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ONCE THEY WERE CARDIGANS, NOW THEY ARE HOODIES

Comparing the 2024 Honda BB750 Hornet, Suzuki GSX-8s, and Yamaha MT-07HO

IMAGES BY DUNCAN CLIFTON

From left to right: Aaron, Thomas, and Billy.

Once, in a time before this one, when motorcycle-ridin’ men gathered in wild-eyed groups to cheat death and measure the respective sizes of their manhoods, owners of mid-sized upright twins would sit with the women over in the corner.

 

They would sip Fluffy Ducks and try not to catch the eye of the puissant males standing on the other side of the pool table, necking beer, and loudly declaiming how their 1000cc superbikes were the Alpha and the Omega of two-wheeled devilry.

Once were cardigans, now they’re something much more exciting…

Halcyon days.

 

We live in a gentler time now. Such overt displays of masculinity are now deemed toxic, cancelled via electronic means, and suffer widespread condemnation and tutt-tutting.

 

Add to this the insane levels of policing on our roads, and it’s easy to see why few people are buying 1000cc sportsbikes thesedays.

There are already too many white bikes on this earth. This is one of them.

The manufacturers, always hyper-aware of the vagaries of the market, have thus directed their attention to mid-sized bikes (between 700 and 900cc) with parallel-twin engine configurations, given them 270-degree cranks, made the bikes themselves light, provided great brakes and decent suspension…and well, what was once the cardigan of the motorcycle-engine world, is now something far less beige and bland.

Not the usual Suzuki blue, but I reckon it works very well.

Most of the motorcycle manufacturers are rushing mid-sized parallel-twins to the market, and the Big Three Japanese makes – Suzuki, Yamaha, and Honda, are at the very forefront of this. Kawasaki makes 650cc parallel twins, so it’s kinda missing out a bit with these bigger-capacity bangers.

Fair to say this was the bike that started the whole parallel-twin frenzy. And still a hard act to follow.

So let’s see what the numbers say, and then I’ll tell you how four very different riders felt after hammering them up and down the Putty Road one sunny spring morning.

 

Suzuki’s pointy-faced new 8S makes 82 horses and 78Nm. It weighs 202kg, has a seat height of 810mm, and a wheelbase of 1465mm. You also get a three-year warranty. It’s $14,190 ride-away.

 

The Honda CB750 Hornet offers you 90.5 horsies and 75Nm, while weighing 190kg. Its wheelbase is 1420mm and its seat-height is 795mm. Honda offers a two-year warranty period. It’s $13,450 ride-away.

 

Yamaha’s MT-07HO (which stands for High Output) feeds you 72 horses and 66Nm, while tipping the scales at 184kg. It has a 805mm seat-height and 1400mm wheelbase. It comes with a three-year warranty. It’s $14,445 ride-away.

All of them hunch purposely forward with protuberances.

So they’re kinda close about the numbers, with the Yammy giving a little away to the other two in terms of oomph, but it’s also a tad lighter. But that’s on paper. The road is invariably where true comparisons become evident.

 

But all sorts of variables come into play on the road.

 

There’s the weight of the rider. There’s the size of the rider’s balls. There are the years of riding experience – governed by both what was ridden and how it was ridden. There’s fearing the consequences of binning one of these bikes and the ensuing reign of terror and suffering that follows. There’s each individual rider’s risk assessment, licence state, breakfast, and general mental health to consider.

The Mother does not forgive mistakes. Don’t make any. Simple.

So this less a comparison of bikes, and more a comparison of riders and their preferences. Bike comparos are largely bullshit anyway. You can only objectively compare the specs. And once more than one rider is involved, it all devolves into a personal preference thing fuelled by existing skills, prejudices and handicaps.

 

Honda dashes are always top-notch.

 

Yamaha’s effort is greatly improved.

 

Suzuki, the new kid on the block, lacks nothing in the info stakes.

Now the following applies to all the bikes. They are stupidly hilarious and fun to ride. They are hugely agile, and while the suspension is not that high-end golden viking stuff, it is of sufficient quality to give all three bikes some serious ability in the corners. You just have to keep it pinned, sweetheart. You can’t be relying on that glorious litre bang to get out of a corner. And so you need to be carrying more corner speed on entry. “Wringing its neck” is what we’re talking about here.

Aaron failed to bring it through here on the rear wheel.

Of course, you don’t have to do that. And some people may frown at the very suggestion of such a thing on public roads. What I am telling you, and what the other three riders will happily confirm when asked, is that these three bikes shine like diamonds when their necks are being wrung.

 

It therefore follows a competent rider will be very, very fast on one of these through the tight stuff. Embarrassingly so, actually.

The Yamaha spoke to Thomas. And so did his wife.

All the bikes have quick-shifters (the Yammy’s is an aftermarket OEM buy), pre-set ride modes, lovely TFT dashes, a very high level of finish, great fuel economy, decent tyres, and keep the promises they make in terms of handling.

