Okay, so you followed the advice of forum chatter or a veteran rider. You did the right thing and bought a cheap, beat-up old bike as your first motorcycling companion. You learned the ropes, tipped over at a gas station, maybe even tried to pop a wheelie when nobody was looking, and in doing so bonded like friends at summer camp. But now it’s been a season or two, and you’ve upgraded your gear and saved diligently with the simple goal of getting a fresh, new machine to call your own. A warranty and a clutch lever in its original shape: the American dream.

Honda CB1000R vs. Kawasaki Z1000 vs. Suzuki GSX-S1000 vs. Yamaha FZ-09
Honda CB1000R vs. Kawasaki Z1000 vs. Suzuki GSX-S1000 vs. Yamaha FZ-09©Motorcyclist

Among the naked-bike resurgence over the past few years are the European titans, brimming with technology and glistening atop Mount Olympus. A fantasy, really. Ten grand—that's the number you've been shooting for, and with a little stretching there's plenty of bang for that buck if you look east instead of west, to the land of the rising sun and a growing crop of machines with middleweight price tags that pack a heavyweight punch. There's variety in price, size, power, amenities, and opinions. Which one is right for you?

honda cb1000r
Honda CB1000R©Motorcyclist

The Gentleman's Choice

Big Red's modern CB1000R is the laid-back, dignified, reasonable choice for a handful of reasons. And before we go any further, don't think that it's first up on the list because it's our least favorite. Not even close. The Honda impressed more than a few staffers by being an absolute treat to ride. Why so…"mature" then?

Honda CB1000R
Honda CB1000R©Motorcyclist

The CB is tall and feels like it carries its weight higher up than the others in this test, yet the 32.1-inch seat height is identical to the others except the Suzuki’s 31.9 inches. It’s fair to note that at 484 pounds with a full tank it’s nearly the heaviest of the bunch (the Kawasaki is 488). A high center of gravity is one mark of a machine that might be better suited to tall or experienced riders. Then again neither of our sub-5-foot-8 testers said the lanky feel would keep them from buying a CB.

1000cc naked bikes
No dials, no needles, no problem, but note the Honda’s oddly tinted display cover.©Motorcyclist

Once rolling, the Honda sheds its weight well, feeling lighter to steer than all but the featherweight FZ-09. The riding position is neutral and strikes a good balance of sporty and comfy, though the back of the gas tank is a little pointy. Shorter riders might find this more of an issue than the seat height, actually, as the tendency to scoot forward crunched a crotch or two during our test. What almost certainly won't scoot you forward are the CB's brakes. The dual, four-pot Tokicos offer plenty of power, but the initial bite is soft, perhaps to avoid unwanted lock-ups on a bike that isn't available with ABS in our market.

There’s no traction control, either, but in that department you’re unlikely to be disappointed. The CB1000R uses a retuned version of the CBR1000RR engine from 2007, and in its naked, “tuned-for-torque” state this mill delivers 108 hp with absolutely sublime throttle response. Fueling is the best of the group, with gentle but direct response and enough stomp to lift the front wheel if you want.

Honda CB1000R
Honda CB1000R©Motorcyclist
Honda CB1000R
Honda CB1000R©Motorcyclist

The CB’s suspension is well calibrated, too, though apart from the Suzuki’s setup (best of the group) the Honda doesn’t have much competition. Yamaha evidently constructed its coil springs from foam rubber while Kawasaki was aiming for a hard-tail chopper feel, so Honda’s choice in using actual springs and oil to damp them stands out as a wise, if conservative, choice. More than anything it’s the chassis geometry that continued to impress, with excellent balance and good stability. It’s so composed that sometimes it feels like just turning your head makes the CB drop toward the apex.

Fit and finish are a cut above, too, which is a nice feature considering at $11,760 the CB is only a couple hundred bones cheaper than the pricey Kawasaki. Aside from the funky, convex dash covering that can make the display tricky to read, the user interface is nicely appointed and easy to use. Refinement. That’s what it comes down to. The Honda just feels the most polished and complete, even with its few quirks. Make your own judgment regarding the triangular, Star-Fox headlight or the swirled rear wheel. Fact is, the Honda is a terrific all ’rounder so long as hair-on-fire performance or electro-amenities aren’t at the top of your list.

