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  • August 22, 2013
  • Gabe Ets-Hokin & Lucien Lewis
  • Bob Stokstad
  • 58 Comments

MD Double-Take: 2013 Hyosung GT650

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Gabe Ets-Hokin: You Could do a Lot Worse

At the end of the day, a culture is judged by its artifacts, as that’s often all that’s left. Paleo-archeologists turned up their noses at the poor Neanderthals’ crude pottery and swoon over intricately painted Greek amphorae. We here at MD love the shapely curves from Italian moto-factories and admire the practical, yet elegant engineering solutions devised by the Japanese. We even nod appreciatively at the efforts of American chopper builders. But sadly, we’ve never given much thought to Korean industrial designers. Future archeologists will find the carcass of Hyosung motorcycles and say something charitable like, “well, this culture certainly did believe in getting the job done, didn’t it?”

The 2013 Hyosung GT650 won’t inspire much in the way of passion or future PhD theses, but unlike prior offerings out of the Hyosung factory, it’s a practical, dependable and fun-to-ride machine that isn’t short on value. In fact, I was impressed, even if I primed myself with low expectations.

It’s been a long time since I rode a GT650. When I did, I noted awful brakes, clunky transmission, crude build quality and a zillion other flaws—but had to acknowledge the value of a sub $5000 ticket price. That was a long time ago, and adjusting for inflation, the $5799 2013 model is actually about $200 less—and you get some real improvements that make the GT dangerously close to being a decent motorcycle.

The GT650 still isn’t high tech, despite the changes. The frame is still the same double-truss perimeter thing that’s about as sexy as the Richmond Bridge, but it does sport an upside-down fork—adjustable for rebound and compression damping—radial tires (120/60-17 front and 160/60-17 rear), a preload-adjustable linkage-equipped monoshock and, hallelujah, dual four-piston brake calipers with semi-floating 300mm discs.

The motor is the same design Hyosung’s had in its 650cc motorcycle for years. No, it’s not a license-built Suzuki SV650/SFV650 motor, although I’m sure the guys who designed it knew the guys who designed the Japanese V-Twin. The architecture is similar, but the details—placement of ancillaries, bore and stroke numbers, the layout of the cams, followers and other drivetrain stuff is different. Still, it’s good for a claimed 70 horsepower, is fuel-injected, and does the job just fine.

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The package is finished more nicely than before. The tank is the same, but the frame and exhaust can is now black-finished, there’s a cool street-fighter headlamp, better instruments and a stylish tail section with integrated grab handles. Hyosung is also making accessories like race exhausts, frame sliders (our test unit was equipped with a pair, and they were very nice quality) and adjustable rearsets. Still, the tangled mess of hoses, brackets and cables look industrial and haphazardly crammed in there, and though the bike is nicely put together, the cheap feel and clunky finish on many components will probably have you parking away from the streetlight at bike nights.

The GT650 is built for riding—not posing. And it’s a pretty nice riding experience overall, as long as you damp your expectations just a little. Mounting the bike, I noticed a very nice seating position, comfortably upright but still sporty. The controls and instruments worked perfectly well, with nice feel and feedback. I found the seat to be just low enough for my 30-inch inseam, but the pegs were well-placed: no knee cramps for me, and spider-legged Lucien didn’t complain either. Not a lot of wind protection, but it is a naked, so we expected that—the R version, with clip-ons and a full fairing is just $600 more.

If only it were a license-built SV motor—it would be a dream if I couldn’t stop comparing it to Suzuki and Kawasaki’s smoother and more powerful 650cc Twins. Still, it gets ‘er done, with good throttle response, no fueling glitches and terrific bottom and mid-range power (see Lucien’s mile-high wheelie photos and note his fingers are off the clutch lever). The transmission is clunky, but still positive and easy to use. It’s just a lot more buzzy than other Twins this size, and it’s also hampered by having to lug around the 460-ish pounds of Pohang’s finest steel (to be fair, that’s just 15 pounds heavier than the SFV650 and tied with the Ninja 650), so it doesn’t feel as quick as my 2000 SV650, even if top speeds are probably about the same.

Handling is the other department where you won’t mistake it for an SV, although it’s not bad. It feels slower-steering than the SV, which shouldn’t surprise you if you read our GT250R review, but it also felt twitchier at high speeds, and the aforementioned lard doesn’t help. Good news is the brakes, which while they don’t feel as nice as Tokico or Nissin calipers would, are a massive improvement over the old setup, which reminded me of the handbrake on my Big Wheel, c. 1974. Still, the suspension works well, soaking up bumps and keeping the wheels on the ground, and the package works on a twisty road—I had a good time playing hooky from work on a weekday, enjoying the twisty roads on the Marin coastline.

