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The Big H! - Hyosung GT650R & ST7

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Reincarnation has always been a hot topic with us Indians, no? However, when it comes to motorcycles, the concept of reincarnation hasn’t really worked in India. You’d have better chances of bringing back the dodo than motorcycles that have kicked the parts bin... er, bucket. Like the Comet streetbike and the Aquila cruiser. Which is why Hyosung’s comeback with Garware Motors as their partner is all the more important.  

So what we have here are the Hyosung GT650R and the ST7, Hyosung’s twin hopes of a successful re-entry into the Indian motorcycle market. These will be followed by other models as well, but more on that later. For now, the first impressions of these two motorcycles are impressive. The GT650R is what I was naturally inclined to and I must say I liked what I saw. It’s just the right size - a full-size motorcycle without being too imposing or unwieldy. Thanks to the fairing, the substantial tank, the swoopy tail section, the upswept exhaust and the chunky rubber, the proportions are near-perfect too. What I can’t make up my mind about is that Ducati 999-, MV Agusta F4esque front end styling, though I do appreciate the fact that at least it’s not a safe and conventional design. On the whole, it does look tempting enough for a sportsbike nut.

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Swing a leg over the bike and you’re greeted by disappointingly bland meters and switchgear that would be at home on a commuter bike. But when the starter button tickles the V-twin motor to life, all is forgiven. Blip the throttle and the GT feels alive and raring to go beneath you. And it’s difficult not to oblige. The sporty riding position, crisp throttle response and fantastic V-twin soundtrack see to that. The 647cc, 90-degree V-twin puts out a healthy 72.6 bhp@9000 rpm, infinitely more manageable than the near-200 horses and heart-stopping redlines of ‘normal’ superbikes. While we were unable to introduce either motorcycle to our VBox on this occasion, the GT feels like it should do a 0-100 kph run in around 5.5 seconds which is quick by any standards. Exhausting the GT’s six-speed gearbox should take you past 200 kph too, again more than fast enough for our roads. And it doesn’t disappoint in corners either.

The GT features top-spec suspension - adjustable upside down 41 mm forks and a progressive-link hydraulic monoshock - and twin 300 mm discs at the front with a 230 mm single disc at the rear. Playing a major part in keeping the rubber side down are the 120/60 front and 160/60 Bridgestone Battlax tyres. All of these components ensure that the GT650R is a confident handler. While it might not be lightning quick at directional changes, it does hustle through a set of corners with admirable agility. What I still remember is a fourth-gear right-handed sweeper and the GT leaning right into it without hesitation, the V-twin singing underneath me. Superb. I’d say that the GT has a good chance of keeping up with more sophisticated machinery on your favourite canyon roads.

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This friendly nature of the GT makes it a very streetable machine and I can’t wait to get my hands on the naked version that will follow soon. Why? Well, it’ll have the same motor and suspension, will weigh less and have more relaxed ergonomics. Besides, only Ducati is allowed to make faired V-twins and get away with it. However, there was little feel from the front brakes, though they are strong enough to haul in the GT from whatever speeds I could manage on the twisty roads that we were riding on. However, company reps have assured me that they are already trying to sort out this problem. Other than this, there was nothing I could find fault with on the GT. Or the ST7, for that matter.

Cruisers aren’t usually what I look forward to riding (except Harleys!), but the ST7 was a pleasant surprise. Photographs don’t really convey the size of this motorcycle - it is Big! It follows the old-school-cruiser design format: huge tank, valanced fenders, balloon tyres and enough chrome to blind your entire city. Oh, and of course, the exhausts that are stacked tributes to Hogs. Heck, it’s even got belt drive! The look might be old-school, but the ST7 comes with a 678cc fuel-injected 90-degree V-twin that makes 61.6 bhp@8000 rpm and 5.84 kgm@7000 rpm, which makes it a bit revvy for a cruiser. If you want to plonk it in fifth and cruise at 40 kph around boulevards, you can’t. You will need third cog. But I really didn’t mind it because even when revved, the ST7 is one smooth customer. The wide seat and even wider handlebars make for a comfortable riding position put you in ‘Relax’ mode. While the GT wants to blur the scenery, the ST wants to enjoy it. But it’s no slouch. Pin the throttle and the ST whooshes past the 100 kph mark in what felt like a shade over 6 seconds. But what you want to do is cruise the highways at 100 kph and that is what the ST7 does without fuss.

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As for the handling, well, that’s what the surprise was all about. The ST7 really hustles through corners and rides exceptionally well over everything. The low centre of gravity and fat tyres help a lot, as does the supple suspension. I even managed a no-foot U-turn on a narrow road! By the end of riding the ST7, I wasn’t sure which impressed me more, the GT650R or the ST7. I think that says a lot about the cruiser’s abilities. And yes, everything feels solidly put together as well. 

In the end, both motorcycles are honest machines that provide the all-important kick that you get after riding a fun motorcycle. And when you consider the price, you have a bargain on your hands, especially so with the GT. Garware Hyosung is tight-lipped about the prices, but we think an on-road tag of Rs 5 lakh for the GT650R makes sense. The naked GT will be much cheaper, while the ST7 will likely come with a Rs 6 - 6.5-lakh sticker on it.

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You do have to hand it to Garware Hyosung. They are doing what other manufacturers won’t or can’t do - bring in big motorcycles without a long line of zeroes in their price tags. Besides, the company is dead serious about having a solid dealer and service network across India and is working hard to establish this peace-of-mind factor for motorcyclists. I’m already thinking about a blood red naked GT. For motorcyclists like me and thousands of others, who want a reasonably powerful machine to step up their riding skills, this is the first realistic option. Seems like the whole point of reincarnation is, it’s never too late. Now, how about that naked GT, Garware Hyosung?