine. Dig the sound of the exhaust note, the internal whine of mechanical precision churning out rotary power. The soul of a motorcycle is the engine - its heartbeat and lifeblood. In our 2-3-4 Middleweight Street Bike Comparison, Motorcycle USA pits three different takes on engine configuration - three different approaches at the middleweight standard with the Twin-powered BMW F800R, three-cylinder Triumph Street Triple R and Inline-Four Yamaha FZ8.

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2011 BMW F800R Comparison Video
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Watch the BMW F800R comparison video to see where this Beemer and its Parallel Twin stack up in our 2-3-4 Shootout.
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2011 Yamaha FZ8 Comparison Video
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See the 2011 Yamaha FZ8 carry the Inline Four cause in the FZ8 comparison video.

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Triumph Street Triple R Comparison Video
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Most American riders are already familiar with the British-built Triumph Speed Triple R. Watch the Triumph Street Triple R video and see how the Inline Triple faired in this comparison.
These three nakeds, with their upright riding positions and pretenses as do-it-all street bikes hail back to the motorcycling ethic of decades past. The genus motorcycle has since evolved into disparate specialist species. Sportbikes morphed into the fully-faired racing replicas of the Superbike and Supersport class. Touring motorcycles tailored performance to long-range comfort. Modern standards plugged along too with notable hits, like the Ducati Monster and Triumph Speed Triple, but the once robust ranks have dwindled. Rides like the Honda 599 and 919, Kawasaki Z750 and Suzuki Bandit quietly dropped out of American lineups, not to be replaced or updated in spite of their great success abroad, particularly across the pond. But that’s all starting to change, as manufacturers re-introduce these Euro favorites to the American consumer.

Enter our trio of test bikes. Only the British Street Triple R is familiar to Americans. The FZ8 and F800R join fellow Euro émigré Honda CB1000R, expected later this spring, as 2011-model debutants in the States. American demand necessitates the return of these practical standards. At least that’s the sales pitch. Yamaha laid out the argument at its FZ8 press introduction: Riders are scaling back, given the dire economy, with one of the hardest hit purchasing demographics multi-bike owners. Fewer riders can afford the luxury of the specialist niches. Ergo, versatile multi-purpose rides are more attractive than ever.

Affordable MSRP are also critical to generating interest, particularly amongst younger riders. Keeping price under the five-figure mark may be symbolic more than anything else, but all three of our test bikes fit the bill (with our as-tested BMW well beyond 10K… but the base model under the mark). Our testing trio also tout relatively light curb weights, respectable road performance and pleasing rider comfort. In sum, they are middleweight all-rounders aimed at the everyman rider.

But how do they stack up against each other? To find out we hit the dyno and scales for objective data, with street ride evaluations on the roads surrounding our Irvine, California offices. This reviewer lends his test rider opinion, seconded by MotoUSA Road Test Editor Adam Waheed. So read on for our take on these middleweight mounts.

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The SYM T2 250i is a bit out of place among the sportbikes of this test, but it's MSRP makes it an alluring option for entry-level riders. Will it's performance warrant the money saved?
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Ducati’s Monster 821, Suzuki’s SFV650 and Yamaha’s FZ-07 battle it out for top honors in our Middleweight Sport Twins Shootout.
Z750: Missing French Connection
Kawasaki Z750
The Kawasaki Z750 is perhaps the best example of the disparity between European and American sales figures. A popular model in Europe, particularly France, the Kawasaki isn't just a best-seller - it has been the best selling model in all of France. Yet in the U.S. lackluster sales for the Zed 750 saw it drop off the model lineup - missing in action ever since 2006.

