In Thrust We Trust

2014: Year of the Open-Class Naked Bike

At least once a year there's a test we especially look forward to. For 2014, this is it: a comprehensive comparison of modern, high-performance "naked" streetbikes. Why? Because this crop of bare-chested beasts represents not only a resurgence in the category but also an important shift in emphasis. In recent years, naked bikes were often hard-core sportbikes stripped of bodywork and given more upright ergonomics. We're on board with that. But they were also stripped of some performance, "dumbed down." The result was great streetbikes that were sometimes less than thrilling stand-ins for the real sportbikes. That we like a lot less.

It's different today. Take a look at this unruly bunch. Half slam 150 hp to the rear wheel, and the other three are nipping at the heels of 130. Sneak a peek at the hardware: Brembo, Öhlins, Sachs, fully adjustable suspension, and high-line brakes. And now the software: Traction control, ride modes, and ABS are almost universal. These are serious motorcycles with massive performance potential. But there's still more to it: This group also offers an attack on your senses, with thrilling sounds, blistering speed, and prison-yard-tough aesthetics.

To find the boss of Cellblock N, we ran these badass machines through two days of sport riding on twisty roads, a day of navigating manhole covers in the city, at least a week of commuting, a full day at the Streets of Willow race circuit, and of course we fired each one down the quarter-mile. Lap times weren't the point at the racetrack, but rather it was to explore the performance of these bikes more thoroughly. When you light the fuse on more than 800 combined horsepower it's a good idea to do it on a closed course.

In the process of turning our backsides raw testing these bikes, we also learned which machines make good track companions and which should probably stick to the streets. The results surprised us, and we think they might surprise you too...

6th place Kawasaki Z1000

It's cliché to say, "all of these bikes are good," but in this company it really is true. The Kawasaki delivers plenty of attitude and eccentric looks in a category where those things are paramount. And that's a positive. If you rode it without the context of the others, you'd be thrilled with the Kawasaki's strong, torque-biased engine, stout brakes, and other features like seriously good LED headlights. Styling, always subjective, is a polarizing force with the Z1000. But at least it has some.

From a performance standpoint, though, Kawasaki's latest naked is simply outclassed. An updated powerplant for 2014—the same one fitted in the Ninja 1000—absolutely makes the bike. There's lots of torque on tap, and short gearing means you're always in the fat part of the power curve, which is especially great in urban environments. Whether leaving a stop sign or a hairpin turn, the Z will howl at you through the intake and lift the front wheel easily. Consider that part of the big-naked promise fulfilled.

Unfortunately, as the road opens up the Z1000 starts to unravel. Where taut suspension suits the Kawasaki's brutish personality in the city, it makes the bike feel harsh on a twisty road. We took out one turn of damping at both ends (compression and rebound in the fork and rebound in the shock), but the Z would benefit from even softer settings. The compact riding position suited most of our testers—though a few commented on the narrow bar—and the Tokico calipers offer strong initial bite, more than adequate ultimate power, and the confidence-boost of ABS backup.

Where the Z feels the most out of place is the racetrack. It's sporty enough but difficult to move around on when riding aggressively, and the grunty motor doesn't deliver a top-end rush, which is part of what it takes to thrill at the track. Most of all, our time on a closed course showed that the Z1000 was millimeters away from dragging hard parts on the street. On track, the peg feelers touched down while we were still warming the tires up, followed immediately by the heat shields on the quad-mufflers. Dragging hard parts on the track suggested this bike is best utilized strutting around town, where edgy looks outweigh cornering clearance.

A spartan dash displays only basic info, and ABS can't be switched off (if that's your thing). Maybe this points to Kawasaki's style-over-substance emphasis? And know it's liable to turn heads with the "golden blazed green" paint and flamboyant styling. If that's your sort of thing, too.

In the end, the Kawasaki's high points just aren't quite high enough. Editor at Large Aaron Frank says, "In a crowd of extroverted naked bikes with outsized personalities, there's nothing that really makes the Z1000 stand out." Well, there is one thing: the price. At $11,999 the Z is $2,500 less than its nearest competitor and a $5,000 (!) cheaper than the most expensive bike here (the KTM). The Z's spec sheet might fit the bill for this fight, but in this company the machine feels slightly out of place. Some of that disconnect is surely due to Kawasaki designers and engineers aiming at riders who value streetfighter style over naked-sportbike performance.

