With the arrival of an all-new Triumph Speed Triple 1200 there’s probably never been a better time to do a round up of the best ‘super nakeds’ available.
The name, of course, comes from this type of bike essentially being unfaired – or ‘naked’ `– superbikes. Inspired by ‘80s and ‘90s ‘streetfighters’, which were street or MX-barred and stripped back (often following a prang) ‘slabbie’ GSX-Rs or EXUPs, the first factory versions date back to Triumph’s second-generation Speed Triple of 1997. That bike, basically a de-frocked T595 Daytona with high bars and twin bug-eye lights, proved such a hit it spawned a whole generation of imitators, the likes of Aprilia’s first V-twin Tuono (based on the then RSV), Kawasaki’s reborn Z1000, Ducati’s Streetfighter (based on the 1098) and Honda’s CB1000R (Fireblade) among them.
Today, their continued popularity means there is more choice and variety than ever. And that popularity is easy to understand: if you want near-superbike performance and sophistication but something that’s more upright and comfortable than a track-focussed superbike, a supernaked such as Aprilia’s latest RSV4 Tuono may be for you. If you want a decent all-rounder with hooligan, wheelie appeal and character in spades, Triumph’s latest Speed Triple is certain to more than deliver. And if you want an old school style sporty roadster, that is both fun and affordable, a super naked of the style of Suzuki’s latest GSX-S1000 or Kawasaki’s Z1000 should be on your shortlist.
But which you should go for isn’t necessarily obvious, so, to help you choose, here’s our current 10 of the best, in ascending price order…
For some reason Suzuki are often latecomers to popular classes of bike; the reinvented V-Strom 1000 in 2014 being one example; the GSX-S super naked, first arriving only in 2015 an obvious second. And while it brings nothing new in either performance or technology, its tempting price, under-cutting all its Japanese rivals, makes it a welcome option. Based on the older, 2005 GSX-R1000K5, with its grunt, long-stroke motor it’s a great value all-rounder: with 148bhp, fully adjustable KYB forks, Brembo brakes and smooth looks it ticks a lot of boxes and being based on older mechanicals there should be few reliability issues. What’s more, if you want a bit more weather protection, there’s the half-faired, GSX-S1000F version (for £10,799), too. All it lacks are the very latest all-singing, all-dancing electronics, but at this price, few will be complaining.
BMW has fully-updated its S1000R super naked for 2021. The original, as launched in 2014, was very simply a naked version of BMW’s then S1000RR, but was done with such skill it was easily one of the best. That bike’s 999cc, transverse four was detuned from the RR’s 193bhp to a more flexible 160bhp for example while it also boasted sophisticated electronics, a roomy-enough roadster riding position and great goodies, too. This time round it’s based on the all-new 204bhp S1000RR as launched in 2019 and although, as we write, we’ve yet to test it, according to the specs it’s lighter and more sophisticated than ever and, as long as it’s an improvement on the old (and going by the RR we’re sure it will be) it promises to be an astonishing performer yet a bike that’s also comfortable and practical on real world roads, too.
Honda’s latest super-naked, the CB1000R as originally launched in 2008 before just being updated again, on paper seems to have it all: a Fireblade superbike-derived engine, decent chassis and stylish looks including a snazzy single-sided ‘Pro-Arm’ swing arm. That now Euro5-compliant engine is tuned for 143bhp with a fat midrange and enough top end to satisfy. There’s decent Showa suspension at each end (including ‘Big Piston’ forks at the front), a bespoke steel spine frame delivers light, entertaining, road-orientated ride and handling; it’s got riding modes, LED lights and distinctive ‘Neo Café’ styling and it’s bolted together beautifully. For 2021 it’s more aggressive than ever, has a new colour TFT dash with smartphone connectivity and even a USB charging socket under the seat.
Until the launch of its all-new, R1-based MT-10 in 2015, Yamaha’s previous super naked, the FZ1, had always been a little budget and basic. The oddly-styled but superbly capable MT-10 changed all that by being 158bhp fast yet also reasonably practical and affordable, while the higher spec SP version, with R1-developed Ohlins semi-active suspension, full colour TFT screen and revised switchgear to match, quick shifter and more, raised the bar further still – albeit at a significant price hike. The result is undoubtedly the most potent of the Japanese super-nakeds – the 160bhp crossplane motor is flexible, fast and distinctive; its chassis classy and able, in fact only its ‘Transformer-style’ looks are questionable. Best of all, though, even if the SP’s price is a little rich, you can always go for the more competitively-priced, £12,499 base version instead…
A new Triumph Speed Triple is big news so the all-new 2021 Speed Triple 1200 RS which, among other things, boasts a massive leap in power, is huge new for the super naked class. The biggest change is the engine. All-new, peak power is up a hefty 30bhp to a peak of 177.5bhp at 10,750 with a sizeable hike in torque to match. A brand new chassis, meanwhile, shaves a full 10kg off the weight of its 1050 predecessor, enough for Triumph to claim its newcomer to be the best-handling Speed Triple ever. While, with the RS being the top-of-the-range model (other, cheaper variants are expected to follow), cycle parts include Öhlins suspension, top of the range Brembo brakes and a host of electronic rider aids. As we write we’ve yet to ride it and to put Triumph’s claims to the test, but there’s every indication that this is not only the best Speed Triple so far but quite possible the best super naked currently available.
