Text – Faisal Khan; Pictures – Om Vaikul
Shootout – Hyosung GV650 Aquila vs Harley-Davidson Street 750 vs Royal Enfield Thunderbird 500
Price OTR Mumbai: Rs. 6.28 lakhs (Hyosung Aquila 650), Rs. 4.68 lakhs (Harley-Davidson Street 750), Rs. 1.85 lakhs (Royal Enfield Thunderbird 500)
Three very capable cruisers which are positioned very differently and are priced apart.
The joy of riding a motorcycle is unparalleled and one can experience it in vivid flavours. While the young amongst us like to be quick with feather light bikes, the mature audience with more dough and patience prefer to opt for a machine which is heavy yet powerful, the apt word befitting them is cruisers. The Indian market has long been starved of good cruiser motorcycles, the alternatives were few and the default choice for the majority was of course Royal Enfield and their Bullets. Times are changing, options are increasing and one of the biggest launches in the cruiser segment this year is the Harley-Davidson Street 750. Post the arrival of the low priced American bike, comparisons were being drawn with the Hyosung Aquila 650. So we decided to put all to rest by pitting these bikes against each other. The only thing being, we also involved Royal Enfield’s most advanced cruiser, the Thunderbird 500 in this shootout. After all, the Street 750 is luring that Indian buyer who owns or is planning to own the British badged bike. So is it worth taking a loan and getting the Street 750 over the Thunderbird? Or is the Aquila 650 the champion in the entry-level premium cruiser segment. In usual style and drama, we set about to find out.
Styling – There is no breaking out of the ordinary here, all three bikes are cruisers and thus the design falls in line with what you would expect such a body style to carry. A round headlight at the front, a big fuel tank and LED tail lights are common between these bikes yet there is quite a lot of difference. The Thunderbird doesn’t look as rich as the other two while between the Harley and Hyosung, the latter outshines with its chrome bits accentuating its premium feel. The Street 750’s styling is a mixed ball, you either love it or hate it, but unanimously people looking at the Aquila 650 signify that its considerable bulk gives it quite the presence on our roads. The Street 750 with mostly matte black parts hints at its sporty credentials and looks very purposeful, not skipping on the undeniable Harley-Davidson appearance. However, the big and brute GV650, with the loads of chrome sweeps the design department, which is no surprise as that’s one of the major reasons for its popularity in our country.
Instrument Cluster and Switch Gear – The Street 750 has a basic console which is a shame considering there is very little on display from a bike which costs almost Rs. 5 lakhs. Forget tachometer or temperature bar, Harley doesn’t even give a clock! The Aquila 650 has the best console here, it’s all digital unit which although misses out on a tachometer, has an easy to read console with even a clock. The Thunderbird uses a twin pod cluster with a digital display, it’s better than the Harley’s, with the TB500 being the only bike here with a tachometer. Quality on the Aquila 650 is the best here while the Thunderbird scores a second, the exposed wiring and poor fit/finishing at certain areas robs the Street 750 off crucial points in this department.
Ergonomics – The Thunderbird is the only bike here which will suit both short and tall riders alike, the ergos are good and quite universal with the pegs being marginally front set, the seat having decent cushioning and the overall seating being upright. However, between the Aquila 650 and Street 750, the former appeals to tall riders with its extremely front set pegs, high seat height and wide handlebars. The Street 750 is best suited to short riders, tall people just can’t be comfortable with those middle set pegs and low seat height. The Street’s seat is super soft while the Aquila’s has cushioning which is the best of both worlds. Clearly, if you are tall, the Street isn’t even an option for you, likewise for short riders, who will find the Aquila too big for their liking and thus won’t get used to it even after long rides on the saddle. When it comes to pillion comfort, the Aquila and Thunderbird both excel, both having seat backs whereas the Street’s stock pillion seat is inadequate to seat an adult.
Performance and Gearbox – All these three bikes have very different engines, the Thunderbird being the most inferior here but that’s not a complaint as it’s drastically cheaper too. Royal Enfield employs a 500cc, TwinSpark, single-cylinder engine which pumps out 27.2 BHP of power and 41.3 Nm of torque, redline coming in much earlier than 6000 RPM. That isn’t too much power, nor is the engine free revving, you play in a very narrow band but the considerable torque output makes the Thunderbird move. Post 2000 RPM, there is good enough pull and reaching 80 km/hr is instant, 0-100 km/hr taking a tad under 13 seconds. Top speed is 130 km/hr but the Thunderbird feels the best at 90 km/hr, the vibrations from the mill are too much and at start up, both the pods vibrate considerably. Still, the Thunderbird is the most frugal here with a mileage of 28 km/l. It’s also the best sounding machine with its trademark thump.