5th place Triumph Speed Triple R

You're not the only ones surprised to see the Speed Triple R ranked this close to the bottom—so are we. We have long praised Triumph's flagship naked bike as one of the best on the market—it's an emotional favorite for us and a success for Triumph. For the most part it's still that same excellent machine, with a few notable changes for 2014. Gone are the lucious PVM forged-aluminum wheels, replaced with cast hoops, while a slew of previously optional bodywork, including headlight and passenger seat cowls and a chin spoiler, are now standard. New matte-white paint has been applied to all of the pieces—unless you order Phantom Black—which after less than a week of riding we realized may never look clean again.

The rest of the bike is the same gem we've come to love. The Speed's engine is the same even-keeled creature as ever, with ample midrange torque and a charming, three-cylinder growl. Our testers often called out the Speed's abrupt low-rpm throttle pickup, made ever more obvious by the superb ride-by-wire programming of the top bikes, but otherwise power delivery is exemplary. In this gathering, though, the motor is relatively slow-revving and down on overall power. Even the uniquely soulful feel and sound of the triple is overshadowed by wonderfully charismatic (and more potent) engines from Aprilia, Ducati, and KTM.

Other merits: The seat is wide and soft, and the tapered bar is right where you want it, though taller testers complained of tight legroom. Don't get your hopes up for the "bodywork" either, as the little bikini cowl over the dual headlights doesn't offer much wind protection.

The Speed feels long and low compared to all of the others except the Monster but, like the Ducati, delivers nicely in the suspension department thanks to top-flight Öhlins hardware. But even precise and well-calibrated suspension can't mask the Speed's weight—the most here at 493 pounds—or make it respond quicker to steering inputs. Where the bikes at the head of this class are super willing to flick into turns, the Triumph feels deliberate.

That characteristic pays off at the track, where the Speed Triple R offers plenty of ground clearance and terrific stability. The only on-track shortcoming is the ABS, which isn't switchable (unless you count pulling a fuse) and engages too early for really aggressive braking.

While the Speed Triple R has been dumbed down a little for 2014, it also gets a price cut. It's gained 14 pounds due to cast wheels and more bodywork but sheds $1,300 from the price tag, too, settling in at $14,699. Road Test Editor Ari Henning, who enjoyed 12 months with a 2013 Speed Triple R, summed it up best, saying, "There's still a place in my heart for the Triumph, but there's no denying that it's showing its age."

4th place Ducati Monster 1200S

Ducati's new-for-2014 Monster 1200 is in many ways a departure. Instead of the lithe, (typically) air-cooled ruffian we have come to know over the past 20 years, the new Monster gets a standard-issue 1,198cc dual-spark Testastretta engine—think Multistrada and Diavel, with a slightly different state of tune. Liquid cooling and other amenities add weight (35 pounds up from the 1100 EVO) and the wheelbase has been stretched 2.7 inches to give rider and passenger more room.

All of this prompted shaking heads from our senior staffers, who remember the Monster as an entry-level, bare-bones Ducati (and seem to forget about the riotius S4RS). Said Aaron Frank, "Seriously, a Monster with a 60-inch wheelbase?" To Il Mostro's credit, it still maintains the spirit of a naked bike with attitude. All of the testers, from 5-foot-7 to 6-foot-3, felt the seat height was gratuitously low and that the ergonomics didn't feel quite right but agreed that the Monster danced along any road with plenty of grace.

Frustrating quirks abound. The footpeg brackets bow outward for the passenger rests and crowd our boot heels horribly, while a bracket on the exhaust valve dangles on the right side and beveled itself away at the track. Also, while the full-color dash is beautiful, it's too dim to see in bright sunlight with a tinted shield.

