Gear: (Left to right) Helmet:...
(Left to right)
Helmet: sparx S-07
Jacket: Joe Rocket Sonic
Boots: Joe Rocket Sonic
Helmet: scorpion exo-700
Gloves: roadgear carbon maxx
Helmet: shoei j-wing
Jacket: alpinestars p-rock
Like a long-term friendship that suddenly becomes romantic, so too have three existing bikes suddenly become a class of their own. They are the 650s or, as we call them, The Heavy Lightweights: the Hyosung GV650 Avitar, the Star V Star Custom and the Suzuki Boulevard S40.
A 650cc-engined motorcycle was once considered a large machine, but was later relegated to the smaller end of middleweights. Even then (the '70s, a time of tall sissy bars and Honda CB450 choppers), a 650 was a respectably sized motorcycle. However, with today's escalation of heavyweights into 2-liter territory, a 650 seems positively diminutive. Don't let that fool you, though-each of these three bikes has a place and a purpose in the cruiser spectrum.
The oldest of the bunch, Suzuki's Boulevard S40, debuted in 1986 as the 650 Savage. Back then it had a four-speed transmission, 2.5-gallon fuel tank, claimed 344-pound dry weight and, unusual for the time, belt final drive. Unfortunately a single-cylinder cruiser didn't catch the fancy of the American riding public, and Suzuki dropped it from its lineup from 1989 through 1994. On its return in 1995 the price had nearly doubled from $2299 to $4249; the tank grew to 2.8 gallons, and a little weight gain had it hitting the scales at 352 pounds. The last changes occurred in 2005, when it ditched the backrest and the Savage moniker, becoming the Boulevard S40.
The middle child, Star's V Star Custom, hit the streets in 1998 with its shared-platform V Star Classic sibling earning Cruiser's Bike of the Year honors. The main difference was the Custom's 2.4-inch-lower seat height (27.4 inches), making it feel like a smaller motorcycle. Other than changing to Dunlop tires and a slight price increase, the Custom remains the same as in 1998.
The new kid on the block, Hyosung's GV650 Avitar, arrived on U.S. shores in 2006. As Alan Cathcart said in the February 2006 issue of Cruiser, Hyosung is the two-wheeled Korean Hyundai-and that is a compliment.
Aside from styling, the greatest differences between these bikes are in the powerplants. As mentioned, the S40 is a single with a square bore and stroke of 94mm each. Though counterbalanced, it feels like a single, too. On the other hand, that solo cylinder is a big factor in the S40's light weight, which undercuts the Avitar and V Star by over 140 pounds. While it runs out of steam before its classmates, don't write off the S40 as low-tech with its two intake and two exhaust valves operated by a single overhead camshaft. It's pretty zippy when one cranks the throttle, though it tops out at an indicated 87 mph-plus it vibrates the bars and pegs hard enough to induce pins and needles during high-rpm romps. The S40 is also prone to backfiring on deceleration.
Conversely, the V Star is the height of cruiser convention, cradling a V-twin between the frame rails with a 70-degree spread between the jugs. Like the Boulevard, the Star has single overhead cams but only two valves per cylinder. It's very oversquare with a bore of 81mm and a stroke of 63mm. The five-speed transmission is more widely spaced than the S40's, making it a bit more relaxed on the highway with only moderate vibration in the bars and pegs to accompany its rich but low-volume exhaust tone. Hold it wide open and you'll eventually reach an indicated 97 mph in top gear. Unlike the S40 and GV650, the Custom's power is transmitted to the rear wheel via shaft drive.