There are many criteria for deciding which motorcycles to include in a comparison test. Most are formulaic, having to do with market segment and engine size, but some are less tangible. One wouldn’t normally include the Ducati Scrambler Icon, Triumph Street Twin, and Yamaha FZ-07 in the same shootout because they’re so obviously different, but they do have two things in common: price and number of cylinders. Each of these middleweight twins is among the least expensive streetbikes in its manufacturer’s lineup. They’re not the cheapest, however, and that’s why the real question here isn’t how much but rather how much you get for your money.
Ducati Scrambler Icon
There was a big to-do when Ducati introduced the Scrambler model range last year, as it was aimed at new, young—dare we say hip?—riders. Taking a page from the Italian manufacturer’s history, the Scrambler in all its many flavors harks back to the single-cylinder 250 and 350cc models of the 1960s to ’70s. As such, the Scrambler Icon features signature design elements such as polished aluminum fuel tank covers and dirt bike-style handlebar, seat, and tires.
All but one of the Scramblers (that being the 400cc Sixty2) are powered by what is essentially a Monster 796 motor, itself derived from the Pantah 500 and 600 V-twins of the late 1970s. That means it’s air-cooled, has two desmodromically actuated valves per cylinder, and has its cams turned by toothed rubber belts. It’s also fuel-injected, though there are no drive modes nor traction control. It does, however, come standard with antilock brakes, thanks in part to that being mandated by new European legislation.
Throw a leg over the Scrambler and you’re immediately struck by the lowness of its seat and the highness of its handlebars. The seat foam is soft, which may not be an issue for girls—or hipsters in skinny jeans—but if you’re an average-size adult male you’ll sink right through to the hard base. Conversely, even larger folks will find the handlebars too high and wide. And talk about mixed metaphors: What’s up with the motocross-style serrated brake pedal coupled with the roadrace-y machined-aluminum footpegs? We’ve heard of those footpegs—and even engine cases—breaking when the Scrambler is ridden aggressively off road, incidentally, so clearly it’s a scrambler in name only.
Which in no way is meant to imply that the Icon isn’t a fine motorcycle. It might look retro, but it feels modern and has a high-tech digital dash that includes multiple displays—though no gear indicator nor fuel gauge (just a warning light) and a bar-graph tachometer that strangely reads from right to left. Our only real criticisms of the styling have to do with the evaporative canister that hangs at the left front of the engine and the swingarm-mounted rear mud guard, both of which look like afterthoughts. Purists will prefer the Scrambler Classic with its traditional aluminum fenders.
Fire up the 803cc V-twin and it’s surprisingly quiet, but rev it out and it produces that trademark Ducati growl, and it sounds even better under decel. The desmo mill makes good power everywhere but really comes alive above 4,000 rpm. Clutch action is extremely light thanks to the APTC (Adler Power Torque Clutch) mechanism, shifting is positive, and throttle response is spot-on except for a hint of abruptness off the very bottom.
The riding position fits most humans fine but is tight from seat to pegs for long-legged peeps. And like many Ducatis, the passenger footpeg brackets force the rider’s heels out if he rides on the balls of his feet. Handling is stable and precise, with typically excellent feedback from the Pirelli MT 60 RT knobbies, which offer impressive grip on tarmac. The brakes are likewise excellent, the single Brembo radial-mount four-piston monoblock front caliper providing all the stopping power you could want on a 375-pound (dry) motorcycle.
But while the brakes are excellent, the suspension is merely adequate and worse if you’re heavy. The only adjustment is shock spring preload, and even that’s not very adjustable, as the stepped ramp is poorly machined, giving a spanner a tenuous hold. You can do better, Ducati!
Triumph Street Twin
The Street Twin is the first of Triumph’s new T120 Bonnevilles to be released, and it has already garnered rave reviews. New from the ground up, it’s more faithful to the original, Meriden-produced Bonnies of the 1950s to ’70s than anything to emerge from Hinckley since. The classic styling is spot-on from the screw-on gas cap to the redrawn liquid-cooled parallel-twin motor to the tread on the Pirelli Phantom Sportscomp tires. Where the new T120 Bonnevilles and Thruxtons get throttle bodies disguised as Amal carburetors, the Street Twin makes do with a pair of not unattractive aluminum covers.
But while the Street Twin is billed as a Modern Classic, it actually boasts some 21st century niceties, including a ride-by-wire throttle, traction control (that can be switched off), and antilock brakes (which cannot). You’ve gotta love the futuristic take on an old-school Smith’s-style speedometer, now with white letters on a black background. There is no tachometer, however, and the inset LCD is so small you’ll need reading glasses! The dash does include some useful information though, including a gear indicator, outside air temperature gauge, fuel gauge, mpg, and range until empty.
