Suzuki GSX8-s. Honda Hornet

Honda CB750 Hornet. Suzuki GSX8-S. Who did it best?

Words: Glenn Foley, Donovan Fourie, Sean Hendley

Pics: Deon van der Linde

Editing: Glenn Foley

We took a good long ride on the Honda Hornet and the Suzuki GSX8-S to find out:

Who did it best?

Fact: We love naked bikes, and we honestly have no idea why everyone doesn’t own one. Or even two or three.

Why? We hear you ask.

Well… that’s easy.

They are simple, unadulterated, uncomplicated and most of all… FUN!!

Honda Hornet Suzuki GSX8-S
Honda Hornet Suzuki GSX8-S

And we won’t even use the word practical, because this is RideFast after all…

This was a real science experiment if you’d like to call it that. The Hornet is the very latest from Honda and the…. may we call it the 8S is Suzuki’s foray into this class.

And we’ll kick off by saying that… on paper anyway, they are just so similar.

Honda Hornet Suzuki GSX8-S

The Honda is a 750 parallel twin which is actually not quite true, it’s really a confused 755cc

The Suzuki is an 800 parallel, which is also not quite true, it’s really a confused 776cc

So there are only about 20 cc’s of capacity in it. On paper, the Honda makes 90.5 horsepower at 9,500 rpm and 55.3 lb. ft. or around 73Nm of torque at 7,250 rpm. The Suzuki 83 hp at 8,500 rpm and 78 Nm (58 lb-ft) torque with a maximum peak force at 6,800 rpm. So , on paper anyway, the Honda has more horsepower, but the Suzuki, more torque.

Are you still with us?

Honda Hornet. Suzuki GSX8-S
Suzuki's new Parallel twin
Honda Hornet. Suzuki GSX8-S
There's a 750cc Parallel powering the Hornet.

Moving on, The Honda’s wheelbase is at 1’420 and the Suzuki is slightly longer at 1’460, (millimetres that is). It might not sound like much, but on the road there is a difference. The bikes both have 17 inch wheels, fronts are the same but the Honda runs a 150 rear and the Suzuki a meatier 180 rear and different suspensions. The Honda leans towards the plush side, while the Suzuki is a bit firmer. Feature for feature the bikes are close, from the brakes to the modern instrumentation and electronics. The seating positions are similar, but the Suzuki does have an extra arrow in her quiver which is the quick-shifter as a standard feature.

From a looks perspective, and that’s a big buying point, the Honda, in our opinion anyway, is really quite beautiful in a classic Honda kind of way. The Suzuki however, is seriously beguiling with its almost over-the-top modern, fresh looks.

Honda Hornet. Suzuki GSX8-S
Do you like Classic, or Hard Rock?

The Ride:

Starting the bikes up, the Honda sounds more the business with its exhaust emitting a pleasant manly burble, while the Suzuki sounds a bit more conservative. As you’d expect, the clutches are soft, 6 speed gearboxes are smooth, snick them into first, release the clutch… and off you go.

Where we rode:

Both importers made sure that we gave each bike a proper workout. At the respective launches, both bikes were ridden at Redstar Raceway. Then we got to take them home, to use for day to day running around, and for a breakfast run or two. In fact, we were quite scientific about the whole thing. Our newest recruit even used the bikes in his day to day chores. Cool huh? We gave the bikes to long time riding brothers, the Leppan twins to get their take. A 200 Km breakfast run out to Bronkhorstspruit and back had them grinning, with separate choices on the two bikes.

Then we went even further and roped in the talents of our Sean and The Bike Shows Donovan Fourie and took off again, chopping and changing bikes all the way through the Cradle Of Humankind and out to the satellite road for a quick street “legal” top end run. 

Two tanks of petrol each and a day full of smiles.

Here’s the skinny:

The bikes are the same-same, but different and we’ll try to explain why.

Looking at the engine figures. 

On the road, for every day running about, the Honda feels instantly more feisty and dare we say sporty. The Suzuki is all about smooth refinement  but…. it’s not slow by any stretch of the imagination. From a chassis point of view, the Hornet feels a bit more compact and nimble with softly sprung suspension. Interestingly, the Suzuki is quite a bit firmer, and it feels a bit more stable, and as a result, less feisty, more about smooth control.

Which is faster?:

The Honda. But only by…. well….

We sent the boys to the top of a long straight. They screamed down towards us, over 3 KM’s the Suzuki was about a second behind. Round two, swap bikes. Same run, the bikes literally merged in a blur as they came past. According to both riders, the Honda got the jump at the start. The Suzuki slowly clawed back the gap until 6th, where the Zuk maintained the distance separating the two. And we have the vid, you can catch that on our Yoo Choob channel soon. Both bikes easily got to the recommended speed limit of 120KPH. The top speed shown on the Suzuki showed 215 with the Honda clocking out at 222.