The real match is between the Street 750 and Aquila 650, the former beating the latter on engine displacement while the latter getting back with more power output. Both these bikes employ V-Twin engines and both are refined powerplants, the Harley is just slightly better. While the Street 750 is estimated to produce around 60 BHP, the Aquila 650 churns out 74 BHP, torque output being very similar from both these machines, 62.1 at 6500 RPM in the GV and 60 Nm at 4000 RPM in the Street 750. The problem here is, the Aquila 650 uses the engine from the GT650R, which is a high revving motor and not a mill suited for a cruiser, thus you have to rev the nuts of it to get going. The Street on the other hand is eager right from low end and pulls like a locomotive, being half a second faster to 100 km/hr. However, it’s the Aquila which has a higher top speed.
Not only is the Harley the better performing, it also has a better gearbox, with a sound track not as eager but still better than the Aquila’s. In spite of being V-Twin units, it’s the Aquila 650 which vibrates when you rev it to the top (it redlines at a shade above 10,000 RPM, while the Street 750 redlines at 8000 RPM), the Street 750 doesn’t vibrate at all. Fuel consumption is evenly matched at 22-25 km/l. Harley-Davidson has done a fine job in the development of the Street 750’s engine, it feels much better than the Aquila’s while the Thunderbird’s motor is not even in the same league. Royal Enfield needs to up their game, once the Street 500 comes, both these motors will be compared and the American powerplant is without doubt going to be drastically better. The Chennai based manufacturer needs to go modern, ditch air-cooling for liquid-cooling and develop a motor which is sans vibes.
Riding Dynamics – All three bikes are stable at speed and all ride very well over bad roads. Suspension is stiffly sprung on these bikes but only marginally and that really helps them to handle well. The Thunderbird is light on its feet, it weighs the least here while the Aquila’s 240 kgs weight does show over the Harley’s 220 kgs of bulk. The extra weight of the Aquila robs away easy manoeuvrability which is already hampered by its large dimensions. The Street 750 is compact, the handlebar is narrow and boy it is easy to turn in and around corners, it’s the most nimble and fun bike here, to ride on a twisty road with enthusiasm. But better and wide tyres would have helped the Street 750 a lot, it uses a 150 section rear, the Aquila has a massive 180 section rear tyre while the Thunderbird 500 runs on a 120 mm rear tyre. Harley uses Michelin tyres on exported bikes and those would have really made a difference to the Street’s dynamics in our country.
However, in spite of the Harley-Davidson being the most agile out here, it’s brakes lack feedback, stopping power too isn’t as good as the Aquila 650 or Thunderbird 500, both of which can boast of good braking capabilities. The Street 750 just doesn’t inspire confidence when you stand on the brakes and stopping power is inadequate when you factor in the stupendous performance on tap. Neither bikes come with ABS, a shame considering cheaper bikes have this feature. With more weight to haul (both in terms of body weight and rider/pillion weight), ABS would have done wonders to boost the confidence of a cruiser rider who is more into enjoying the journey than the bike.
Verdict – It all boils down to what you want. The Thunderbird 500 is easily the most inferior product here but one which costs a whole lot of less money to buy, thereby being high on the value for money quotient. If you don’t have the budget, the Royal Enfield is more than the bike you need. Still, if you have the money, what should you buy, the Aquila 650 or the Street 750. If you are tall, you have no option, the Street 750 won’t fit you, so the Aquila it is. But, if you are like most Indians, which is, having an average height (under 5 ft 10 in), the Street 750 comprehensively beats the Aquila 650 where it matters most.
The Street 750 simply has a better engine, it’s much easier to handle and dynamics are one up on the Hyosung, which really brings us to the question, is it worth spending the extra money over a bike from the Harley-Davidson brand for a not so well known Korean machine? The answer is no and thus the Street 750, in spite of its below average brakes, poor fit/finish with exposed wirings and sub-standard hardware in certain places, still manages to win this shootout. It’s biggest saviour being the fantastic performance, good handling and badge weight. The Street 750 performs so well in terms of engine and handling, it’s worth spending the extra money over the Thunderbird 500 and getting it over the Royal Enfield bike as well.
The Harley-Davidson Street 750 wins this shootout easily as it’s much cheaper than the Hyosung Aquila 650 while also being a better engineered product. The Aquila 650 will still draw more eye balls but the Street will reward you with more fun.
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