The odometer rolled over 3000 miles the other day. The chain is in desperate need of some lube and so loose that it's almost dragging on the ground. The filth and muck on the rest of the bike are probably thick enough to add a few pounds of weight. A fresh layer of dirt is added every Thursday when the underground lot is swept. I've never checked the oil, let alone changed it. Such is the life of our Suzuki GSX650F test bike. This time of year is great for us because there we have all the latest trick sportbikes in the garage: the literbikes, 600s, a ZX-14, the 1098R. We're kids in a candy store, for sure. But with all those bikes sitting there aching to be ridden, what have I spent the most time on the last few months? The little GSX. It's crazy, but for the majority of riding I've been doing it's almost the perfect thing.
The budget GSX-F, like the twins we tested it with ("Alternative Twins," May '08), surprised us earlier this year. It has a comfortable seat, a real handlebar and good wind protection for longer rides. The engine has practically no top-end power but is plenty peppy for around town. And even though the bike weighs closer to a Hayabusa than a GSX-R600, it steers light and easy. If I want to take the twisty way home from the office, the GSX is plenty of fun for that. It's the little things that make a difference, though: Great fuel mileage and a big tank mean I don't have to stop every couple of days to fill up. If Mrs. Trevitt wants to come along for a ride, the passenger seat is nice and comfortable. And there are plenty of hooks and rails to strap luggage to. There's even (gasp!) some space under the seat to stow a flat kit, a rarity with today's bikes. What it all means is that the Suzuki is ready to do whatever I need it for. Load up with parts to drop off on my way home? Done. An hour's blast on the freeway out to California Speedway? No sweat. Keep up with the boys on a Sunday-morning ride? Just as much fun on the GSX as anything else.
Today's sportbikes require a certain amount of sacrifice when it comes to the utilitarian side of motorcycling, and I'm willing to make concessions if a bike's performance is worth it. But to me, a sportbike is a tool. How effectively it performs in that capacity is what appeals to me most, and I've always struggled with bikes that sacrifice performance or function for the sake of style. Underseat exhausts are a prime example of style taking precedence over both performance and utility, and I'm glad to see that trend gradually reversing. To be honest, I'm not really bothered about how whatever bike I'm riding looks, either to me or to other people (well, I do feel a bit ridiculous on the B-King). What's important is how each bike works.
It's a bit frustrating, then, when people corner me and complain that their bike should have won a comparison test because it looks so awesome, or insist that we're crazy to have picked such an ugly bike as a favorite. Style and looks are so subjective that I wouldn't presume to pass judgment on those characteristics, let alone rate them as part of a test. Why should it matter how we think a bike looks? How you think it looks is more important.
Anyway, the completely ironic part about all this is that when I'm on the GSX650F I've had people comment on what a "nice Gixxer" it is or ask if it's the new GSX-R. Rather than smile and say, "Thanks" or "Why, yes; yes, it is the new GSX-R," I have to explain that it's a new model and actually a budget bike intended to look like its sporting cousin. The little GSX evidently has some style-not that it matters to me.
What's doubly ironic is that with all the bikes we have on hand you'd think the GSX would fly under the radar. But no: Troy snatched it up while I rode our CBR to Bazzaz Performance for this issue's cover story. At least I made sure he checked the oil while he had it. The other day I left the GSX key on the board while I went to the dyno, and Kento-who usually hogs the big-bike keys-grabbed it even before I returned. I'm hoping he tightened the chain, at least. [Oh, um . . . yeah, I did. -Ed.]
The point I'm trying to make is that as our sport seems to become more style-dependent every year, people are missing out on some really good, really fun bikes-the GSX650F is just one example of many. Do you really need the latest literbike ripper if the majority of your riding is commuting 15 minutes in heavy traffic each day? Is it worth logging all those back-breaking freeway miles on your racer-replica just to look cool one night a month at the local hangout? Set style and "street cred" on the back burner and you may find more function-and more fun-in the less-traveled corner of your dealership.