State of the Naked Bike Nation

MC Comparo: Aprilia Tuono V4 1100 RR vs. Triumph Speed Triple R vs. Yamaha FZ-10

Aprilia Tuono V4 1100 RR vs. Triumph Speed Triple R vs. Yamaha FZ-10
Aprilia Tuono V4 1100 RR vs. Triumph Speed Triple R vs. Yamaha FZ-10Julia LaPalme

My, oh my, how our hearts sing when we think what the super-naked motorcycle category has become. The garage atop Mount Olympus is positively overflowing with beastly machines, spitting fire and stomping a hundred hooves with every rev. Superpower and super-exotic brands alike from around the world are playing in this arena, and we the motorcycling public stand to reap the reward. It's a terrific time to be a lover of horsepower.

Take these three steeds we've gathered, joined in that each is new (in one way or another) and looking to defend its territory. Triumph's venerable Speed Triple, now two decades old as a model line and still as desirable as ever. Then there's Yamaha's all-new naked R1, the FZ-10, with its beady little demon eyes looking around for a fight. Lastly, the ultimate thoroughbred naked—Aprilia's Tuono, powered by a fire-breathing V-4 that didn't need an extra 78cc for 2016 but got it anyway. There are more than 400 hp churning out of these three, and everything from race-grade ABS to cruise control.

The eternal question, then: In which direction do you send your hard-earned money? To the British Midlands, Japan, or Northern Italy? We would love to be able to tell you which of these bikes is the best, but they are way too different from each other to do that. The good news is, based on what you want in a motorcycle, it should be mighty easy to decide which one of these hot rods you want smiling at you every morning when you roll up the garage door.

Triumph Speed Triple R
Triumph Speed Triple RJulia LaPalme

Triumph Speed Triple R
Not ranking these bikes empirically means that the Speed Triple coming first does not mean it finished last in this test. That's important to remember. We were impressed with the Speed, top to bottom, especially the gaggle of updates for 2016. Very much the same is the Speed Triple's suave character and Clydesdale torque. Even the Speed's look and stance are similar to previous years, so much so that the updates are probably more extensive than you think.

The 1,050cc inline triple is the same displacement but reshaped combustion chambers and tweaked internals were instituted to offer a broader spread of power. The classic, stubby exhaust has been restyled and reworked to allow more flow, and Triumph claims that the new ride-by-wire system increases mileage by 10 percent while also meeting the strict Euro-4 emissions regs. There’s also been an incremental rise in compression ratio (up a quarter point to 12.3:1), and Triumph made the radiator more efficient, which allows it to be smaller.

Aesthetically, the familiar Speed Triple bug eyes have been squeezed into a more menacing squint, and the tiny windscreen is now sexier and more useless than ever. Sexy is worth something though, especially in this category, and the Speed has been on something of a diet. The fuel tank is a half-gallon smaller (now 4.1 gallons), and the area where the tank meets the seat is nearly an inch narrower, while the handlebar is almost an inch closer to the rider and raised about half an inch. It feels compact because it has literally been made smaller: 10 pounds lighter (483 with a full tank) than the previous model, and the riding posture is tighter.

Sadly, the engine also feels the smallest. “It feels like a really strong 800,” Ari said over the communicator, halfway up an on-ramp. The three-cylinder grumble is as elegant and smooth as ever, but its slow-revving character leaves it feeling lazy, at least in this company. Worse yet, compared to the last Speed Triple R we ran on our dyno in 2014, this bike is down a few pound-feet of torque and about 4 hp. We’re not complaining about 125 horses and 75 pound-feet of torque—it’s just, we never thought we’d write that the Speed’s velvety mill is the least impressive of any group. The FZ-10’s 131 hp is rowdy, and the Tuono’s 155 ponies are enough to make some superbikes blush. It’s hot company.

More on that later, but for now we need to explain why the Speed Triple R is still a credible street brawler, even in today’s elite company. One, fit and finish: The Speed is objectively gorgeous. You may prefer another shape or style of naked bike, but you cannot deny Triumph’s attention to detail. Every time we gazed at the Speed we noticed all of the little fasteners and caps and welds and coatings are a cut above anything in the class.

