Big, Naked and Beautiful: Open-Class Standards 2006
2007 Buell XB12Ss v. 2006 Honda 919 v. 2006 Kawasaki Z1000 v. 2006 Yamaha FZ-1
Close your eyes (but keep reading). Envision the perfect motorcycle. If you're like most of our readers, it's got a tourquey motor, has a comfortable riding position, not much plastic, and can handle and brake with the best of the supersports on the market. Also, it should look cool and not cost a fortune to buy or maintain.
Open dem' peepers, Charlie! What you envisioned is the category of machine that we at MO like most of all; the open-class standard. You can call it a "Big Naked" or a "Hooligan", but it all means the same thing: a plus-sized motor, minimal bodywork and a semi-sporting chassis combined with an upright seating position. It's a bike that harkens to the good ol' days when you had a full head of hair and a robust sperm count (or almost all your eggs), when the "Universal Japanese Motorcycle" roamed the Plains in great numbers. They were bikes that could do it all; tour, commute, race or knock about the twisties on a nice, sunny day.
Most American motorcyclists don't see it that way, though. The vast majority of the hundreds of thousands of streetbikes sold in the USA annually are hard-core sportbikes or cruisers. Open-class standards make up a very small part of the market, somewhere between 20,000 or 30,000 a year. Is it build it and they will buy or buy it and they will build? Who knows?
In any case, the faithful OEMs keep hope alive by building a variety of interesting, entertaining bikes. Some have been around for a long time, some are new. For 2006, we found a couple of old hands to pit against some new kids to see who would come out on top. Which bike did we like the best? The answer may surprise you.
Pull out your windbreaker and bell-bottoms and get the Pet Rock out of your bottom drawer: it's time for Motorcycle.com's 2006 Hooligan Shootout! This class is populated by a large number of machines, but we wanted to focus on four of them. A call to Honda procured us a 2006 919, the grand old man of the class, little changed since its introduction in 2001. Our friends at Buell made haste to replace tires shagged at the 2007 Buell line-up press introduction on a brand-new 2007 XB12Ss Lightning Long. The Boys in Green made with a 2006 Kawasaki Z1000 in a tasty shade of matte blue, and Yamaha put down their black-and-yellow paintbrush long enough to prepare a new-for-2006 FZ-1 for our abuse and enjoyment.
We had the bikes, but we were short a body. Aside from the usual suspects-Senior Editor Gabe Ets-Hokin, Managing Editor Pete Brissette, and Executive Editor Alfonse Palaima, we needed a fourth hooligan to properly evaluate these beasts. Fortunately, Pete knows plenty of hooligans from his many years plying the LA basin as a motorcycle messenger. A missive through the grapevine produced Dave Lidstone, a displaced Brit who has spent most of his life working as a messenger and being a hoodlum and hooligan in general. He packs miles on his bike like a long-haul trucker, but still finds the time to do track days and even leisure riding in the canyons near his home. Superbike? Superbiker!
Manned and ready, we needed to figure out where to ride. We picked a circuitous route around the periphery of Greater Los Angeles, for the maximum variety of roads, altitudes, terrain and barbeque restaurants. From the ocean to the mountains, from the orange groves (OK, stucco subdivisions where there used to be orange groves) to the deserts, we saw it all. We also spent several weeks commuting, riding the canyons and having a good ol' time on these machines, so we can now have an informed opinion about what we like-and don't like-about the crop of hooligan bikes. After spending some serious time in the saddles and hashing out our votes, we present to you our results, in last-to-first order.
About that so-called "order" of our evaluation system: here at MO, we have one standard by which we rate the motorcycles we test; which bike would our testers buy if they were to spend their own money? It's a good way of cutting through all that hemming and hawing and wishy-washy-ing about which bike is more comfortable or which gets better fuel mileage or whatever. It's simple enough: which bike is good enough that you would shell out the price of admission to buy it with your own hard-won bread? Its how we've always done it, and it gets the most interesting results. So what did we discover this time?
More Hooligans! More Hooligans!
As the saying goes, "You can never have too much of a good thing." This couldn't be truer when it comes to generators of tomfoolery like a trusty, hooligan-natured motorbike. Unfortunately, MO has limited resources of time and editors so we couldn't possibly include all of the potential contenders. Here's a group of mischief-makers that we think should be on everyone's wish list.
The Tuono has quickly become an icon, household name or instant classic depending on whom you ask. Call it what you will, one thing is for sure and that is that this bike is always at or near the top of rider's picks for an all-out bad-ass streetfighter straight from the factory. With the RSV1000 as the basis for this high- handlebar racer, the Tuono shares the same powerful, 60 degree V-twin, magnesium-side-cover-wearing mill found in its road-racer brother. What this means to anyone who straddles this beast is that the bikini-faired front end will be clawing at the sky with ease.
If ever a brand of bike were to be thought of as the polar opposite of hooliganism, BMW might have been the one. We say might have been because with the introduction of the K1200R in 2005, BMW seemed ready to start embracing an edgier image. Like the Tuono, the K1200R , is another example of marketing and design wisdom. BMW has squeezed blood from a stone and created another bike from an existing model; in this instance, the K1200S. The R uses the same frame and transverse-mounted inline-four as the S model, with one of only a few exceptions between the two being a slightly smaller airbox on the 1200R.
