There are a million ways to skin a cat, as they say, and the field that is the 900cc-ish middleweight naked bike segment is a perfect example. Just take these two cats. After we put the KTM 890 Duke R and Triumph Street Triple R head-to-head, Burns gave us flack for not throwing the Kawasaki Z900 in the mix. I still don’t think it quite has enough to top its Austrian or British counterparts, but it’s peppy enough and should be thrown up against something – if for nothing else than to shut John up.
One nice thing about the motorcycle market’s troubles is a resurgence of the kind of fun little cheap bikes the codgers are always pining for. Case in point: the MT-03, the naked version of Yamaha’s sweet little YZF-R3, and the newest member of its “Masters of Torque” naked-bike family – here to take the fight to the KTM Duke 390, Kawasaki Z400, BMW G310R…
By all accounts, the KTM 790 Duke is a great little motorcycle. Light, nimble, and with a healthy amount of middleweight power, when MO was given a 790 Duke to test, it was so much fun our own Evans Brasfield bought the damn press bike. He then proceeded to turn the bike into his version of what a 790 Duke R should be (you can read about his exploits elsewhere on this site). Little did he know KTM was doing the same halfway across the globe in Austria.
Honda revealed a new concept model based inspired by the CB900F. The Honda CB-F Concept is based on the Neo Sports Café-styled CB1000R, but with a decidedly more retro vibe. The CB-F Concept was originally intended to be a part of Honda’s display at the Osaka and Tokyo Motorcycle Shows, but due to COVID-19, was instead revealed in an online “Virtual Show” along with other models like the new CT125 Hunter Cub.
When one thinks about Las Vegas, thoughts naturally tend towards gambling, bright lights, overpriced restaurants (or buffet food), and desert heat – not standing beside the road course at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with the temperature on the wrong side of 40° while a 200-hp beast idles its way to operating temperature. This is the type of scenario where having track rubber with tire warmers would be significantly less desirable than the Pirelli Diablo Rosso III street tires the 2020 Kawasaki Z H2 I was about to mount was sporting. The first lap would suck the heat out of those toasty warm sticky track compounds rendering them useless. Street tires, however, have a much broader operational temperature envelope.
Generally speaking, finding bikes to pair up for comparison is a bit more direct; throwing the R6 against the CBR600, or building out our adventure bike shootout is mostly a no-brainer, but sometimes bikes that roll through for testing end up revealing unexpectedly similar personalities. Late this past year, I faced exactly that. Both the Honda CB650R and Husqvarna Svartpilen 701 found their way into my driveway from their respective manufacturers at the same time (due to poor scheduling and limited availability of the Svart, more than anything), and I instantly found myself playing a game of spot the similarities.
I’ve been reviewing BMW’s flat-Twin boxer powered bikes since I started testing motorcycles in the late ’80s and have burbled around on historic versions too, dating back to a beater ’64 R60/S my now ex-husband gave me to ride (quite possibly because it was less traceable then cyanide). Through it all, the boxer, with its punch-punch rhythm and unique seesaw jig always felt like an old friend, no matter the sprinkling of magic German engineering dust, or the ambition of the motorcycle BMW built around it.
What happens when you take the already potent KTM 790 Duke, bump its displacement to 890cc, add in fully-adjustable suspension components, and add top-notch brakes? You get the KTM 890Duke R! First the bad news, though: The KTM 890 Duke R will not come to the United States until the fall of 2020 as a 2021 model. Deal with it. Now, onto the cool stuff.
Today, surprising no one, Ducati unveiled the Streetfighter V4 and Streetfighter V4 S naked hyperbikes. Still, it’s good to finally get a gander at the latest winged V4 beast that will be gracing showrooms in model year 2020. We’ve known the general scope of the Streetfighter for a while – a Panigale V4 shorn of bodywork – but now that we get an official look at it, it seems like much more.
After a series of teaser videos, Kawasaki has delivered its new supercharged 2020 Z H2, calling it the arrival of a new generation of Z models. Priced at $17,000, the 2020 Kawasaki Z H2 is the least expensive of all the supercharged H2 models, by a significant margin, though it is also a hefty premium over the rest of the naturally aspirated Z models.
How about giving incremental updates a little love? So many riders seem to immediately dismiss mid-cycle revisions of motorcycles as being BNG (bold, new graphics) or, as with one comment this week, BNH (bold, new headlights). In the case of the 2020 Triumph Street Triple 765 RS, the comment completely misses the point. Sure it would be great if every model year was a complete makeover year after year, but there’s something to be said for incremental refinement. Model year 2020 is one of those fine-tuning times, and Triumph has delivered a Street Triple that is better in two very practical ways. Additionally, there have been some appearance changes that are bound to appeal to many riders. And all this comes at no increase in cost to the buyer. Sounds like pretty good news to me.