The phrase “Swiss watch” gets thrown around a lot to describe fine craftsmanship. The Speed Triple R, covered in mechanical jewelry like this, definitely qualifies.
The phrase “Swiss watch” gets thrown around a lot to describe fine craftsmanship. The Speed Triple R, covered in mechanical jewelry like this, definitely qualifies.Julia LaPalme
The Speed Triple’s dash is clean and tidy. It’s finicky to use, though, and is begging for an update that makes menus easier to navigate.
The Speed Triple’s dash is clean and tidy. It’s finicky to use, though, and is begging for an update that makes menus easier to navigate.Julia LaPalme
On the flip side, we will always support an analog tach. Blue shift lights illuminate as the needle swings to redline—totally awesome.
On the flip side, we will always support an analog tach. Blue shift lights illuminate as the needle swings to redline—totally awesome.Julia LaPalme

More to the practical point, the Triumph’s trimmings are a forecast for how the Speed Triple R feels on the road. From just a whisper of lean in a gentle curve to keeled over on the edge of the tire, the handling is perfectly neutral. We have to figure the familiar Öhlins combo of TTX shock and NIX30 fork supply a lot of the refinement we love in this bike. We “have to figure” because Triumph didn’t have a base Speed Triple S to loan us for this test, but the R-model’s golden suspenders and little carbon bits shouldn’t suggest that the core of the model isn’t built to a high standard.

And there’s more. The brakes are the best of the bunch by a long shot, as are the mirrors. Bar-end mirrors always seem like a foolish vanity, but these are actually really nice. Like the brakes, the Speed’s fueling is excellent and is a Triumph trademark—it is absolutely the benchmark for any other brand. It’s also adjustable, not that it needs to be, via a new left-side switchgear. Sport, Road, Rain, Track, and Rider are the five modes to choose from, each tailored to the suggested condition. Rider is essentially a custom mode, allowing you to combine the throttle map and ABS setting of your choosing.

Modes are selectable on the fly, but it’s tricky. As our Assistant Editor Will Steenrod put it, “Select your map, close the throttle, pull in the clutch, stand on one leg, and rub your stomach while patting your head, all before you rear-end the guy in front of you.” We avoided that, thankfully, but his fear is valid. The menu system is our last gripe about the Speed Triple (promise), and it’s not really worth condemning the bike. Owning one, you’d quickly get used to the display and pick a favorite mode. Riding lots of other bikes, though, we know that there are simpler solutions for toggling settings and even adjusting the clock.

Overall, the Speed is an exquisite piece of machinery, but it has simply fallen behind the times. Comparing it to Yamaha’s new FZ-10 and Aprilia’s Tuono 1100 really showed the Speed Triple for what it is: refined as refined can be but aged in design. Then again, if calm torque is what you’re after and peak power doesn’t tickle your particular fancy, perhaps you’ve found your bike.

Yamaha FZ-10
Yamaha FZ-10Julia LaPalme

Yamaha FZ-10
Oh, how long we've waited for Yamaha to put a flat handlebar atop its crossplane YZF-R1 superbike powerplant. Since 2010, actually. Whatever you do, don't think that this is an updated FZ1. The 2017 FZ-10 shares most of its DNA with the new-for-2015 R1 (more specifically, the R1S), meaning it uses the new version of the uneven-firing, inline-four and most of the chassis and suspension. The engine has tweaked internals, as well as a different airbox and exhaust, to help shift power lower down in the rev range, and while the suspension is the same on the surface the spring rates are tuned for an upright streetbike—stiffer at the back, for luggage and passengers, and softer at the front.

There’s nothing quite like back-to-back testing, and jumping from the Speed Triple to the FZ-10 is a perfect example of how revealing it can be. Having read each brochure you could easily think the two bikes are pulled from almost the same mold. The FZ-10 feels completely different, even before the kickstand is up. You can pore over the ergonomic data (page 48) if you like, but what it feels like from the saddle is that the FZ-10 was built for someone 20 years older. The bar is much taller, the seat is wider, and there’s lots more legroom.

