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AFFORDABLE IS COOL: Naza Cruise 650 FB

Wahid Ooi Abdullah March 13,2016
The expat’s face was all red and shirt wet with perspiration as he pushed the stroller along the sidewalk. His struggle to acclimatize to the heat and humidity was vivid as he grimaced under the sun.

I was gearing up to leave as he got closer. He smiled and his eyes widened when he saw the muscular, low-slung, black bike. “Nice V-Rod there, man!” he remarked as he hurried by. I just mouthed off, “Thanks!”

A few steps later, he stopped dead in his tracks, like someone who had a sudden epiphany. Or just remembered he left the stove on. I swore I could see the words, “Hey, wait a minute” in his mind. He doubled back.

“It ain’t a V-Rod, ain’t it?”

Apart from the N5 (250cc, single), Naza Bikers Dream motorcycles have been well-known for the GTR250 and GTR650 sportbikes. Both the bigger bikes are great-looking, handle well and sound awesome especially with the packaged Twin Brothers exhaust system. Part of that aural pleasure comes from the 90-degree V-Twin engine on both models, although the 250cc is air/oil-cooled while the 650cc variant is liquid-cooled.

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The Cruise 650 was launched in 2013, with taller handlebars and plenty of chrome. The 90-degree V-Twin is based on Suzuki’s V-Strom 650 engine, but the transmission has 5-speeds instead of the GTR’s six, besides a long-lasting drive belt (instead of a chain). Sales has been encouraging but Naza Bikers Dream decided to produce a more custom version.

Called the Cruise 650 FB, this version looks aggressive with the matt black paint with silver race stripes; a drag bar; blacked out frame, engine and wheels. The tail section has also been updated (shortened) and uses an LED taillight.

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The seat is low, while the reach to the handlebars is fair, producing an aggressive stance while riding. The foot forward footpegs are within easy reach for most Asian riders.

It has a basic instrument panel consisting of a large central LCD with no tachometer. You could toggle through the information to display two tripmeters and different levels of brightness.

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The engine cranked a few times before coming to life with a boom, startling unsuspecting onlookers. The 2-into-1 exhaust roars like how a V-Twin should but much smoother, due to the large cylinder spacing. Could never help giving the throttle a few blips before pulling away.

Cruisers are all about torque and the Cruise 650 had plenty of it. It roared off every stoplight with no difficulty and overtaking at highway speeds was fun. Say you’re riding along at 110km/h and you needed to overtake that bus quickly. All you needed to do was open up and bike just punched forward. Keep that throttle yanked and you’ll soon see 180km/h, with plenty more to go. Well, why not? There’s a healthy space of the 2,500 RPM between maximum torque at 7,500 RPM and maximum power at 9,000, meaning the engine is very flexible.

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But of course, a cruiser is for cruising and there’s where the Naza Cruise 650 shone.

Ride between 110 to 130 km/h and that engine just rumbled along to that beautiful V-Twin soundtrack, without feeling stressed. Being a 90-degree V-Twin also meant that vibration was minimal despite the engine being solidly mounted to the frame.

The thick seat means you could ride the whole day with getting a sore bum too.

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Having 5 speeds is good enough, as the torque is well-spread throughout the powerband, although there seemed to be a flat spot near the midrange, but it’s in a very small rev range, so there’s nothing to worry about. The transmission shifted smoothly and positively, without ever catching a false neutral.

Now, to be honest, cruiser motorcycles generally do not handle as well, with the exception of a few. It’s a given, considering the design limitations of this type of bikes, but the Naza Cruise 650 FB surprised me. If there’s a cruiser I would draw a parallel to in terms of handling, I would compare the Cruise to the Victories and Indians.

For a start, Naza did the right thing by utilizing upside down forks for this bike. As such, the front tyre provided lots of feedback, instead of being vague. The forks are adjustable for compression and rebound damping, a great departure from most other cruisers. Also contributing to the Cruise 650’s good handling: The 90-degree V-Twin’s front cylinder is canted downwards in front of the crankcase; the drag bars makes you put more bodyweight over the tank; and the large radiator. These factors add up to put more weight on the front wheel.

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Trail is kept in check, despite the large steering angle (rake) which avoids the tendency of standing up when it’s leaned over. There was also a lack of handlebar wobble when accelerating hard through the gears.

Along with the long wheelbase and low centre of gravity, you could lean it all the way over and scratch out the footpegs, but the Cruise remains stable.

Another point which made the Cruise handle well were the powerful brakes. They provided plenty of feedback at the levers too, but do remember, it’s the rear brake that’s more effective in stopping the bike as like almost all cruisers, as their weight are biased to the rear.

And since the Cruise 650 has great handling you could actually slice through traffic with ease. The exhaust note clears other vehicles out of the way as you blast through every opening. Plus since it looks so aggressive almost every driver will just give way.

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I would like to also state on record that Naza bikes may have been underestimated or unfairly bad mouthed. I tested the Cruise 650 for well over 2000 kilometres but it didn’t as much as coughed even once. Besides that, I truly enjoyed the attention given by other road users, including cruiser riders.

They probably thought it’s a Harley-Davidson V-Rod, too.

 

TECH SPECS

Engine 90-degree V-Twin, DOHC, 4-valve-per-cylinder, liquid-cooled

Displacement 647 cc

Bore x Stroke 81.5 mm x 62 mm

Compression Ratio 11.5 : 1

Max Power 74 bhp @ 9,000 RPM

Max Torque 62.1 Nm @ 7,500 RPM

Fuel system Electronic fuel injection

Transmission 5 speed, constant mesh with belt final drive

Clutch Cable actuated, multi-plate wet clutch

Front suspension USD forks, adjustable for compression and rebound damping

Rear suspension Twin hydraulic adjustable shock, adjustable for preload

Front brake Two 300mm discs, two piston caliper

Rear brake Single 270 disc, two piston caliper

Fuel tank capacity 16 litres

Seat height 675 mm

Wheelbase 1700 mm

Kerb weight 240 kg

MRSP RM 28,968.78 on the road

Review and pictures by Wahid Ooi Abdullah




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