2010 Kawasaki Ninja 650 vs. 2009 Suzuki GSX650F vs. 2010 Yamaha FZ6R

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2010 Kawasaki Ninja 650 vs. 2009 Suzuki GSX650F vs. 2010 Yamaha FZ6R

Post by ganahsokmo on Thu Jul 08, 2010 11:50 am

Kawasaki’s
Ninja 650R, Suzuki’s
GSX650F, and Yamaha’s
FZ6R are three middle-weight sport-oriented bikes that present a
somewhat beguiling irony: Compared to pure sportbikes, they are less
capable in some respects, yet more capable in others.


While they won’t edge out more specialized machines at the racetrack,
they could be said to do better job in a broader variety of road riding
tasks – you know, the kind of riding most people do when they don’t
need to rip to 160 mph, or drag a knee on a 70-mph kink, or brake deep
into corners.


Everyday street riding, remember? That’s what these bikes are about.For starters, their unintimidating ergonomics and tractable
powerbands make them more suitable for entry level riders – but then
again, they’re anything but mere beginner bikes, and for more on this
topic, check out our sidebar below
Hanging
out at the Rock Store, these bikes are ready to keep going.


For those who want to push their sporting potential, these bikes can
still be plenty entertaining. Sure, they aren’t as intense – or pricy –
as 600cc
supersport machines, but their real-world performance is not that
far off the mark.


Given that “you can only go so fast on the street,” in the right
hands these machines will hang surprisingly well on a tight windy road
against almost any bike.


And in the meantime, if riders also want to take longer rides – even
multi-day tours – or commute daily, many may find a GSX650F, Ninja 650R,
or FZ6R more livable at the end of the day, or day-after-day, as the
case may be.

A silver lining in gray
economic clouds?

Now having heard the positive side, here’s some mixed news …
We had to
go to the store to see whether these grocery-getters had what it takes.
(It’s a tough job riding motorcycles for a living!)


Unless we wanted to sneak a GSX650F down from Canada, our bike for
this 2010 review had to be a 2009 model. In light of a U.S. sales
downturn, Suzuki decided that except for the penny-pinching GV250, it is
not importing present-year street models.


That may sound like a handicap for Brand S, but really, all three
might as well be 2009 models. Last year the FZ6R was just launched, the
Ninja 650R received an extensive update, and negligible changes were
made this year to either.

For that matter, U.S. consumers are also not offered
anti-lock-brakes, although in other markets, Suzuki and Kawasaki do
offer ABS for the GSX650F and Ninja 650R (also known as the ER-6f).

The upside to these less than inspiring events is it’s really old
news that the U.S. should be deprived some of the latest technology or
bike models the Euros or Canadians get from time to time, and either way
these are still great bikes.


It would also appear conditions have made it something of a buyer’s
market. All three manufacturers are offering low percentage rate
financing, and in some cases, reduced priced leftovers may still be
available.
The
Suzuki’s roomy ergonomics and expansive wind protection make it a good
choice for taller riders who might want to do some sport touring.

Similarities and differences
For more thorough reviews on versions of each bike, click on the
following names of the Ninja
650R, GSX650F,
or FZ6R
to read write-ups for each.


Or if a summary will do, here goes:
All three are liquid cooled and electronically fuel-injected. The
Kawasaki’s parallel-Twin displaces 649cc and redlines at 11,000 rpm. The
Suzuki’s inline-Four displaces 656cc and redlines at 12,500 rpm. The
Yamaha’s inline-Four is 600cc and redlines at 11,500 rpm.


The Kawasaki’s engine was launched in the all-new European 2005 ER-6n
(un-faired) and then released worldwide in 2006 for the ER-6f (faired,
aka Ninja 650). The twin-cylinder was a ground-up build based on a
proven design from the EX500 (Ninja 500R), but the 650 is more evolved,
more compact and more potent.


The Suzuki’s engine comes from the 2007 Bandit 650, a European model.
In 2008, the Suzuki filled the hole left by the discontinued Katana
600. However, unlike the Katana series which used air-oil cooled engines
adapted from first generation GSX-Rs of the late ’80s, the newer bike
employed an all-new liquid cooled engine and was not an over-bored or
stroked GSX-R engine.

The Yamaha’s engine is a retuned version from a 2003 R6. The FZ6R is
essentially like a faired FZ6, albeit making due with a tubular
high-tensile steel frame instead of the naked bike’s more sophisticated
alloy perimeter frame, and lacking the un-faired bike’s 180-series rear
tire. But the FZ6 is no longer in Yamaha’s lineup.
Profile
view of FZ6R with a 5’8” rider. This bike is adjustable for a broad
range of rider sizes thanks to adjustable handlebars and saddle. Good
thinking, Yamaha!