Honda CB1000R
Honda CB1000R©Motorcyclist
HONDA CB1000R  
PRICE $11,760
ENGINE 999cc, liquid-cooled inline-four
BORE x STROKE 75.0 x 56.5mm
COMPRESSION RATIO 11.2:1
VALVE TRAIN DOHC, 16v
FUELING EFI
CLUTCH Wet, multi-plate
TRANSMISSION/FINAL DRIVE 6-speed/chain
FRAME Aluminum backbone
FRONT SUSPENSION Showa 43mm fork adjustable for spring preload and rebound damping; 4.3-in. travel
REAR SUSPENSION Showa shock adjustable for spring preload and rebound damping; 5.0-in. travel
FRONT BRAKE Tokico four-piston calipers, 310mm discs
REAR BRAKE Tokico two-piston caliper, 256mm disc
FRONT TIRE 120/70ZR-17 Bridgestone Battlax BT015
REAR TIRE 180/55ZR-17 Bridgestone Battlax BT015
RAKE/TRAIL 25.0˚/3.9 in.
SEAT HEIGHT 32.5 in.
WHEELBASE 56.9 in.
MEASURED WEIGHT (TANK FULL/EMPTY) 484/457 lb.
FUEL CAPACITY 4.5 gal.
FUEL ECONOMY (HIGH/LOW/AVERAGE) 43/36/40 mpg
RANGE (INCLUDING RESERVE) 180 mi.
CORRECTED 1/4-MILE 11.51 sec. @ 120.4 mph
TOP-GEAR ROLL-ON (60-80 MPH) 3.3 sec.
WARRANTY 36 mo., unlimited mi.
CONTACT [powersports.honda.com][]
Kawasaki Z1000
Kawasaki Z1000©Motorcyclist

The Urban Assault Vehicle

The Z1000 has probably been around longer than you realize, debuting more than a decade ago. Team Green didn't follow the exact same stripped-down-superbike recipe as some other brands, but the Z has grown to be a part of a family of three Kawasaki models (with the Ninja 1000 and Versys 1000) that share underpinnings. Both the Ninja and Versys platforms have won us over, so from that standpoint the Z1000 is off to a good start.

Kawasaki Z1000
Kawasaki Z1000©Motorcyclist

You have to say the Z is a bold statement too. The Golden Blazed Green paint is pretty captivating in direct sunlight and, as one tester opined, what’s the point of a Kawasaki that isn’t green? As for the rest of the styling, some people think the angular body panels and quad exhaust look silly; others think it’s purposeful and brawny. Either way, it’ll cost you $11,999, and that makes it the priciest piece in this comparo.

Kawasaki Z1000
Kawasaki Z1000©Motorcyclist

In addition to the spicy paint option, there’s a fair amount of value packed into the Z1000. There’s a seriously burly engine, for one, churning out lots of torque and feeding a fat midrange from its 1,043cc. Initial response is a little jumpy and might be more annoying if the same couldn’t be said for every bike here except the Honda. Dual Tokico calipers do good work to slow the Z down and with a more immediate bite than the CB1000R. There’s good ABS, as well, which is liable to come in handy with 122 hp on tap.

kawasaki z1000
All of the bikes display a good array of information. The tachometer on the Kawasaki was one of two that we felt were the hardest to read.©Motorcyclist

The futuristic styling flows into the spaceship dash, with blocky digital readouts for speed and tripmeters. There’s no gear-position indicator, which, with short gearing and such a wide powerband, means you can count on being a gear or two higher than you think. If you want, don’t shift at all! We experimented with leaving stoplights in sixth gear and found it wasn’t much trouble for bike or rider.

Overall ergonomics are agreeable and seemed to suit all of our testers, tall and small, though the hard seat was a common complaint. The saddle feels low, as do the pegs, maybe more so because of the massive hump of a fuel tank rising up in front of the seat. Where Team Green missed the mark is suspension, which is all the way on the firm side of stiff. One tester liked the direct feel that results, but most everyone agreed that it just doesn’t feel quite right on any surface other than perfectly smooth blacktop. Kawasaki wanted the Z to have a direct rider feel, but this is too far.