These idiosyncrasies combine to push the Monster off the podium, but don't think there are no redeeming qualities. The motor is one of the best in the group; a little down on outright power, but it sounds better than anything except the Aprilia and is always willing. There is a little Ducati-twin clatter and lurch down low, but mostly it's very refined and tunable on the fly via three ride modes. The premium Öhlins suspension (on our S model) is firm but not stiff and comfortable but not soft, making for a stable and confident machine. Other than ground-clearance issues at the track, the Monster impressed us.

The new Monster is cool but almost too refined and reserved for this group—something we never thought we'd say. It's thoroughly entertaining but never truly thrilling, and it's nearly the most expensive at $15,995. Said Editor in Chief Marc Cook, "My biggest gripe about the Monster is the decision to make it softer and more mainstream. I liked it better a little rough around the edges." It's a terrific bike, handsome and capable, but just not hair-raising or edgy enough to really make an impression in this class.

3rd place Aprilia Tuono V4R APRC

Now that we're into the medals, you will sense our emphasis on power, thrills, and charisma rising. And Aprilia's Tuono V4R is a good place to start. This bike receives a few updates for 2014 (a new seat and larger tank, most notably) but is largely the same fire-breathing dissident it has always been, and we still love it. Essentially it's an RSV4 superbike with a high handlebar, and because of that there are a few drawbacks. The seat-to-peg distance is a little tight, the saddle is very stiff, and gearing is absurdly tall. Cook complained in a high voice that the seat sloped forward and crunched his delicate bits on the tank, and neutral can be tricky to find once you're stopped.

Beyond that, there's not much to complain about. Aprilia's V4 powerplant is the crown jewel of the bike and embodies exactly what we love about this category of motorcycle. It's just loud enough to be pleasing and will make any gear-head smile with a blip of the throttle. It sounds angry but works smoothly, with ample torque and a strong midrange. By the time the engine spools up over 7,000 rpm you'd better hunker down over the wide handlebar and hold on. The combination of mind-blurring speed and racing-paddock noise that ensues remains one of our favorite pieces of motorcycling.

When it comes time to slow down there are high-end Brembo modules all around (as there are on most of these bikes, actually) and they don't disappoint. The bite isn't as fierce as it could be, but there's lots of power and good feel considering the race ABS. Carving corners on the Tuono will make you smile, too. The track-inspired chassis is sprung with fully adjustable Sachs components that were never ruffled by any type of curve. The ride is a little harsh on the freeway, but considering the superbike pedigree it's well balanced.

Not surprisingly, the Tuono really came into its own on the closed course. It is the most athletic and track-themed of any of the bikes, with a race-ready suite of electronics and a shift light that's actually calibrated for using the motor to its full potential. We leaned over as far as we dared, but nothing ever touched down, leaving only the traction control light blinking on corner exits to distract us from the V4's magical symphony. "Nothing is as aurally exciting as rolling the throttle to the stop and popping through the gears with the quickshifter," Henning crooned. "It's divine."

We adore the Tuono's raised-middle-finger attitude, especially in the context of this test, and it's cheaper than everything but the Kawasaki. But at the end of the day we can't completely ignore practicality and refinement. The Tuono used to own this class—and a few of us think it's still the king—but there are two new competitors on the field. Thunder stolen?

2nd place KTM 1290 Super duke R

Austria's geographic location in Europe is a great metaphor for KTM, and especially this new 1290 Super Duke R. The passion of Italy to the south meets the pragmatism of Germany to the north, and the result is pure, orange magic. This 1290 comes from a different direction than the other models here, too. It's not based on a superbike, like the Aprilia and BMW, nor is it confined by a reputation like the Ducati and Triumph. KTM started with a clean slate and dialed everything up to 11.

The first thing you'll notice is that the riding position is unlike any of the competition. The 1290 is tall, with a relatively narrow bar, and the angular gas tank towers above the seat. There's lots of legroom, but the pegs rarely dragged (and only at the track) and the seat was low enough for our shortest tester. This bike is also noticeably narrower in the midsection than anything else. Even when riding it feels like your knees could almost touch. The riding position is sporty, and the seat is thin, yet the Super Duke was amazingly comfortable for all shapes and sizes.