All three make power in about the order one might expect. On the Hypercycle dyno,
the GSX650F peaks at 73.2 hp and 41.2 ft-lbs torque. The Yammi makes
64.1 hp, and 38.1 ft-lbs torque. The little big Twin in the Kawi turns
out 60.3 hp, and 40.1 ft-lbs of torque.


Not tuned for the 14,000-16,000-plus redlines of 600cc supersports
bikes, these bikes make a good 30 or so less peak horsepower, while
holding onto a fair amount of the original bikes’ lower-rpm torque.


The 650cc
Suzuki has an advantage in power, especially up top, but its heavier
weight blunts its acceleration. The twin-cylinder Kawi has decent punch
at street-sensible revs but peters out up top. The four-cylinder Yamaha
feels more powerful than the chart indicates.

This is a big part of why these bikes could be considered more
sensible. Not having to scream them to three times the rpm of your
family car could contribute to their durability, makes for more sedate
riding, and grunt is still there when needed without all the drama.
Power is a defining factor for any bike. But then again, so is
weight.


And here it’s the Ninja – down in horsepower but holding its own with
torque – that also happens to be the lightest of the three. Its curb
weight (full of fluids, ready to ride) is 450 lbs. The FZ6R is an also
respectable 467 lbs for the 49-state version, with California models
coming in at 469 lbs.
Of the
three, the GSX650F seemed most accommodating for taller riders. It’s
also the heaviest.


The big Suzook, while having the strongest muscles, otherwise looks
like the adolescent who needs counseling after struggling through the
childhood obesity epidemic. At 531 lbs, the GSX650F is 81 pounds more
portly than the Ninja, and 62 pounds heavier than the FZ6R.
Or just to throw a curve-ball in for some additional perspective: the
GSX650F weighs 82 pounds more than a GSXR1000, but makes about half the
power. But then again, the GSX650F retails for $5,000 less, so there
you go.

As for managing their weight, the three bikes do so on the same spec
tires – Bridgestone sport-touring compound 120/70-17 fronts with
160/60-17 rears.


Additionally, they all ride on standard telescopic 41mm forks and
basic monoshocks with spring-preload capability – nothing too
sophisticated here, but it all basically works. And fact is, a lot of
riders with tricker factory suspension don’t use – or make good use of –
all the extra adjustments possible even when they have them.


Finally, and staying true to the no-muss, no fuss mantra, all three
reliably put power to the ground through smooth shifting six-speed
transmissions.


Entry Level?
Marketing writers and moto mag writers alike often throw around the
term “entry level” when describing middleweight motorcycles with low
seat heights and comfortable riding positions.
But if so, it’s at least partly because they represent a mid-way
point in a world of motorcycles in which the upper limits are absolutely
astonishing by standards of not so long ago.


While manufacturers have spent engineering overtime honing extremely
light, powerful, yet tractable and inviting machines for the past few
decades, last time we checked, human DNA is still the same as it ever
was.
In 1980 a bike that could turn a mid-to-low 12-second quarter-mile
would have deserved acceptance in a league of high-performance machines
of 900cc to 1100cc displacement.
Today, anyone with a credit score can buy 600-650 cc bikes that are
considered not-too-expensive, yet able to develop speed deceptively
fast.
Anyone who has never ridden a street motorcycle, and wants a 600cc
sportbike for his or her first ought to be sure this is the right level
bike to start on, because there are less powerful machines that work
great as well.
Although our liberty includes the right to take unnecessary risk, and
even though the bikes of today have better chassis, suspension and
brakes to manage the power, a word to the wise might still be in order.