 

That’s the whole “hilarious fun” thing right there. Light, agile, sweet-handling bikes, being ridden flat out by unscrupulous men more used to large-capacity superbikes, and the ensuing manhood comparisons in the noon-day sun on deserted roads.

Honda offers the most conservative face to the world.

 

Yamaha has the aggro tech-insect look nailed.

 

I reckon it looks great.

From where I was neck-wringing, it was like this for me…

 

I loved the Honda’s level of finish. I loved that it had heated grips as standard. It was always predictable, and probably the least demanding of the three in terms of rider input.

Five minutes before this was taken, a Highway Patrol car came past, the driver gesticulating madly. or masturbating. Impossible to say…

I was split painfully between the Yamaha and Suzuki. They both devoured corners, but I felt the Suzuki’s suspension was a tad more zeroed-in for my weight. I’m not dissing the Yammy’s bouncers, and they felt much better than the original MT-07 items, and while the Yammy turned in sharper, I felt the Suzuki was a little more settled in the corners.

 

The Yammy’s low-beam was great, with a good wide throw, and when one engaged high-beam, not much changed. Suzuki had a much better low-to-high beam difference, and the Honda was much like the Yammy.

Good work on the muffler, Hamamatsu.
Where Yamaha’s torques live.
Note how tidy the Honda engine looks by comparison to the other two.

Little things, but when the bikes are this close, things like maybe the warranty period might make a difference to a buyer’s call.

 

If I was shopping in this segment, I’d be awake at night deciding between the Yamaha and the Suzuki, and then when I finally bought one, I would lament not buying the other. They really are that close for me.

Thomas really did like the Yamaha.

But that’s me. Here is who my companions are and what they thought…

 

Aaron – mid-thirties, normally rides a ZX-10RR and an FJR1200 and races motocross. Weighs about as much as a big greyhound.

 

“If I was to put them in order, it’d be the Suzuki, the Yamaha and then the Honda. I think the Suzuki is a more well-rounded motorcycle all over. I think the Yamaha is a little quicker steering but we are really splitting hairs. They’re all incredible fun to ride.”

 

Billy – mid-sixties, and just got himself a Yamaha MT-10SP after spending ages on a GSX1400. Billy is the size of a lot of greyhounds, has never worn a pair of motorcycle gloves in his life, and if he ever runs, will become the mayor of Singleton in a landslide. He’d ridden the Honda quite a bit before this excursion, and really liked it, so his response on the day surprised me.

 

“Suzuki, smoother, less effort, handles better than the Yamaha. No shortage of power. ‘But you really liked the Honda before?’ “Yeah, I know, but it’s the Suzuki through and through for me now.”

 

Thomas – mid-thirties, normally rides a Fireblade, and sold his soul to Honda as a result of that purchase. His lovely wife understands he will always be less than a man if he ever strays from his devotion to Honda.

 

“I’d have the Yamaha. I liked the way it handled and the rider triangle is really good. Second would be the Suzuki for the power, and then the Honda. They’re all great, but definitely the Yamaha first.”

 

Interesting, no? I was certainly intrigued by their responses, which exactly illustrate the point I was making earlier. There are no bad bikes. There are only rider preferences, and they are as varied as the bikes these riders have to choose from.

 

In this market-segment, the choice is indeed vast – and there are other players from Europe and China and India. But the Japanese, as always, are the big-volume sellers, and what they do and how they do it, is always worth exploring.

 

And they have made cardigans fun. Imagine that…

 

(aside)

WHAT’S THIS 270-DEGREE CRANK THING ABOUT?

 

It’s the new black, baby. Or it’s how you make a relatively sedate engine configuration, far more interesting.

 

The crankshaft, as you may know, is what converts reciprocating motion to rotational motion. It’s how your bike moves. The piston goes up and down as the fuel is burned, and it’s connected to the crankshaft with a connecting rod. So as the piston goes up and down in the bore (reciprocates), it causes the crankshaft to rotate.

 

When you have a 270-degree crank, and hence firing system (that’s the order in which the pistons move), you have a syncopated thing happening. The pistons fire out of step, exactly like a 90-degree V-Twin Ducati.

 

With a 180- or 360-degree crank, there is always a point (Top Dead Centre and Bottom Dead Centre) when the pistons stop moving and reverse direction. With a 270-degree crank, the pistons never stop moving. Yamaha calls it “removing inertial torque”.

 

The parallel-twin engine sounds lumpier and is still OK about you revving the shit out of it.

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Boris Mihailovic

Boris is a writer who has contributed to many magazines and websites over the years, edited a couple of those things as well, and written a few books. But his most important contribution is pissing people off. He feels this is his calling in life and something he takes seriously. He also enjoys whiskey, whisky and the way girls dance on tables. And riding motorcycles. He's pretty keen on that, too.

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