The moto market is spoiled for lustful choices in the high-end arena, but creating a desirable motorcycle at a budget price is a more challenging achievement. The KTM 390 Duke has been entertaining us with its unequaled balance of style, performance and value since we first took the terrific little funster for a spin in 2015, and it rightfully earned its place as Best Entry-Level Motorcycle in our annual MOBO awards. For 2017, the little Duke gets even more desirable by offering greater comfort, higher technology and a bit more power.
For all those traditionalists/purists who bemoan modern motorcycle electronics (TC, ride modes, electronic suspension, etc.), Kawasaki has a bike for you. The 2017 Kawasaki Z900 in this review is lighter and more agile than either the Z800 or Z1000, is more powerful than the Z800, costs way less than the Z1000, and is devoid of electronics save its gear-position indicator.
The fact that most of MO’s editors are quite fond of Yamaha’s FZ-09 is fairly common knowledge. Our readers liked the FZ-09 enough to vote it Reader’s Choice Best Value Bike Of 2015. So, why is it that, up until now, the primary emotion I felt after riding the FZ-09 was disappointment? Frankly, I felt it never lived up to its potential. Two of its strongest attributes – the versatile engine and the responsive chassis – were hamstrung by a slight deficiency in Yamaha’s typically good R&D finish. Well, that was then.
The last time Triumph conducted a major revamp of its Street Triple family was 2013. At that press launch Triumph didn’t feel it necessary to include any track time because even the uptown R model remained predominantly a street bike. Four years on and Triumph has reshuffled the Street Triple deck and expanded the portfolio to three models (S, R, RS), each with a specific focus including the new performance leader RS model we just finished testing in Spain. While still largely a street bike, the RS features enough go-fast performance Triumph felt compelled to showcase the bike’s wherewithal around one of the most famous Spanish racetracks, Catalunya.
So far, we’ve had a hit-or-miss relationship when it comes to Chinese-built motorcycles. We were pleasantly surprised by the mini Ducati Monst…errr… SSR Razkull 125 when we rode it alone and amongst its peers in our 125cc Ankle Biters Shootout. The little playbike seemed to be put together moderately well and delivered impressive performance in the class, all for less than two-grand. For a price that low, we excused much of its shortcomings, especially compared to the almighty, but costly at $3,200, Honda Grom.
For anyone who held out purchasing a Triumph Street Triple on a hunch the current model was being replaced by a newer, faster, better, more powerful version, you were right to do so. Today Triumph launched three new versions of the popular mid-displacement Triple, and by the looks of it, the new model appears poised to dominate a niche occupied by only the MV Agusta Brutale 800 and Yamaha FZ-09.
Each new naked demands of us another shootout. The catalyst this time around is Yamaha’s R1-powered FZ-10. Introduced in July as a 2017 model, the new FZ-10 stands as the only liter-size Japanese streetfighter offering enough performance and attitude to bring the fight to the currently dominant nakeds. Add to that a rare appearance by an EBR 1190SX, and two stalwarts of the class, Aprilia Tuono V4 1100RR and Triumph Speed Triple R, and we’ve the ingredients for a spicy streetfighter omelette.
Triumph has released a video teasing what looks to be a new Street Triple. The video, titled “The Street Will Never Be The Same Again,” offers a few tantalizing glimpses of the new bike along with this description: “Once in a generation, a motorcycle comes along that changes everything, that sets a new benchmark in power, weight, handling, looks and completely tears up the rule book.”
Triumph’s updated Speed Triple, specifically the “S” base model, already impressed us tremendously once this year, when it finished second to the all-conquering Aprilia Tuono Factory in our little six-bike comparo jaunt up the coast of California in August. You could argue the Triumph won that one, really, since the Tuono’s $17K price tag has it really in a different category than the $13,200 Triumph (though the Speed Triple also came out on top of the $16,395 Ducati Monster 1200 S).
Ducati’s Monster is the O.G. of naked sportbikes, first bursting on the moto scene back in 1993 with an air-cooled 904cc V-Twin engine. The liquid-cooled 1200 Monster debuted in 2014, and already it has received several worthy updates to make it more appealing to riders looking for svelter Italian style mixed in with extra power and state-of-the-art technology.
The principality of Monaco is an imbecilic location for a motorcycle ride. After all, the independent microstate on the French Riviera isn’t even twice as big as the Dodger Stadium grounds, and its teeny little streets are crammed almost solid with a cornucopia of vehicles from two-stroke scooters to the apparently riotously amusing Renault Twizys to exotic McLarens to horrifyingly huge Rollers.
Here’s a number to consider: 382. Kawasaki says that’s the percentage the naked motorcycle market has increased since 2011. For comparison, the sportbike market has stayed relatively stagnant during the same time period. With that kind of popularity in a particular segment, it’s no wonder motorcycle manufacturers like Kawasaki are trying to grab a piece of that pie.
Hmmm… the Benelli 300’s VIN plate says Made in China, but if it said Italy you could just as easily believe it: Check the nice welds on that red trellis frame, respect the braided steel lines leading to the dual front discs which are clamped by calipers that look like Brembos. Behold an instrument panel and switchgear that wouldn’t look at all out of place on any Japanese motorcycle. The stylish pointy footpegs look like something from an MV Agusta, and both shift and brake lever tips are eccentric-mounted adjustable. Eyeballing it, this is the nicest Chinese bike we’ve seen – by a long shot. Heck, it even has a cute little switchblade-style ignition key.
EICMA and Intermot have come and gone and the question on most American consumers’ minds is which of the wonderful new models will be making their way to the U.S.? Today, Kawasaki answered their part of the question, confirming the ZX-10RR, Ninja 1000, Ninja 650, Z900, Z650 and the Versys-X 300 for the U.S. market.
On the surface, the 2017 Honda CBR650F and its naked sibling the CB650F don’t look much different than their 2016 versions apart from their new graphic schemes. The overall visual design, including their oh-s0-sexy cascading header pipes are back, and the underslung silencer has only a slightly different shape. Underneath the familiar skin, however, are a few updates that further refine Honda’s two 650 models.