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RoadRash201   August 21, 2013 01:53 PM
a) I want to give the Busa some credit because it is a joy to manhandle the bike on most roads but literally on a tight road it's just too slow-handling to ride at speeds at which a 600 or literbike can easily negotiate the road. B) all bikes can lean but that doesn't tell you how quickly it actually changes direction. Given a lean-angle what is the rate of change in direction? "flick rate" is a function of many things, CG height, wheel radius and diameter, rake, trail, bike weight, steering-input. Actual TURN_RATE is a much different concept and depends on the wheelbase also. Putting small light wheels on big, heavy bikes will improve their "responsiveness" but do nothing for their turn-rate, likewise reducing the overall weight of the bike (say by decreasing displacement and engine weight). The only way that I know of that you get the bike to actually turn fast for a given lean-angle, other than sliding the rear, is by shortening the wheelbase. The big problem with most light sportbikes is that they want to change direction a lot faster than they will actually turn, and you need bigger, heavier wheels to slow down that rate of direction-change and make it match the actual turn-rate. In short they tilt and rotate far faster and easier than they actually turn.
RoadRash201   August 21, 2013 01:41 PM
And for a "commuter bike" the width of the bike is huge because it limits cutting. Narrow heavy and long works a lot better than light, short and wide. Likewise acceleration off the line is huge, easily as much of a factor as MPG. You won't get much mileage if you get run over from behind coming off the line. I cut the stalks down on my mirrors so they are inside my handlebars making it easy to weave my big old bike through traffic which is one of the big reasons I love to ride it, "old and slow" as it is. So I wouldn't want to buy a bike with wide mirrors and handlebars or with handlebars too close to the seat, a seat that tips me forward too far, or all-metal pegs, or a bike with no low-end power or nonremovable saddlebags. Some things can be changed but they are all part of the equation.
RoadRash201   August 21, 2013 01:31 PM
Another thing...just test riding a bunch of sportbikes (vs standards or cruisers)...the big thing I've noticed is that 600s are much more flickable than literbikes, say, but they are more flickable than I need them to be, on the road. They aren't a lot less stable but they aren't very stable either. I'd say there's a small difference in stability between literbikes and 600s but obviously in favor of literbikes. The power difference is not all that huge because literbikes are usually geared much longer. But you go to a zx14R you notice a big increase in the turning-radius/decrease in turn-rate and flick rage and going further to the Busa it's borderline unsafe on tight roads, it takes so long to turn that bike (the turn rate is so low). Though obviously with the busa it has a really nice rate of acceleration and covers ground very well, so it tends to work well on open roads with the 14R sort of in the middle between say a 10R and a Busa. This seems to me to be REALLY fertile ground for objective testing. Throw in the difference in seating-position between standards/streetfighters and sportbikes, even more, as controllability and comfort obviously depend on how much weight is on your hands vs on your butt. Heck you could test seats alone to measure comfort vs pad-thickness, "crunch ratio" as a function of rider-weight and dimensions. Padded footpegs are a great thing!!! Riding around with my feet on bars of solid aluminium for 3 hours is not my idea of fun. Things that could be objectively tested, big and small, some leading to a bike purchase, some leading to the purchase of aftermarket equipment. Literbikes to me make sense because I don't need the high "flickability" of a 600 on the street but I love the "roll-on" that I get from a literbike especially at low to moderate RPMs. I don't want to cruise down the highway at 7500 rpm at 75mph, and I don't want to take the bike to 10k much less 15k. Objectively tell me what I would gain or lose from doing that when I can happily spin my 1200 to 7000rpm at most and go quite fast...that is what makes it obvious why one would want to buy a 600, 800 or literbike. Or a Busa or 14R or whatever. This, to me, is important data. That so far I can only get by riding the bikes myself or maybe checking out a site like gearingcommander and pulling up HP and torque curves vs rpm and overlaying the results. No I don't need to do 185mph...but I don't want to sit around all day and wait for the bike to get to 65mph either. Will it cost me MPG? Yes that I can see. What else? The bike will handle slower. How much slower? Too slow? I have no frigging clue without riding it myself.
RoadRash201   August 21, 2013 01:14 PM
Seriously I would like to see data like perceived vibration at the bars vs rpm, how quickly the bike changes direction vs lean-angle, how long the bike takes to do a roll-on between say 3k and 7k in each gear (and what the speed is vs rpm over that time), data which is just as useful as the price and displacement, hp vs rpm, top speed really who cares about whether the bike does 125 or 145 or 185, that's as much a matter of gearing as power even if you're crazy enough to do 145mph on a motorcycle. Show me some useful data. Flick rate tells me nothing but how long it takes to get the bike from one lean angle to another. What is the turn-rate of the bike once it's there? How much effort is required to reach that flick-rate? With ABS plain and simple if I try to do a test without ABS vs with it, what's the distance saved? There has to be a situation in which even a great rider with great brakes cannot brake safely. I can easily remember trying to brake on wet & cold roads going downhill where I would have loved to have ABS and had to resort to using my rear brake very gingerly and riding on the gravel shoulder, literally afraid to use the front brake at all. Is it impossible to evaluate ABS beyond "it's great to have when you're afraid to use the front brake at all"? Can we not have better and more-useful objective test results?
