There was a time when the most popular first big bikes were sporty, fully faired, 600cc supersports with naked, roadsters versions being virtually non-existent. Not anymore. Today, one of the most active and competitive motorcycle classes of all is for the middleweight naked. With machines ranging from Honda’s brand new and hugely affordable CB750 Hornet right up to Triumph’s latest Street Triple 765 there’s a middleweight naked for everyone. What’s more, with a host of new machinery recently released from the likes of not just Honda but also Suzuki and KTM there’s now more to choose from than ever, as well.
But that plethora of options also makes your buying decisions more difficult than ever, too, with V-twins, parallel twins, triples and fours available from under seven grand to nearly 10. And even with us leaving out smaller A2 machines and now putting on an upper capacity limit of 900cc (so this time leaving out Ducati’s 937cc Monster) there’s still a baffling variety of options and abilities out there. So, to help you choose, here’s our pick of the current best, in ascending price order…
The long-lived and hugely popular Suzuki SV is the bike that kick-started the middleweight naked class when first launched way back in 1999. A simple but sweet-handling roadster (a half-faired S version was originally available as well) it was powered by a perky and flexible 69bhp 645cc V-twin. The result was an honest, affordable yet rewarding bike that was great for novices. Numerous reincarnations since led to a reintroduced SV in 2016, which was also updated to be Euro5 compliant for 2021. The basic layout and appeal remain but despite updated looks and revised 72bhp motor, it now seems a little dated – it's still great value, though.
One of the undoubted stars of 2023. Honda’s all-new Hornet is now an Italian designed and built, affordable parallel-twin rival to the best-selling MT-07 and it’s managed to beat the Yamaha in virtually every respect. It’s 755cc motor is more powerful while still having plenty of characterful grunt AND benefitting from switchable rider modes. Its chassis is slightly more substantial and more suited to a larger range of rider sizes while still being a nimble, fine handler. It’s got higher spec cycle parts in the form of inverted forks and radial brakes and, most impressively of all, it’s cheaper than the latest version of the MT-07, too. If you want a further cherry on top of all that, the Hornet’s a Honda with all the reliability reassurance and quality dealer network that brings.
Like the SV, the Kawasaki Z650 has a long and popular lineage. Born as the ER-6n in 2005, clever design with an eye on costs produced an easy-to-ride yet invigorating middleweight that was a close rival for the Suzuki. A reinvention in 2017 saw a switch to the historic Zed name and trellis frame inspired by that of the supercharged H2 hyperbike. While another update for Euro5 in 2020 saw anther appealing styling tweak and the addition of a new, colour TFT dash. The result is more modern than the SV, is one of the most stylish, and best finished of budget middleweights, its ‘cuter’ dimensions suit smaller or more novice riders, yet it also has enough big bike feel and thrill – but it’s not quite as lively or tempting as either the MT-07 or Hornet.
Motorcycling got a shot in the arm when Yamaha began introducing its modular, budget-priced MT range from 2013 and its mid-range, 689cc, twin cylinder version (there’s also the original 847cc MT-09 triple plus a single) has proved a deserved Europe-wide hit for its lively performance yet unintimidating manners. After getting suspension tweaks and a cosmetic refresh in 2017 it was updated again in 2021 prompted by Euro5 which knocked power down a touch (not that you’d notice, the MT is still the ‘bounciest’ bike in the class) while it’s also been restyled to include new LED lights and bigger brakes. It has now received a further update for 2023 with a new 5inch TFT dash with smartphone connectivity. It’s still one of the very best bikes in the class, but the new Honda Hornet has stolen its thunder, is cheaper and the Yamaha’s starting to show its age.
The only transverse (or across-the-frame) four-cylinder machine here. Honda’s CB is overlooked more than most in this category but is stylish, meaty and impressive value. Originally launched as the CB650F in 2014, with 86bhp it was a little softer and novice-friendly than the riotous Hornet it succeeded but was still handsome, competent and, for bigger riders, more substantial than rival 650 twins. Updated in 2017 it got a touch more Hornet spirit by way of four extra bhp and more youthful look and was refreshed again for 2020 becoming the CB650R, with tweaks for Euro5 and stripped down ‘Neo Café’ styling to match the CB1000R, CB300R and CB125R. It may lack any particularly compelling features but the 95bhp CB is perfectly able, refined, versatile, has a touch of Honda class and, for a four, is good value.
