Lightweight Class of 2015

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Choices, choices, choices, choices; four choices to be exact. Four bikes being produced in 2015 to race in the Lightweight classes. If you’re looking to buy a new show room bike to race, here are you choices. Ducati’s Monster 796, Kawasaki’s Ninja 650, Yamaha’s FZ07, and Suzuki’s SFV650. Which should you choose? Sadly LWT Racer is not a gigantic motorcycle news website or magazine so we don’t have access to ride these bikes in stock form to really get an idea which would be the best starting platform. Stock form doesn’t always tell the whole story as many know almost no one races stock. All of these bikes will need similar suspension modifications to start and all of them are capable of putting out “big” horsepower.

2015 Suzuki SFV650 – MSRP $7,699

2015 Suzuki SFV650

Based off the previous SV650 (which is still in production outside of the USA), many were hoping this would be the 3rd generation of the SV. In it’s 2009 release it fell short, way short. Offering less horsepower, higher weight, no faired version, and horrific advertising by Suzuki. It was a dud yet in 2015 it’s still here. The 650cc Vtwin making 71 horsepower, 45lb of torque, and weighing in at 445lbs; it’s not exactly a rocket ship. There a few good points about the SFV’s motor. The cylinders have a nikasil lining and the intake cams offer more lift than both generations of the SV650. A major downside of the engine is the crank shaft. While the SV650’s crankshafts are notorous for snapping, we can only assume the same for the SFV. It is slightly redesigned but this redesign added 1-2lbs over the SV’s crank. LWT Racer hopes to test if the SFV crank is any stronger than it’s SV brothers. If you’re going to be racing in a stock class the SFV isn’t necessarily a bad starting point as it will share many traits with the SV. Shock and Fork modifications are simple. The rear rim is 5″ wide offering more tire choices vs the 4.5″ of the SV and Ninja 650. Superbike class is where you can have some fun with this bike. The frame is heavy, the subframe is heavy (which is part of the main frame), the swing arm is heavy, the crank is heavy, the wheels are heavy and the list can go on. Cut off the subframe, switch out the wheels and swing arm, take 3 lbs off the crank, and utilize the good motor features to pump out some horsepower. You’d have a very worthy race machine. Not many have event tried to race the SFV. JHS has produced a few racers with pretty good results.

Personal Opinion : I really wish more racers would purchase these. It’s doesn’t make sense to most everyone because they are the same basic bike as the SV650 but heavier, less power, and with out welding on mounts, no way to put a fairing on. I think the nikasil cylinders and higher lift cams are a huge plus. With just a little bit of work you can have a nice motor package. You can still do a lot of the same basic SV mods to this bike and many parts can be swapped over. The GSXR front end and rear wheels can still be used. LWT Racer has pieces of one and hopefully some day it will be on the track.

2015 Yamaha FZ07 – MSRP $7,299

Not since the FZR400 has Yamaha gave us a lightweight machine. The FZ07 has a 690cc parallel twin engine that produces 75hp and of torque. What’s great about the FZ07 is that its under 400lbs wet, 397lbs claimed by Yamaha. Some 40lbs less than it’s competitors. The Yamaha also offers a 5.5″ rear rim which is ideal for tire choices letting you run anything from a 165 slick to a 190 slick or DOT 600 class tire. As of right now there is a lot unknown about how these will do in the races. We don’t know how the geometry will be. The triple clamps have a very large offset. We don’t know what kind of stress the motor can handle. There aren’t many aftermarket parts available. All of this will change once 2016 hits.

Personal Opinion : I had tried to purchase one over the summer in 2014 and when the dealer wanted to keep it on their showroom as an ornament basically just kept the focus on my SV. There are a few things I like about this bike. One being the 5.5″ rear rim stock. Tires choice with out having to change the rim taking the bike out of stock form. The factory weight of the bike is very appealing. It makes you think that if you can easily get a 440lb SV650 down to 360lbs, what can you take this 397lb bike down too? What scares me about this bike; the offset of the triple trees. I didn’t measure but it is very big. The bike also has fake intake scoops on the tank which make it difficult to use clip ons on the bike. Both of these are easy to work around. The air intake is under the seat in dirt bike fashion and this I am not a fan of. Just doesn’t make sense and why Yamaha would do this is beyond me when both the R1 and R6 have ram air.

2015 Ducati Monster 796 – MSRP $10,499

At 87hp & 58lb-ft with a claimed wet weight of ~415lbs, the Ducati 796 looks to be the obvious choice. However this is not available in the USA for 2015, it was in 2014 so you can still easily purchase them and at a very modest price. The used prices are about that of the Zuki, Kawi, and Yami showroom sticker. With decent stock components the Ducati appears to be a great starting point. The forks and shock still need work just like the others. It’s a common theory that the rear end of these generation Monsters need raised quite a bit. If you spend the money these motors will absolutely fly producing horsepower upwards of 110 leaving the other bikes way way behind.

Personal Opinion : I’ve never ridden one and only raced against one of them. I have ridden Hypermotards with the same basic motor and they were nice. The 796 makes good power but doesn’t feel much faster than the SV or ER. The tank covers are a nice feature along with the single sided swing arm. Can’t see myself buying one but if anyone offers a ride, I will surely take it for a spin.

2015 Kawasaki Ninja 650 – MSRP $7,199 – ABS $7,599

Like the SFV650, the 2015 Ninja 650 comes from past generations. In 2012 Kawasaki made some improvements to the motor. These motors respond very well to a good tune so don’t let the stock numbers fool you. If you have ridden one fairly stock you will know the they have a narrow power band unlike the other 3 bikes in the class. Put a little work into the motor and you can get great top end from these machines. At 465lbs, the Er6 “Quacker” doesn’t appear to be the first choice and if you want to compete with the higher displacement bored out machines in the class you may have trouble as the bike is basically stuck at it’s 650cc displacement.

Personal Opinion : UK folks love these machines as they fit the rules package very well. I have only ridden a 1st generation and loved the way it handled. Hated the power characteristics. Would very much like to try one with some engine modifications. Was on the fence about maybe purchasing one but when Yamaha announced the FZ07 had to just forget about the quacker. Just doesn’t seem like the best option over the other bikes unless your club’s rules package work in the Kawi’s favor.

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