Many paultan.org readers have asked the author to conduct comparison tests for various motorcycle segments, comparing like for like and to enable better informed purchase decisions. It is not as easy as you think it might be to do such a thing.

Availability of review bikes, shooting schedules and having enough riders are all criteria that have to be fulfilled. Additionally, some distributors are reluctant to have their bikes put through a direct comparison with the competition.

However, at paultan.org, we pride ourselves on fairness and accuracy in reporting, without fear or favour. With that in mind, we recently had a recently had a perfect storm of motorcycles coming together in one place at one time.

With the selection of bikes we had in hand, the author had the idea of answering the question, “what can you get, in Malaysia, if you had RM50,000 to spend on a naked sports motorcycle?” We disregarded power ratings, engine size, equipment specifications and only held to that hard number.

As it happened, we had on hand the Kawasaki Z900 SE, the Triumph 765S, the Yamaha MT-09 and the Honda CBR650F. All these bikes can be purchased, retail, at or below RM50,000 excluding road tax, insurance and registration and we put them through the paces to see what you get for your money.


In these trying times of diminished purchasing power, rising cost of living and depleted government coffers, making one’s Ringgit stretch as far as possible is paramount and RM50,000 is a lot of money, by anyone’s estimation. So, if you’re in the market for a motorcycle, RM50,000 is that magic point where you get a “real” big bike, with proper suspension, brakes and exciting performance.

Starting in alphabetical order, we have the Honda CB650F. This four-cylinder naked sports is a little long in the tooth now, compared against its competition.

However, the CB650F is the only four-cylinder middleweight you can get locally as Yamaha does not bring in the XJ6 Diversion. With 89.8 hp at 11,000 rpm and 64 Nm of torque at 8,000 rpm on tap, the CB650F is priced at RM42,448 and slots nicely into the mid-market, size and price wise.

Next up is the Kawasaki Z900 ABS, which replaces the popular previous generation Z800 inline-four naked sports. Priced at RM48074 for the SE (as tested) and RM46375 for the base model, the Z900 puts out 123 hp at 9,500 rpm and 98.6 Nm of torque at 7,700 rpm from its 948 cc mill.

As the only non-Japanese offering, the Triumph 765S comes from the UK and is priced at RM48,900. Carrying an inline-triple, the 765S is rated at 112 hp at 11,250 rpm and 73 Nm of torque at 9,100 rpm and is the base model of three in the range, the 765R and 765RS being priced above the RM50,000 mark due to equipment specifications.

Rounding out the list of our mid-price middleweight comparo is the Yamaha MT-09, recently updated with new colours and ABS and priced at RM44,706. The MT-09 has proven to be popular with Malaysian riders, because of its price point and performance from the 113 hp at 10,000 rpm and 87.5 Nm at 8,500 rpm from its 847 cc three-cylinder power plant.

Those are the numbers, but what do they mean to you as a rider? We have provided a comparison chart based on specifications, but numbers don’t mean everything, or anything, for that matter.

What does matter is what the bike is like to ride. What does it feel like under acceleration, under braking, which rider does it suit best?

Putting the four RM50,000 naked sport bikes side-by-side, there were similarities and differences in styling. Typical of its hooligan bike intentions, the MT-09 is styled like a typical stunter, with short bodywork and peaked tank.

The same applies to the Z900, with its Sugomi styling of blended flat planes, while the CB650F is much the same, though looking a little less sharp-edged. The Triumph stands on its own with the long sleek tail and more curved fuel tank.

Throwing a leg over any of these mid-price machines is easy, with seat heights going from 795 mm for the Z900 to 820 mm for the MT-09, the CB650F and 765S falling in the middle at 810 mm. This means any rider from about 1.65 metres in height can manage these bikes, getting both feet down without straining.

Seating positions differ though, with the 765S giving the rider the most space to move around, with the MT-09 following close behind. The CB650F and Z900 place the rider in more of a pocket, which makes moving the rider’s bum around on longer trips perhaps a little limited.

For the author, though, in terms of fit, while his 1.68 metre frame fit all the bikes well, the CB650F was the most comfortable in terms of the rider’s hand-seat-feet triangle. The riding position for the Honda felt most conventional and upright.

As for the 765S, taking its cue from the rather more sports oriented nature of the Triumph Street Triple range, the rider’s feet are set a little further back, and torso canted forward a little more. On the Z900, the rider sits in a pocket, and given the nature of the beast, this is a good thing, as the biggest of this bunch does naturally give the best acceleration.

True to its nature as a speedy, hooligan machine with difficulty keeping the front wheel on the ground, the MT-09’s riding position is geared for those riders who like displaying their bike handling skills. This means a more head down, elbows out riding position, suitable for aggressive riding.

During rough acceleration testing, as can be expected, the Z900 romped ahead, followed closely by the 765S, MT-09 and the CB650F. No replacement for displacement, as they say, but that is not the whole story with this quartet.

Power delivery is a key part of how motorcycles behave and throttle behaviour can range from “my grandmother drives faster than that” to “oh my god, we’re all going to die!” For our RM50,000 bikes, we found the most approachable machine to ride to be the CB650F.

