It took hours of non-stop riding on the Hyosung ST7 cruiser for it to disclose its good, bad and ugly traits. Sarmad Kadiri shares his felicitous anecdote from the ride
Photography: Sanjay Raikar
Hyosung bikes have impressed us in the past with popular models like the Comet 250 and Aquila. This time round, Garware Motors has taken the rein and will be introducing a sportsbike – GT650R, and a cruiser ST7 in the country, to begin with. The sportsbike’s review featured in the previous month’s issue was much appreciated by the readers, and now it’s time for some highway cruising on the ST7. Bogged down with work pressure and family commitments, a nice and long ride on the never ending Indian highways was long overdue. With just the Korean cruiser and Sanjay, our official photographer, as my companion, I set out in search of biking nirvana.
Since the cruiser segment is rather niche and aspirational, there aren’t many options available in India; a dependable and well-priced cruiser would make good business sense for any two-wheeler company venturing into the country. The Hyosung ST7 trys to fit that bill. It doesn’t pretend to be a new age design and sticks to the traditional cruiser style, which works in favour of the bike. The full-bodied front and rear mudguards, with the 16 inch front wheel and 15 inch rear wheel combination looks great. The tiny rail lamp and round headlights make the design safe and old school. The large tear-drop shaped fuel-tank also holds the chrome plated speedo and information console and droops down to the comfortable and broad seats. No classic cruiser can be complete without some liberal use of chrome and the ST7 is no exception, starting with the sexy dual pipe exhaust, engine covers, rear fender supports, air box, radiator case, and belt drive cover to name a few. However, all that shimmers isn’t metal chrome; as some of these are plastic parts quoted with chrome, like the fork slider covers, radiator shroud and the large belt-drive guard.
Talking about plastic, the general plastic used is top notch and so is the paint job. Hyosung offers three colour schemes. We got our hands on the all-black version; you also have an option of milky white, though the dark candy-red version looks the coolest. The paint job looks rich and carries two-tone graphics on the fuel-tank with subtle gold pin-stripes, which further endorses the good craftsmanship. It would be ideal if the Korean company could tidy-up the numerous wires and cables that clutter around the handle-bar and some of the switches and knobs could have been of better quality, as this appears like a blatant cost-cutting measure in order to create a budget cruiser. For instance, the main ignition switch has a bit of play and if you crank the bike with the ignition in that position it might start but the horns and some electricals won’t work till the switch is adjusted properly. It seems like a minor issue which the company can resolve easily.
Okay, it’s time to saddle up and I realise that the 244-kg bike is not as heavy as one would have expected, though it requires some effort to get off the side stand. The 41 mm telescopic front forks are set at a 33-degree rake, which might seem conservative but are practical for daily use nonetheless. The low 675 mm seat height, combined with the well-cushioned seats, wide-pullback handlebar and footpegs placed up-front add up to provide an ideal riding position. The Hyosung sports a 678-cc, liquid cooled, 90-degree, V-Twin engine with electronic fuel injection. The motor is mated with a 5-speed gearbox and promises to deliver a peak power of 62 PS and a maximum torque of 57.3 Nm at 7,000 RPM, which might seem rather high for a twin-cylinder cruiser but works well in this case. As I get off the mark, the peppy motors seemed impressive already as the rev-happy engine provided adequate low-end punch along with an impressive mid-range. The gear shifts are reasonably smooth and crisp. It has that typical ‘clank’ when put in the first gear at standstill, which adds to the cruiser characteristics and is common in most big bikes.
As I rode from the bustling Pune city to the open highway, without a fixed destination in mind, I realised why the West goes bonkers about cruisers like this. The bike gives a sense of freedom, power and an assurance of being a well-engineered modern bike with old school design. More importantly, it gave me all the attention one could ask for, and more. One has to go on a long, really long ride to find out the good, bad and ugly aspects of a bike. The ride position, suspension, small multi-spoke alloy wheels and the 1,690 mm wheelbase work in harmony to give the bike nimble steering and is easy to handle. It’s fun to lean on corners and to snake up the ghats. I’m all smiles. The tyres offered a decent grip and the brakes had the right amount of bite. Unfortunately, our highways have innumerable patches of broken roads. This is where the bike disappointed. At higher speeds it went off the riding line, while the tank-mounted console started to vibrate making the analogue speedometer to act up. Big frown! The moment it hits a flatter surface the smile returned as the punchy DOHC, 8-valve engine peacefully cruised at 150 km/h. The ST7 is belt-driven which makes the power delivery smoother and gives the bike some more ‘mean’ attitude. The throttle response at times felt abrupt and jerky but the bike did impress us by reaching from zero to 100km/h in just 6.28 seconds. Even the braking performance is relatively strong from the 4-piston front caliper and 300 mm disc, reliably backed up by a 2-piston caliper and 270 mm rotor out back, which brings the bike to a standstill from 60 km/h in 2.60 seconds covering a little over 22 meters. Being the bike of this size, the clutch pull is comparatively light, which is a blessing on long rides. After having some hardcore Konkan lunch we headed back to Pune, content with the two most important things in my life — a much needed ride and some lip-smacking food!
In totality, I was pleased with the ST7. Right from its nimble handling, revvy engine, classic cruiser design and decent built quality. It is a good opportunity for Hyosung, since the cruiser segment is still in a nascent stage, but the competition is growing rapidly with established international players already taking a note of the segment’s potential. Pricing is the key, since there is a wide gap from the bottom line models which are priced around Rs 1 lakh and the luxury cruisers which start from Rs 7 lakh onwards. If the Korean bike-maker can elbow-in between the price range mentioned above, then it could make a major impact in the segment. Garware Motors is set to import the Hyosung ST7 into India as a completely knocked down (CKD) unit and will assemble them at their facility near Pune. The official launch of the ST7 will be later this month but our guess is that the cruiser will be priced around Rs 6 lakh. This might seem to be on the higher side, but the current budget policies with stringent CKD unit definitions will not help in reducing the price either. The other challenge for Garware would be to setup a greater dealer network. According to Diya Garware Ibanez, MD, Garware Motors, the company has plans to open 10 dealerships in Gurgaon, Delhi, Jaipur, Chandigarh, Ahmedabad, Pune, Mumbai, Bangalore, Goa and Chennai this year. Sale centres would next come up in tier-II and tier-III cities like Trivandrum, Cochin, Indore and Dimapur. Sounds good. Hyosung ST7 is a capable performer, but without a price advantage the Korean will have to face stiff competition from companies that are already perceived as cruiser specialists. I’m glad that I had a good ride. However, if this Korean bike carries a hefty price tag it won’t be easy cruising for this cruiser.