For example China has been developing an industry with the potential to become the biggest in the world, we're seeing a superbike team hailing from Europe but funded out of Malaysia (the Foggy Petronas effort), and several examples of models from Korean maker Hyosung. We've now had a play with five machines from this manufacturer - the latest being a pre-production version of the Comet 650.
WHAT IS IT?
The heart of the machine is a reasonably conventional, normally aspirated, liquid-cooled four-valve per cylinder four-stroke claiming up around 79 horses. In essence it's a direct competitor for Suzuki's SV650, but claiming a fair bit more horsepower. Transmission is a manual six-speeder with chain drive.
Hyosung is also selling a 34 horsepower version to fit in with NSW Learner Approved Motorcycle rules.
This is the middle version of what will soon be a three-twin range: the 250, this 650, plus a one-litre bike version slated for launch in late 2004.
Originally the chassis was going to be the same as used in the 250, but we can safely assume some prototype testing revealed some weaknesses with the bigger powerplant in place - so now we get a stronger frame with twin outer spars. It runs triple disc brakes, all with two-piston calipers, upside-down forks up front and a monoshock rear. The front end carries adjustment for compression and rebound damping, while the rear has adjustment for preload.
Basic measurements include a 780mm seat height, 180 kilo dry weight and 17 litre fuel tank.
WHAT'S IT LIKE?
We've been praising Suzuki's SV650 since day one for its wonderful mix of performance and ease of use - the Comet falls into exactly the same category. The basic formula of an eager middle-size twin packed into a chassis with decent suspension and big brakes is pretty hard to go past.
In the Hyosung's case, it sports fairly quick steering and has good stability. The suspension on our pre-production machine was fine - a touch overdamped at the front for my tastes, but easy enough to adjust.
The gearbox is free of false neutrals and has a fairly stiff action, particularly on the change up. This could be improved, though we noticed the action was much nicer if you slowed your shift technique just a tad. Finding neutral was sometimes a trial.
This particular bike was running an aftermarket Over racing muffler, which reportedly adds a little oomph across the range. Even with that in mind, the performance was sparkling. The powerplant has all the willingness of the 250, but with a lot more of everything.
At first meeting the GT seems quite tall, though the saddle is lower than appearances might suggest and places you deep 'into' the bike. Overall it's a conventional ride position, with a slight forward lean that feels fine even after a number of hours in the saddle.
Production versions are now in the showrooms and look to be well finished, perhaps a notch above the early GT250s.
Fuel consumption is about what you'd expect - look for mid-teens per litre if you're riding it hard, and up to 20km/lt for gentle use. That gives a respectable fuel range.
Perhaps the best news is the price. You cop a lot of performance for the $8600 (plus ORC) ask - well worth a look, if you're in the market.
By Guy Allen
SPECIFICATION: COMET GT650:
Dimension and Dry Mass:
Overall Length(mm): 2,080;
Overall Width(mm) 760;
Overall Height(mm) 1120;
Dry Mass(kg) 180;
Wheel Base(mm) 1,435;
Seat Height(mm) 780.
Frame Type: Twin-spar.
Type: 4-stroke, water cooled DOHC 8-valve, V-twin (90 degrees);
Piston Displacement (cc) 647;
Maximum Power: 58.5 kW (79 HP) LAMs version 24.6 kW (34 HP);
Carburetor: 2 CV;
Start System: Electric.
Fuel Tank: (l)/ Reserve: 17.0/2.5.
Clutch: Wet Multi-Plate Type;
Gear Shift Pattern: 1-down 5-up.
Front Tire: 120/60-17 55W;
Rear Tire: 160/60-17 69W;
Front Suspension: Telescopic, Oil Dampened;
Rear Suspension: Swing Arm;
Front Brake: Double Disc;
Rear Brake: Disc.
Electric: Ignition Type: Solid state igniter;
Battery Capacity (V/ah): 12V/12A.
Price: $8599 plus ORC.
Warranty: 24 months unlimited km