Triumph The taller windscreen...
The taller windscreen on the '09 model definitely helps with wind protection over last year. Some testers liked the blue rpm-shift lights, while others felt differently at the track. Mirrors are still barely adequate, and the digital speedometer can be hard to see at a glance.
The same upgrades that helped transform the Daytona 675 from an also-ran to contender on the track proved to be valuable on the street as well. As on the track ratings, the Triumph's engine and power delivery garnered the highest marks on every tester's sheet, with the British machine's stomping midrange allowing effortlessly strong drives off the corners. The more-compliant suspension is a major improvement that also helped make the 675's sharp and agile steering manners become more noticeable; riding down through our usual canyon testing grounds revealed a maneuverability that we never noticed before (although the new-for-'09 OE fitment Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP tires surely played a role), allowing us to put the Triumph wherever we wanted with a lot less effort. This made the 675 much less of a strain to ride on the street than before, both from a physical and mental standpoint. And the brakes that showed a slight weakness on the track had no such issues in the less-demanding arena of street use.
That said, there were still a few areas that drew complaints from our testers. The Triumph's track-biased ergos—with a tail-high chassis attitude that puts a lot of weight on your wrists, plus the minimally-padded seat—was probably the most commonly mentioned offender, followed by the underseat exhaust that tended to radiate a little too much heat on the thighs. And while some liked the 675's dash layout, others were not so enamored.
Honda One of the more hospitable...
One of the more hospitable cockpits in the middleweight class, the Honda's windscreen provides adequate protection, the mirrors offer a decent rear view, and the clip-ons are the highest which helps with longer rides. No gear indicator, but the only one with a fuel gauge.
Never one to be weak in this area, the Honda CBR once again demonstrated its street-going prowess for a supersport 600. And just like its overall character, the Honda didn't dominate in any one ratings category except quality; instead, its second place score was achieved through consistent placings in all of the different categories. As Trevitt stated in last year's comparison, the "CBR is the Swiss Army Knife of middleweights and does everything well." The Honda continues its reign as the lightest bike in the class, and that pays off with a light yet neutral-steering chassis appealing to both novices and experts alike. The same could be said for its power delivery, with a surprisingly strong midrange torque curve for a 600 that still maintains a user-friendly character as it zips towards the 15,000 rpm redline. Crisp, accurate brakes complement the well-sorted suspension rates that offer up a compliant ride while still keeping the chassis well under control, and the most upright ergonomics in the class make for a highly capable do-it-all machine.
Such competence is not without its faults. The engine is still buzzy compared to the silky smoothness of the Triumph and Kawasaki, and although the midrange power was still as strong as last year, the '09 Honda's lack of outright power was still noticeable when really cracking the whip. "Conservative yet competent," said Mikolas, but sometimes that moderation can be more bane than boon.