The Street Twin is the least expensive of the new T120 variants by $2,800, and as such gets by with a 900cc (rather than 1,200cc) engine and a five-speed (rather than six) gearbox. It also employs one single-action two-piston front brake caliper, which is a lot to ask on a 461-pound (dry) motorcycle. Even so, the Britbike somehow posted the shortest stopping distances of this lot—credit the ground-hugging weight and longish wheelbase.
The Triumph feels physically larger than the Ducati and Yamaha, but it’s not at all ungainly. The seat height is the lowest at 29.8 inches, and the reach to the bars is relatively short. Even so, 6-footers will find themselves plenty comfortable, as will their passengers. The bike feels a tad top-heavy at a standstill, especially with a full gas tank, but that heaviness disappears once under way. Changing direction takes more effort than on the other two bikes, but it’s not Herculean.
The suspension works very well in spite of having old-fashioned twin shocks and no adjustment except rear spring preload. Speaking of which, we barely rode the bike a mile before pulling over to crank that up, easily accomplished using the one (!) tool held within the right side cover. Whatever happened to factory tool kits? On a positive note, the Street Twin does have a helmet lock, even if it’s just a tacked-on tab to hold the D-ring under the seat.
Glance at the accompanying specs and you’ll note that the Triumph makes the least horsepower and posts the slowest quarter-mile and top-gear roll-on times. So loser, right? Well, if this were a sportbike shootout, that might be the case. But these three streetbikes are more about character and the riding experience than outright performance, and the Street Twin never felt outclassed. The engine is extremely smooth-running, and while the gaps between ratios in the five-speed gearbox are large, there’s so much torque that it doesn’t matter. Perhaps best of all, the exhaust note is amazing! We seriously wondered if our testbike had aftermarket silencers until we spied the mandatory EPA labels on the backsides.
Introduced last year, the FZ-07 was envisioned as a less-expensive, twin-cylinder version of the acclaimed FZ-09 triple, and it’s certainly a worthy addition to the Yamaha family.
First things first, the FZ-07 retails for just $6,990. That’s $1,200 less than the FZ-09, and hitting that price point entailed a few concessions. So there’s no ride-by-wire throttle, variable drive modes, traction control, antilock brakes, nor suspension damping adjustments (shock spring preload is it). To Yamaha’s credit, however, the FZ-07 still got a pair of four-piston front brake calipers, giving it the most stopping power of this bunch, even if it somehow posted the longest stopping distances.
Jump off the Ducati onto the Yamaha and your mind will be completely blown. The riding positions are so polar opposite. The FZ-07’s flat, sportbike-style saddle doesn’t have much padding but is in fact quite comfortable—for the rider if not the passenger. And while its low, narrow bars don’t offer much leverage, the bike is so lightweight (379 pounds dry) that it changes direction effortlessly. The seat height, at 31.8 inches, is the tallest here, but because the seat/gas tank junction is narrow, shorter riders shouldn’t have trouble getting their boots down. The footpegs are moderately rearset but don’t cramp tall riders, and there’s no shortage of cornering clearance. Unlike the Ducati and Triumph with their 18-inch front wheels, the Yamaha employs a pair of 17s shod with swoopy-looking Michelin Pilot Road 4 radials. While the suspension might be low-tech it works very well, even on bumpy roads, and feedback from the tires is exceptional.
In spite of its 270-degree crankshaft, the FZ-07’s liquid-cooled, eight-valve, 689cc parallel-twin engine is the least charismatic of this group, recalling the Kawasaki Ninja 500/650. Wind it out, however, and there’s no mistaking it comes from the same factory as the crossplane YZF-R1. Low-end and midrange torque are excellent, making for smooth takeoffs. Power falls flat at higher revs, but even so the “little” Yamaha made the most ponies in this group (67.8 hp), outgunning the bigger Ducati (67.1 hp) by a few decimal points. But what really makes the FZ-07 feel sporty is its slick-shifting close-ratio six-speed transmission, which begs to be rowed and gives the ride a sense of urgency. The overall gearing is low too, meaning you’ll find yourself one gear taller on the Yamaha than on the Ducati and Triumph. You’ll know that because the digital dash is the best of this bunch with an easy-to-read bar-graph tachometer and central gear indicator. We wish we didn’t have to take one hand off the bars to toggle through the various displays though. That’s sooo 2015!
The one area where the FZ-07 falls short is styling. Appearances are subjective, and some—probably younger—riders might like the Transformers look. But older folks will find it cartoonish and will be turned off by the acres of faux carbon fiber and the “billet” side plates that are in fact made of plastic. Those might even be cheesier than the fake air scoops on the old V-Max and Fazer! Clearly Yamaha was going for an exotic Aprilia/Benelli/Bimota vibe here, but it only works from a distance. Our silver testbike also had a gag-inducing purple frame and wheels. Fortunately, the FZ-07 is available in black with black frame and wheels, which looks damn sexy.