A tame exhaust note will thump along at as slow a pace as you like, with three ride-by-wire settings (Rain, Road, and Sport) delivering power smoothly, town or country. Nicely calibrated WP suspension pieces soak up bumps but provide excellent feedback, while high-end Brembo stoppers provide equally pleasing power and feel. The KTM was fun on the track but felt slightly out of its element compared to the Aprilia and BMW. Twisty roads will melt away, though, and even the occasional freeway stint won't kill you. There's not much wind protection, but KTM did well to create a relatively turbulence-free cockpit.

If you're feeling rowdy for some reason, say exiting your favorite ribbon of asphalt, and you ask this bike to scare you, it will. Nothing, including the incredible Tuono V4, pushes you down the road like the 1,301cc reactor in the Super Duke. At low rpm, the 75-degree V-twin rumbles and pulses as it accelerates, like it's trying to jump out of the frame, and even after the tidal wave of torque has flowed past you the power just doesn't end. The KTM roars at the top of its rev band, sometimes accidentally carrying the front wheel in fourth gear. It is absolutely as addictive as it is astonishing. Yet it gets decent fuel mileage, and all the time it is completely predictable and linear, with excellent fueling and manners. It is an incredible feat of engineering and easily one of the best engines we've ever tested.

Traction control and wheelie control are the same circuit and are not adjustable—the system is on or off. Ride modes are changeable on the fly, but TC and the switchable ABS are not. The ABS system has a hooligan Super Motard mode that allows the rear wheel to lock, but frustratingly, the adjustments are not sticky like they are on the other bikes, meaning when you cycle the ignition you're back to square one. While the electronics on the KTM are useful (and we love heated grips), the interface and red tape don't reflect the fun-loving spirit of the 1290. Too much German, not enough Italian.

At $16,999 the 1290 is the most expensive of the test, $2,000 more than the BMW and $2,500 more than Aprilia's Tuono. Mainly for value and a few small errors in usability, the Super Duke finishes second. But for personality, practicality, and pure, uncut, savage power this is most thrilling naked bike money can buy. We would totally support your decision to throw economics to the wind and vote with your heart on this one.

1st place BMW S1000R

Sometimes comparison tests are really just parades in which there is only ever one obvious choice. This was not the case here. Aprilia, BMW, and KTM all have created incredible motorcycles, but the new S1000R impressed us the most. It's based on the all-conquering S1000RR (note the extra R!), which is a bike that always amazes us with stunning capability but also with incredible tact and sensibility. The "single-R" is more of the same.

A sportbike-like seat-to-peg ratio is as aggressive as the S1000R gets (ergonomically, anyway), and even though your feet feel high, the saddle is amazingly plush. The wide handlebar puts you in a sporty but commanding riding position, and while the BMW is narrow at the waist it's wide at the shoulders, spreading the rider's knees. Good ergos continue to the electronics interface. Clearly labeled and easy-to-use buttons control heated grips, ABS, traction control (switchable on the fly), four ride modes, and BMW's famously good Dynamic Damping Control, which adapts damping behavior in the fork and shock up to 100 times per second.

Don't be fooled by anything you've read about the S1000R's engine being "detuned." Think of it as "retuned" and done well. Fueling is superb, the quick-shifter is as close to perfect as it gets, and it even sounds more interesting than most other inline-four bikes. It doesn't have the biblical thrust of the KTM, but torque is generous, and once you sink your teeth into the midrange you won't want to stop. Riding this bike back to back with the Kawasaki, it's hard to believe they have the same engine configuration. The BMW engine screams in the upper third of the revs and eventually delivers 152 hp, more than anything else here by a small margin.

The motor and chassis are both perfectly happy to go at any street-oriented pace you like, but to illustrate how versatile it is, the S1000R was the fastest bike during our day at the track by almost half a second. Flip the ride mode to Dynamic Pro, DDC to Hard, and watch for the bright white shift light. Incredible acceleration, utterly vicious brakes, and a chassis that was impossible to upset put even our fastest track riders through their paces.

