All-rounder comparison test, Honda VTR 1000 F Firestorm, Kawasaki ZRX 1200, Suzuki SV 1000 S, Triumph Sprint RS, Yamaha FZ1 Fazer

Courage to leave a gap

Five machines that fill the wide field between athletes and tourers in completely different ways. The focus: Suzuki’s new two-cylinder sports tourer SV 1000 S.

First work, then pleasure, mother used to say. In plain language: do homework, go play. Exactly in this order. The banality of such winged words is a marvelous argument, but with some life experience under your belt you have to admit that there is something to it. Unfortunately, the motto cannot be applied unreservedly to the work related to a comparison test, otherwise this text should have been ready before the test drive. But at least the unpopular consumption trips – homework, so to speak – are completed before the much more fun test round.
So first of all nice and good on the train, 100 and 130 consumption are on the roster. Spinning around between smelly trucks at a steady 100 km / h for at least an hour is really not a pleasant task. The fact that the traffic is less dense on the car route in southern France makes this part a little easier. Refuel very meticulously before the Remoulins driveway near Avignon, then it goes to Nice at the restrained trot. Disciplined on the throttle is required when fully loaded French car transporters pull past the test convoy downhill at 110 km / h.
In any case, the monotonous consumption trips offer plenty of time and opportunity to familiarize yourself with the motorcycles. First surprise for SV-1000-S newbies: the sporty seating position. Suzuki didn’t just screw a half-shell to the uncovered version, but replaced the tubular handlebar with heavily cranked handlebar stubs mounted under the fork bridge and moved the footpegs far back and up. Result: a real super sport feeling, with corresponding effects. There is a lot of pressure on the wrists, at this slow pace the mild breeze of the airstream hardly provides any relief.
More speed would definitely relieve the strain on the arms, because the tightly cut fairing with the low windshield exposes the upper body and head largely unprotected to aerodynamic forces. Which, although stressing the neck muscles, has the advantage that there is no annoying turbulence on the helmet with accompanying acoustic annoyance. Incidentally, the uncomfortably high, unsteady pillion seat with the spartan seat cushion also fits the sporty concept. The vibrations are kept within limits despite the robust, two-cylinder drive, but a slight constant jerk remains.
Honda’s VTR 1000 F doesn’t know the latter at all; To ensure that the engine runs smoothly, the Japanese have made a lot of effort with a few technical refinements, such as different timing for both cylinders. Many two-cylinder freaks consider the hearty vibrations to be a pleasant expression of life, they only become really annoying in the uppermost speed range. In which one rarely stays because of the long final translation. Conceptually, the VTR is similar to the SV, but also focuses more on the first half of the generic term sports tourer. But less radical, the seat is lower, the handlebars are higher. Accordingly, the kippers are less pronounced, which makes cruising at 100 km / h far more pleasant. The VTR also tends to be used solo, occasional passengers complain about the thinly padded bench and the lack of holding options.
In this quintet, the Triumph Sprint RS embodies the classic sports tourer best. Not only because of the lush, rounded proportions, but above all because of the relaxed, yet by no means unsporting seating position. The RS spoils with plenty of space and good seating comfort, which also applies to the accommodation of the co-pilot. The comfortable upholstery is set against a tight paneling that creates a lot of drafts in the helmet area. If you want to go really fast, you just have to duck a bit, which is easily possible with the generous space ratios. In terms of the engine, the Triple is – what a miracle – somewhere between the two- and four-cylinder. This means that it vibrates significantly less than SV or even more VTR, but does not run very smoothly. After all, it is precisely this idiosyncratic, somewhat rough character that fans of the row threesome like.
The Kawasaki ZRX 1200 S is a real big bike, in terms of displacement anyway, and in terms of dimensions as well. This creates excellent conditions for extremely comfortable ergonomics. A high, wide handlebar and the sweeping, really comfortable bench seat offer good comfort for two upright passengers. The half-shell is sprawling in width, but of course it cannot offer the qualities of a tourer casing due to the lack of height. It would be a shame if the classic design of the Kawa would disappear under even more plastic. Two struts, classic round instruments with no digital frills, the heart laughs.
With risers that would do credit to a chopper, Yamaha has positioned the tubular handlebar of the FZS 1000 Fazer a few centimeters higher above the fork bridge. The seat is relatively low. At a moderate speed, the wrists are relieved to such an extent that the throttle grip loosely rattles on the handlebars. If you let the Fazer run faster, you have to pull hard on the handlebars against the wind pressure. Because the cladding is cut tight, the pane narrow. An unpleasant side effect: the driver, whether tall or small, always hangs in the turbulence with his helmet, which causes a more or less noisy background sound depending on the headgear. Possibilities for variation in posture are severely limited due to the high sail pole. The four-cylinder feels silky smooth at first, only in the long run you can feel the fine vibrations in the handles.
250 kilometers further, at the height of Fréjus, finally the longed-for petrol station, which marks the end of the consumption trips. Tea pocket calculator is used: There are no excessive outliers in fuel consumption to be reported. The three-cylinder Triumph is the most economical with fuel, as everyone knows. The VTR allows itself the largest gulp with both constant consumption, which is nothing new either. The SV comes to similar values, it is certainly not a heavy drinker.
What is much more important: the homework is done, but now quickly to the playground. So get off the Autoroute Mediterranée onto the coastal road. A winding, grippy strip of asphalt with a wonderful panoramic view, on the right the sea, on the left the rugged, red rocks. Not only the fantastic landscape is inspiring, but also the acceleration of the Suzuki two-cylinder. Accompanied by the typical V2 sound, the SV roars from every corner that it is a real splendor. Rotational speed? Regardless, power is always and everywhere available spontaneously and without jerks. The gear changes are smooth, only the clutch should be a little smoother. In this still fairly new test machine, the slipper clutch caused fewer problems than in the top test (MOTORRAD 7/2003). Only when sorting the gears very hard does it jerk a little, the pressure point remains constant.