Visually, the R has a love it or hate it quality with its oddly shaped headlight/bikini fairing. Aesthetics aside, the K1200R has won the hearts of many and even garnered "bike of the year" from at least one bike publication. One wouldn't think of a shaft-driven bike as being hooligan-natured, but this Beemer fits the bill for us.
Ducati S2R and S4RS
Naked and brutish. Two words that perfectly describe a potential hooligan bike. And what brand and model of bike better fit that mold than the Ducati Monster(s)? The affordable but formidable S2R is the current subject of a MO makeover. We really enjoyed the ample amount of torque that makes this bike one of the most user-friendly, everyday rides we've experienced.
Ducati brings its "A" game to the table with the S4RS. Ohlins suspension is the most obvious visual cue that indicates this bike is some type of special trouble maker, but what sets this hellion apart from all other Monsters is its Desmodromic four-valve, liquid-cooled, 998cc L-twin power plant that inhales through cavernous 50mm throttle bodies.
As Yossef said in his assessment of the S4RS, "If it sounds like this an extremely fun Ducati to ride, then you read right."
KTM 950 Supermoto
Think a prominent dirt bike maker can't build a machine to qualify for hooligan status? Then you don't know about KTM's 950 Supermoto.
A 95 horsepower, liquid-cooled, four valve, 75 degree V-twin sourced from their Adventure is the basis for this orange and black stallion.
Although KTM may have been a little remiss in their choice of using constant velocity carbs, the rest of the bike is outfitted superbly with great WP suspension and radial-mounted Brembos that munch down on 305mm floating rotors.
Wrap it up with a good chassis and the Supermoto is a streetbike killer. And if Gabe (of all people) can do a wheelie and a stoppie, than this bike is a hooligan by default.
MV Agusta Brutale 910
"An icon of desire..."
Now there's a way to describe a motorcycle. Ducati still makes some expensive machinery, but they may have lost a little bit of their mystique by virtue of the fact that you can see them just about anywhere.
Thankfully there are still a few exotics that are still, well, exotic like Bimota and Benelli. MV Agusta is also a moniker that smacks of "hard to come by" and their Brutale 910 is most relative to this crowd of rabble-rousers.
As naked as a naked bike can be, the Brutale is a striking machine to behold as the inline-four dangles from its red tubular steel frame and the aggressively angled headlight matches perfectly with the fast lines. With a retail price tag of just under $14,500, the 910cc bike pumps out a claimed 136 hp and begs for your consideration as a hooligan. [MO test of the Brutale S is here.]
The larger brother of the iconic SV650, the SV1000S is a hooligan at heart. With heaps of torque from the word go, an extremely stable chassis and more than sufficient brakes, it's easy to see why this bike has been popular for so long.
Although little has changed about the 996cc water-cooled, 90 degree V-twin in the past few years, the SV1000S is still a worthy competitor. If nothing else, it has an awesome exhaust note and intake snort.
Truimph Speed Triple
If there is any other bike that both plays the part and looks the part better than Triumph's Speed Triple, MO doesn't know about it. Born in the Motherland of MotorBike Hooliganism (that's the UK to you wankers who don't know any better), the Speed Triple sports the classic trademark look of large, twin spotties that bug straight out and dismiss the notion that a bad-to-the-bone machine needs something so silly as wind protection.
With the time-tested three-cylinder inline configuration as the heart of the beast, this bike may well be the OG (original gangsta) of all mass-produced streetfighters. It's a bike that has been near and dear to Triumph's heart since 1994, and it should be around for a long time.
Suzuki Bandit 1200S (faired) /1200 (un-faired)
Gone but not forgotten. Some bikes are born a hooligan, others have hooliganism thrust upon them. A good example of bikes born as hooligans would be the Speed Triple or Tuono. And a good example of a bike that morphed into a streetfighter by virtue of its raw and simple nature would be the now-defunct Suzuki Bandit 1200. Commonly referred to as a "gentleman's express", El Bandito was a classic example of a manufacturer making the most of what was on hand to create an understated but much-appreciated parts-bin bike. Starting with the antiquated mill from the GSXR1100, Suzuki punched it out to 1,157cc, wrapped it in a tubular steel frame and took many of the remains of the short-lived RF900R to complete a great, cost-effective, all-around motorcycle.
"A favorite of streetfighter builders the world over, the Bandit is adored for its simplicity and rawness..."
The engine was often referred to as "bullet-proof" and the bike's parts-bin nature means that it is flexible in terms of replacement parts availability and it's open to a wide array of hop-ups.
The Bandit began life in 1996, saw cosmetic and various parts revisions in 2001 and finally ended its production run in 2005. Fortunately, you can still purchase a good, used Bandit for less than $2,500.
A favorite of streetfighter builders the world over, the Bandit is adored for its simplicity and rawness and has spawned countless Internet resources. By today's standards 110-115 horsepower and less than 80ft. lbs of torque in stock trim from a liter bike is almost pathetic (but would do well in this test). Nevertheless, the Suzuki Bandit will always be true hooligan.