Let the engine pull all the way through the revs and you’ll see the second curveball—the engine feels opposite the Triumph as well. The FZ feels sluggish just above idle (where the Speed Triple is strong) but comes alive in the midrange like an angry two-stroke. The exhaust starts barking as the front end gets light, and by the time you arrive in the upper third of the revs the FZ-10 will likely be wheelying and snarling and generally reminding you that it is not polite, refined, or interested in your opinion. Then there’s the front brake, also not refined, and also different than the Triumph’s stellar binders. Yamaha’s reworked R1 brakes are fine at anything up to 60-percent braking, but clamp the lever in an emergency and you’ll wonder if the setup was really designed to slop a full-size motorcycle.

Like every other bike in Yamaha’s FZ series, the engine is the best part. Even with imperfect fueling, the crossplane “CP4” mill is an absolute treat to listen to and to use.
Like every other bike in Yamaha’s FZ series, the engine is the best part. Even with imperfect fueling, the crossplane “CP4” mill is an absolute treat to listen to and to use.Julia LaPalme
Yamaha FZ-10
Yamaha FZ-10Julia LaPalme
The FZ-10 display gets a gold star for showing everything on one screen. No hidden menus or displays: It’s all here. Minus points for the hard-to-read digital bar tach, but hey, nobody’s perfect.
The FZ-10 display gets a gold star for showing everything on one screen. No hidden menus or displays: It’s all here. Minus points for the hard-to-read digital bar tach, but hey, nobody’s perfect.Julia LaPalme

Rambunctious and immature as the engine and brakes can make you feel, the FZ’s cockpit is teeming with dignified features. Three levels of traction control (the less intrusive of which allow wheelies, thank you) and three ride modes accent non-switchable ABS as standard trimmings. Aside from the upright ergos, the FZ-10’s other secret weapon for slaying miles is cruise control, stolen from the FJR. Same system, same set-it-and-forget-it ease of use, and it’s good up to 112 mph (who knows why).

Opposite the ergos and electronics, the styling kind of seems like the FZ was designed for someone 20 years younger than the Speed Triple’s owner. It looks like a turbocharged Tonka toy, all the way from the pointy and abstract angles of the “bodywork” to the hi-vis wheels and milky gray paint. Some of the design is inspired, like the tiny repurposed R1 headlights—other parts, like the odd butt-stop wart on the seat, are pure head-scratchers.

So the FZ-10 is an enigma—bold and brash in the engine and aesthetic department yet comfy enough for saddlebags and a GPS. Very much the opposite of the Speed Triple. Then there’s the fit and finish: The Yamaha is a nice bike but it lacks the pure class oozing out of the Triumph. Aside from the engine, that is, which has a definite whiff of pedigree about it. Bottom line, there will be no fawning over the FZ’s fasteners or bodywork panels, and in general it’s pretty jagged and plasticky.

But it’s no reason not to buy it. If you think it’s chintzy, fine, but maybe you think it looks mean and futuristic. We can see that. Just like the Triumph’s lack of excitement isn’t necessarily a character flaw, neither is the FZ-10 Transformer-tarantula outfit. One thing is for sure, the two are very different. In fact, we thought the FZ-10 was a total anti-Speed Triple until we thumbed the Tuono’s starter and 1,077cc of V-4 cleared its throat.

Aprilia Tuono V4 1100 RR
Aprilia Tuono V4 1100 RRJulia LaPalme

Aprilia Tuono V4 1100 RR
The Tuono ought to look familiar to you because in many ways it appears to be the same bike that debuted in 2012—it's based on Aprilia's RSV4 superbike, meaning styling to match, a roaring V-4 powerplant, and oodles of electronics. What's new is the "1100" moniker, signifying the displacement bump via an 81mm bore—up from 78mm—which raises the Tuono's total to 1,077cc. Along with the new bores and badges, the Tuono 1100 received a few small engine updates (lighter connecting rods, stronger cases) as well as a longer swingarm for 2016. (The Tuono is refined further for 2017—see "New Bikes 2017" on page 24.) More noticeable is the slightly narrower handlebar and a seat that is reshaped and 15mm lower than the previous Tuono V4.