Complaints? Yes, there are some. About half the staff said the brakes have too much initial bite, while others said that's impossible. Not everyone likes the way it looks, but in a room full of bossy personalities the Beemer has to step up somewhere. Which brings up the largest complaint: character. The S1000R, like so many BMWs, is unbelievably good. It will glide along the freeway, burble through traffic, or try to tear your arms off at a racetrack, but what it will not do is make you feel one way or another about any of it. It never seems like it's egging you on, only delivering what you ask with perfect efficiency and a Mona Lisa smile.

Why, then, does the BMW win? This class is about attitude, right? Simply put, it is the best machine here. It's the lightest bike in the test, makes the most horsepower, its suspension adjusts as you ride, and even has cruise control and heated grips. It can't match the sound of the Aprilia or Ducati, or the ridiculous feel of the KTM's motor, but it does everything else as well or better. And at $14,950 fully loaded, it costs less than all but two of its competitors. Especially when you consider that the S1000R is a first-generation effort into a category teeming with menacing competition, it is just too much bike to ignore.

  APRILIA TUONO V4R APRC BMW S1000R DUCATI MONSTER 1200S KAWASAKI Z1000 KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE R TRIUMPH SPEED TRIPLE R
Price $14,499 $14,950 $15,995 $11,999 $16,999 $14,699
Engine type l-c 65º V4 l-c inline-four l-c 90º V-twin l-c inline-four l-c 75º V-twin l-c inline-triple
Valve train DOHC, 16v DOHC, 16v DOHC, 8v DOHC, 16v DOHC, 8v DOHC, 12v
Displacement 999cc 999cc 1198cc 1049cc 1301cc 1050cc
Bore x stroke 78.0 x 52.3mm 80.0 x 49.7mm 106.0 x 67.9mm 77.0 x 56.0mm 108.0 x 71.0mm 79.0 x 71.4mm
Compression 13.0:1 12.0:1 12.5:1 11.8:1 13.2:1 12.0:1
Fuel system EFI, ride by wire EFI, ride by wire EFI, ride by wire EFI EFI, ride by wire EFI
Clutch Wet, multi-plate slipper Wet, multi-plate slipper Wet, multi-plate slipper Wet, multi-plate Wet, multi-plate slipper Wet, multi-plate
Transmission 6-speed 6-speed 6-speed 6-speed 6-speed 6-speed
Frame Aluminum twin-spar Aluminum twin-spar Steel-tube trellis Aluminum backbone Steel-tube trellis Aluminum twin-spar
Front suspension Sachs 43mm fork adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound damping Sachs 46mm fork adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound damping Öhlins 48mm fork adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound damping Showa 41mm fork adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound damping WP 48mm fork adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound damping Öhlins 43mm fork adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound damping
