When we were introduced to the 2015 Honda CBR300R at its recent press introduction at Honda’s headquarters in Southern California, Honda reps teased us by displaying the 300R’s naked sibling, the CB300F, alongside it. We weren’t able to ride it, but there it sat, ready for the assembled press to sit, ogle and stare. Thankfully, Honda didn’t keep us waiting for long, as only weeks after I rode the fully faired 300R, we were given a 300F to throw around.
The heavyweight Streetfighter category of motorcycles has exploded in popularity lately, with seemingly every manufacturer jumping on the bandwagon for a piece of the pie. Japan’s represented with the Kawasaki Z1000, Honda CB1000R, and even Suzuki is entering the ring in 2015 with the GSX-S1000. Italy’s three representatives include the MV Agusta Brutale 1090RR, Ducati Monster 1200 and Aprilia Tuono V4R. Germany, of course, gives us the BMW S1000R, and we can’t forget BMW’s Austrian neighbors and their contribution to the party: the all-conquering KTM 1290 Super Duke R, Motorcycle.com’s 2014 Motorcycle of the Year.
Since the launch of Ducati’s Monster 1200 S ($15,995) earlier this year, we’ve extensively tested the bike on both the track and the street. What we found is that while the 1200 S is not the best choice for a naked track-day weapon, it is a consummate roadster when set between the yellow and white lines. Now comes the Monster 821 with an MSRP of $11,495. Is the smaller-displacement Ducati Monster a better choice than the base-model Monster 1200 at $13,495?
In the track version of our Super Streetfighter Smackdown, the KTM 1290 Super Duke R won over the BMW S1000R by the narrowest of margins. Which is all well and good for the small percentage of riders who’ll actually take these bikes to the track. For the greater population, riding these motorcycles on the mean streets of America, the streetable personas of these two and the Ducati Monster 1200S and Kawasaki Z1000 ABS are far more important.
What we have in these five bikes: BMW S1000R, Ducati Monster 1200S, Kawasaki Z1000 ABS, KTM Super Duke R, MV Agusta Brutale 1090RR, is an assemblage of pretenders to the throne. What throne? The literbike streetfighter throne upon which Aprilia’s Tuono V4R APRC ABS has comfortably resided since its introduction in 2012. Truth is, two of these five have a real chance of dethroning the reigning champ on-track, so once we’ve identified the most worthy contenders in this shootout, first and second place will get a chance to meet the Tuono on the field of battle.
It’s gonna be a good year for moto-nudity. A damn good year. We already tasted the KTM Super Duke R and are still savoring its flavor while salivating like a bloodhound hot on the trail of riding BMW’s fairingless S1000R. But before we sink our teeth into the naked Bavarian, there’s the matter of Kawi’s newest unclothed hooligan, the 2014 Z1000 ABS.
A shootout comprised of four motorcycles of inline three-cylinder arrangement displacing four dissimilar engine capacities from three manufacturers? An unthinkable prospect when Triumph brought the venerable Speed Triple stateside in 1995. Yet here we are today embroiled in this exact scenario, nearly crapping our britches in childlike excitement at the wonderful diversity of three-cylinder motorcycle models from which to choose.
Turn off the switchable ABS and Motorcycle Traction Control (MTC) and KTM’s new 1290 Super Duke R slips, slides, wheelies and stoppies just like in the promotional video released a few months ago (certain skillset required). Leave these two rider aids on, however, and the “Beast” (as KTM affectionately refers to it) is as genteel as a 1301cc V-Twin boasting 180 horsepower and 106 ft-lbs of torque can possibly be.
One of the most powerful “race-fighters” has now become a little bit more streetfighter. Without losing any of its racing pedigree, the 2014 Aprilia Tuono V4R ABS is now more civilized for road usage with the addition of ABS. But don’t mistake the new Tuono for being a softy — the 999cc V4 still features some serious thunder, even getting a 3 hp increase, raising max power to 170 horses. More on that later.