There were no real surprises here, as this was one comparison where we could easily have guessed the outcome going in. The Yamaha FZ-07 is the sportiest of these three motorcycles and the least expensive by nearly $2,000, but it also has the fewest features. It’s a great entry-level bike that newbies won’t soon outgrow, but more experienced riders would be happier shelling out the extra bucks for an FZ-09. In fact, if the bigger Yamaha had been included in this comparo, it would have won handily.
The Ducati Scrambler Icon is the most stylish bike in this group and not lacking in performance, but it’s the most expensive, it’s uncomfortable, and it’s somewhat confused about what it’s supposed to be. It’s ripe for customization, however, and with no fewer than six different versions and a fat accessory catalog, an owner should have no trouble tailoring it to his tastes.
That leaves the Triumph, which, while falling short in outright performance, looks the classiest, has the most features, and, as long as you’re not in too much of a hurry, is the most enjoyable to ride. Like we said at the start, the real question here isn’t how much but rather how much you get for your money. And in this case we’re not talking yen or euros but pounds sterling.
|DRY WEIGHT||375 lb.|
|FUEL CAPACITY||3.6 gal.|
|SEAT HEIGHT||31.1 in.|
|FUEL MILEAGE||47 mpg|
|1/4 MILE||12.46 sec. @ 106.03 mph|
|0-60 MPH||3.7 sec.|
|TOP GEAR 40-60 MPH||3.7 sec.|
|60-80 MPH||3.9 sec.|
|HORSEPOWER||67.1 @ 8100 rpm|
|TORQUE||45.6 lb.-ft. @ 5800 rpm|
|BRAKING 30-0 MPH||33 ft.|
|60-0 MPH||129 ft.|
|DRY WEIGHT||461 lb.|
|FUEL CAPACITY||3.2 gal.|
|SEAT HEIGHT||29.8 in.|
|FUEL MILEAGE||49 mpg|
|1/4 MILE||13.37 sec. @ 97.17 mph|
|0-60 MPH||4.4 sec.|
|TOP GEAR 40-60 MPH||4.0 sec.|
|60-80 MPH||4.8 sec.|
|HORSEPOWER||52.2 @ 6120 rpm|
|TORQUE||57.0 lb.-ft. @ 3070 rpm|
|BRAKING 30-0 MPH||32 ft.|
|60-0 MPH||128 ft.|
|DRY WEIGHT||379 lb.|
|FUEL CAPACITY||3.7 gal.|
|SEAT HEIGHT||31.8 in.|
|FUEL MILEAGE||46 mpg|
|1/4 MILE||12.06 sec. @ 109.35 mph|
|0-60 MPH||3.4 sec.|
|TOP GEAR 40-60 MPH||3.3 sec.|
|60-80 MPH||4.0 sec.|
|HORSEPOWER||67.8 @ 8800 rpm|
|TORQUE||47.6 lb.-ft. @ 6500 rpm|
|BRAKING 30-0 MPH||34 ft.|
|60-0 MPH||136 ft.|
THE NUMBERS COMPARED
|Ducati Scrambler Icon||Triumph Street Twin||Yamaha FZ-07|
|DRY WEIGHT||375 lb.||461 lb.||379 lb.|
|FUEL CAPACITY||3.6 gal.||3.2 gal.||3.7 gal.|
|SEAT HEIGHT||31.1 in.||29.8 in.||31.8 in.|
|WHEELBASE||56.9 in.||56.8 in.||55.4 in.|
|FUEL MILEAGE||47 mpg||49 mpg||46 mpg|
|1/4 MILE||12.46 sec. @ 106.03 mph||13.37 sec. @ 97.17 mph||12.06 sec. @ 109.35 mph|
|0-60 MPH||3.7 sec.||4.4 sec.||3.4 sec.|
|TOP GEAR 40-60 MPH||3.7 sec.||4.0 sec.||3.3 sec.|
|60-80 MPH||3.9 sec.||4.8 sec.||4.0 sec.|
|HORSEPOWER||67.1 @ 8100 rpm||52.2 @ 6120 rpm||67.8 @ 8800 rpm|
|TORQUE||45.6 lb.-ft. @ 5800 rpm||57.0 lb.-ft. @ 3070 rpm||47.6 lb.-ft. @ 6500 rpm|
|BRAKING 30-0 MPH||33 ft.||32 ft.||34 ft.|
|60-0 MPH||129 ft.||128 ft.||136 ft.|