Rear suspension Sachs shock adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound damping Sachs shock adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound damping Öhlins shock adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound damping Showa shock adjustable for spring preload and rebound damping WP shock adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound damping Öhlins shock adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound damping
Front brake Dual Brembo four-piston calipers, 320mm discs with ABS Dual Brembo four-piston calipers, 320mm discs with ABS Dual Brembo four-piston calipers, 330mm discs with ABS Dual Tokico four-piston calipers, 310mm discs with ABS Dual Brembo four-piston calipers, 320mm discs with ABS Dual Brembo four-piston calipers, 320mm discs with ABS
Rear brake Brembo two-piston caliper, 220mm disc with ABS Brembo one-piston caliper, 220mm disc with ABS Brembo two-piston caliper, 245mm disc with ABS Tokico one-piston caliper, 250mm disc with ABS Brembo two-piston caliper, 240mm disc with ABS Brembo two-piston caliper, 255mm disc with ABS
Front tire 120/70ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa 120/70ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso II 120/70ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso II 120/70ZR-17 Dunlop Sportmax D214 120/70ZR-17 Dunlop SportSmart2 120/70ZR-17 Pirelli Supercorsa SP
Rear tire 190/55ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa 190/55ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso II 190/55ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso II 190/50ZR-17 Dunlop Sportmax D214 190/55ZR-17 Dunlop SportSmart2 190/55ZR-17 Pirelli Supercorsa SP
Rake/trail 25.0°/4.2 in. 24.6º/3.9 in. 24.3°/3.7 in. 24.5°/4.0 in. 24.9°/4.2 in. 22.8°/3.6 in.
Seat height 32.9 in. 32.0 in. 30.9/31.9 in. 32.1 in. 32.9 in. 32.5 in.
Wheelbase 56.9 in. 56.7 in. 59.5 in. 56.5 in. 58.3 in. 56.5 in.
Fuel capacity 4.9 gal. 4.6 gal. 4.6 gal. 4.5 gal. 4.8 gal. 4.6 gal.
Weight (tank full/empty) 470/446 lb. 461/433 lb. 475/447 lb. 491/464 lb. 472/443 lb. 493/465 lb.
Measured horsepower 149.0 bhp @ 11,700 rpm 152.3 hp @ 10,900 rpm 129.4 hp @ 9200 rpm 128.1 hp @ 10,300 rpm 150.6 hp @ 9100 rpm 128.1 @ 9400 rpm
Measured torque 74.2 lb.-ft. @ 9500 rpm 78.2 lb.-ft. @ 9400 rpm 84.7 lb.-ft. @ 7500 rpm 76.3 lb.-ft. 7500 rpm 92.7 lb.-ft. @ 6700 rpm 77.7 lb.-ft. @ 7900 rpm
Corrected 1/4-mile 10.40 sec. @ 137.4 mph 10.34 sec. @ 138.4 mph 10.48 sec. @ 132.8 mph 10.76 sec. @ 126.1 mph 10.56 sec. @ 133.7 mph 10.90 sec. 124.0 mph
Top-gear roll-on 60–80 mph 2.76 sec. 2.45 sec. 2.76 sec. 2.58 sec. 2.73 sec. 3.20 sec.
Fuel mileage (high/low/avg.) 40/32/35 mpg 39/31/34 mpg 39/37/38 mpg 41/35/38 mpg 42/36/39 mpg 41/38/39 mpg
Colors Matte Black, Matte White Bright White, Frozen Dark Blue Metallic, Racing Red Ducati Red, Star White Golden Blazed Green/Metallic Graphite Gray Black, Orange/White Matt[e] Crystal White, Phantom Black
Available Now Now Now Now Now Now
Warranty 24 mo., unlimited mi. 36 mo., 36,000 mi. 24 mo., unlimited mi. 12 mo., unlimited mi. 12 mo., 12,000 mi. 24 mo., unlimited mi.
Contact apriliausa.com bmwmotorcycles.com ducatiusa.com kawasaki.com ktm.com triumphmotorcycles.com