Kawasaki Z1000
Kawasaki Z1000©Motorcyclist

As it happens the Z1000 book might best be judged by its cover because the Z rides just like it looks. It’s stout and powerful, without being intimidating, but also a little harsh. It tackles twisty mountain roads with enough poise to get the job done but never really feels at home. Geared for a parking lot and paint straight from a custom shop, it is without a doubt the tough, urban streetfigher of the group. If show ’n’ go is your thing, the Z1000 is all you’ll want.

Kawasaki Z1000
Kawasaki Z1000©Motorcyclist
KAWASAKI Z1000  
PRICE $11,999
ENGINE 1,043cc, liquid-cooled inline-four
BORE x STROKE 77.0 x 56.0mm
COMPRESSION RATIO 11.8:1
VALVE TRAIN DOHC, 16v
FUELING EFI
CLUTCH Wet, multi-plate
TRANSMISSION/FINAL DRIVE 6-speed/chain
FRAME Aluminum twin-spar
FRONT SUSPENSION Showa 41mm fork adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound damping; 4.7-in. travel
REAR SUSPENSION Showa shock adjustable for spring preload and rebound damping; 4.8-in. travel
FRONT BRAKE Tokico four-piston calipers, 310mm discs with ABS
REAR BRAKE Tokico one-piston caliper, 250mm disc with ABS
FRONT TIRE 120/70ZR-17 Dunlop Sportmax D214
REAR TIRE 190/50ZR-17 Dunlop Sportmax D214
RAKE/TRAIL 24.5˚/4.0 in.
SEAT HEIGHT 32.1 in.
WHEELBASE 56.5 in.
MEASURED WEIGHT (TANK FULL/EMPTY) 488/461 lb.
FUEL CAPACITY 4.5 gal.
FUEL ECONOMY (HIGH/LOW/AVERAGE) 38/32/35 mpg
RANGE (INCLUDING RESERVE) 158 mi.
CORRECTED 1/4-MILE 11.18 sec. @ 125.5 mph
TOP-GEAR ROLL-ON (60-80 MPH) 2.8 sec.
WARRANTY 12 mo., unlimited mi.
CONTACT [kawasaki.com][]
Suzuki GSX-S1000
Suzuki GSX-S1000©Motorcyclist

The True Naked Sportbike

If you thought Honda using a superbike engine from 2007 seemed like reaching into the back room, archeologists have carbon-dated this GSX-S powerplant to the year 2005. But before you think Suzuki is trying to pull wool over eyes, recall that the so-called K5 GSX-R (origin of this engine) is often regarded as the finest interpretation of the Suzuki superbike lineage. The long-stroke engine mixes smooth torque with a fierce punch in five-digit rpms, which makes it an ideal pusher for a naked with attitude.

Suzuki GSX-S1000
Suzuki GSX-S1000©Motorcyclist
suzuki gsx-s1000
The Suzuki’s dash features a prominent gear position indicator. We like!©Motorcyclist

Where all of the competition racked up a few complaints about ergonomics, the “Gixxess” gathered practically none. With a cushy saddle and neutral riding position the Suzuki kind of disappears beneath you. That is until you spin the engine up. The GSX-S gets the “true naked sportbike” label by being the only one in this group to actually remind us of riding a liter-size sportbike. The motor absolutely screams up top and makes us think that a bike with this much power should have a fairing. Usually only Euro-nakeds do that.

When the time comes to stop, there are beefy, Brembo calipers that are more than up to the task. There’s ABS too (a $500 option on our bike), and while we’re on the subject Suzuki sprinkled in three-way adjustable traction control when stirring up the GSX-S, as well as the ability to turn it off. Suddenly $10,499 sounds like a pretty good deal for a stripped-down GSX-R that lays down 139 hp and has ABS and changeable TC.

