Transalp 700 vs Versys 650 vs V-strom 650
My first post on this site, maybe it'll help some fellow posters make the right choice. ps. I know many of you don't even have the option of even buying a Transalp!
I've spent the last couple of weekend testriding these three bikes, thought it might be worth a quick write-up. I currently ride an FMX (think Dominator/XR650 engine in a supermoto frame - another Europe only Honda model) and want a bike more comfort and speed.
Having tried the Versys last weekend and enjoyed the bike, but not the cramped riding position, my intention has been to take the new Transalp out for a couple of hours testride. Unfortunately the first local dealership I'd booked a testride with, couldn't get their demo bike started, so I headed off to find some who had a working one (the non-starting was supposedly because the bike had all the extras fitted and the wiring was screwed - would you buy a bike from such a dealer??).
Headed off to the next Honda dealer, but popped into my local Suzuki dealer on the way. Took a brief look at what was on offer and met a couple of blokes who had just been out for a testride on the 1000 and 650 V-stroms - both considered the 650 the better of the two. So I blagged myself a testride too. I had intended to only take it out for 20 minutes but ended up being over an hour - this bike is a LOT of fun around town. The bike feels lower and longer than Versys and has an even more addictive engine, free-revving and gutsy. Great gearbox too. I've tried a lot of bikes with great engines in the past (VFR, Fazer, GSX, VTR, ...), the SV engine is in the same league!
So off to the Honda dealer for a try of the Transalp. Initial impression very good, brilliant build quality compaired to the other two. Pleasant exhaust note, not a wild as the Versys (at high revs) or raucous as the V-strom, more of a bark. All three sound good in their own way. Gearbox pretty good, better than the Versys, but not as good as the V-strom (has Suzuki ever built a bad gearbox?). On the go the Transalp is light years better than my old TA 600, could be a completely new bike, if it didn't share so much design. Plenty of power, power delivery not quite as direct as the Versys or V-strom but good fun to ride. The mid-range is great and it'll pull from lower revs in top gear (2000 rpm would have the Suzuki stumbling a bit, whereas the Honda would just pickup from that sort of speed). The Honda is lower revving however, with a redline of only 8000rpm - to me this is less fun. The seat is pretty hard compared to V-strom but this may be better over longer distances. Versys had the least comfortable seat of the three.
The handling of all three bikes was very reassuring, the Versys and TA being quite flickable, the V-strom being more stable with precise steering, similar to a more traditional road orientated machine. The quality of ride on the Transalp was the best, the Suzuki definately has budget suspension, with lots of clatter over rougher surfaces. Couldn't really test the Versys properly because of the wet weather and the poor riding position stopped me covering the rear brake properly (I've got long legs). For me the V-strom has the best riding position, but this aspect is always VERY subjective. To me the TA's footpegs are too far forward for long distance work. However this may make it better for offroad, compared with the other two. The TA was also very easy to ride at slow speed and hid its weight well - certainly didn't feel any heavier than the other two, although on paper it's a lot heavier than the Versys.
In terms of out and out speed, not that important to me, the V-strom and Versys are both a bit faster than the Transalp and both have 6 speed boxes, so would be be better on the motorway. Both also have better fairings than the TA. I testrode the X version of the V-strom (again Europe/UK only?) with the shorter screen, which gave good protection and no helmet buffeting (something I've heard can be a problem using the standard V-strom screen).
You've probably already guessed which bike I'll probably go for. I'd put the V-strom 1st, then the Transalp and lastly the Versys. All great bikes and I'm certain others would order them differently. If I was a different shape the Versys could have come first equal with the V-strom!
Pros: Lowest Priced, whacky looks, engine note, looks great in green
Cons: Cramped riding position for long legs (for me this ruined a good bike), gearbox (okay but not great)
Pros: Build quality, finish, limited offroad ability, good handling and it's a Honda (to me that's a positive)
Cons: Slightly feet forward riding position, poor wind protection.
Pros: Best engine, great power delivery and engine note. Stable handling despite budget suspension but slightly slower steering than the TA. Price is good. Best wind protection with smaller X windshield fitted. And most important - the most fun!
Cons: Budget finish and suspension, dated looks compared to the other two.
The main lesson I learnt was to always take a testride. I hadn't even really considered the V-strom and only took the testride by chance. For me it turned out to be the best of the bunch. One annoying thing was that the Honda dealer offered me the best deal but I'm unlikely to take him up on it!!
Last edited by beep; 04-14-2008 at 10:36 AM.