2015 Benelli BN 600GT Review

We all love to dream about buying the latest top of the range Japanese or Italian sportsbike but when it comes to reality, something more practical is often the wiser choice. The Benelli BN 600GT is the type of motorcycle you choose using your head rather than your heart. It’s not the prettiest bike built, its specifications while strong aren’t extraordinary and you could hardly say it carries the soul of a traditional Italian bike. But we’d argue it was never trying to.

The Benelli BN 600GT is only the second bike from the Italian marque to use their all new 600cc inline four cylinder engine (the first being the naked BN 600R). Designed as a sports-tourer, it’s probably fair to say the BN 600GT won’t win any beauty pageants. There’s a lot of styling cues from the Kawasaki Versys here (the previous model, not the current decent looking one) such as the front stacked headlights and the laydown rear shock absorber. Despite being designed and developed in Italy, it looks more like something from Seoul than Pesaro.

That said, it does actually look better in person than in still images. Even in the metal, one wouldn’t call it elegant but at least it is different and doesn’t look like a cookie cutter version of every other bike out there. We’d probably choose the darker colours over lighter options in the interest of appearances.

The fit and finish of the bike seems excellent. While only long term ownership of the bike would reveal any flaws, we’ve spoken to owners in India and parts of South East Asia which have had access to the BN 600GT since last year and according to them, it’s performed flawlessly.

Negatives from a design perspective include the dated dash (as used in the Benelli BN 302), fairly cheap feeling controls on the bars (another Benelli BN 302 flaw) and the stupidly shaped rear view mirrors which taper off where your actually want to see – a clear case of form over function.

Despite it being a 600cc, don’t take it for a ride expecting supersport performance. Producing a fairly modest 60 kW (82 hp) at 11000 rpm and maximum torque of 55 Nm at 8000 rpm, it would seem Benelli has very conservatively tuned the engine. It’s not a rocket, but then it isn’t a complete slouch, either. Its performance is roughly comparable to the Kawasaki Versys 650 or Suzuki V-Strom 650, though unlike those two bikes the engine feels more mature and grown up.

By that we mean that it seems Benelli has decided to build a refined machine rather than a sports bike masquerading as a tourer. In this respect the engine is smooth and vibration free and dare we say a little bit quiet. We sometimes struggled to hear the engine note over wind noise. Being a four, the engine comes on strong higher up in the rev range, though there’s enough flexibility that you don’t need to downshift for most overtaking manoeuvres.

That refinement extends to the chassis and suspension. A very rare feature for this segment (and price range) is the inclusion of big 50 mm front Marzocchi forks. In theory, bigger diameter forks provide better front end feel and in practice, that’s the case with the BN 600GT. Despite lugging around a fairly hefty 223 kilograms of weight, the bike handled without a fuss and we never had any uncertainty as to what was happening up front.

Both the front and rear has adjustable preload while the rear suspension also allows for rebound adjustment so you can tweak the setup to your liking. Another big plus are the brakes – big twin 320mm front discs with a radial mounted four piston callipers – again something that’s rare to see at this price. There’s unfortunately no ABS available as an option, but initial bite and feel is good – both front and rear.

The seating position was fine for my 6’2″ frame and even after a day of near constant riding, the seat was actually pretty comfortable. And you can go for long trips without stopping if you so desire – the tank holds an enormous 27 litres of fuel – enough for probably close to 500 kilometres of travel if you’re up to it. You’ll probably need a toilet break before a fuel stop.

We’re sure the Benelli BN 600GT isn’t a motorcycle most will dream about and lust for. But that’s fine, because as we said at the outset this bike is for those who buy with their head rather than their heart. As a sports-tourer is achieves its goals – refined engine, nice ride, good mileage. Outside of India and Asia, the Benelli BN 600GT is currently only available in Australia both in unrestricted and LAMS versions for $9,990.

It will be available within the next few months in the UK for £6299 and in the USA at the end of the year when Benelli returns stateside.

 

2015 Kawasaki Versys 1000 Road Test Review

The previous Kawasaki Versys 1000 wasn’t regarded as a pretty looking motorcycle, nor was it a compelling choice as a dual-sport for which Kawasaki originally intended it as. That’s all changed for 2015, with the 1,043 cc inline four powered bike getting not only a big cosmetic makeover but a host of other changes that make the Versys a real option for those looking at a comfortable, powerful and relatively nimble tourer.