The Honda Twin is now a bit old, it has to be content with carburettors in contrast to the injecting Suzuki. Since 2000 only 98 horses have been galloping up, making the Honda the weakest machine in this comparison. Over 200 km / h, the two-cylinder gradually ran out of breath, even sharp heating on extensive country roads reveals a performance deficit. In addition, the VTR drive does not depend as directly on the gas as the SV, and is less explosive. Nevertheless, the characteristics are pleasing. You quickly learn to use the rounded torque peak instead of the power peak. That saves permanent stirring in the gearshift box, which is pretty rough anyway, especially in the lower gears, there is little noticeable of the flexibility that is typical for Honda.
The Triumph Triple is something for connoisseurs of the British way of life, since last year the heavily modified 955 has even more fire. The threesome greedily turns without any hole through the wide band. To suddenly be castrated by the rev limiter at the zenith of performance. Almost a bit of a shame, one thinks involuntarily. Was there even more to come? In addition, the robust acoustic background. There is something. The fact that the circuit acts a little bony is noted as a minor blemish. The short overall gear ratio is more annoying, on long stages you want a lower speed level.
The Fazer cannot offer a similar listening experience, the silencer does its job almost too well. The huge thrust of the R1 feeder compensates for this in all speed ranges. Gigantic, a rolling catapult, always ready to be launched. Does an all-rounder with such a wide sail rod from Lenk really need such a brute power plant? Anyway, the fun is huge. And the level of self-discipline in traffic is correspondingly high.
The potential of the Kawa engine is on a similar level, it clearly benefits from the large displacement. However, the ZRX is less dynamic than the Fazer. Which certainly not only has to do with maneuverability and responsiveness, but rather has a very banal cause: At around 250 kilograms, the Kawa weighs around 20 kilograms more than the Triumph and Fazer, and even around 35 more than the two two-cylinder engines . Such a trump card cannot be a lively sprinter. Is that why the ZRX shies away from rough manners? In any case, the drivetrain reacts to rough shifting with strange, rather unhealthy noises.
And the landing gear? They are not challenged much on this flat terrain. So a detour to the mountains of the Maritime Alps has to show their qualities. There, the complete program is offered in constant change that piste sweepers dream of: winding, tricky pass roads, long, fast combinations of curves, bumpy or undulating slopes, smoothly polished or rough surfaces. It is important to keep a cool head on such terrain. Here, performance becomes a minor matter, handling, steering precision and suspension are what count.
Who would have thought that Honda’s two-cylinder oldie would suddenly make it big? The VTR whizzes through the winding curves with phenomenal precision, only the Triumph can keep up. The lightness of the Japanese V-Zwo is astonishing, everything almost goes by itself. Especially since the balanced suspension has found the right mix between comfort and sportiness. Unfortunately, the dull, poorly metered front brake spoils the great overall impression. The hardware itself makes a solid impression, perhaps other rubbers will help.
The Triumph has very different problems in this regard. With a calculable grip, the snappy, appealing brake actually leaves a good impression. On unknown, slippery ground or in wet conditions, the RS stoppers are tremendously unsettling, especially since the characteristic curve appears degressive. Extremely poisonous the first time you get in, sharp braking maneuvers from high speed require disproportionately high manual forces. Otherwise, the clean line with which the RS scurries around corners inspires. No load change reactions mess up the line, the erection torque is within limits.
When things get that tricky, the Yamaha quickly loses touch with the whole force of its engine no longer helping. Even turning in is not quite as fluid, in inclined positions the life of the forehand leads to strange serpentine lines. The passive sitting position doesn’t make it easier to get around sharp corners. You get little feedback about the steering, you can’t put any pressure on the light-looking front section by increasing your weight. Bumps lead to further difficulties when driving hard. Above all, the soft, comfort-oriented design of the rear suspension sometimes reaches its limits and then buckles. The vote should also be a bit tougher at the front. Especially since the extremely effective braking system regardless, which grips linearly of the speed, can hardly bring the fork into the Bredoullie.
The heavy ZRX looks amazingly agile in the Winkelwerk of the Alpes Maritimes. The chassis stays nice and neutral when tilted, and the Kawa is great at covering up your hip fat. But only as long as it is. The two rear suspension struts are fully adjustable, bump, ridden sharply on undulating slopes, but they are pushed to their limits. And they don’t respond as well as the competition’s central struts. Here and there the rear wheel loses contact with the road. The inconspicuous delay system, however, is flawless.
And the SV? It lacks balance. The rear suspension is designed to be sporty and taut, the fork is clearly too soft. Even turning off all the adjusting screws and pre-tensioning the fork springs does not change anything, a healthy balance does not want to be achieved. That brings unrest to the framework, hails the line on uneven roads. In addition, every load change is associated with a little dangling. The handling is okay, but the SV does not scurry through the winding bends as nimble as the Honda.
GEnough of the knowledge, the quintet heads back towards the base. Wasn’t there something else? If only in the heat of the moment we almost forgot the consumption of highways. So at the very end, turn off the gas again, roll in nice and cozy in sunny weather for an hour or two through the hilly landscapes of Provence to Mountain Ventoux. Certainly the nicest homework there is.

