Buyers guide - Four strokes
Four-stroke middleweightsThe middleweight sector of four-stroke machinery is very popular as it combines good performance and relatively lightweight making them novice-friendly and cheap to buy new or used. Here’s a selection of our favourites from the 600cc in a range of cylinder layouts.
Aprilia Pegaso 650 StradaReleased in 1993, the Pegaso has been a favourite from Aprilia’s range ever since, right up until the new 2005 model. Still going strong, the original single-cylinder engine comes from Austrian firm Rotax and provides around 40-50bhp (30-37kw). This is plenty for the novice rider, although the bike has always suffered from being a little heavy - 160-168 kilos (352lb - 370lb). Handling and braking is assured, although older machines can suffer if the brakes haven’t been regularly serviced and the suspension can feel ‘soggy’ after only a few thousand miles on the first models. Quality and finish on the Pegaso has improved over the years, meaning the latest versions are the best, while the earlier machines need more attention to keep looking and working at their best.
Engine: 659cc, liquid-cooled, single-cylinder, four-stroke
Max power: 50bhp (37kW)
Weight: 168 kilos (370lb)
Kawasaki KLE500Another long-serving machine, the KLE500 is a reliable workhorse, using the parallel twin motor from the ER-5 and the earlier GPZ500S. Despite the motor being around for the best part of 20 years, it pushes out similar amounts of power to the Pegaso, but being physically a little larger and heavier, the performance is slightly less. But, being that bit bigger means the bike is a good deal more comfortable. Handling-wise the bike lacks a little feedback, but the brakes are up to the job. One place the KLE does score is price; using so many older, off-the-shelf parts means it’s considerably cheaper than the opposition.
Engine: 498cc, liquid-cooled, parallel twin-cylinder, four-stroke
Max power: 48bhp (35.8kW)
Weight: 181 kilos (398.2lb)
Honda XL650V TransalpAnother long-lived middleweight, the first 600cc Transalp came out in 1987 before becoming a 650 in 2000. Where the Transalp scores is its ability to cover miles in comfort without missing a beat. Ignore the off-road look again, the skinny dirt tyres aren’t fooling anyone and they just make the bike a little more nervous on the road. But despite this, it’s on the road that this bike proves its worth, eating the miles while the rider sits in relative comfort with knuckle guards keeping wind and rain off your hands. While the handling is similar to the Pegaso and the KLE, the brakes are superior to both, with twin-discs bringing the bike to a halt very swiftly.
Engine: 647cccc, liquid-cooled, V-twin-cylinder, four-stroke
Max power: 53bhp (39.6kW)
Weight: 191 kilos (420lb)
Suzuki GSF650 BanditSuzuki’s Bandit has been with us since 1995, finally becoming a 650 for this year. Everything on any model of Bandit is reliable and well-proven - the air-oil-cooled motor stems directly from the GSX600F and GSX-R750s of the late 1980s. While this motor isn’t as new or as powerful as the four-cylinder offerings from Kawasaki or Yamaha, it still does the job of getting you up to a respectable speed and has a smooth power delivery. Handling and braking is again is not as good as the newer bikes, but that’s because the bike itself is built down to a price and you really feel that when you start to try and ride the bike a little harder. But price is where the bike wins, being substantially cheaper than the competition. And it still has the handsome Bandit looks of old!
Engine: 656cc, oil/air-cooled, four-cylinder, four-stroke
Max power: 79bhp (59kW)
Weight: 201kilos (442lb)
Suzuki V-Strom 650The V-Strom 650 shares the same looks as its bigger brother the V-Strom 1000, but uses the small and sweet V-twin motor from the SV650/S as its powerplant. In fact, the smaller bike is probably better than its big brother. The SV650 motor has always been strong, despite its small size and the torquey nature of the engine works perfectly with the dual nature of the mini V-Strom. Only when you pack a passenger and luggage on the 650 do you feel the motor start to labour, but with the sheer size of the bike, it’s a more comfortable proposition than some middleweight bikes. Handling is pretty good, using chunky tyres that are actually very competent on asphalt. Add in good brakes and you’re getting a lot of bike for your money.
Engine: 645cc, liquid-cooled, V-twin-cylinder, four-stroke
Max power: 69bhp (51.5kW)
Weight: 169kilos (371lb)
Yamaha XT600XBased on the XT660R, the X was the first ‘proper’ Supermoto produced by one of the big four Japanese manufacturers in 2004. The liquid-cooled, four-valve single-cylinder motor gives plenty of punch up to around 70mph before it tails off. But that’s what it’s all about. This bike isn’t about top-speed, it’s about city fun, pose-ability and practicality in an urban environment. This is where it scores, thanks to its good looks, fine handling on those 17-inch wheels and the way it can lithely skip through gaps in the traffic. Along with the Pegaso, this is the machine of choice if you want a single-cylinder bike with a bit of character and style.
Engine: 595cc, liquid-cooled, single-cylinder, four-stroke
Max power: 50bhp (37kW)
Weight: 160 kilos (352lb)