A few comforts afforded does make the Tuono a little more mature, but the core of this bike always has been—and hopefully always will be—the engine. It is a howling beast of a mechanism. We’re not sure how the pipe is legal, what with the World Superbike sound that fires out the back, and frankly the 155 hp is more than probably should be legal to sell to average, innocent citizens. The riding position is a lot more aggressive too. Jumping from the FZ-10 to the Tuono feels like going from the Speed Triple to an R6—the ergos are pitched forward from a taller seat to a lower handlebar.

Sporty as the posture is, the 78cc displacement bump has changed the Tuono’s attitude a bit. There is now strong and evenly distributed torque that builds in a linear but satisfying way, without the conspicuous surge of power of the old engine. As you twist the throttle the V-4 shudders and boils, like the rumble before a cartoon volcano, and by the time you’re in the middle third of the revs the front wheel will (or could) be in the air. Above 10,000 rpm reality begins to warp and Einstein twitches in his grave.

The Aprilia’s engine relates to the other two in this test in so much as it combines both strengths. It captures most of the Speed’s burly grunt and also delivers the hilarious hit of the FZ-10’s top-end rush but with nearly 25 more horsepower. The Triumph and Yamaha engines are great—above average in motorcycling and worthy of praise—but the Tuono’s V-4 is on another level. At 999cc it was a bipolar thrill ride, but now it is truly a do-it-all device with the refinement and power to be the world’s best.

Like the Triumph’s display, you can get lost in Aprilia’s menus. The LCD can be toggled to track mode, but if you’re on a track odds are you’ll want to keep your eyes on the road ahead.
Like the Triumph’s display, you can get lost in Aprilia’s menus. The LCD can be toggled to track mode, but if you’re on a track odds are you’ll want to keep your eyes on the road ahead.Julia LaPalme
High-end Brembos and a Sachs fork (below) aren’t especially fancy but are track ready, even with 155 hp on tap.
High-end Brembos and a Sachs fork aren’t especially fancy but are track ready, even with 155 hp on tap.Julia LaPalme
BMW S1000R
BMW S1000RJUSTIN KOSMAN

WHAT ABOUT THE: BMW S1000R
Ten years ago, all BMW made were dad bikes. Now, the S1000 series—based on the S1000RR superbike—is a pillar of BMW's modern image. Affectionately known as the "Single R," the S1000R won our hearts from year one. It lost out on Motorcycle of the Year honors in 2014 to the gobsmacking KTM 1290 (see other sidebar) but impressed us to no end by being a docile 'round-towner and a howling time-attack track bike all at the same time. It's got suspension that adjusts 100 times per second, street or track, in addition to a full suite of performance electronics, heated grips, cruise control, and 150 of the meanest ponies you'll ever try to harness. Plus, vicious brakes. All for less than $15,000 fully loaded. For 2017, BMW has an updated version coming. If it's better than this one, we will be impressed but not surprised.

Ducati Monster 1200S
Ducati Monster 1200SDucati

ALSO APPEALING: Ducati Monster 1200S
Ducati's Monster dates back more than 25 years, and the current 1200 S is the most sophisticated yet. A full-color dash and Öhlins suspension accent the 1,198cc Testastretta V-twin nestled in Ducati's trademark steel-trellis frame. The engine slams down more torque than anything other than KTM's 1290, and even though the latest liquid-cooled Monster is long and low compared to other bikes in the category, it still handles well enough to hold its head high. It's the most similar to the Speed Triple R in demeanor and quality, which isn't a bad thing. Some would argue that the model has lost its simple touches by going high tech and high price ($16,000)—but it is arguably the most famous Ducati ever, and as long as it's around it will be an icon. And just like BMW offering a new S1000R, Ducati has new Monsters coming soon.

KTM 1290 Super Duke R
KTM 1290 Super Duke RKevin Wing

AND, OF COURSE: KTM 1290 Super Duke R
We could go on and on about KTM's 1290 Super Duke R, mostly about the insane engine, but in the context of this article we'll just say this: The 1,301cc V-twin is perhaps the one powerplant in the world that we would put on par with the Tuono 1100's V-4. It is almost unexplainable. The Super Duke is more comfortable than the Tuono, and with heated grips and more range is arguably a better streetbike. Where the 1290 loses out is on the track, where it can't keep up with the Tuono or BMW's S1000R. But being the pragmatic types we are, the Super Duke often woos us with the 92 (!) pound-feet of torque and stellar fueling that make the ride as relaxed as you please. It does share one more thing with the Aprilia, BMW, and Ducati—a new version is set to arrive in 2017.

