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6-Cylinder Motorcycle Shootout

Benelli vs. Honda vs. Kawasaki

| September/October 2009

  • kawasaki kz1300
    Kawasaki jumped in right after Honda with the biggest bruiser of the bunch, the 1,286cc, 120hp Kawasaki KZ1300.
    Photo by Doug Mitchel
  • benelli4
    Benelli was first on the 6-cylinder motorcycle scene in 1974, with the Benelli Sei 750. The engine was enlarged from 747cc to 906cc for 1979, and the bike, now called the Benelli Sei 900, was updated cosmetically and mechanically.
    Photo by Doug Mitchel
  • honda cbx 1000
    Honda was second on the 6-cylinder motorcycle scene in 1979 with the 1,047cc Honda CBX 1000.
    Photo by Doug Mitchel

  • kawasaki kz1300
  • benelli4
  • honda cbx 1000

There’s noise, and then there’s music. And then there’s the sound of a trio of 6-cylinder motorcycles running at once. The melody that pours from these three bikes is music to a motorcyclist’s soul.

Although manufacturers have played with the 6-cylinder motorcycle since at least the 1920s, the era of big 6-cylinder motorcycles was short lived. Honda was the first to introduce a 6-cylinder motorcycle in 1966, the RC166, but it displaced a scant 249cc and was designed for racing. Italy’s Benelli introduced the world’s first production 6-cylinder motorcycle in 1972, the Benelli Sei 750, but it took two more years for it to hit production. Once it did, it was followed five years later by the Honda CBX 1000 and the Kawasaki KZ1300. The Sei 750 was then upgraded and became the Benelii Sei 900. Although the Benelli was in production the longest — some 11 years — none had real staying power, but they’re all collectible today.

Which to ride?
We had three riders from different backgrounds take a quick ride on each of the 6-cylinder motorcycles mentioned and give us their feedback. Location restrictions wiped out any chance for a long day in the saddle, but our riders got enough time for a basic appreciation of each machine.

• Joe Bortz: Joe owns all three of our sixes, along with many more bikes in his ever-expanding collection. This includes the pair of Turbo bikes we've previously covered (Turbo Wars: Kawasaki ZX750E1 vs. Yamaha XJ650LJ).

Joe is drawn to the Benelli Sei 900, which he finds to be agile and very maneuverable. Regardless of its six cylinders, he sees the Sei 900 as more of a sport bike and less a tourer than the other two, with the Benelli the six that can really slice through the turns, thanks to its lighter weight and smaller overall dimensions.

Already one of his favorite touring bikes, the Honda CBX 1000 impresses him as “extremely powerful and beautifully finished,” although after riding all three it’s not the six he’d run to first. That would be the Benelli.

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