Road Test: Ducati 749 v GSX-R750 K6 v 675 Daytona

Oversized 600s or underpowered1000s? With choices like these now is the time to think outside the box and dip into the middle ground.

Posted: 18 May 2008
by Jon Urry

Oversized 600s or underpowered1000s? With choices like these now is the time to think outside the box
and dip into the middle ground.

Whitham is happy again. "I've got my Paddock Hill mojo back,"he giggles after his first session on the GSX-R750. "I love it when you get Paddock right - you go in really deep and it feels like you're going to fall off the edge of the world, but then you drop down and think 'I could have gone faster.' It scares me, and I like that."

Along with four other riders I got a grandstand view of this mojo moment as James came flying around the outside and into Paddock at a terrifying rate of knots. Doing road tests for TWO I have the privilege of riding on track with both Niall Mackenzie and James, and as anyone who has ever followed, no matter how briefly, a genuinely fast rider will know it can be a humbling experience. But when either of them really start pushing on a bit, it's quite simply staggering to watch. This was James on the GSX-R.

Back in the pits he continued to enthuse:"It's so good this bike, it just drags you on, encourages you to go even faster. Usually I like to spend a bit of time getting used to a bike, but after about 10 laps with the Suzuki I felt like I'd known it for ages. It makes you want to play. I expected it to be good, but not this good. Everything just feels right."

You have to admire Suzuki for still making the GSX-R750. All the other manufacturers jumped ship when the 750 class fell out of favour with the advent of kick-arse litre machines, but not Suzuki. Despite the 1000s taking over the production and superbike racing mantle, and the 600s becoming the new screamer class, Suzuki is still proudly making and updating the GSX-R750.

But why? Ask a Suzuki person and they will talk about heritage. The GSX-R750 did an awful lot to put the Suzuki name on the map in the 80s and 90s, and that same Suzuki person will throw in words like 'passion' and 'brand strength'. But is it simpler than that? Is there simply someone at Suzuki who recognises that
a 750cc bike hits the elusive nail of power and balance right on the head? And sod those who think that a bike should conform to a certain class.

But there's more to this test than the GSX-R. What we have here at Brands are three class rebels, bikes that shun pigeonholing into a dictated format and refuse to go with the flow. The GSX-R750 is a hangover from a long-dead class, but what about Triumph's new 675? The beauty of the 675 is that Triumph simply refused to follow suit, which is what the firm should have done long ago. The company spent four years chasing the dream of matching the Big Four in the 600 class, and that was always going to be a fruitless task. But
the Daytona 675 is different.

Rather than conform Triumph has taken an engine format it has a reputation for - the inline triple - and made a sporty bike for it to sit in. So what if it's an odd size? It could have been any capacity, but
just happens to be a 675. And it works very well.

"This is genuinely a very good bike," reckoned James after a session on the Daytona. "In the past you would have to make allowance for the fact it was a Triumph, and it was British. Head-to-head against the Japanese it were always, 'that's good, for a Triumph,' rather than 'it's better than a Japanese bike,' but this is different. What a little beauty. I like the way it feels like you're sat on top of it; it steers lovely and the suspension and geometry, while not the fastest, just feels right. Really nice."

Which just leaves us with the Ducati 749, which in a way is the only one that actually fits into a class... almost. The 749 is Ducati's answer to a 600, but it isn't because it's a 750. But Ducati's answer to a 750 was a 999, so it doesn't fit in this class. It's all about the number of cylinders, you see. Confused? Well, try this. It isn't even a 749. The only 749 that actually has 749cc is the 749R, because that's the bike homologated for supersport racing. So what, exactly, is the 749?

Quite simply, the 749 is a bike made for people who want a sporty Ducati that looks like the superbike, has superbike handling and decent power, but doesn't cost as much. There is over £2500 difference between a 749 and even the base model 999 - even more if you go for the budget 749 Dark. For that you get a superbike-derived chassis and motor in a bike that looks just like the one on telly. And, like most Ducatis, it works.

"It feels so strange to sit on, really long and low," reckoned James after his first stint on the Italian twin, "and it takes some turning-in compared to the Triumph and Suzuki. But once turned it's so steady and neutral. Sounds silly but it really wants to go around corners. Some bikes need forcing into a corner; the Ducati just goes around."

The beauty of the 749 is that you can be so lazy with it. It even rewards lazy riding. Rev it too much and you'll just tire yourself out. Instead take it easy, leave it in one gear and float along on the torque.
"To start with I tried to be aggressive with the Ducati," said James, "but after a few laps I settled down and it really started to work. The engine's good, really smooth, but for me a twin needs a bloody big motor. The 749's motor is okay, but it doesn't have the midrange I'm expecting."

This is the problem with V-twins: even when they're making good power they just don't feel fast, and getting big power out of them is an effort. For their 999 range Ducati has been forced to really up the ante to chase the 160bhp the inline fours are making, but the smaller capacity 749 only makes 103bhp, which is less than most 600s. Yes,it has a fairly healthy 56lb.ft of torque, but torque doesn't really provide thrills - revs and horsepower do that. Torque equals usability, which is why the 749 takes less effort to ride on track.
So if revs mean thrills and torque means ease of use, where does this leave the 675's engine which, being a triple, should offer the best of both worlds?

Continue reading Road Test: Ducati 749 v GSX-R750 K6 v 675 Daytona 2/3


PRICE NEW - £8795
POWER - 103bhp@10,100rpm
TORQUE - 55.6lb.ft@8300rpm   
WEIGHT - 197kg
SEAT HEIGHT - 780mm   
TOP SPEED - 145.9mph   
0-60     - n/a
TANK RANGE - 115miles

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