Dyno charts show exactly what we felt on the road; below 6,000 rpm the Speed Triple is tough to beat, but up high in the revs it just can’t keep up. The FZ-10’s torque spike from 6,000 to 8,000 rpm is
Dyno charts show exactly what we felt on the road; below 6,000 rpm the Speed Triple is tough to beat, but up high in the revs it just can’t keep up. The FZ-10’s torque spike from 6,000 to 8,000 rpm is what makes it feel like a two-stroke coming on the pipe.©Motocyclist
Aprilia Tuono V4 1100 RR vs. Triumph Speed Triple R vs. Yamaha FZ-10 Ergonomics
The ergo numbers paint a pretty clear picture of how these three compare to each other as far as comfort and riding position: The Tuono is aggressive, the FZ-10 is laid back, and the Speed Triple is somewhere in the middle. What isn’t obvious from this data is the Aprilia’s wide bar or the Triumph’s narrow one. Also, the Speed Triple feels extremely thin between the riders legs—the Tuono is a respectable second, while the FZ-10 is the widest in the middle.©Motocyclist
Aprilia Tuono V4 1100 RR vs. Triumph Speed Triple R vs. Yamaha FZ-10
Aprilia Tuono V4 1100 RR vs. Triumph Speed Triple R vs. Yamaha FZ-10Julia LaPalme

As we waited for the sun to rise and cast an early glow on our final photo stop of the road test, we mulled over these three machines and what light they have shed on our naked motorcycling horizons. Yamaha’s new FZ-10 is a much more interesting and dynamic machine than we anticipated. The sport-touring bent is a little unexpected, and it’s an area that hasn’t been covered in this category. The Tuono is obviously the opposite of that—very “expected” and also as potent and aggressive as you can imagine for a bike in this category. That leaves the Speed Triple somewhere in the middle.

The Triumph also spans the price gap pretty nicely, in that the R model we tested sells for $14,900, making it $101 more than the Tuono 1100 RR’s $14,799 price tag. A base model Speed Triple S, on the other hand, carries an MSRP of $13,200—no fancy Swedish suspension but then again it’s only $201 more than the Yamaha. Among the three we rode, the FZ-10 is the clear winner in price, at $12,999, but then it does feel cheaper. That’s not so much a ding against the FZ as it is a compliment to the Euro craftsmanship, especially the Triumph.

So here we are: Which one is best? Well, do you have a bad back? Get the FZ-10. Care not for ungodly roll-on power? Get the Speed Triple. Want to embarrass your buddy with a Panigale? Get the Tuono 1100. We know it sounds pretty Hallmark Channel to say this, but each one is a winner if it’s the bike you want. The interest in the class of naked machines has created diversity and competition that we, the motorcyclists, benefit from and relish. Polling three of our testers, one preferred the Yamaha, another the Aprilia, and the last one wanted the Triumph. No bad apples here, just different flavors.

Off the Record

WILL STEENROD
Assistant Editor
AGE: 30
HEIGHT: 6'4"
WEIGHT: 205 lb.
INSEAM: 34 in.
Aprilia has really made an outstanding motorcycle. I would buy one just for the chill-inducing sound alone. Tack on instant-wheelie power and a stylish new front end with a slick blue paint job, and you've got a winner in my book. There really isn't anything major that I can complain about on this bike. Sure, the seat is a bit stiff and the bar is pretty aggressive, but easy bolt-ons can fix that on the cheap. And the lack of cruise control is addressed for the '17 models.

Not to say that either the Yamaha or the Triumph are bad—only that the issues I have with the Tuono are easier and cheaper to remedy than the other two. The Triumph’s engine, for example, has lots of torque, but it’s only for a short part of the short rev range. The Yamaha, however, has a great engine but suspension and brakes that are too soft.

