|09-03-2005, 11:21 AM||#1|
Joined: Jun 2004
Location: Granada, Spain
The Definitive Jap middleweight DS shootout!
This is a review that I recently posted on DualSport UK and I thought you guys might like to read it.
I know you can only get one of these bikes in the US, but hopefully it will give you an owner's perspective of owning these machines.
So here goes.....
Honda XLV650 Transalp v Suzuki DL650 V-Strom v Yamaha XT660R
As many of you know, within the last year I've owned each of these bikes...so here's an owner's perspective on how they compare!
There's no performance figures like a mag would do...cos there's no point.
None of them are designed as performance bikes, and the Strom is considerably quicker than the other two anyway.
As you all know, this is pretty much an 80's tech bike...with just a few enhancements over the years.
In spite of being built in Spain, the build quality is still better than the other bikes. It has a solid feel to it and is reasonably comfortable and smooth. For a bike that gets panned as being boring, it's a very enjoyable riding experience. Handling is fairly good once you ditch the stock Trailwings, and the brakes do their job.
The TA has a fairly flat power curve with no great surprises, but you will have to work harder with a pillion.
Fuel consumption is the worst of the 3, averaging just over 50mpg.
It has a degree of offroad ability, but that's down to the rider more than anything else.
It starts first time everytime, and will do whatever you want of it. Utterly reliable, robust...basically you could trust your life to it.
Unfortunately, like a lot of Hondas, it does lack a bit of zest and character....basically it's a bike that's difficult to get too emotional about.
You can't fault any part of it (except the stock tyres).....and it does exactly what it says on the tin!
But it's a bit like a dowdy wife who has no spark....it does everything you want, but there's something missing!
I sold the Transalp after I had a test run on the V-Strom....
...and I was blown away by it!
What Suzuki have very cleverly done is to look at the dated Transalp, and the expanding Dualsport market, and set out to build a Transalp beater. And in most respects they've succeeded by a very wide margin.
It's quicker (by a lot), it's smoother, it handles better, it stops better, it's more comfortable, it returns over 55mpg easily, it's fun....and you want to ride it! All the time!
The motor is it's strong point....it's an absolute gem!
Offroad ability? In my opinion it's a streetbike just dressed up as a dualsport. I know guys have run them through swamps and rivers...but rather them than me!
But the Strom has a serious flaw in it.....the design of the fairing and screen.
Up to 65 mph on rural country roads, the bike is a dream. Get it out on the open major roads and it becomes a nightmare.
The buffeting and turbulence is not just a distraction, it starts to become a safety issue.
Of all the bikes I've ever owned (52 of them) I have never experienced double vision like I did on the Strom. And the pillion doesn't escape it either....both your heads feel like they're being smacked by a wet towel until you drop your speed.
I tried different screen positions, I tried spacers to change the angle, I even put a screen that was huge on it. That did help, but I can't ride looking through a screen, and the wife ended up getting the headbanging for both of us.
In the end, I'd adjusted the screen so many times that the plastic lugs on the dash had snapped and it was just about hanging in place. Not good!
You could spend the rest of your life trying to sort it...but there's no quick fix. What works for one person doesn't work for another....so in the end I just gave up.
I loved the bike and it's unbelievable that Suzuki could get so much of it absolutely right...then completely screw it up with the fairing and screen.
So....that brings me to the final bike in the comparison...the Yamaha XT660R.
This is the latest generation in the long running XT series....but radically different to it's predecessors!
It's now got fuel injection and liquid cooling, and despite being considerably quicker than previous versions, it's still maintained the traditional "oldschool" XT feeling.
The pickup is now very sharp and it wants to wheelie pretty much at will. It's a lot lighter than the other two and despite only having a single disc up front, it still stops pretty well.
Where this bike really wastes the other two is the handling. Yamaha haven't gone the cheapo Trailwing route of the others, it's got Michelin Siracs as standard.
The whole setup is so precise that on rural bumpy backroads it will take a very capable rider on any other type of bike to just be able to keep the XT in sight. In this environment it's a revelation....and you'll have a lot of fun.
Offroad capability? I've always maintained that it's a Motard dressed like a DualSport, and I still believe that. But with a decent bashplate you'll get a lot further than the Strom will, plus it's considerably lighter than both the Strom and the TA so there is more potential there.
Fuel ecomomy is around 60mpg, and for this style of bike it's very comfortable...especially compared to the old XT's. But it's a long way behind the Strom in this respect.
So....who's the winner? What's the best buy?
Well...if we were comparing 600cc sportsbikes it would be a lot easier as they're all designed to do the same thing...and that's to go fast.
But these bikes are not. Even though they're competing in the same market sector, they're all radically different. And each of them can do different things better than the others.
The best way to summarise them is to say....
If I was looking for a bike that's reliable, sturdy, and bulletproof, for a trip across Europe....I'd choose the Transalp.
If I wanted the most bang for the buck and the most performance....I'd choose the V-Strom.
And if I wanted a fun bike with amazing handling to put a grin on my face...then it would be the XT660.
So YOU have to decide which one fits the bill for your type of riding!
They're all great bikes and they all have their strong points and drawbacks....just choose the one that suits YOU!
|09-03-2005, 12:21 PM||#2|
Joined: Dec 2004
Location: florida gulf coast
amazing how the wind problem on the wee strom varies from person to person. i am 5'10.5" with a 33" inseam, middle position works fine for me (i have had the bike up to 90 mph indicated on the interstate). yes, there is a little buffeting at higher speeds, but never "double vision". but my 6'5" buddy, riding my bike, cannot see over 70mph.
another odd thing...the wee is much quieter than my fjr with rifle touring sheild. i just can't ride the fjr without earplugs if i keep the sheild down, but the wee is pretty quiet, and if i slouch an inch or two, VERY quiet.
|09-03-2005, 05:13 PM||#3|
Joined: Jun 2004
Location: Granada, Spain
I'm basically the same height as you, but my legs are 1" longer. So my shorter length body puts my head right in the turbulence zone, plus body posture and choice of helmet are additional factors.
The Strom is a fantastic bike and anybody who isn't badly affected by the screen should think themselves lucky....cos they've got a bike which is near perfect in all respects.
But in my case, I just couldn't face spending time and money on trying various combinations of screen and helmet to get to that position.
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