Apart from its awkward looks, the previous Versys biggest issue was that Kawasaki designed and marketed it as an off road capable machine. Suspension was tuned to cater for both bitumen and dirt and the tires fitted attempted to cover both bases, too. The trouble was that it was far too heavy to take off road – coming in at 239 kg and with a high centre of gravity, the Versys was therefore a jack of all trades, master of nothing sort of bike.

In a sensible change, Kawasaki is now positioning the bike as a comfortable tourer with an upright riding position but with sporty characteristics. After spending some time of the updated Versys 1000, we’d say Kawasaki has got the bike right now.

As before, it uses the same 1,043cc inline four as featured in the Z1000 and Ninja 1000. Like so many engines in Kawasaki’s current lineup, it’s a fantastic unit that’s been designed for real world application.  Where the engine differs from those two other bikes is mainly where power is available. Peak power is down slightly but there is more torque in the low and mid-rpm range. Similarly, first gear has been shortened, second remains the same as before while 3rd through 6th have been lengthened.

It’s a potent engine but only if you want it to be. It’s quite happy to bubble along at 3-4,000 rpm, but there’s around 120 hp on tap at a moment’s notice. We found ourselves shifting at no higher than 6,000 rpm most of the time, just because there’s no need to wring its neck. At the same time, the bike has enough grunt to power wheelie even in third gear should your inner hooligan want to be let loose for a while. In fact, third gear proved to be the sweet spot for a lot of our riding, especially in twisty roads.  The engine sits on around 5,000 rpm at 80 kph in 3rd gear which allows the bike to launch into a sprint when existing the corners or needing to overtake.

Other than the cosmetic changes at the front of the Versys, the biggest modification is probably the bike’s suspension. No longer having to cater to such a wide variety of surfaces, the Versys 1000’s suspension is properly sorted for the road only. Brand new 43mm inverted forks are upfront and are 20 mm longer than before. Rebound and compression damping has been reduced by about 30 per cent. Front end feel is very good and confidence inspiring.

At the rear, the previous horizontal back-link suspension has been retained, though the spring has been stiffened slightly while there’s around 30 per cent less compression damping. The remote rear preload adjuster has been retained and both front and rear rebound damping is adjustable.

The suspension set up, along with the upright riding position and wide bars make for a very enjoyable ride. While not as quick as a sportsbike to flick from side to side, it’s all too easy to lean the bike into the corners thanks to the leverage provided by the one piece bar. In fact, the Versys 1000 has no right to be as enjoyable to ride as it is given its size and weight.

The weight of the Versys 1000 is both a positive and negative. As a tourer, there’s definitely some benefit to a heavier bike. It’s much more stable on the open road and less prone to buffeting from the wind. But with a curb mass of 250 kg, it’s not agile at low speed. Given the seat height of 840mm and it’s width, those of shorter stature will struggle to move the Versys 1000 around the car park.

Part of the increase in weight from before is due to the standard inclusion of a center stand which in our opinion is an excellent addition. Also standard is both an assist and slipper clutch. The front windshield is now adjustable vertically by 75 mm – more than double than before. Everywhere you look on this bike you can really see that Kawasaki has gone to great effort to make this machine as comfortable and easy to ride as possible.

Brakes have been slightly upgraded with 310 mm discs up front and a 250mm diameter unit at the rear. ABS is standard and has received an upgrade as well. Just like the engine, the brakes are of excellent quality and did a great job of slowing the bike – they provide good feel as well. There’s a three mode traction control system and two engine power modes, but the fueling and throttle response is so good that we’d surprised if you really needed to change any of the settings from standard.

Overall, we think Kawasaki is onto a real winner here. Ironically, the some of the biggest competitors to this bike are other Kawasaki’s – the Ninja 1000 is obviously another touring option, but while they both fit the same segment, the Versys probably offers more in comfort and ease of riding. It’s a motorcycle that is easy to ride, allowing you to enjoy the scenery but at the same time, can turn into a rocket when needed. What was once an ugly duckling that really didn’t fit into its segment is now an attractive motorcycle that excels at what it was designed for.