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As far as economy goes, the Hyosung is about average. Fuel consumption was in the mid to high 40s, about what my SV returns (a more sedate commuting pace would probably push the numbers into the 50s). That’ll drag over 150 miles from the big 4.5-gallon tank. Servicing could prove spendy—valve-check intervals are 6000 miles, reflecting the intended use of Hyosung products in developing countries, but Hyosung USA has been considering extending that to 12,000. That could add another few hours to your major service, but if Ducati owners can tolerate it, so can you.

At $5799, the Hyosung is a very good value, offering a new-bike warranty (two years parts and labor, in fact) and performance at a used-bike price. There are more service centers than you’d think, as Hyosung models have been sold under the ATK, UM and other brands, and Hyosungs have been on the marketplace long enough to collect a following, with dedicated Internet fora. Looking for a cheap, dependable and fun commuter? You could do a lot worse at this price point. A future archeologist may not be impressed by the quality of the welds or shape of the tank, but if he rides one, he’ll know the Koreans could build a decent motorcycle.

Lucien Lewis: U.K.M (Universal Korean Motorcycle)

Sometimes I am just wrong. When I got this assignment, I wasn’t exactly bubbling over with glee, but in this business, if you want to ride the occasional hunk of uber-hyper-moto-porn-exotica, you have to put in your time on blander machinery. I accepted the call with a sigh. I felt my reasoning was sound. Hyosung has been bringing yawners into the U.S. for several years now, so I was expecting more of the same. They were decent bikes, okay-to-ride bikes, but certainly nothing you wanted to jump up and down about (or have your friends see you on, for that matter). So, admittedly, I was a bit jaded going in. Luckily, I was wrong.

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The new Hyosung GT650 is not all that different from the previous-generation bike, but the differences are transformative, taking the bike that used to be something of a chore to ride and turning it into a very fun little corner carver.

The biggest upgrades are in the suspension and braking department. With a couple of nice changes there, a bike that was once under-sprung, under-damped, and kind of scary to ride fast has become capable, competent, and confidence inspiring. Another nice move was the addition of Delphi fuel injection, which, though it burbled and popped a wee bit at low speeds when cold, was otherwise well mapped and quite predictable. A modernly styled headlight tops off the remodel.

Looking closely, you can see the casting marks on some of the metal parts, small wavy imperfections in the side panels, and minor details here and there that reveal that this is not a Japanese or Euro bike. Superb fit and finish costs money. Rather than perfection in that arena, Hyosung targeted building an econo-bike that is a blast to ride. It hit the mark.

Out on the road, I was pleasantly surprised by how small and nimble the bike felt underneath me. This little bike loves the twisties, and is very easy to throw from turn to turn. Slower-moving vehicles are picked off one by one and two by two, quickly shrinking and disappearing in the mirrors. Progressing to the higher-velocity sweepers, the Hyosung felt solid and stable well into triple digit speeds. Around town it is fun as well, jumping from light to light, and splitting lanes was fairly effortless. Freeway rides transmit some suspension harshness to the rider if the tarmac is less than perfect, and, by design, wind protection is non-existent. Not a machine that I would want to commute distances on, but just fine for shorter jaunts or back-road blasts. Power is not mind-blowing, but the bike has usable power down low, and pulls respectably hard once the needle is north of 7000 rpm.

In the complaint department, rear end abuse tops the list. Apparently someone at Hyosung got a great deal on gigantic pencil erasers, carved them into large ‘U’ shapes, covered them with vinyl, then bolted them to the subframe. Hard. Seat.  The only other noticed issues were an unnecessarily wide turning radius, and suspension harshness on bumps. These were minor irritants, but may bother some owners.

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The aesthetics are appealing, and over the course of the testing period, the bike got several complements from passers-by and curious observers, including a pair of leering elderly ladies who said that the bike looked ‘Really hot’ (Honestly, I’m not sure if that is a good thing or not).

So I was wrong about this bike, and I can’t remember having been glad to be wrong. The new GT650 is actually a well executed and very enjoyable bike to ride that can be had for relatively small money. Retailing at $5699, The GT650 is a full $2300 less that Suzuki’s Gladius-SV thingy, and a whopping $4300 less than Triumph’s Street Triple R. This is certainly not the polished and refined sport bike that the Triumph is, but at a fraction of the cost, it is a good bargain ride that will give you great bang for the buck and plenty of smiles per mile.

