As I said in my post above- I started on a nearly 70hp 500cc Interceptor.
Actually, the first bike I did any real time on after the MSF was a 40hp Suzuki GS450 – My Dad’s.
Then I purchased a 68hp Interceptor 500.
I then moved on to a ZZR-250, not because the 500 was too much power, but because the 500 died in the arms of a dealership mechanic, and the 250 was all I could replace it with from that dealership (so I could lose several thousands of dollars and look elsewhere, or I could take a showroom condition ZZR-250 for wholesale value… not a hard choice)
In the case of the Interceptor, the horsepower wasn’t really an issue, it was manageable because it came on midway through the revs and the bike still had sufficient torque in the low band, so you didn’t have to stray into the powerband if you didn’t want to.
One big issue with the bike (similar issue with the GS450) was that it was more than 400 pounds dry. Weight (and weight distribution) is a big deal on parking lot maneuvers.
I initially found the GS450 to be (and I still do) annoying at slow speeds because of the way it tips in (high centre of gravity).
The Interceptor was much better (better weight distribution for me).
A 450 dry pound Shadow VLX (600cc cruiser) is incredibly easy to hold up (very low centre of gravity) but I find unnerving how it tips in at low speeds.
All three bikes are a comparative pain to move/push about once off the bike, or in a tight parking situation (especially on dirt/gravel parking lots).
Compared to all three, the ZZR-250 is a godsend in any slow speed, parking, or pushing/maneuvering situation.
The Interceptor (a very similar bike in many ways to a modern sporting bike like a Bandit, 599, or FZ6R) did have one draw back, and that was over confidence. I took an hour long ride through some 40mph twisties second day on that bike, and the entire time I was sitting just below the power band. The bike was just begging me to open it up. I have no question that bike could have done the entire route at 80mph or more. But the simple fact was, even if the bike could, I couldn’t.
A competent friendly bike like the Ninja 250/500, GS500, and yes, most the 650s will allow you to get away with some mistakes. It’ll cover or you. The problem comes when you pass what the bike can make-up. Then you are in trouble, beyond your comfort zone, and something is very very wrong. If that happens on a slower bike, you have more time to react (With human reactions typically between 0.1 and 0.2 seconds, every tenth of a second helps), and the consequences are less. If that happens on a lighter bike, it is easier to recover. When you have both speed and weight working against you (as is the case with a 450 pound 70 horespower bike) it is much harder to recover, and you have less time to do so. Some people say “I’ll respect the bike”. But true respect is hard on a bike that provides confidence the way that Interceptor did. And that argument totally ignores the simple fact that people fatigue and make mistakes.
As an aside, I did that same route six months later on my 250. I did it at much the same speed, and the bike didn’t “egg me on” (though is capable of doing it at significant speeds). At the very end I was taking a long sweeper with lots of tar snakes. My focus was on the exit of the corner, and I was tired. I hit a tar snake at 40mph and both wheels skipped sideways. Not much, but it bounced me, and BOTH my left hand and left foot came off the bar and the peg. I was going through a left hander without any contact to the left side of my bike.
I was able to quickly get settled back on the bike and carry with nothing more than a scare and a good lesson learned.
I am not confident things would have gone so smoothly had I been on the Interceptor. I think it would have been a close call at the same speed, let alone going faster.
I also think that had I been on something more aggressive that I would have gone off.
In the debate about 250s, I will say right off the bat, if you’ve seen a Ninja 250 struggling on the freeway than simply put- you are either imagining the rider wants to be going faster than he does, or the rider is a bit clueless. I own a 220hp V6 family sedan (Mazda 6), and it simply cannot keep up with my 250 up until the 90mph mark (at which point the bike starts its slow crawl to a top speed of 100mph). Given that 95mph will land me a $2000 – $10000 (yes, four zeros) fine, suspension of lisence, and impoundment of the vehicle, I don’t really play up there.
The only times I’ve found I wasn’t accelerating as quickly as I wanted on the freeways, I was in top gear when I should have (just like driving a car) dropped it down a gear or two first. I have no problems taking my bike onto crowded freeways with traffic traveling 75mph.
Now, I think this debate has kind of moved off course. You started with the question of 500 vs 600, yet all the stuff I’ve read recently is talk between a 250 and a (mild) 600.
My last paragraph included.
Indeed, great pains are made to distinguish the FZ6R 600 from a super-sport 600, yet the arguments seem to be targeted at 250s instead of 500s (which are a far closer competitor to the FZ6R than the 250s are).
In the case against a Ninja/GS 500, I really don’t think there is any reason beyond style to chose a 600/650 as a first bike. Both make 50+ hp, will do zero to 60 in under 4 seconds (More than a second faster than any stock Camero ever sold, faster than almost any Corvette on the road). Both can cruise long distances comfortably with frugal fuel economy. Both handle well, though slower and more forgiving than a “more sporting” bike. Both weight under 400 pounds dry. Both have long standing histories as cheap and easy to maintain.
So the question is- why don’t they sell more 500s? The simple answer is that they do, but only in Europe and Asia. Kawasaki and Honda makes a full line of 500s for Britain. We don’t get them because in North America cubic centimetres sell.
So, my question to you is this:
Given that the Ninja 250 doesn’t fit you, what advantages does the FZ6R actually have over a 500cc Ninja or GS? What beyond the sales pitch makes it a better place to start? Heck, what IN the sales pitch makes it a better way to enter the world of motorcycles?
“The two seconds between ‘Oh S**!’ and the crash isn’t a lot of practice time.”