1st place – Triumph Sprint RS

This greedy hissing of the three-cylinder in the upper speed range ?? a sound that simply turns you on. Regardless of this, the Triumph can throw the best all-round qualities in this test. In the labyrinth of bends, the machine from Hinckley turns out to be a precise, light-footed bend robber who can also be certified as being well suited for long distances.

2nd place – Yamaha FZS 1000 Fazer

The huge engine dominates life with the big Fazer. Achievement in abundance, always and everywhere, easily manageable with a sense of responsibility. In addition, almost perfect brakes, a lot of comfort, even for two, and confidence-inspiring straight-line stability, what more could you want? Clearly, a firmer suspension and more precision and agility on narrow country roads.

3rd place – Suzuki SV 1000 S.

Who would have thought: SV turns out to be a super athlete in disguise. Suzi wants to be chased away vigorously, then she is in her element. The preferred area are well-developed, quickly marked country roads, the SV 1000 S has a harder time in the narrow curve slalom. In the final bill, however, the sporty design costs exactly the decisive points.

4th place – Honda VTR 1000 F Fire Storm

The clear test winner? but unfortunately only in the chapter chassis. Nimble, precise, neutral, balanced, for this Honda’s two-cylinder gets top marks. Unfortunately, the engine can no longer keep up. Compared to the strong competition, the oldie simply lacks a few horsepower and a little liveliness. More pressure, better brakes, and the VTR could be right at the front again.

5th place – Kawasaki ZRX 1200 S

Lots of displacement, plenty of pressure from below and a lot of top performance. Nevertheless, it is not enough for the Kawa to get a better placement, as the chassis with the pretty stereo spring struts is not quite up to the powerful drive and the high weight. And finally, like the Fazer, the ZRX is no longer up-to-date in terms of emissions, which costs points.

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