Gabe Ets-Hokin is the Editor of City Bike Magazine, and a frequent contributor to MotorcycleDaily.com

58 Comments

  1. Les says:

    At least they don’t look like my old ’89 Hawk GT650 anymore. Kind of stealing suzuki’s style to my eye now. Ah well, not every company can have imagination.

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  2. Eric says:

    2002 SV650 nakkid that is….

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  3. Eric says:

    I consistently get 55MPG riding my “stock” 2002 (last year of carburetors), and over 60 MPG on longer trips at 55-60MPH. Having the stock muffler and carb settings is key.

    Report this comment

  4. kjazz says:

    A friend of mine who was a bit down on his luck (monetarily), bought a Hyosung, I dont even remember the model, but this was several years ago.

    He rode the snot out of it. Which just proves in my thinking anyway (IMO), that 90% of it all is the rider. So you (we) can sit around debating, but I’m sure this motorcycle is fun as hell to ride (like most motorcycles), and would probably pass most of you if in the hands of a capable rider.

    I’m happy to see these available, they will get better (dont bet against it). And they will broaden the offerings to all of us and make it a better motorcycle market.

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  5. HalfBaked says:

    Maybe they should change the name to Datsun.

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  6. VintageDirt says:

    I’d rather have a sister in brothel than a brother on Hyosung.

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  7. Artem says:

    The frame is really odd. Yet it is not the “19 century bridge” of Ducati.

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  8. Gronde says:

    I still think you’re better off getting one of the Japanese alternatives. You’ll have a name that you’re proud to own and better resale when it’s time to sell. Also, you’ll find that the Japanese bikes are wholly better machines from the performance and quality. Go for the Japanese offering, you’ll never miss the little extra $ that it cost you up front.

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  9. TURBO BLACKBIRD says:

    NICE LIL RIDE..

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  10. jake says:

    A bit shocking that the Koreans could be so far behind the Japanese. They are only a throw and skip away from Japan, are their largest minority, and have no problem with head and head competition with the Japanese in other industries.

    Didn’t think a quality, attractive bike was this hard to build for an advance country like Korea. Hyosung must be a small company without a lot of RD money to spend. Or perhaps the parts supply network in Korea has remained undeveloped.

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    • Gary says:

      You obviously don’t know much about Hyosungs or their company.

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      • Randy says:

        Well Gary, we are all ears. I think Jake nails it on this. The review brings to mind that saying about faint praise… or the one about polish and glitter. Seems to me this bike is a near state of the art cheap motorcycle for 20 years ago.

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        • Gary says:

          Ok, read the review again. About the only thing I see a complaint about is a hard seat and restricted turning radius. I don’t know about the seat, I’ll agree with the restricted turning radius. However, most areas Hyosung is right in there or even past some comparable Japanese models. Adjustable upside forks, which many comparable models do not have. Not sure about the GT650, but other Hyosung models have adjustable foot peg positions so I am assuming this one probably does too. How many Japanese machines have this? Most Hyosung models also feature spectrum point analog speedometer (for this model tachometer) combined with a multi-functional LCD display provides accurate and vivid display both day and night. This doesn’t sound like a bike of 20 years ago. Most Hyosungs now come with LED lights except for the headlight. I will admit that the brakes and suspension this year are far better than a few years ago, so past history should not play on current offerings.
          As far as size of the company, read their “about” link on Hyosung USA’s Facebook page. You will see that the parent company is massive owning five subsidiaries and has a research and development center located in Japan.

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          • Randy says:

            I read the review too and basically nothing about the bike seems up to even what the first gen SV650 was, 14 years ago. Yes, adjustable upside down forks, but so what? Still has “Handling is the other department where you won’t mistake it for an SV…” Wow, that sounds exciting. Rough engine, painted steel frame, claimed 70 HP, wonder what a dyno says. Sorry, this bike is behind the times.

            I’m not saying every bike has to be a world beater supersport. But these days because we got refinement, we are used to refinement, and the Hyosung bikes simply are lacking. Many years ago I owned a 1986 VFR700. The one with the aluminum frame. That bike overall was much better than the SV650, and it was current 27 years ago – you’d think in all that time a huge advanced company like Hyosung might be able to produce something like that VFR??? They can’t even pull off a SV650.

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          • Gary says:

            So what on the adjustable upside down forks? Well, for one thing, all bikes in this class do not have this, some may have upside down even, but are non adjustable. Handling, I did acknowledge that the restricted turning radius is true, but in the article it still says the handling is not bad at all. Rough engine? Your thinking of some of the first models of Hyosung to be imported into this country, not the latest models. And since when is a painted steel frame something others don’t have also. They could easily make it aluminum, then the complaint would be they cost about as much as other similar bikes with aluminum frames. HP- I haven’t seen yet where horsepower claims are always accurate- no matter the brand. I’ve seen current Hyosung bikes, and they are quite nicely finished- engines and all. The 650′s I rode with are quite good on acceleration also, they seem to embarrass bikes of larger size of other manufactures.