 

News Round-Up – Aprilia to Race in MotoAmerica, Repsol Honda Unveils Livery, Kawasaki Versys Released in India

Aprilia Factory Team to Race in 2015 MotoAmerica Season

In a further vote of confidence for the inaugural MotoAmerica season, Aprilia USA has announced that it will race in the Superstock 1000 class with the Aprilia RSV4. Aprilia will team up with HSBK, an large American dealer to form the Aprilia HSBK Racing Team, with the rider lineup yet to be announced.

Phil Read Jr,  marketing & communications director for Piaggio Group Americas who are the official importer of Aprilia in the United States said that “Aprilia is a racing brand, it is in our DNA. The passion for racing is what drives our ambitions and a relentless determination for success. The new MotoAmerica Superstock series offers a critical step to developing future champions and gives Aprilia USA the ideal opportunity to go racing with the RSV4 Factory. But this is only the first step of a longer plan and we look forward to some exciting racing this year.”

Aprilia Factory Team to Race in 2015 MotoAmerica Season

 

Repsol Honda Unveil their 2015 MotoGP Livery

Honda unveiled their paint scheme for the 2015 MotoGP on the tropical island of Bali, Indonesia with both riders, world champion Marq Marquez and Dani Pedrosa at the launch. There’s not a huge difference between the ’15 and ’14 paint schemes, though the Red Bull sponsorship is slightly more prominent.

“It’s been a long and busy Winter break and now I’m really looking forward to starting the season!” said Marquez. “It’s great to be able to present our new bikes in Indonesia, together with our partner Astra Honda, it’s such a beautiful backdrop! It’s my first time here in Bali and it’s wonderful to see all the fans here and feel their enthusiasm for MotoGP. Tomorrow we leave for Malaysia, I’ve trained a lot during last month to prepare myself for these first two tests in Sepang and I’m excited to be with my crew again and see how the new bike is working after Valencia test!”

Check out the launch video (which will make anyone living in the Northern Hemisphere jealous) plus an official image gallery below.

 

Kawasaki Versys 1000 Launched in India

Motorcycle manufacturers are continually looking to expand into new markets and with a growing middle class and a love for motorcycles, India is an attractive option. Kawasaki has announced the release of the heavily updated Versys 1000 in India at a price of ₹12.90 lakhs and will thankfully come with ABS as standard.

It will be available only in black and will be retailed through the standalone showrooms of Kawasaki in Pune, Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai and Kolkata.

Kawasaki Versys 1000 Launched in India

 

2015 Kawasaki Versys 1000 Updated & Coming to USA

Kawasaki has unveiled a major facelift to previous contender for ugliest bike award, the Kawasaki Versys. Both the Kawaski Versys 1000 and Versys 650 models receive a fairly major update and for the first time the larger 1000 will be available to customers in the United States. In addition to a more attractive looking face, both models some significant midlife upgrades.

The Kawasaki Versys 1000 gains both a new assist cam and slipper clutch to ease strain on the left hand. The assist cam will supposedly reduce clutch spring load and make pulling in the lever 30 per cent easier. The engine, which is derived from the rabid Z1000 streetfigher, also receives some tweaks by way of two additional intake passages and modified ignition timing.

In addition to ABS, the Versys 1000 also comes with Kawasaki’s traction control system (KTRC) which offers three levels of intervention, plus two engine settings. Tweaks have also been made to the suspension and brakes (both front and rear) receive upgrades.

The 2014 Kawasaki Versys 1000 currently sells in Canada for $13,999 CAD. US pricing for the 2015 model will be announced at AIMExpo on October 16.

Also receiving an update is the Kawasaki Versys 650. Cosmetic changes are identical to the 1000 and thankfully the brakes also get a big upgrade – a long held criticism of Kawasaki’s 650 series (Ninja 650 and ER6-n). New calipers have been utilised that offer better feel and bite and the rear disc gets an 30mm increase in diameter.

The Versys 650 also gets some suspension additions, with the ability to adjust both preload and rebound damping on the front forks and preload on the rear. There’s a possibility the same may become available on the other Kawasaki 650 bikes in 2015 too.

Both models will be available early next year.