Suzuki GSX-S1000
Suzuki GSX-S1000©Motorcyclist

One consistent gripe throughout the testers’ notes, however, was throttle response. Something in the fueling between no gas and a little bit of gas makes the Gixxess difficult to ride smoothly if you’re constantly on and off the throttle. It’s especially bad at higher rpm, which is where you want to be in order to harvest the Suzuki’s juiciest power. Some of us thought it was a reason not to buy the bike, while others got used to it, but in either case it made us wonder why ride modes from the GSX-R line weren’t applied to the naked S models.

Suzuki GSX-S1000
Suzuki GSX-S1000©Motorcyclist

When you start wishing for ride modes you know you’re getting a little greedy, and truth be told the GSX-S’s amenities elsewhere are quite good. The dash is a pleasing array of information, displayed across a basic digital face. Here again, the Suzuki doesn’t break any new ground or stun you with features but rather delivers everything you need in a simple, utilitarian way.

Although the supersport character that the GSX-S conveys is awesome, keep in mind that there are some aspects of nakedness we miss. As much fun as a wild, top-end rush is we like a little more grunt in our streetfighters. Call the CB1000R or FZ-09 soft up top if you want, but to us it’s the 20–50 mph roll-on that really makes a naked bike a hoot to ride. Pure torque and big personalities might be found elsewhere, but for outright performance and features delivered at a bargain, the GSX-S1000 is awfully hard to beat.

Suzuki GSX-S1000
Suzuki GSX-S1000©Motorcyclist
SUZUKI GSX-S1000  
PRICE $10,499
ENGINE 999cc, liquid-cooled inline-four
BORE x STROKE 73.4 x 59.0mm
COMPRESSION RATIO 12.2:1
VALVE TRAIN DOHC, 16v
FUELING EFI
CLUTCH Wet, multi-plate
TRANSMISSION/FINAL DRIVE 6-speed/chain
FRAME Aluminum twin-spar
FRONT SUSPENSION KYB 43mm fork adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound damping; 4.7-in. travel
REAR SUSPENSION KYB shock adjustable for spring preload and rebound damping; 5.1-in. travel
FRONT BRAKE Brembo four-piston calipers, 310mm discs with ABS
REAR BRAKE Nissin one-piston caliper, 220mm disc with ABS
FRONT TIRE 120/70ZR-17 Dunlop Sportmax D214
REAR TIRE 190/50ZR-17 Dunlop Sportmax D214
RAKE/TRAIL 25.0˚/3.9 in.
SEAT HEIGHT 31.9 in.
WHEELBASE 57.5 in.
MEASURED WEIGHT (TANK FULL/EMPTY) 464/437 lb.
FUEL CAPACITY 4.5 gal.
FUEL ECONOMY (HIGH/LOW/AVERAGE) 44/34/40 mpg
RANGE (INCLUDING RESERVE) 180 mi.
CORRECTED 1/4-MILE 10.74 sec. @ 132.5 mph
TOP-GEAR ROLL-ON (60-80 MPH) 2.9 sec.
WARRANTY 12 mo., unlimited mi.
CONTACT [suzukicycles.com][]
yamaha fz-09 review
Yamaha FZ-09©Motorcyclist

The Rowdy Teenager

The Yamaha is the black sheep here. If you average the MSRPs and weights of the three other bikes, the FZ-09 is more than $3,200 cheaper and 62 pounds lighter than the combined group. Not to mention it has three cylinders instead of four. Plain and simple, it's a smaller, less expensive version of the competition.

Yamaha FZ-09
Yamaha FZ-09©Motorcyclist

When it comes to performance, though, the little Fuzz-9 fits right in. As we’ve raved about before, the inline triple packs a punch beyond its 847cc and lets loose a playful growl that always makes us smile. There are even ride modes, just like we wish we had on the Z1000 and GSX-S, that tailor throttle response aggression.

Yamaha FZ-09
Yamaha FZ-09©Motorcyclist

Sounds like a runaway victory for the FZ-09, right? At $8,190 and 416 pounds, with 104 hp on tap? Well, no. The FZ has some shortcomings that put it right back in the mix. For example, even with the adjustable ride modes the Yamaha struggles with the same abrupt throttle response as the Kawasaki and Suzuki; it's worse than the Z1000, though it's not as bad as the GSX-S. The fork and shock, too, leave us wanting, especially during spirited rides on twisty roads. It's neither the first time for Yamaha to be dinged for soggy suspension nor the last unless some stiffer springs and better damping are applied. If you're after class-competitive suspension, plan to spend a good chunk of that $3,200 price delta to make the FZ-09 right.

