Nov 14, 2014

Motorcycle Review: Hyosung GV650/Avitar

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 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.

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. Even more, the overreaction by the manufacturer and dealer to my exposing the bike's terrible reliability and incompetent design demonstrates exactly how a consumer will be treated with similar complaints. 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.


Unknown said...

I Still love coming across this review. It almost couldn't be more wrong in almost every aspect. And I Still love My 2009 gv650 that has been absolutely trouble free since the day I bought it out of the crate. I can hardly go anywhere where I need to stop because the bike gets so much attention. The Paint and chrome have held up better than my Hinckly Bonneville that supposedly was right up there with Honda quality. Only complaint was the sedate stock factory muffler. That was replaced in short order with a Ducati Diavel rear muffler set. In almost 40 years of riding it has been so far one a of the most fun big bikes I have ever owned. The Beautiful high revving v-twin 650 has really been a wonderful engine. If a prospective buyer of a gv650 is reading this and you like the bike... I Say get it. Source out a brick and mortar dealer and have them set it up and make sure they are competent as a warranty facility for the Hyosung brand. It's a great ride. Be prepared for the inquiry's about it when you are out and about though.

T.W. Day said...

I'm glad your experience was different than mine. Hyosung reliability was one of the main reasons the brand has all but vanished from the US. It was absolutely the reason my local dealer not only failed as a motorcycle dealership but decades of life as a popular local hardware store ended in financial failure. Every time I hear the claim "the bike [car,RV, boat] gets so much attention," I'm suspicious. Attention is not always a good thing. They might be laughing and you're mistaking it for something else. That's sure as hell true for the Hardly crowd who seem to think they're admired by all but are the joke of the road.

batvette said...

Funny I didn't see anything in the review that was harshly critical other than rider comfort.

batvette said...

Funny I didn't see anything in the review that was harshly critical other than rider comfort.

Anonymous said...

I have an 2007 and I drive it like a rented mule... I've driven everything and owned from about every class and currently own a few. In saying that I am not saying I am an expert just have lots of things to make comparison from. There is nothing wrong with these bikes I had zero problems with it. I know guys who bought $30k Harley touring bikes and had oil leaks in less than a year and the dealer told them they are know for that (off topic... one of them just bought the BOSS HOSS!!! CRAZY looking bike!). Point being some brand short coming are sloughed of by it badge name. Its very hard to get into the N.A. market for a tonne of reason. In terms of quality... are some of the parts plastic looking. Sure. I also find the transmission a little clunky. The chrome did flake off the front brake reservoir. But it goes like snot (for a cruiser and its displacement). Handles wicked (again for its class) and in nine years the only thing I have had to do outside of regular maintenance is reseal the still has the original fork seals. Which is more than I can say for my 2 friends 2007 BMW 650cs and 2009 Ducati Monster 696. I have read article about stator problems, and some leaky gas tanks of first year production..... but mine is 2nd year and nadda...... anyway I am a little bias cuz I truly love anything on 2 wheels give me an old Honda 50cc dirt bike and I'll be gone till dark!!! Happy riding.

T.W. Day said...

I was writing something about my product review history and bumped into this reply. I have to ask, what does "Handles wicked (again for its class)" mean in a motorcycle that can't make a u-turn in a two-lane road and that drags parts at a 10 degree lean? Just curious.

Unknown said...

Please tell me how many miles you have on it?

Unknown said...

How many miles on it? I'm restoring a 2007.

Unknown said...

I love this review. It is started off with, a "I hate cruisers!" disclaimer, states it's pretty good otherwise, and goes on to complain that it's not a super standard or sport bike.

It kind of reminds me of my test ride on an Indian Scout. Everything g was wrong for me, but other than that, the bike's pretty decent.

I would like to see a cruiser guy write a review of my BMW F800GT, or 1st Generation FZ1, without it being overly negative. It doesn't matter how good a bike either is, it's just going to be off for them.

T.W. Day said...

I was curious about the miles, too. I'd figure a "rented mule" ought to be racking up at least 6-10,000 miles a year.

T.W. Day said...

For a while, I think MMM's editor or publisher was getting off on putting me on cruisers and watching the fur fly. After that last Honda, I just quit tossing my name in the bike review hat. It just wasn't any fun riding the damn things.

T.W. Day said...

As of 2018, that dealer advice will be hard to follow. For example, the company lists Garceau's as their only Minnesota dealer and they have been out of business for almost a decade. Likewise for the three California dealers they list.

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Lee Einer said...

I ride a 2007 Avitar with a little over 10,000 miles on it. I am the second owner. The only issues I have had with the bike were a bad weld on the tank that necessitated sealing, and the little battery that maintains the settings on the speedometer display has died.

That's not horrible for a ten year old bike.

I don't hot rod it, but I can. At low RPM, it is strong but not spectacular. Open the throttle and there is a sweet spot where it seems to hesitate for a split second, makes a sound like an angry rattlesnake and from there you best hang on tight.

The author obviously is not a fan of cruisers, and the legs out front took some getting used to for me also. But once I did so, I found the handling impressive. I've scraped the pegs powering into turns more than once.

Bottom line? Great styling, great performance for a 650, I'd buy another in a heartbeat.

Unknown said...

I love mine it does turn heads

Unknown said...

Hey T.W.Day... you are entitled to your opinion as it is just that... But when you say that the GV650 CAN'T do a U turn on a 2 lane road... I am an "average" rider at best. I have a 2005 Yamaha V-star 650 and a 2008 Hyosung GV650. I assure you that BOTH of these bikes can, without issue, do a U-turn on an average sized 2 lane road. The bike is capable, you are not.

T.W. Day said...

I always love it when someone courageous enough to sign their comment with "Unknown" makes a bullshit claim about what he can do on a bike. Post a video of you making that "without issue" u-turn big talker.

A C Day said...

I love my GV650. Admittedly I have nothing to compare it since I haven't ridden anything else nearly 40 years - but I still love it. I think it is just about the best looking bike ever and great value second (or third or forth) hand - just my opinion. I really think you should have tried the pegs in the further back setting as your legs look too short for the forward position.

T.W. Day said...

The many counter-opinions listed here prove at least one thing, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder." I haven't followed this post for a while and catching up on it has been entertaining and enlightening. Lee Einer's 2007 bike with "a little over 10,000 miles" is pretty much a barely used motorcycle, for example. It's almost broken in averaging about 833 miles a year, which is less activity that I put on my bicycles at 75-years-old (me, not the bicycle). And if you can't "scrape the pegs" on this bike, you belong on a trike. Even leaning half-way off of the bike, the pegs scrape under any sort of serious turn.

A.C. Day's comments reminded me of that test riding experience for the first time in a half-dozen years. His opinion that the GV650 "is just about the best looking bike ever and great value second (or third or forth) hand" is at least honest. I, admittedly and from the start, told both the dealer and the distributor that I don't like cruisers. If you chase a little of the review's history in this blog, you'll see the now-unemployed-in-motorsports rep somehow thought he would bullshit his way past handing me a different bike than the one the magazine employed me to review: the GT650R. No chance I would have volunteered to ride the GV650 and even less chance my editor would have asked me to do that review.

Say what you want about Hyosung's products, but there is a reason their list of dealerships in 2024 is nonexistent. There is also a reason that every bike listed for sale (for example here: has about as little use (or way less) as Mr. Einer's. I was feeling pretty lame for only having put 1200 miles on my used TU250X until I started looking at how little Hyosung 650s are ridden.