All-new in 2021, temptingly different in being an affordable three-cylinder, Triumph’s entry-level triple is aimed squarely at budget-priced, entry-level middleweight twin cylinder roadsters such as Yamaha’s best-selling MT-07 and the new Honda Hornet yet does it in typical Triumph style. Its all-new 660cc triple produces a competitive, characterful 80bhp, it’s a brilliant handler, is, like the MT-07, easy to ride but also engaging and exciting when you want it to be. But best of all the new Trident is also temptingly affordable yet somehow manages to be just that without it being obvious that any corners have been cut (although, on closer inspection, you’ll notice that the suspension is mostly unadjustable, and the brakes are basic two-piston Nissins). Overall, the Trident is one of the most exciting and mouth-watering additions to the class in many years – plus, if you wanted a faired/sports-tourer version, Triumph also offers that with the Tiger Sport 660.
Like Honda’s new CB750 Hornet, the GSX-8S is also all-new for 2023 (in fact it’s Suzuki’s first all new bike in years) and has also been conceived as a rival for Yamaha’s huge-selling MT-07. As such, it too is a parallel twin (so doesn’t actually replace the SV650 as originally feared, both continue, for now, in Suzuki’s range). It’s a similarly decent performer, too, even if, on paper, it’s neither as powerful nor as cheap as the Honda. That’s compensated for, to a degree, by a standard quickshifter, it’s slightly more substantial, longer and larger, which may suit taller, more mature riders and its motor is a gem, with stacks of midrange.
No, that’s not a misprint, this is the 790 Duke, not the supposedly succeeding 890 version. A quick recap: Austrian firm KTM originally launched its punchy, lightweight, 95bhp 790 Duke in 2018 then succeeded it with the larger, more potent 890 version in 2021, which was also offered in higher spec R trim. Now, for 2023, the 790 is back and, thanks to being built by Chinese partner CF Moto, is cheaper than ever while the 890 continues, but only in higher spec GP and R guises. That said, and especially compared to some of the older, more budget bikes in this category, the 790 Duke is no poor relation. There’s a punchy, competitive 94bhp, ultra-nimble handling, quality suspension and brakes, a TFT dash and more, all for under £8000! And, if you want more, there’s still the 115bhp, more sophisticated 890 Duke GP at £10,699 and a Duke R at £11,599.
New in 2020, the F 900 R is BMW’s enlarged, face-lifted and updated replacement for the old F 800 R. As such it’s part of the German firm’s middleweight twin family, alongside the F 850 GS adventure and F 900 XR adventure sport. And while the R roadster may be the less celebrated and dynamic of that trio, with a useful 103bhp, neutral, easy handling, enviable badge and long list of optional equipment, it has a classy, if slightly conservative, style many others in this class can’t match. The 900 R may lack the versatility of the faired XR, the punchy performance of Yamaha’s MT (especially the 900cc version) or the bargain basement price of the Suzuki SV, but it’s a classy, all-round buy.
The British naked triple has been the middleweight roadster class leader ever since its introduction in 2007 as a naked variant of the then Daytona 675 supersports, due to its combination of lusty but flexible and accessible performance, three-cylinder character and British style. The family grew to 765cc in 2017 with base S, R and high spec RS versions then, in 2020, the S became an A2-class, 660cc offering leaving the R the most accessible with 116bhp and class-leading handling via the likes of Brembo radial brakes, multi-adjustable Showa suspension and more. Not the cheapest – if you want a more accessible middleweight Triumph triple roadster, check out the Trident – but certainly one of the best plus it’s better than ever for 2023 with more power, new looks, refined electronics, sharper handling and a smaller fuel tank. Plus, if you want even more, there’s the new high-spec RS version, with 128bhp, uprated chassis and electronics and a price of £11,295.
Fancy a used option? Here’s our five of the best:
2017-2021 Suzuki GSX-S750, £5,500-£7,500
Affordable four-cylinder naked based around old GSX-R750K5 engine
2017-2021 Ducati Monster 797, £6,000-£6,500
Last of the air-cooled, pre-937 Monsters is a great inro to Italian nakeds
2012-2020 Aprilia Shiver 750, £4,500-7,000
Italian Monster rival lacked Ducati charisma but was modern and effective
2010-2014 Yamaha FZ8, £4,000-£7,000
Last of FZ fours was underrated and expensive but is a decent GSX-S750 rival
2013-2018 Kawasaki Z800, £5,000-£6,500
111bhp four was superseded by larger Z900 but is more than worth a look
We understand that you can only ride one bike at a time, regardless of how many motorcycles you have in your garage. It’s not uncommon for motorcyclists to own more than one bike. A practical machine for commuting, something sporty for weekend thrills and an adventure bike and a nostalgic classic or two as well.
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