You know what they say: It’s more fun to ride a slow motorcycle fast than a fast motorcycle slow. Yet another example of conventional wisdom baloney. It’s actually more fun to ride a fast bike fast, or even a medium-fast one. I’m pretty sure that’s why they keep building faster motorcycles all the time. Heck, you could argue faster bikes are also safer, because power can get you out of trouble just as easily as it can get you into it (once you’ve learned to ride, that is). And power can launch you out of corners, instead of incentivizing you to cling to every mph when you’re diving into them the way slow bikes do when ridden in packs of MOrons. Have you seen a Moto3 race? They’re faster mid-corner than the Moto2 or MotoGP bikes.
Coming directly off of a six-bike shootout the previous day of paltry 900cc nekids, I knew I needed to focus on rewiring my brain to handle the beast that is the Aprilia Tuono V4. I’ve been a fan (and owner) of the Aprilia Tuono V4 platform for some time now – and I’m not the only one around here. From earning the editors’ top spot in our 2017 Supernaked Streetfighter Shootout!, to bringing home the people’s choice award in our Writer’s Choice: MO’s WSBK Sport-Touring Showdown in 2019, the Tuono’s list of accolades run deep through the years both at MO and other publications worldwide – and it just keeps getting better. With an ever more hard-edged category though, the Tuono hasn’t won them all.
We last performed this public service in 2017, when your Yamaha FZ-07 prevailed over the Kawasaki Z650, Suzuki SV650, the new Harley-Davidson Street Rod, and the new and indeterminate Benelli TnT 600, in that order. The FZ-07 has since morphed into the MT-07 amidst a host of well thought-out upgrades in 2018, and then again for 2021. The Z650 got a modern instrument pod in 2020 with a few other tasteful refinements, and the SV650 hasn’t changed a bit (God bless it). The Benelli is still around but didn’t get the call this time, and the H-D Street Rod has been withdrawn from the market under a hail of ridicule. Sad.
Barreling down the back straight at triple digit speeds on the 2022 Triumph Speed Triple 1200 RS feels surprisingly comfortable. It could be the reminiscent nostalgic comfort in having owned two of this machine’s predecessors – one of which, the Speed Triple 955i, was my first street bike. Or perhaps it’s the fact the Speed Triple has always been an upright street bike first with its performance refined and enhanced over the decades (nearly three, at this point). Or maybe still, it’s the high-level componentry working in harmony with the 2022 Triumph Speed Triple 1200 RS keeping the chassis composed as I’m hard on the brakes, trailing off as I dip into the second gear left-hander.
Ok, I’m old, so what? When I was young, the first Monster M900 (1994) spoke to me. A basic, naked, standard Ducati that was perfect for rumbling round the urban maze back when we all had a downtown office to go to… a svelte Italian Sportster that bounced its mating call off the concrete canyons all the way to 9000 rpm. It really was a radical departure since, before then, Ducati had only built fully-faired assume-the-position sportbikes, and not many of them. They were great on the Futa Pass and Angeles Crest but not so much anywhere else. Later, when we grew power-hungry in the ’oughts, there came the 996-powered S4R, then the Monster 1200s…
The OG naked/ hooligan/streetfighter has received a ground up redesign for the 2021 model year. Triumph tells us it has left no stone unturned with every single component new from tip to top. From the chassis to the new 1160 cc Triple, the latest Speed Triple RS is said to be the, “Fastest accelerating, most powerful, highest torque Speed Triple ever with a hair-raising new sound.”
Perhaps it’s time to change the category’s name since both bikes mentioned here surely classify as hyper-nakeds. With both of these bikes, you get big, burly engines mounted to aggressively styled chassis. For riders who believe that too much of everything is just enough, 2020 is the year for you in naked motorcycles. To our eyes, the Kawasaki Z H2 embodies the best of this category and achieves it through a unique powerplant, making it worthy of the Best Naked Motorcycle MOBO. When we have one in the MO Garage Complex, the boys are always fighting over it. Here’s why:
Last week, I decided the supercharged Kawasaki Ninja H2 Carbon is my favorite motorcycle of all time. This week, that could change with the introduction of Kawasaki’s new sit-up straight naked Special Edition Z H2. If this new Z SE doesn’t have quite the top end horsepower of the full-monte H2 (206 rear-wheel hp on the dyno), it still has plenty, and it also has many other tidbits going for it that might very well make up the difference, including the aforementioned upright naked-bike ergonomics. “A relaxed riding position has been created by a combination of an upright handlebar shape and a seat with an optimized base plate and cushion thickness,” says Kawasaki. “This design provides a high degree of freedom for riding posture and low vibration, allowing for a pleasant and comfortable ride.”
Yamaha announced a new SP version of the updated 2021 MT-09 revealed two weeks ago, featuring higher-end suspension and cruise control plus a black and blue color scheme. Joining the MT-09 SP are the MT-10 and MT-03 which return for 2021 with new color options.
Honda has updated the CB1000R for 2021, giving its “Neo Sports Café” flagship a slightly new look, a color TFT display and Euro 5 compliance, as well as a Black Edition variant. As of this writing, the new 2021 Honda CB1000R has only been announced for Europe, but we expect a U.S. announcement to come soon.
Yamaha revealed an updated MT-07 that… well, let’s just say that if you aren’t a fan of the 2021 MT-09‘s new look, you likely won’t be a fan of this either. Chances are you won’t be a fan of the MT-10‘s next update either if it follows Yamaha’s smaller “Master of Torque” naked MT models.
Ducati announced small updates to its Streetfighter V4 models, making it Euro 5 compliant, and added a new “Dark Stealth” matt black color option for the V4 S. All told, the changes for the 2021 model are pretty subtle, which makes sense for a model introduced just a year ago.
Triumph is bringing back another name from the brand’s past, announcing a new Trident for 2021. The new Triumph Trident will slot in as an entry-level model below the Street Triple and Speed Triple, with a contemporary take on classic roadster styling. Triumph revealed a prototype offering a hint of the Trident’s design, promising the arrival of the finished product at dealers next spring.