Hyosung GV650 Avitar

by Stephen Heller

The following road test of the Hyosung Avitar was printed under protest from Hyosung USA. They felt our review was biased and unfair. To quote their reaction, “…if this is what you call a review in your magazine, then please don’t bother to ask to ‘review’ our products in the future.” Despite their protests, we bring you our unvarnished impression of the Hyosung Avitar. As this issue went to press, Hyosung USA had not responded to our offer to print a rebuttal. –Ed.

review104aI had a friend in college who had a Hyosung scooter. It was used and abused, but it always ran. So Hyosung products have always been a positive experience for me. They were one of the first companies to sell scooters in the US before the current craze, when only the Japanese manufacturers were selling them. Yet, having the few years head start hasn’t helped them at all and they are pretty much non-existent in that market even if they are known to make a pretty good quality, yet bland scooter.

Being a scooterist, I feel like I can embrace “off brands” quicker than motorcyclists. Looking around at the top scooter manufacturers is not the same as motorcycles. Yamaha and Honda are there, but there are a lot more Asian brands that are not yet household names. So I was ready and willing to have my eyes opened and be pleasantly surprised by a Hyosung Motorcycle.

The Avitar’s style is typical of a cruiser motorcycle. In a quick glance one might confuse it with a HD V-Rod or some other modern cruiser. There isn’t anything overtly cool about the motorcycle, yet there isn’t anything that looks very cheap or dangerous. I am not a huge fan of chrome, and even less of a fan of chromed plastic. The Avitar is covered in it from the engine covers to the blinkers. It will all work just fine, but if you want a custom ride, I’m sure all of the plastic could be replaced with real chrome by having a conversation with the accessories guy.

Leaving the shop and taking a few flowing curves around the south side of Lake Vadnais, I got a feel for the motorcycle and its power. Hyosung boasts in their literature that their 650cc motor has the most power of any cruiser in that range with 71 Hp. And you can feel every one of them. The 90º v-twin engine is smooth with little vibration transferring to the handlebars or the seat. The 8 valve dohc engine sounds a bit anemic with its 2 into 1 exhaust. Yet, like I mentioned before, it doesn’t lack in power.

For the riding that I normally do to work and on the highways around the metro area, the bike performs very well. On larger bikes, the transmission has been too tall to cruise the parkways or roll in traffic. The Hyosung was perfectly fine behind the blue haired lady in the Chrysler, but when there was open road it was also up to the task. At highway speeds, the motorcycle tracked well down the road and the suspension, I thought, was very smooth. I felt very stable on the bike from the start. The handling was very good, although it liked the longer turns better than the tight ones, which you kind of expect from a cruiser.

It was nice for a change to get on a bike and to look in the mirrors to be able to see what is going on behind me instead of my arms. The handlebar position felt good for a cruiser and in all of my riding on the motorcycle, tired arms wasn’t one of my complaints.

The biggest problem that I had with the Hyosung Avitar was its dimensions in the leg area. The motorcycle has a low seat height and a mid-range engine size for a cruiser. So you would think the bike is for a shorter person, yet the front brake and gear change are very far forward. Moving up to the front of the seat, sitting very close to the gas tank was the only way I was able to use the forward controls.

review104bOn a longer ride, I felt like there was no good place for my right foot. On the highway, I didn’t want to be resting my foot on the rear brake, and the foot rests were not long enough to put them on the outside of it. I ended up cocking my foot almost pointing directly to the right to keep it on. Also, some of the engine covers right below the gas tank were digging into my leg.

Something a bit puzzling was that I felt that the bike wasn’t very well balanced. I ride vintage Vespas where the whole engine is mounted on the right side, yet I don’t feel as off balance as I did on the Avitar. You just do the “Vespa lean”, maybe because of the size and weight of the motorcycle, but I couldn’t do that. I had to move my whole body over about an inch to the left before I felt ok.

The Avitar has some nice touches. The digital dash seems a little bit dated to me, but it was nice and bright and easy to read. The MPH was large and right in the middle with the warning lights and the neutral light across the top. A clock is in the bottom right, and the odometer in the bottom left. The engine temp and the fuel gauge take up the right third of the cluster. I did have a problem reading the top line of warning lights when I was in the direct sun. Which is the drawback with any green on black gauges.

After all of the small problems with the motorcycle, getting off the bike after a few hours of riding with a smile on my face accounts for a lot. I would like to thank Garceaus in Vadnais Heights for lending MMM the Hyosung for testing.

by Thomas 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” depending on who you ask) 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 the dealer 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.

review104cThe 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 the rider’s 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 owner’s 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 rider’s 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 “H-to-S” 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 can’t 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 aren’t 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 “poly chain belt” drive, as usual for the genre, sucks up some transmission shock, but it isn’t elastic enough to disguise some transmission lash.

review104dThe 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 an 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.

M.M.M.

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