We consider the GSX650F, Ninja 650R and FZ6R – any of which can beat a
Corvette to 100 mph – to be entry level sportbikes, and not
necessarily ideal for first-time riders.
Mistakes in judgment on a motorcycle are expensive and painful, so
why add exceptional speed to the mix?
On the other hand, I
was interviewing a Pentagon official last year, and he said they
put young people in the cockpit of aircraft, and the good ones soon see
time in a fighter. His point was well taken, but it’s also true they
train the heck out of these pilots, and only the ones who don’t wash out
make the cut.
You and I have nothing stopping us from getting in over our heads but
our own good judgment.
We highly recommend first-timers honestly self-evaluate their
readiness for the challenges of handling a powerful motorcycle.
It is widely believed that prior proficiency on a dirtbike (or, at
least a bicycle) can be of some value. Anecdotal evidence also suggests
that if you are athletic, or have good balance, great eyesight or
spatial awareness, high level of manual dexterity,
eye-hand-coordination, and such, these too are believed to help you in
learning to ride.
Seeking qualified training is also a good idea.
And overall, if you think you will be okay, who would we be to say
these bikes – or faster ones – aren’t suitable? They may be, and you may
be fine.
We’ll leave you with advice we share with our family or friends
interested in riding: Don’t walk before you can crawl, and don’t try to
sprint until you are a good walker. Use your head, wear the gear, and
have fun.
Ergonomics
Behold,
the seat! Yamaha’s FZ6R utilizes a simple plastic platform that can be
flipped to adjust its seat height 20mm.


As you might expect, the Suzuki is dimensionally the largest,
longest, and may be the best for taller riders. Suzuki claims a seat
height of just 30.3 inches, which would make it the lowest of this trio,
but we measured an actual height of 31.5 inches.


The Yamaha feels mid-sized but has a couple tricks that make it
workable for larger riders too. One innovation is a plastic plate under
the rider’s saddle portion that can raise its standard 30.9-inch seat by
just over three-quarters of an inch (20mm).


The Kawasaki has a 31.1-inch high molded stepped saddle that worked
well for our shorter riders. However, with my 34-inch inseam, the
saddle’s sloped step to the passenger section limits aft movement more
than I’d want – though not unbearably and fixable with aftermarket
saddle options.

Handlebar configurations for all bikes are upright, with the Kawi
having the most vertical position. Another adjustment trick Yamaha adds
is for its handlebar. Its mount can be rotated to push the handlebar
forward to just over three-quarters of an inch (20mm).
See the
ramp in the Ninja’ saddle? Tom is scooched all the way against the tank.
As soon as taller riders try to slide back, it’s an uphill battle.

All three bikes use tubular handlebars that can be swapped
for different bends or rise, if you start feeling ambitious.
Footpegs for all three are reasonably neutral, not forward or
excessively rear-set. Again ironically, the narrow Kawasaki’s pegs feel
slightly higher. Considering its tall stock handlebar, the case seems
all the more apparent for a lower handlebar to complete the sportbike
package – that is, if it’s performance you’re after, otherwise it’s
fine.


All these bikes may fold up legs and crunch knees a bit for riders
with long legs because of their low saddles.


Design
As the ostensible sportbikes they are, all three have full fairings.
As the all-arounders they really are, these are complemented by widely
spaced mirrors and multi-functional instrumentation including fuel
gauges. All use traditional steel gas tanks – enabling the use of
magnetic tank bags, if desired. The Suzuki’s tank holds 5.0 U.S.
gallons, the Yamaha’s holds 4.6, and the Kawasaki’s holds 4.1.
Simple yet
effective instruments deliver the needed data. FZ6R gauges shown.


All have bungee hooks, but the Yamaha has a nice wrapped-around,
rubber-coated grab rail, which is not only useful for strapping on
groceries or duffel bags, it gives passengers more to hold onto.
Likewise the Suzuki has a handrail which is better than nothing, which
is all the Kawasaki has – no grab rail or the like.


These bikes can turn mid-to-low 12-second quarter miles and are still
fuel sippers. Both the Suzuki’s and Yamaha’s EPA average rating is 43
mpg, and the Kawasaki’s is 48 mpg. Our testing for these
not-yet-broken-in machines was in line with these mileage numbers.

Thanks to EFI, they all start instantly, idle smoothly, and rev
quickly. Exhaust is routed via sophisticated catalytic converters to
single-output mufflers. The Suzuki’s is the most traditional – a single
stainless steel large canister design. The Yamaha has a rather
industrial looking but functional mid-section mounted muffler. The
Kawasaki’s under-engine muffler is stylized and svelte, fashioned in
brushed metal.
The Suzuki
looks kinda like its big brother, the Hayabusa, don’t you think?


Stylistically – while this is a personal preference issue, and you
can make up your own mind looking at the pictures – we’ll offer a few
comments, adding that each bike has its pros and cons.


The Suzuki we think looks like a mid-sized ‘Busa from the front, and
the GSX-R family heritage is obvious. Kevin Duke thinks this rendition
however is ungainly. Likewise the Yamaha has elements reminiscent of the
R6 and everyone seems to like it. The Ninja 650R also has design
elements from the ZX-6 and ZX-10, but it is unique too. We find its
offset rear shock and “D-shaped” swingarm with trellis frame plus
artistically designed exhaust and “petal” style rotors give it a look
all its own, and a few of us commented it is pleasing in a modernistic
sort of way.


