Even after all these years the term ‘super naked’ still seems a little clunky and embarrassing – but the bikes are anything but.
The name, of course, comes from them 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’s more choice and more 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 is for you. If you want a decent all-rounder with hooligan, wheelie appeal and character in spades, Triumph’s latest Speed Triple more than delivers. And if you want an old school style sporty roadster, that’s both fun and affordable, super naked of the style of Suzuki’s latest GSX-S1000 or Kawasaki’s Z1000 should definitely 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…
Suzuki GSX-S1000, £10,099
For some reason Suzuki are often latecomers to popular classes of bike; the reinvented V-Strom 1000 in 2014? Being a recent 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 addition. 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, too. All it lacks are the very latest all-singing, all-dancing electronics, but at this price, few will be complaining.
Kawasaki Z1000, £10,299
Kawasaki may have been building super-nakeds longer than most of its Japanese rivals – the first, reborn ‘Zed thou’ dates back to 2004 – but in truth it’s long been ploughing very different furrow as well. That bike was derived not from the superbike ZX-10R but on the old ZX-9R and subsequent updates (in 2007, 2010 and finally, into current form in 2014) have all been more performance but value roadsters rather than naked superbikes. But that’s no bad thing. This latest, ‘manga’-style monster has 140bhp, an image all its own, ‘Big Piston’ forks and ‘petal’ discs and, more than anything, real world riding appeal. While on track it’d probably quickly be exposed as being heavy and hard work, on the road that translates into secure, engaging handling with enough flexible power to satisfy. It’s good value, too. In fact, the only thing counting against it (oddball looks aside) is the realization that Kawasaki also produce the half-faired, better equipped Z1000SX version which is a truly brilliant all-rounder. But is not a naked.
BMW S1000R, £11,190
One of the purest of all super nakeds (this is, very simply, a naked version of BMW’s S1000RR superbike), the S1000R delivers all of that performance promise and more. The reality, however, is more complicated. In R form, BMW’s powerhouse, 999cc, transverse four has been detuned from the RR’s 193bhp to a more flexible, less peaky 160bhp thanks to a host of different internals (the same engine, incidentally, is also used in the S10000XR). On the street, however, you certainly miss nothing. The base R has two electronic riding modes plus traction control and ABS. But the higher spec (and £1500 pricier) Sport version has extra modes, semi-active suspension and lots of extras. In this form (although the base bike’s no slouch), the S1000R is almost the definitive super naked – fast, slick, sophisticated, with a roomy-enough roadster riding position and great goodies, too.
Honda CB1000R, £11,229
Honda’s original super-naked, the 2008 CB1000R, on paper seems to have it all – a ‘Blade-based engine, decent chassis and stylish looks including a snazzy single-sided ‘Pro-Arm’ swing arm. In reality, however, although a reasonable seller, in typical Honda fashion it was a little soft and bland – which is exactly what most people don’t expect from a super naked. This all-new version this year, part of what Honda calls its ‘Neo Sports Café’ family, along with the similarly-styled CB125R and CB300R, redresses that balance – although it’s still not a full-on naked ‘Blade. The engine is an updated version of the old, and now with 143bhp a fat midrange and enough top end to satisfy; decent Showa suspension at each end (including ‘Big Piston’ forks at the front, combined with a bespoke steel spine frame deliver light, entertaining, road-orientated ride and handling; it’s got riding modes, LED lights and distinctive styling and it’s bolted together beautifully. All of that, at this price, makes the new CB a better proposition than ever…
Triumph Speed Triple RS, £13,250
Arguably the original and still definitive ‘super naked’, Triumph’s charismatic, classy and distinctive Speed Triple is, thanks to a major overhaul for 2018, better than ever. Although the base ingredients of curdly, evocative, 1050cc, three-cylinder engine, tubular chassis, single-sided swing arm and twin bug-eye headlights remain and are as recognizable as ever, with just 130bhp since its major makeover in 2011 it’d started to fall behind its rivals. Now available in base ‘S’ and high spec ‘RS’ forms both benefit from a hefty makeover but it’s the ‘RS’ that dazzles most. Now with a competitive, refined yet characterful 148bhp it also benefits from Triumph’s snazzy new TFT dash, electronic rider aids that are now a match for most rivals, a brilliant, real-world orientated ride cossetted by top notch, fully-adjustable Ohlins suspension and Brembo brakes and even, at this price, decent value. Sure, it’s arguably no true ‘super naked’ anymore as its not derived from a sportster. But we don’t give a fig. This is one of the best out there. Bar none.
KTM 1290 Super Duke R, £14,299
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 horse – 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, 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.
Yamaha MT10 SP, £14,299
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 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 unchanged 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, £11,499 base version instead…
Aprilia Tuono V4 1100 Factory, £15,999
Almost certainly Aprilia’s best bike. One of our bikes of the year in 2017, this latest 1100cc Tuono is basically a clever evolution of the original, pure, super naked Tuono V4R of 2011, as 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. One slight grumble? That fairing means, to pedants, it’s not a true super naked at all. Makes it all the better as a road bike, though.
Ducati Monster 12000R, £16,395
Another bike that, arguably, is no true super naked either, simply because it’s not a naked version of a sportsbike more a purpose-built roadster with sportsbike bits bolted on – but Ducati’s latest and best Monster 1200 is so good it’d be a travesty not to include it here. Introduced in 2016 (alongside a lower spec ‘S’) model, it uses an uprated, 160bhp version of the Testestretta V-twin (as also in the Multistrada and Diavel) – the ‘S’ version has 145bhp – along with Ohlins suspension, de rigeur TFT screen and state-of-the-art electronics. The result is a what looks like a retro roadster but with the manners, performance and spec of a true supernaked – you do pay for the privilege, though.
MV Agusta Brutale 800 RC, £19,990
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 legend’s MV Agusta rounding out our list of super nakeds, here. In truth, however, although the 800 RC is an astonishing machine, we’re also a little sad there’s now no longer a full-bore 1000 or even 920cc four-cylinder Brutale to choose from, the bigger versions no having been dropped from the Italian firm’s line up. ‘RC’ stands for Reparto Corse, meaning it’s the top spec, race-developed variant. Otherwise it’s a naked version of MV’s already brilliant, F3 800 sportster triple. It’s impressive, too, tuned to 150bhp, with class-leading electronics, no-expense spared suspension and brakes and bags of Italian style and three-cylinder charisma. On the downside, though impressive, it smacks of being a middleweight in terms of stature and that can be off-putting for a machine with this kind of price tag, whatever its performance.