Dunlop Q3 Tires

Any time we take bikes to a track we like to put them on even footing, and this time we chose Dunlop's Sportmax Q3 rubber for our day at the Streets of Willow circuit. The Q3 debuted last year, utilizing carbon fiber construction and Dunlop's MT (Multi-Tread) technology, with softer, stickier rubber on the edges and a higher-mileage compound in the center. Ideal sneakers for these bikes, most of which will have you pining for a track day, but also offer excellent street manners.

We found grip was exemplary, even channeling the BMW, Aprilia, and KTM's 150 hp to the track. Turn-in handling was much improved too, especially on the Triumph and Kawasaki. This makes sense being that Dunlop made it a point to maintain the pointy "Intuitive Response Profile" from the successful Q2 predecessor, intended to ease turn-in and maximize the contact patch while cornering. With a recommended 32 psi in both the front and rear tires (hot, off the track) we dragged our knees, and some hard parts, all day.

The Q3 proved a good fit for our batch of super nakeds at the track and would be a fine street option, too. A sport-touring bike in our fleet chewed up a rear in 3,000 miles, but considering these streetfighters are lighter and less likely to be toured upon, you're liable to get a little more than that. Pricing for our sets of 120/70ZR-17 front and 190/55ZR-17 rear Q3s came out to $434 per bike, but check dunlopmotorcycle.com for your bike's sizes. For that you get a good street tire, plenty of grip when hot, and confident handling. And with bikes like these, you're going to want all of that. —Zack Courts

Dyno

Numbers don't always tell the full story. The Aprilia's motor feels much stronger in the midrange than it looks here, and the BMW's delivery feels a lot smoother on the road. Kawasaki's Z1000 curves almost look like a twin; performance is solid, but only revving as high as Ducati's 200cc-larger V-twin hurts it. What you can't ignore is the orange line towering over the group. KTM's 1,301cc twin is one of the most impressive powerplants ever bolted to two wheels. Period.

Gus Holcomb

Guest Tester | AGE: 33 | HEIGHT: 6'3" | WEIGHT: 170 lb. | INSEAM: 34 in.

By any objective measure, the BMW S1000R is hands down the bike of the test. Lap times, horsepower, weight, traction control, and so on are all best in class. Between the numbers, there is room to pick another favorite—but not much. Properly goaded, the KTM is a boisterous streetbike but surprisingly relaxed when ridden at less than half throttle. The riding position is upright, roomy, and comfortable. The heated grips make up somewhat for the notchy gearbox and lack of quickshifter. And yet the Aprilia remains the apple of my eye. The riding position is aggressive but roomy enough for my long legs. The traction control is excellent and easily adjusted. Plus I just can't quit that sweet V4. In the words of Shakespeare, "And when Love speaks, the voice of all the gods / Makes heaven drowsy with the harmony." The Tuono speaks with the voice of gods, indeed.

Ari Henning

Road Test Editor | AGE: 29 | HEIGHT: 5'10" | WEIGHT: 171 lb. | INSEAM: 33 in.

It's amazing to me that just two years ago, the Speed Triple R was at the forefront of the naked bike class. Man, what a difference a few years makes!

Leading the charge in this bigger, better class of naked bikes are the Super Duke R, S1000R, and Tuono V4R. All three brutes have motors that will leave you reeling. No matter how many times I experience it, Aprilia's V4 still makes me laugh out loud. That roar!

But this comparison really boils down to the S1000R and Super Duke R. Both BMW and KTM have had time to study the competition, and it's paid off. Both machines are comfortable, adaptable, and wickedly powerful. The S1000R delights in every way, but I'd go with the KTM. I'm not a total power junky, but how are you going argue with 92 pound-feet of torque?

Marc Cook

Editor in Chief | Age: 50 | Height: 5'9" | Weight: 185 lb. | Inseam: 32 in.

This is a magnificent class of motorcycle. You can count me among those longtime sportbike enthusiasts who are just a little too old and a little too creaky to enjoy the hard-core supersport the way I once did. Of course it doesn't help that sportbikes continue to get smaller and more specialized. Doesn't matter when you have machines like the S1000R, Super Duke R, and Tuono. On any road you can imagine at a pace that will keep you out of jail and the hospital, the top-three nakeds will fulfill your need for aggression and delight with their capabilities—they're that good. I have great affection and appreciation for our top three finishers, but I'd be willing to spend a little extra on the KTM for its (lower-case) monster motor, which is probably the finest internal-combustion engine not wearing a Pratt & Whitney badge. Exceptional!

Aaron Frank

Editor at Large | AGE: 39 | HEIGHT: 5'7" | WEIGHT: 155 lb. | INSEAM: 31 in.

Just like when we compared adventure bikes last summer, this shootout quickly became a contest between the haves and have-nots, with electronically sophisticated—and expensive—machines like the Monster and Super Duke aligning in opposition to more minimalist motorcycles like the Speed Triple and Z1000. While the Speed Triple and its ilk better embody the "stripped-down-sportbike" soul of the streetfighter class, these are simply no match for the blood-boiling thrills of the latest generation of enhanced nakeds. I love the Tuono's growling, howling V4 and the gut-punch of power from the Super Duke's 1,301cc mountain motor, but in terms of overall ride dynamics, nothing compares to the S1000R. All that raw power and useful electronics that make it savage or sedate to suit your mood make this a bike that always and endlessly pleases. The Beemer is hardly the most purist bike here, but it does deliver the purest riding experience.

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