"The Suzuki we think looks like a
mid-sized ‘Busa from the front.."
Frankly, you could see where the marketers and engineers chose to
spend the attention to detail – and R&D money – to bring originality
to these respective bikes, and where they merely grabbed something out
of the company parts bin. These bikes each have enough uniqueness merged
with the same-old-same-old to fill the bill at this price point.

Having pretty functional ergonomics, tractable power, and light
pulling clutches, these bikes are fine for plodding around town or
basking in the joys of sitting in traffic.
Whatchu
lookin’ at? MO Editor in Chief Kevin Duke reflects on the road ahead.


The big Suzuki, however, with a higher perceived center of gravity
and definitely more bulkiness, would be comparatively more intimating
for novices – but it’s not especially noticeable unless you experience
the somewhat better balanced and lighter Yamaha and Kawasaki.
The Suzuki’s weight does smooth out rougher roads and highway
expansion joints, however, and we pick it as the most likely
long-distance mount, although it does have some buzziness, felt mostly
through the handlebar.

The Yamaha is also pretty ergonomically accommodating, and even with
the seat and handlebar set for smaller riders, it was do-able for my
six-foot frame on a 280-mile day trip of mixed highway and canyon
riding. MO guest tester Tom Roderick noted he felt the seat was hard,
presumably because padding was spared to reduce it’s advertised height.

As for the Kawasaki, in the view of five-foot-eleven-inch tall Tom,
“The seating position for the 650R feels like the same old Ninja 500,”
he says. “It feels like a small bike for a small person.”
Removable
panels in the Ninja’s tailsection cover mounting points for a bolt-on
passenger grab rail. Offset shock helps make this bike the narrowest in
class.


This lines up with what I experienced, but I otherwise like the bike
so much, I’d consider living with it or adjusting fit with a new saddle.
I say this because the Ninja does a good job on tight, twisty roads.
Its light weight, and wide handlebars, if not too high, nevertheless let
you yank this bike into an angle and plow through.


Its low-end torque is an asset, but it does not rip to quite the
rushing high as the Yamaha, which also delivers smooth power from low to
high while building steam like the inline-Four it is.


Of the Yamaha, Kevin observes, “Its power feels better than expected.
Knowing how much had been lopped off the top, I was afraid it was going
to be wheezy. It was also surprisingly responsive when two-upping
Roderick on a brief jaunt.”

Tom also observed, the retuned R6 motor is “a great engine, strong
mid-range, pulls cleanly all the way to rev limiter, with excellent
throttle response.”
“I’ll take
the high-test please. Got some Kawasaki and Suzuki butt to kick…”


The Suzuki’s engine seems down on midrange compared to the others,
but is revvy, and gets the bike rolling okay when the tach needle starts
racing to redline.


Even so, Kevin noted, “The Suzuki has a bland powerband. You wait for
a hit that never arrives. I expected more from a 650cc four-cylinder.”

As you know, the Suzuki is penalized by more weight to push. It also
has the heaviest steering and its soft suspension can be overwhelmed
when challenged. Further, it feels widest between the knees. This is
especially noticeable after hopping off the Ninja, which as the
narrowest, and feels like a dual-purpose bike on street tires by
comparison.

In between its two competitors, the Yamaha strikes a
great balance between flickability and bulk. Tom says plainly that ”the
Yamaha is sportier than the Ninja.”

His feeling also lines up
with something Kevin’s said about the FZ6R’s sound affects. “The
under-engine exhaust emits a surprisingly invigorating sound that’s
racier than expected,” Kevin observed, “It’s a nice accompaniment to
every ride.”
I can see everyone’s point, and don’t disagree, but I’m also like the
teacher who sees the potential in a kid, and what it could be with a
little work.
The Ninja
650R’s narrowness and torque inspire corner carving all day long.

The Ninja’s potential comes from its being narrowest and lightest in
its class, having footpegs positioned to offer the most cornering
clearance and an engine with excellent torque and workable horsepower.
Those are fundamentals that could come into play with some tweaking to
maximize its sporting potential.


On the footpeg clearance issue, the Suzuki is adequate, and Yamaha’s
pegs are the first to scrape. Actually, I was looking for the phone
number to the Yamaha parts department to order replacement peg feelers.
In less than 75 sport riding miles, on sport-touring-compound tires, I’d
already half ground them off.
Ready,
set, touch-down! The pegs are gonna scrape. Whether this bike could use
more clearance or not, the FZ6R’s willingness to lean is proof that this
bike hasn’t forgotten its sporting heritage.