Austrian off-road, supermoto and general hooliganism specialists KTM don’t do things by halves, and this is proved nowhere more strongly and more distinctively than with its fire-breathing, range-topping super naked – the Super Duke R. First introduced in 2013 as a no-compromise successor to the old, comparatively simple 990 Super Duke, the newcomer was more in every way – so much so that KTM themselves dubbed in ‘The Beast’. More cubes brought more horses – at the time, a shocking 160 of them; all-new electronics, although originally lacking refinement, brought new sophistication to the class; and the chassis, complimented by fully-adjustable WP units front and rear, was as good as any. The result was an explosively potent new performance standard. Since then, although the clumsy electronics have been refined, power is up (to 177bhp) and its spec (in R form) improved. While the latest update, for 2020, made it more refined and rideable than ever. Rivals have caught up while the price is still a little daunting, but it’s still one of the most testosterone-fuelled bikes you can buy.
The bonkers Z H2 was introduced in 2020 as the latest, super naked member of Kawasaki’s supercharged H2 family which also includes the original, 2015 Ninja H2/R and 2018’s Ninja X2 SX sports-tourer. And, with a full 197bhp, it’s not only one of the most powerful super nakeds ever built, it’s also sophisticated, classy and surprisingly usable. The supercharged power delivery is thrilling and hilarious; it’s superbly equipped with everything from sophisticated electronics to top spec Brembo brakes; it’s surprisingly civilised when the mood takes you and in new SE trim (£18,349) it also comes with Kawasaki’s sophisticated semi-active suspension. Yes, it’s fairly heavy (although in some ways that makes the road supercharger experience more assured) but this is a classy, phenomenal super naked with performance you’ll not get anywhere else.
Almost certainly Aprilia’s best bike – and one that’s getting better still for 2021. The 1100cc Tuono is basically a clever evolution of the original, pure, super naked Tuono V4R of 2011, itself based on the Noale firm’s brilliant, WSB-winning RSV4 superbike. That evolution, though, is the key. Extra cubes deliver power (175bhp) and flexibility, class-leading electronics keep it all under control; chassis components are simply as good as you can get on the street and the all-round package is brilliantly proportioned and possibly supremely capable. For 2021 it’s getting a slight styling update with its fairing now more in line with Aprilia’s all-new Tuono 660. The riding position is said to be more comfortable thanks to a revised tank and seat and there’s a new swing arm. One slight grumble? That fairing means, to pedants, the Tuono’s not really a true super naked at all. Makes it all the better as a road bike, though.
With a whopping 208bhp, a phenomenal chassis, cutting edge electronics and some of the best cycle parts money can buy, Ducati’s super naked version of its Panigale V4 superbike, the Streetfighter V4 S, as introduced in 2020, is not only an astonishing super naked, it’s one of the most potent bikes of any type available on the market today. But for all the Streetfighter V4 S’s madness and potency, it also has a surprisingly capable and civilised side, as well, thanks to those slick electronics and multiple riding modes. As a result it can be friendly at low speed and calm and cultured when you want it to be, the Streetfighter V4 S has a genuine claim to be the most ballistic yet capable and versatile super naked of all, which, considering its price, is probably no less than any owner would expect.
For the company that redefined the super-naked, giving the breed unforeseen style, spec and attitude when it introduced the original 750 Brutale (as derived from the F4 750 superbike) in 2000, there’s some kind of poetic justice to Italian exotica legend’s MV Agusta rounding out our list of super nakeds, here. Its latest Brutale 1000RR was all-new in 2020 and in many respects has reclaimed the ‘top of the tree’ by being the ‘most’ super naked you can buy. At nearly 30 grand it’s the most expensive (although the initial, limited edition ‘Serie Oro’ was, at nearly £38,000) even more); with a claimed 208bhp it’s the most powerful; with a claimed 300kph+ top speed it’s also the fastest. In reality of course, and certainly on the road, it’s no better or faster than many of its super naked rivals, in fact, being less refined, more extreme and less comfortable, in many ways it’s worse. But that’s also missing the point: this is true, mouth-watering, Top Trumps style exotica that’s both ultra-exclusive and vulgarly excessive at the same time. And if that’s what you want from a super naked, that makes it the best.