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Digital Subscriptions > Fast Bikes > 321 December 2016 > DON'T CALL US LIGHTWEIGHTS

DON'T CALL US LIGHTWEIGHTS

2016 sees several new additions to the budget naked middleweight brigade. So it's about time we gathered them together and gave them a jolly good spanking...
PICS: GAWLER

It's a horrible thing to admit, but life isn't always centred on 200bhp and the last tenth at FB Towers. This quartet of budget nakedness may not pack anything outrageously captivating or lavish into their diminutive packages, but in terms of the good old performance per pound idiom, these cheeky scamps offer serious value and we never tire of extolling their collective virtues. Most of the marketing guff focuses on urban environs, yet riding further into suburbia and rural roads only brings miles of smiles ­ no matter the pilot.

Over the years bike firms have slowly banished the budget componentry that blighted older models as they realise the true value of this prevalent sector. If memory serves me correctly, Yamaha's MT-07 was the third bestselling big bike throughout the world in 2015, only bettered by the Harley Electra Glide and BMW's GS. Unchanged for this season, the MT has romped to victory in previous encounters, but there are some fresh faces

Kawasaki's ER-6 also remains unmolested for 2016, although we're expecting extensive model updates to satisfy Euro4 rulings and to cater for its loyal followers. And let's not forget that this is the base that propels the world's best road racers around the Isle of Man TT course at average speeds of 120mph, albeit in a rather upgraded guise. We've heard rumours of Yamaha's MT-07 being ushered into the Lightweight race class. Yes, its capacity may be too large, but with some restrictions it'll add another much-needed dimension into a category that's dominated by Team Green. The line from TT boss, Paul Phillips, when questioned on the matter was, "There's no plans to change the rules for 2017," which is about as loose as a statement can come...

One machine that we can safely say won't be competing at the TT is KTM's heavily revised 690 Duke, which comes rolling into 2016 with an onslaught of fancy pants technology. Priced firmly beyond the other three on test, the Duke offers an eclectic blend of motard genes and genuine naked nuttiness.

And, finally, we have the `all-new' Suzuki SV650, replacing the Gladius/SFV for 2016. By all intents and purposes, Suzuki's Gladius was a marketing fiasco. For starters, its name was ridiculous and its styling deterred potential customers, which is shame, as the bike itself was a belter beneath the bedding. It was labelled as a ladies' steed and lacked the edge, aggression and performance of its rivals. Thankfully, the refreshed SV is back on form after seriously impressing on the launch.

Let the chaos begin...

Kawasaki ER-6f

Decent ground clearance, handy suspension and a mild output makes track work easy on the Kwak

After a massive logistics fail, I ended up riding the ER-6f from our friends at Bristol Kawasaki to Llandow. But what started as a faff soon turned into something worthwhile. Eagle-eyed readers (actually, anyone with vision) will spot that this particular bike is the `f' model, although there's bugger-all to separate this from the naked `n' model we wanted (except for the obvious frontal arrangement). I revelled in its additional wind protection along the M4 ­ most soothing indeed ­ and offset motorway monotony by playing the fuel economy game; the crux of its electronics involves an ECO feature that warns you're riding like a soft lad by indicating on the dash, should you need reminding.

RWU forks, non-radial brakes, old school vibes!

There's nothing aggressive about the Ninja 650, not that respective owners would necessarily lust after a life of ninja-ism. Once fresh and exciting, the class stalwart and TT advocate now feels old and drab ­ like an out of date Stilton, just less smelly. Aforementioned rival's components upgrades have ensured certain fragments of the ER appear archaic and tawdry, like the swingarm that looks like a toddler could snap it. That said, it munches miles with seamless comfort and rarely throws up any complaints. Along with the Suzuki, the riding position is the most natural, the most intuitive for a wider range of rider sizes, yet can sometimes feel a bit cramped in the cockpit with those narrow 'bars to grab. And those bloody rubber pegs...

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