But I’ll also admit, the Ninja would need work with its rear shock.
It was the most undersprung for my 185 pounds, and MO tester Kaming Ko
and Tom also noted the bike floundered around in bumpy corners. The
Ninja handled noticeably better after turning the stepped preload collar
to full firmness.

All these bikes have similar spec brakes offering a firm lever pull.
The Yamaha’s brakes haul it down from any speed without much of an
issue, and may be the best of the bunch, although Tom noted the rear
brake was too touchy and prone to lock-up.
The Suzuki’s brakes, although utilizing 10mm larger rotors, work
okay, but with all that extra kinetic energy to scrub off, can’t match
the grace of Yamaha’s stoppers. The Ninja’s brakes do have enough power
but lack some of the sensitivity.
Kudos to
Kawasaki. The Ninja is the lone bike of the bunch with an
adjustable-reach clutch lever.


All these bikes are marketed for entry-level riders. Ironically, the
one with the lowest seat height might also be the most daunting for
shorter riders or novices. The Suzuki’s width means shorter legs still
have a longer stretch to terra firma. Both the narrower Yamaha and
Kawasaki, however offer shorter effective reaches to the ground.


The Kawasaki further makes a concession for smaller people that maybe
Suzuki and Yamaha should take note of. In addition to industry-standard
adjustable brake levers, the Ninja 650R includes an adjustable reach
clutch lever – Kawasaki seems to understand that if riders have short
legs, they’ll probably have small hands too.

Instrumentation is readable for all bikes in daytime or night. Kevin
noted that the Suzuki’s white GSX-R-inspired gauges are especially easy
to read. And here’s an area where the Ninja comes up short: It’s digital
bar graph tachometer, while visible, is not as readable as a big analog
gauge would be.

Conclusion
Although this is a “shootout,” we are especially mindful that the
GSX650F, Ninja 650R and FZ6R are trying to be as close as possible to
everything for everybody.


It’s tough to name a ”best” bike for first-time riders, commuters,
potential day-trippers, enthusiasts looking for a knock-around bike, and
more.


More than most, these machines aim at a moving target. As such, this
review is what four experienced riders think after sampling these bikes,
while trying to second guess what a wide variety of potential riders
would want.
This isn’t
the official order in which these bike ranked, but I’m still enjoying
the Ninja in this game of follow the leader.

None of us preferred the Suzuki. Tom bluntly put it that it “lacks
direction because it doesn't seem to be built for either a novice or an
experienced rider.”


While experienced riders appreciated the Kawasaki, more gave the
Yamaha the thumbs up as the best all-arounder with sporting
capabilities.
And the
winner of best all-around sportbike in this comparo is … Yamaha FZ6R!


So, the short answer is the Yamaha is the official winner!


Since I don’t listen to the beat of other drummers, however, I’ll add
some further impressions for what they are worth. I like the Yamaha,
but representing potential experienced buyers, I would like to have seen
higher footpegs.


Having raced and street ridden Four-Cylinder Suzukis back to the
early 80s, despite my jabs at the GSX650F, I’m less put out with it than
one might think. It felt familiar to me. I found it easier to like than
other MO testers here, and think others could adapt and grow fond of
the bike in time.

And even if more MO testers voted for the Yamaha, I’d give the
underdog award to the EX650R as the little Ninja that could. I like it
because it is its own bike, not a watered-down anything, and is
therefore most unique. As already noted, it is the lightest and might
represent the most twisty road potential for experienced riders. And, at
a $7,099 MSRP, it’s $800 cheaper than the Suzuki.


The $7,, $7,390 ($7,490 in non-black color options) FZ6R and Ninja
650R offer real-world sporting capability. They have enough
grin-inducing power to wind them through a couple-few gears – but not so
much that you’ll look down at the speedo and see you’re accidentally
doing 135 mph.


Given that all street motorcycles are also limited while cornering
and braking, these bikes serve up a freshly brewed blend of corner
carving prowess, plus a better chance of comfortably getting you to
work, school, the store, or out of town.


Related Reading
2009
Yamaha XJ6 & XJ6 Diversion Review
2010
Kawasaki Ninja 650R Review
2008
Suzuki GSX650F Review
2009
Yamaha FZ6R Review

ganahsokmo

Join date : 16/01/2010
Age : 35

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