Z1000
Like the Z1000, the FZ-09 dash was difficult to read. Then again there’s too much torque on tap to bother flirting with the upper rpms.©Motorcyclist

That said, the FZ-09 feels absolutely as light as the spec chart shows. Whether darting through the city or bombing along your favorite twisty road the Yamaha is incredibly agile, changing direction even better than the light-handling Honda. Low weight helps the brakes feel better than they should, too, which have good initial bite but lackluster feel and power after that. A long, flat seat allows a little more room for personal adjustment, rather than the other three with sportbike-like seating pockets. Likewise, the rest of the ergonomics feel less sporty in general, with relatively low and forward-set footpegs and a tall handlebar for the category.

As for options, the Yamaha is pretty thin on features (besides ride modes). There is no traction control or ABS, and the dash will not impress your techie friends. It’s a spartan little unit, set asymmetrically in the cockpit, showing all of the necessary information but nothing more. Still, we admit that this class is more about attitude than gizmos and the Fuzz-9 is delivers lots of strapping, streetfighter spirit.

Yamaha FZ-09
Yamaha FZ-09©Motorcyclist

It has been said before, but it's worth repeating: Yamaha hit a home run with the FZ-09. As ride-every-day enthusiasts, though, we're ready for some of the glaring issues to be addressed. For 2015 Yamaha remapped the ECU for smoother fueling but in our view didn't quite complete the job, and as far as we can tell it has ignored nearly every journalist and owner's plea for stiffer suspension. Perhaps corporate doesn't see it as a problem. After all, when reaching for competitors for the FZ-09 we had to go up a class in both displacement and price. That has to say something.

Yamaha FZ-09
Yamaha FZ-09©Motorcyclist
YAMAHA FZ-09  
PRICE $8,190
ENGINE 847cc, liquid-cooled inline-triple
BORE x STROKE 78.0 x 59.1mm
COMPRESSION RATIO 11.5:1
VALVE TRAIN DOHC, 12v
FUELING EFI, ride by wire
CLUTCH Wet, multi-plate
TRANSMISSION/FINAL DRIVE 6-speed/chain
FRAME Aluminum twin-spar
FRONT SUSPENSION KYB 41mm fork adjustable for spring preload and rebound damping; 5.4-in. travel
REAR SUSPENSION KYB shock adjustable for spring preload and rebound damping; 5.1-in. travel
FRONT BRAKE Advics four-piston calipers, 298mm discs
REAR BRAKE Nissin one-piston caliper, 245mm disc
FRONT TIRE 120/70ZR-17 Bridgestone Battlax S20
REAR TIRE 180/55ZR-17 Bridgestone Battlax S20
RAKE/TRAIL 25.0˚/4.1 in.
SEAT HEIGHT 32.1 in.
WHEELBASE 56.7 in.
MEASURED WEIGHT (TANK FULL/EMPTY) 416/394 lb.
FUEL CAPACITY 3.7 gal.
FUEL ECONOMY (HIGH/LOW/AVERAGE) 47/37/42 mpg
RANGE (INCLUDING RESERVE) 155 mi.
CORRECTED 1/4-MILE 11.39 sec. @ 122.2 mph
TOP-GEAR ROLL-ON (60-80 MPH) 3.5 sec.
WARRANTY 12 mo., unlimited mi.
CONTACT [yamahamotorsports.com][]
Honda CB1000R vs. Kawasaki Z1000 vs. Suzuki GSX-S1000 vs. Yamaha FZ-09
Honda CB1000R vs. Kawasaki Z1000 vs. Suzuki GSX-S1000 vs. Yamaha FZ-09©Motorcyclist

Take Your Pick:

What we learned in this test is that your intentions matter most. These bikes are all good in certain ways, and subjective opinions among the testers were as varied as the bikes. The FZ-09 stands out as a new-age way to build a naked; the entire machine was developed for this specific cause rather than a repurposed engine and chassis, and the result is a boisterous and nimble motorcycle. But whether you choose the rowdy FZ-09, flashy Z1000, eye-opening GSX-S, or the ultimately refined CB1000, ride proudly. These bikes are cool, and you’ll get excited every time you open your garage.