RoadRash201   August 21, 2013 01:06 PM
...look, it's obvious that it really matters that one of the testers really loved one of the 3 bikes more than the other two. How can we disregard "fun" as a decision criteria? Ok so he enjoys popping wheelies a little too much especially for the riders who...can't pop wheelies safely. But isn't "having fun on a bike" a better criteria than 0-60 or 1/4 mile times or MPG? See that's the main problem. Objective measures are nice, in their own way, but we don't have a really good objective measure for evaluating motorcycles. Price speaks for itself, but if you can afford the bike then price is not a problem. it's just a matter of whether you want to spend your money on it. Aye there's the rub. How are you to know this...short of actually riding the bike, and plenty of other bikes that you might like to own? Even then there are always other bikes. Same bike, different year. Next years' bike or the year afterwards. How do you know the "fun" is objective or that you would have fun riding the same bike that the reviewers see as fun? A different problem. It all comes down to experience, unfortunately, time and hard work. There are no good snap-decisions made in ignorance or even half-knowledge when it comes to buying a motorcycle. On the other hand you could just take a chance, see what happens, and go from there. Good experience doesn't come easily or cheaply. But I think that the reviewers would serve their audience well if they would come up with better objective measures. Technology has marched on. Why can't testing & evaluation? Saying "it has improved" isn't good enough. What exactly is the significance of the test-data reported for bikes in this magazine or any other? Has anyone looked at the *effectiveness* of the data, the significance of it, in an objective way? Without that you're just throwing pebbles against the wall hoping to read the weather. Experience tells me that the main objective critera are price, first and foremost. You have to be able to afford the bike as well as store it and maintain it well and ride it, along with all your other financial needs. Second it needs to have at least "adequate" acceleration at normal road speeds, braking and handling. So how exactly do you evaluate that? For some, the ease of popping wheelies (or doing standies) on it is a good way...that's a bit out of my range and I have no problem saying that. Roll-ons in each gear, that I can do. Braking tests, that I can do. Measuring cornering and "responsiveness" by the seat of the pants, that I can do. Aside from braking, I just don't see this data. I see "flick-rate" tests for sportbikes but that doesn't tell me how quickly the bike changes heading or how much effort is required to get that result. Even a basic test like the effectiveness of ABS vs non-ABS braking, I don't see tests for that. In that regard I think these reviews are stuck in the 50s and that's a large part of the problem. Bikes are largely as individual as ever: you buy one, you ride it and you like like it that's good, but you'll always be wondering if something better is out there...the question is whether it's worth the time and effort to find out. Luckily most of us don't have the time and money to buy bikes on a whim and that makes most of the process of evaluating them before buying a moot issue. We ride what we can get our hands on and we buy what we can afford, which is "not much". Even if I could drop $12k on a 650, I would never think that's a wise idea. I'll take the $8k 800 any day of the week especially if I can get it for $6k or less.
Xyclibu   August 20, 2013 11:50 AM
@bubbleman21 not getting how pulling wheelies means that we don't care about ourselves, but not pulling wheelies -while still riding a motorcycle- says that we *do* care about ourselves. You worry so much about what cagers think, want to impress them by how seriously you take yourself? Then don't ride a bike.
wildpig   March 21, 2011 04:19 AM
typical BMW -- way over priced way over rated and way under performer.. and it just starts there. if you buy one get your big bucks ready to keep it maintained---- take the triumph any day o week...... an one last thang=== get ready for a 45% loss when you try to re sale a mint --BMW..........
KingCast Motorsports   March 16, 2011 06:20 AM
Rufi it all depends on whether you do much in town riding or not vs. how much open road. I have the S3 engine in my '02 ST and let me tell you there are actually times when I wish it had less power so I could really thrash it WFO and get away with it. Plus I only weigh 160 or so. Anyway it's another reason I prefer vintage BMW, Porsche over the new stuff, you bury your foot for 5 seconds and get ready to go to jail. But on the open road or of you are bringing the lass often go for the bigger bike. I absolutely love the F800 as well, thought I would buy one as noted at last year's BMW demo day: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M-PSKLgyI0E Anyway thanks to Moto-USA good article and I cross-posted it with the video from my engine swap yesterday. http://christopher-king.blogspot.com/2011/03/kingcast-presents-04-triumph-speed.html Peace.
Rufi000000   March 15, 2011 11:14 AM
Triumph is making the decision about my next bike easy. The only hard part will be picking between the Street Triple R or the Speed Triple. Leaning towards the Street R right now, as it seems to be just about perfect. The only thing it doesn't have is the single-sided swingarm.
bubbleman21   March 15, 2011 10:49 AM
this is a fairly decent review. however, wheelie man waheed comes off immature when all he seems to care about is how hooligan friendly theses bikes are. furthermore, i think it's difficult to stress to cagers that they need to watch out for us when wankers like waheed give the impression that we don't care about ourselves. like why should they take us seriously when we don't. kindly keep the reviews constructive. peace out.