Gentle and progressive, the CB650F is very controllable though its throttle response could be a little laggy. The Z900 and MT-09 had the sharpest power delivery of the four, with the MT-09 having solved some of the fuel stumble issues from the 2015 model.

But for linear power delivery, the 765S came out on top, providing measured response at any throttle opening. For the 765S, it was a matter of being in the right gear and whacking the throttle open to get the grin factor going.

Handling behaviour on the four was also markedly different. It is hard to objectively quantity handling response on four bikes which are targeted to do slightly different things but we can safely say this.

Easiest of the four bikes to ride and perhaps the most comfortable was the CB650F. With only 89 hp at the right wrist, riders of any skill level will find the CB650F easiest to come to grips with and ride on a daily basis.

However, with non-adjustable front telescopic forks and pre-load adjustment only monoshock, its 208 kg weight does count against it, making it the slowest of the group. This is not necessarily a bad thing, if it is being put into service as an everyday bike to perform a multitude of tasks.

The same can be said of other three bikes in this comparo, with the MT-09 and 765S falling neatly into the mold of fast commuters. All that is needed is a back pack or tank bag, and both are eminently suited for medium-distance commutes, say from Tanjung Malim to Kuala Lumpur, on a daily basis.

We found the suspension on the MT-09 much improved over the previous iteration, having had a mid-model makeover to include updated styling cues, including the split LED headlights much like the units found on the MT-10. One of the issues we had with the MT-09, softly sprung suspension has been addressed with 41 mm diameter upside-down forks, fully-adjustable.

At the back the monoshock is adjustable for pre-load and rebound, but riding the MT-09 still showed a certain softness in the suspension. Winding on the pre-load a little helped but the somewhat soft absorber does make the rear squat easily.

For the 765S, the suspension is much the same as the MT-09, with adjustable preload and rebound in separate fork legs. At the back is a preload adjustable monoshock and riding the 765S around, we found it stable but a little less eager to fall into corners than the MT-09.

Adjustable suspension is also found on the Z900, as per the MT-09 and 765S. Living with the Z900 for a while, we found the suspension settings almost spot-on out of the box and left well enough alone.

Putting the three together – we had to leave the CB650F out of this one because of the lack of suspension adjustment – we found the 765S to be most stable both in the straights and corners, despite the effort needed to drop the bike into corners. The MT-09 was a little light, almost flighty, but once in the corner, would stay on the line, though showing a slight tendency to weave and bob.

The Z900 displayed the best handling manners at very high speed, with the bike taking a very intuitive line and requiring minimal control from the rider. However, at low speed, the compression was a little too hard, and transmitted every small shock and bump through to the bars.

On the highway, the 765S provided the best, albeit minimal, protection from the wind with its small bikini fairing covering the instruments. The other three did not have any sort of wind protection but both the OEM catalogue and aftermarket provide suitable items to suit.

Pressed into a simulated 40 km commute, all four bikes performed well and were well within their performance envelopes in terms of carrying a pillion and small luggage strapped to the tank. Of the lot, the CB650F actually felt happiest at highway speeds, while the 765S’ mixture of torque and power from the triple provided all the performance a rider would need.

The Z900 and MT-09, however, while doing the ride-to-work thing well, were a little more ‘edgy’, though this is not a bad thing. Daily commutes can sometimes be a little boring and having power on tap for some, shall we say, ride entertainment, is a good way to put a smile on the face before walking into the work place.

Braking performance from the four showed marked differences, with the Triumph and MT-09 coming out tops in terms of brake feel with radial-mounted callipers, the Triumph using Nissins while the Yamaha had OEM-brand units. Overall stopping distance between the four was splitting hairs, with the CB650F taking the most distance, but less ferocious in terms of bite than the rest.

One clear distinction between a bike from five years ago, like the CB650F and the latest you can get on the market is in terms of rider aids but at least the Z900 gets ABS while the Honda does without, while both the MT-09 and 765S come with ride modes and traction control. The MT-09 has three ride modes and two traction control modes but we found the difference most noticeable in terms of throttle response, more than anything else.

The 765S has two ride modes and switchable traction control and the rider will see a marked difference in performance at the rear wheel, especially during sketchy riding conditions. As for the Z900 and CB650F, no rider aids of any sort are provided, although it should be noted the retro styled Z900RS does come with ride modes and traction control.

So, what do you get for RM50,000 in the Malaysian market, in terms of naked sports bikes? Using power as a measure, all four give enough to satisfy riders of any stripe, though the CB650F lags behind a little and all are easy to control, with the Z900 coming in at the upper edge of getting the rider’s eyes wide open in fright.

Answering this question is not easy, as all riders are different, and every rider expects different things from his or her machine at different times. All four motorcycles in this comparison, though, are designed to be capable all-rounders, performing without fuss or bother.

If you want all out speed, go for the Kawasaki Z900, if you’re looking for a light, hooligan machine, get the MT-09. The 765S is the choice for all-round commuting and middle to long distance trips while the CB650F gets the nod for a softer, easier to handle bike with few vices.

GALLERY: Honda CB650F

GALLERY: Kawasaki Z900 ABS

GALLERY: Triumph 765S

GALLERY: Yamaha MT-09