Honda CB1000R vs. Kawasaki Z1000 vs. Suzuki GSX-S1000 vs. Yamaha FZ-09
Honda CB1000R vs. Kawasaki Z1000 vs. Suzuki GSX-S1000 vs. Yamaha FZ-09©Motorcyclist

Off the Record:
Julia LaPalme, Associate Editor // AGE: 34 // HEIGHT: 5'5" // WEIGHT: 135 lb. // INSEAM: 30 in.

Being an FZ-09 owner myself, I went into this comparo expecting my loyalty to lie with the Yamaha. But no! Overall the GSX-S1000 was the most fun and easiest to ride. With a comfortable seat and riding position, saddle time in the Gixxess was painless (can’t say the same for the rough-riding Kawi). Its well-sorted suspension soaked up bumps and dips without being too ridged or bouncy, and the Suzuki’s engine gave the smoothest feel. My one gripe was the throttle response, which was a bit touchy for my taste, but a little refinement of rider input is a minor adjustment to make. All in all, the GSX-S1000 came out on top in my book, but don’t tell my FZ-09.

Off the Record:
Zack Courts, Senior Editor // AGE: 32 // HEIGHT: 6'2" // WEIGHT: 185 lb. // INSEAM: 34 in.

What are you going to do with your naked bike? Trackday? Get a GSX-S1000, no question. Relaxing Sunday rides in good weather? You need a CB1000R. Looking to stand out in a crowd and you don’t mind near-rigid suspension? Z1000 all the way. For me, I’ll have an FZ-09. Yes, the suspension is too soft, and when someone as adept with motorcycles as Ari Henning spends months trying to fix it and comes up short, you know it’s not going to be easy to address. Still, I’d have the FZ. I want that buttery-smooth engine, I want the light weight, and I don’t care about ABS and traction control. It’s an amazingly fun bike, at an even better price.

Off the Record:
[Marc Cook, Editor In Chief][] // AGE: 52 // HEIGHT: 5'9" // WEIGHT: 190 lb. // INSEAM: 32 in.

This comparison reminds me that just because a bike isn’t the newest thing doesn’t mean it can be ignored. True, the Honda CB1000R has been around a long time and lacks technical features. And yet…it’s a truly good motorcycle, in many ways my favorite here. It feels so balanced, so refined, and just so well executed that I’m feeling a little guilty for not recommending Honda’s naked more often. But I’d still put another bike at the top of the list: Suzuki’s GSX-S1000, mainly because of horsepower, but I also like the riding position and features. I can almost ignore its crummy throttle response.

ERGOS

Here again, Yamaha’s FZ-09 is the outlier. Notice the extra legroom, a handlebar that is noticeably taller and closer to the rider, and a flat seat that provides a little more room to move around. The other three are very similar, with only the Kawasaki’s low handlebar separating them. Suzuki’s GSX-S1000 created the most smiles when it came to comfort, especially the nicely padded and well-shaped seat. An oddly shaped piece of hard plastic on the back of the fuel tank was the only real complaint about the Honda’s ergos.

DYNOS

You could argue that the Honda’s curve is the biggest disappointment here. The CB’s power is as linear and smooth as you like, but 107 hp from 999cc is pretty soft nowadays. These curves should illustrate why we raved about the Suzuki’s top-end rush and why it feels a little sluggish down low (the GSX-S doesn’t catch the Z1000 until around 4,000 rpm), but power delivery never feels as lumpy as it looks in the chart. Yamaha’s 847cc triple is obviously down on outright power but stacks up surprisingly well against the fleet of literbike competition, especially when you consider how much lighter the FZ-09 is than the rest of the group.

Dyno Chart
Dyno Chart©Motorcyclist
Dyno Chart
Dyno Chart©Motorcyclist