ARI HENNING
SENIOR ROAD TEST EDITOR
AGE: 31
HEIGHT: 5'10"
WEIGHT: 175 lb.
INSEAM: 33 in.
Triumph's update of the Speed Triple brought the bike's proportions and features in line with other rides in the group, but its engine is way off the mark for what this category has become.

So who is the Speed for? I think it’ll appeal to the mature rider who wants a meticulously assembled and muscular bike but doesn’t need hair-on-fire horsepower. Given its price and performance relative to the competition, you’d have to be enamored with the Triumph’s beauty or some other subjective aspect of the bike to rationalize buying one because both the FZ and the Tuono are more enjoyable to ride. Between the FZ and the Tuono, my heart lies with that incredible V-4. I pity any machine that has to face off with that beast, so the fact that the Yamaha holds its own against such a spectacular motorcycle is impressive indeed.

TECH SPEC APRILIA TUONO V4 1100 RR TRIUMPH SPEED TRIPLE R YAMAHA FZ-10
PRICE $14,799 $14,900 $12,999
ENGINE 1077cc, liquid-cooled 65° V-4 1050cc, liquid-cooled inline-triple 999cc, liquid-cooled inline-four
BORE X STROKE 81.0 x 52.3mm 79.0 x 71.4mm 79.0 x 50.9mm
COMPRESSION 13.1:1 12.3:1 12.0:1
VALVE TRAIN DOHC, 16v DOHC, 12v DOHC, 16v
FUELING EFI, ride by wire EFI, ride by wire EFI, ride by wire
CLUTCH Wet, multi-plate slipper Wet, multi-plate slipper Wet, multi-plate slipper
TRANS/FINAL DRIVE 6-speed/chain 6-speed/chain 6-speed/chain
FRAME Aluminum twin-spar Aluminum twin-spar Aluminum twin-spar
FRONT SUSPENSION Sachs 43mm fork adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound damping; 4.7 in. travel Öhlins 43mm fork adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound damping; 4.7 in. travel KYB 43mm fork adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound damping; 4.7 in. travel
REAR SUSPENSION Sachs shock adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound damping; 5.1 in. travel Öhlins shock adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound damping; 5.1 in. travel KYB shock adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound damping; 4.7 in. travel
FRONT BRAKE Brembo four-piston calipers, 320mm discs with ABS Brembo four-piston calipers, 320mm discs with ABS Advics four-piston calipers, 320mm discs with ABS
REAR BRAKE Brembo two-piston caliper, 220mm disc with ABS Nissin two-piston caliper, 255mm disc with ABS Nissin one-piston caliper, 220mm disc with ABS
FRONT TIRE 120/70-ZR17 Pirelli Rosso Corsa 120/70-ZR17 Pirelli Supercorsa SP 120/70-ZR17 Bridgestone Battlax S20
REAR TIRE 190/55-ZR17 Pirelli Rosso Corsa 190/55-ZR17 Pirelli Supercorsa SP 190/55-ZR17 Bridgestone Battlax S20
RAKE/TRAIL 24.7°/3.9 in. 22.9°/3.6 in. 24.0°/4.0 in.
SEAT HEIGHT 32.5 in. 32.5 in. 32.5 in.
WHEELBASE 57.0 in. 56.9 in. 55.1 in.
MEASURED WEIGHT 470/440 lb. (tank full/empty) 483/458 lb. (tank full/empty) 467/440 lb. (tank full/empty)
FUEL CAPACITY 4.9 gal. 4.1 gal. 4.5 gal.
FUEL ECONOMY 34/29/31 mpg (high/low/average) 48/46/47 mpg (high/low/average) 33/28/30 mpg (high/low/average)
RANGE 152 mi. (including reserve) 193 mi. (including reserve) 135 mi. (including reserve)
CORRECTED ¼-MILE 10.44 sec. @ 142.2 mph 10.98 sec. @ 129.0 mph 10.86 sec @ 131.3 mph
TOP-GEAR ROLL ON, 60-80 MPH 2.3 sec. 3.0 sec. 2.7 sec.
WARRANTY 24 mo., unlimited mi. 24 mo., unlimited mi. 12 mo., unlimited mi.
MORE INFO AT apriliausa.com triumphmotorcycles.com yamaha-motor.com