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          • Gronde says:

            Most riders couldn’t tell the difference between a standard or upside down fork from the saddle. It’s just icing for this class of bike that nobody was asking for.

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          • Gary says:

            But it’s still an item that some others don’t have- icing or not. And upside down forks are considered by most if not all to be better for handling, and in the case of this Hyosung, are adjustable. Most may not notice it, but others will.

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  11. Don says:

    Honda CB500F for a couple hundred less seems like a better deal for a beginner bike. It will probably have higher resale, and just be easier to sell also.

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  12. Tom R says:

    It is interesting to think about where things will be in 7-10 years, especially for the Japanese brands. They will continue to be squeezed from both ends, the Europeans, H-D, and Victory/Indian at the upper end of the market, and the Koreans and Chinese at the other.

    How much room can remain in the “middle” for what we used to refer to as the Big Four?

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    • Norm G. says:

      re: “How much room can remain in the “middle” for what we used to refer to as the Big Four?”

      depends. (ok, depends on what norm ya knucklehead)

      depends on whether one is a true MOTORCYCLIST…? or whether one is “so much walmart consumer” MASQUERADING as a motorcyclist…?

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      • Tom R says:

        Umm…OK…umm, don’t quite understand this response. Please elaborate.

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        • ducatidon says:

          Egads, there’s a true MOTORCYCLIST in our midst!

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        • Mike Simmons says:

          There are “motorcyclists” and there are “bikers”. Typically, “bikers” prefer products exclusively from the MOCO. For we “motorcyclists”, most any other brad will do just fine, thank you very much. I think we will see in short order Korean and Chinese quality come up to par with the Japanese big four. Should be a very competitive playing field before long.

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        • Norm G. says:

          re: “Umm…OK…umm, don’t quite understand this response. Please elaborate.”

          translation: there’s room for everybody. Korea, China, and India can have a “field day” at the entry level, the Japanese can continue sewing up the middle, and the Euros and Yanks can stand pat top o’ the food chain. all these segments can happily coexist. this kind of VARIETY is what makes 2 wheels great. you know when the last time i saw/heard a 2-stroke automobile…? lemme think… never. in contrast, I saw no less than a half dozen 2T motorbikes, plated and “crackling” happily down 16th a week ago. the smell of Cox .049 model airplanes was intoxicating. :)

          you only have to take a cursory glance at car world to see everything (but EVERYTHING) over there is “homogenized”. :( we just have to be smart enough to recognize this and behave accordingly. ie. accept our roles as “stewards” of motorcycling and spend RESPONSIBLY. crazy concept right…? :) YOU/ME/WE/US have to CLEANSE ourselves of the “secular disease of consumerism”. and you guys all know this is NOT the first time you’ve heard me say this. it’s only been a reoccurring theme.

          ferrchrissakes put down the newspaper ads and ignore the TV commercials. supermarket coupons, payless BOGO’s (buy one get one), and “O% financing at your local kia dealer” have JACKSH!T to do with the niche business of motorcycling. i’m simply the first to illustrate that there are major differences in the ECONOMICS of “shopping” for an appliance…? Vs. actually coming off the dime for a motorcycle.

          behold, these are NOT washing machines…!!!

          http://s62.photobucket.com/user/shamarone/library/vintage%20indy%202013

          VINTAGE INDY courtesy of Norm G. note, click on the magnifying glass in the lower right corner for a full size image.

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          • mickey says:

            You mean I have finally seen, filled up actually as a 16 year old lad, so ething Norm has never seen? Saab made two stroke cars in the 50s using DKW designed engines.

            And Honda once made a chain drive sports car

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      • Tanto412 says:

        Oh, you big He-man you, Normmy, you must be a “REAL/TRUE” motorcyclist. I can tell by your elitist attitude.

        Report this comment

        • Norm G. says:

          re: “Oh, you big He-man you, Normmy, you must be a “REAL/TRUE” motorcyclist. I can tell by your elitist attitude.”

          you must be new around here…? right then, lemme be the first to welcome you to MD. :)

          btw, elitist is a relative term. it isn’t so much an indication of the person being labeled…? as it as an introspective view of one’s self. that means the only way I can be “elitist” (comma) is if you in fact don’t hold yourself in high regard.

          I can’t let you be “less” than what you think you ought to be.

