Suzuki SV650 vs Triumph Speed Four vs Yamaha FZ6

On the street, the motor of the 2004 Suzuki SV650 is a gem. As is typical for a longer stroke motor like a V-Twin, especially one with a 46cc displacement advantage, it cranks out better power down low than the Multis, even if its top-end numbers (72.2 horsepower at 9,200 rpm) pale in comparison. What this means, plain and simple, is that the SV makes the most ponies and most torque anytime the revs are below 9,000 rpm. How much time do you spend revving your streetbike above 10 grand, anyway?

Well, for those raised riding Inline-Fours, like our guest tester Heidi Mattison, riding the V-Twin Suzuki for the first time was a new version of reality.

“Having zero experience on a Twin of any kind, I redlined the bike a half a dozen times my first time out,” said the CBR600F4i racer. “I became very disappointed with the power above nine grand because I expected it to be there. I decided I would never own an SV and never recommend an SV. After some probing from the other guys on the trip (her words, Ed), I decided to give it another shot. It took some time getting used to the power at such a low rpm as I began to short-shift the bike, but my comfort level eventually came around. I was amazed at how much power was there by bogging it through the tight turns and dirty pavement.”

Unlike the SV, Heidi quickly made friends with the Triumph Speed Four. That’s not surprising when you consider the TT600 upon which the Speed Four is based feels a lot like a CBR600F4, and she rides an F4i. Gabe, the other F4i owner in our group, also took a liking to the Speed Cubed.

“It’s almost as fast as my F4i, but the motor doesn’t have the same top-end rush that the Honda does,” says the bike distributor/salesman/journalist/lawyer. “Otherwise the two bikes feel similar in weight, handling and engine performance.”

Although sport-touring isn’t in the Speed Four’s list of top priorities, the Brit bike actually does quite well on the freeway. Its body-colored plastic prow over the headlights does a surprisingly respectable job at deflecting air, and it was made at least 50% more effective with the addition of a tinted Laminar Lip. This clever device helps to funnel air further upward to provide a larger cocoon of protection, and at just $75, it is a solid investment in rider comfort. Look for a product test in the coming months.

Our riders had praise for the S4’s nicely padded, supportive and roomy seat, and according to Gabe, “The pegs are just where I would put them if it were left to me.” But Gabriel raised a bit of Cain when the topic of handlebars came up. “The clip-ons make no sense on this hooligan-y kind of bike. Triumph doesn’t offer a handlebar kit, either.”

With the most oversquare engine architecture of the Fours, the Triumph has about as much of a chance of winning a tractor-pull event as the Yamaha. There is nobody in the engine room below 3,000 rpm, necessitating some clutch slipping leaving stoplights, and a minor hole in its powerband makes roll-on acceleration a bit flaccid depending on the speed and gear. Still, its 85.3 horsepower is right in the hunt, and its quarter-mile run was just a click behind the quickest of the pack, an 11.47 to the top-dog FZ6’s 11.37.

There’s about a jillion corners to be found between LA to Monterey, and we tried to hit them all during our meandering journey. In this kind of snaking environment there’s no way something nicknamed the Couch could ever hope to keep up with a Speed Four, the nastiest bike in this group by a wide margin. In the twisty bits, the S4’s track-worthy chassis and premium suspension components set it apart.

“The thing just hammers through high-speed turns without wallowing or moving on bumps,” says Gabe, an experienced road racer. “The shock is able to keep the wheel on the ground even at insane speeds on very bumpy, twisty roads. And the Four’s ability on bumpy, slow roads surprised me.”