All Rights Reserved © 2008 Thomas W. Day
While I was waiting for Garceau's to finish prepping the bike, I walked around the shop and looked at the Hyosung (pronounced "Yo-sung" or "Why-oh-sung") models on their showroom floor. I knew I'd be reviewing the 650, but the bike that really attracted my attention was the GT250 Comet. The Hyosung models use a lot of common parts and the 250 models are not "little bikes," they just have small motors. However, when Jim Debilzan rolled out the 650 Avitar, my heart sunk. Unknown to me, Hyosung makes a cruiser and I would be testing it.
Years ago, a friend was visiting our home and my wife was trying to feed him. She'd made some guacamole dip and salsa and she was shoving it at him, assuming that everyone loved guacamole. He took a scoop and tasted it. Then he said, "I hate avocado, but this is pretty good for what it is." The Hyosung GV650/Avitar is my guacamole. No matter how well this bike was designed and assembled, there was no chance I would like it. I've ridden a bunch of cruisers. The best I can say about any of them is that they were equally unpleasant, "I don't like cruisers, but it's pretty good for a cruiser." I would, honestly, rather ride a mountain bike. With that in mind, off we go.
The Avitar looks a lot like a V-Rod. Two people, both opinions more diverse than mine, said, "It's pretty." The Avitar's function follows its form and "pretty" is not mine to judge. The bike feels large, partially because rider's position perspective is set by the wide tank (4.5 gallons), the chrome tank treatment, and the wide bars. The Avitar is long (95.6", stem to stern); with a 66.9" wheelbase. In town, the long wheelbase provides a huge turning radius. To get out of a parking space, I made several maneuvers for every one I'd need on my V-Strom. The footpegs are way out in front, but they can be brought in a couple of inches. Moving the pegs to the "short" position wouldn't have done anything for me. If my feet aren't under my butt, they aren't where they belong. I had to fold myself almost in half to find a posture that worked. The seat height is a low 31". The seating positions appear to be designed for a fairly tall rider and an incredibly short passenger. The right passenger peg is directly over and uncomfortably close to the muffler. The footpegs touch ground easily in twisties and I can't move from the center of the seat to do much about the cornering ground clearance.`
The electronic console contains a lot of information: speedo, odometer, two trip odometers, fuel and temperature bar gauges, and idiot lights. The "Select" and "Reset" buttons are small and hard to engage with gloves. The right-and-left turn indicators could be easy to ignore. The ignition key is on the right side of the tank and is almost guaranteed to be sheared off in a parking incident.
From the rear of the bike, the brake light (ten high intensity LEDs) is insanely visible. The small, close-in turn signals (front and rear) may be too subtle to be noticed. The single round headlamp provides old fashioned illumination with hot spots near the bike and diffuse light a couple dozen feet out.
For maintenance, the tank props up on an included stay, so air filter servicing can be done with the tank in place. The toolkit and ownerís manual are stored under the seat. The seat only requires the removal of a single screw at the back of the seat. The battery is under the seat along with the tank prop and owners' manual. Idle adjustment is easily accessible from the riderís seated position. The oil change interval is 6,000km (about 3,700 miles) and Hyosung recommends the valve clearances be inspected at that same interval. The bike has an oil filter (on the right side case) and an oil strainer (near the drain plug).
The steel tube frame is rigid enough to provide a stable, confident ride on pavement. The seat and feet-forward position puts a lot of responsibility on the suspension, though. The 43mm upside-down forks have ďH-to-SĒ damping adjustment, but the old-fashioned dual shock rear suspension only allows for spring loading adjustment. Both ends are short travel, which accounts for the low seat height and harsh ride. Vibration is moderate, especially considering the cruiser short-travel suspension. The fact that the mirrors provide a stable rearview image at all speeds proves that the bike is relatively vibration-free. The stock tires are Bridgestone Battleax BT54 radials. The double disk front, single disk rear brakes work, but you don't have to worry about using too much pressure because the brakes are far from aggressive. I couldn't apply enough front brake to approach breaking the front wheel loose.
Hyosung claims 71hp at the rear wheel and my ride gave me no reason to doubt it. The Avitar does not have a tach, so I don't really know where "bottom" is, but the motor pulls strongly from low-midband up. The dual 39mm Mikuni carbs provide enough fuel to the 81.5 x 62mm 647cc V-2 to give the bike a solid 50mph 5th gear roll-on and plenty of passing power. The Avitar's mild but macho exhaust note, turns into a snarl when you get on the gas. People who appreciate that kind of thing commented that it "sounds cool." At 55, with a constant throttle, I noticed a bit of hesitation that almost felt like fuel starvation. That reappeared any time I was in that RPM range with steady throttle. In my 135 mile test ride, I averaged 40mpg; not great but not bad.
Ten miles from home my hands were tingling, my butt was sore, and I still canít figure out why my feet are sticking out in front of the rest of me. Usually, I'm good for 100-150 miles between rest stops. Today, 20 miles and I'm ready to look at scenery, on foot. Those arenít Hyosung complaints, those are cruiser complaints. At 70mph, the wind is trying to blow my feet from the pegs and me from the seat. I'm dangling from the bars. In this seating position, 55mph feels fast and 70 feels out of control. My friend on the Yamaha TDM thinks this is a great road. Every bump, crack, and ripple in the highway drives my tailbone into the middle of my spine. The historic twin-shock rear suspension, long wheelbase and sluggish steering turns some of my favorite letter-roads into work.
At about 250 miles, the clutch began making a squawking noise on cold starts and it would grab and lunge forward. That reappeared once in slow moving traffic, when the bike was a little hot. The 5-speed transmission is predictable and well-spaced and shifting is as smooth as you'd expect from a long linkage mechanism. The ďpoly chain beltĒ drive, as usual for the genre, sucks up some transmission shock but it isn't elastic enough to disguise some transmission lash.
The GV650 has lots of chrome: engine cases, monster pipe, fork bits, and all of the places cruiser owner's like chrome. The engine case chrome is a little heavy looking, like plastic model plating. The welds, paint, chrome, fit and finish all look up to modern standards, although the finish on the top side of the swingarm was a little crude. Generally, the Avitar looks well built for the price ($6,299 MSRP).
Competition in this style and engine size is fierce. The Avitar is priced $100 above Yamaha's V-Star Classic and $200 over the Custom and Suzuki's Boulevard. The Honda Shadow VLX is $400-800 less expensive than the GV650 and Kawasaki's Vulcan 500 LTD is $1100 cheaper. The Harley Sportster 883 is $400 above the asking price for the Hyosung. It will be hard to make a dent in this market without a substantial cost advantage over the more established competition.
Postscript: This review generated more flame-mail than anything I've done in the last decade. I must have been right, because some of the mail came from owners who claimed I'd devalued their "investment" by describing its faults and failures. In retrospect, I only wish I had been more blunt in my dislike for the Avitar. It is, without question, a POS motorcycle that is overpriced, poorly designed and more miserably executed, and belongs in the "cheap Chinese shit" category of motorcycles.