The Office Orangutang had this to say:

Everybody I have spoken to about these two bikes, including the guys in the office have all pressed me for an answer to the same question:

“Which one do you prefer, if it was your own cash on the line – which one would you buy?” 

If I answer with my brain objectively, I cannot for the life of me choose between the two. They are both great in different areas and offer different things that appeal to different parts of my riding persona.

However, if I had to answer with my heart…. Then actions speak louder than words. 

We had both bikes at the office for a ball-hair under a month and each time I went out on a bike I had to make a choice between the two. In the beginning and in the interest of proper testing I would alternate, and even if one of my colleagues joined me on a ride on the other bike I would make sure to swap out between the two regularly on the ride to get a proper back to back feeling for them. That lasted about a week and then I would just hop on the one I liked the best as a default.

SO, which one was that? 

Well, the Suzuki is definitely styled right up my alley with its aggressive pseudo Samurai looks…. And I do love a funky blue. The Honda is a bit more conservatively styled, but equally attractive, and I think it may just age a little bit better than the 8S. 

The Hornet is a bit more plush with a comfortable more neutral sitting position, the 8S is a bit sportier with a bit more room for the rider in the cockpit.

The Suzuki’s cockpit layout is more elegant and less complicated than the Hornets, but both are tidy and very user friendly.

Around now, the 8S starts to nudge into the lead with its fantastic bi-directional quick-shifter as standard equipment and the fact that it remembers your rider settings when you switch it on again. Annoyingly the Hornet reverts to factory default safe settings and you have to re-select your preferences before riding off. The 180 section rear tyre on the Suzy also looks a lot sexier than the Hornets skinny 150 section. The 8S’s detachable subframe versus the Honda’s welded subframe also makes more sense as does the launch price versus the Honda.

The 8S’s handling is more stable and predictable, and the motor performs really well, but in my humble opinion this is where the Hornet really appeals to me and takes the chequered flag as they cross the line. The quick-shifter may be an aftermarket cost option on the Hornet, but…. once again, in my humble opinion, it would ruin the character of this bike and its engine for me. 

Revving the Honda, fanning the clutch and kicking up through the box has it getting all wild and woolly on you with the front wheel snatching at the sky before tearing off into the distance and leaving the 8S in its wake. For the more experienced rider, the Hornets suspension is also more fun when pushed hard.

At the end of the day – and this is the truth… these bikes are just so close. Go ride both of them and then buy the one that tugs at your heart the most.

In parting, I will add this – In today’s day and age and economy and for the type of riding I do I would happily buy either of these two bikes without sacrificing any fun factor.

Honda Hornet. Suzuki GSX8-S
Both of our riders on the day are big lads... and look ever so natural on a bike

Donovan Fourie from The Bike Show shares his opinion:

The glorious part about these two machines is that they are close to all things for all men or women. Unless, of course, you wish to leave Jo’burg one morning, klap it down the N1 and have dinner in Cape Town, in which case you may be in danger of arriving with your head unscrewed.

Otherwise, they are priced in a price spectrum that is within reach of a broad range of people. You, the good person of such keenness that you’ve made it this far down the page, might actually be able to buy one, largely opposed to the bigger machines that are now stretching ever further north of R300,000.

More so, they’ll be the right kind of bike for you, even though we have no idea what sort of riding experience you may have accumulated. It matters not, quite frankly, because these motorcycles will suit all. It’s fast enough to excite the speed monger among us and yet easy enough to cater for the nervous concerns of the first-time rider, destined for a glorious new life in the land of two-wheeldom.

If you wish to press the matter of which of these two machines you should buy, then my honest answer is that it doesn’t matter. Buy whichever one speaks to you.

If you were to demand details, the Honda has a better motor and the rear shock is a little more comfortable of the two. Otherwise, the Suzuki is better at everything else. To me, a motor is 50% of the motorcycle, and Suzuki owning the other 50% means the two are square.

Use whichever metric you like but you will not be sorry. To the veteran motorcycle, enjoy the rest of your journey. To the newbie, welcome. This is going to be good fun. But that’s all a matter of semantics. Both bikes are aimed at exactly the same buyer. But they are different.

Suzuki GSX 8S
The Suzuki GSX 8S. R165950.00
Honda Hornet
The Honda 750 Hornet. R179999.00

Click on these links for the full specs on each bike:

Honda CB 750 Hornet

Suzuki GSX8-S

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