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    • jake says:

      Not as if the Japanese can’t do a little squeezing if they feel the need to. Remember back in the 70′s and 80′s, it was within the big four’s power to put every other bike manufacturer out of business. Instead, they wisely chose to back off to allow some diversity to exist. At any time, the Japanese can become more competitive on both ends. They just don’t feel the need to try any harder right now.

      The Chinese in the long run could become the big problem to which the Big Four is unable to adequately respond, but in the next 10 years or so, the Japanese will benefit greatly from China. China’s the largest motorcycle market in the world, approximately 5 to 10 times the size of the U.S.’s.

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    • mickey says:

      Market place decides who gets to keep on playing, whether its Hyosung, Motus or Indian. Buyers decide.

      Report this comment

  13. allworld says:

    Hyosung hasn’t quite rounded the corner yet, but their products are getting better. For a first bike it’s a good choice.

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  14. Starmag says:

    You sure did Hyosung a favor with those pics. Really nice photography.

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  15. denny says:

    What hurts it most is the weight and appearance of black painted steel constructed frame. If you want to show something, do not show steel. If this was aluminum like on SV it would gain appeal twofold (they do not aspire to be Kor-cati I hope). And, aluminum has twice the strength at same weight; just as a bonus!

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  16. Bud says:

    It wasn’t so long ago that Hyundais were cheap and crude compared to their Japanese competition. Seems like the Koreans have a plan.

    Report this comment

    • Jim says:

      And they are still a ‘poor mans’ Honda.

      Report this comment

      • bmidd says:

        No they aren’t. Bought a brand new Honda in 2010 and 3 months later traded it for the new Sonata. 42,000 miles later it is still trouble free and returns 36mpg on the highway. When you seek value for your dollar, that doesn’t mean you’re “poor”. Oh and the more than twice as long warranty doesn’t hurt.

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      • Bud says:

        My last Honda did its best to turn me into a poor man. Honda quality is overrated IMO.

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    • Andrew says:

      Yes, but Hyundai made progress in leaps and bounds. Hyosung on the other hand, while admittedly getting better, seems to progress at much slower rate.

      I would like to see a comparo between Hyosung GT650 and the other new player in bargain 650cc stakes, Chinese CF-Moto NK650… they are both kind of ‘almost there’ but the problem is, Hyosung has been ‘almost there’ for nearly 10 years now. I wonder who will actually get ‘there’ first :)

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  17. Starmag says:

    I’m sure it’s a fine bike,especially for the money. The problem is telling your friends you have a Hyosung. ” Can you have out-patient surgery for that?”. Hyosung should consider a name change for America like Yamaha did with Star.

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    • Ken says:

      I don’t think their name, while sounding foreign today, matters; I remember the first time I saw the name “Kawasaki” in the ’60s, thinking it sounded a bit too Japanese — until seeing and hearing the first Mach III.

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      • Starmag says:

        If it didn’t matter, why would Yamaha, ( who is WAY better known and respected ), go to the great expense of re-branding to Star? I really don’t know, maybe it only matters to cruiser riders? Hyosung doesnt exactly roll of the tongue for me and I’m not a cruiser rider.

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  18. Jim says:

    I’d buy a used SV for a fraction of that cost. Oh wait I did.

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    • BlackCayman says:

      That’s what I did as well. Then years later bought an SV1000 N which I still have today. Suzuki makes great motorcycles – you can’t say the same with Hyosung…

      As nice as Hyundais are today, I don’t want to say I bought/own one. The Hyosung is even more so.

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      • Gary says:

        Who do you think manufactured Suzuki’s SV motors at one time at least for the Korean market- yes Hyosung. Have any of you naysayers really looked at or rode a Hyosung lately? My local dealer says he has little or no problems with the ones he sold so far.

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  19. Gary says:

    The Hyosungs seem to be starting to come on strong. I’m hoping that a test on the upcoming X-5 will be next!

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  20. SecaKid says:

    I wish kawasaki would build a bike like this with the 650 ninja motor.

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    • kawatwo says:

      Kawasaki did build one, it was called the ER650N, naked version of the ninja 650. There should be some used ones for sale. I loved my 650 ninja, I’m sure the ER is great too. The Koreans are getting closer though!

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      • SecaKid says:

        The ER was ugly. I never see them on Craigslist. I don’t think Kawasaki sold too many of them. No matter how good a bike is, if it’s ugly, it isn’t going to sell (B-King).

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      • Jeremy in TX says:

        My brother bought and still owns a 2009 ER-6N new in 2009 . He loves it, and I personally think it is a great looking bike. Much better in person than in pictures. To each his own, though. It is an extremely fun bike to ride.

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