Here at Visordown HQ we have no idea who Simon Daukes is. But we're guessing he's some sort of marketing cheese from the Haymarket days. Here he is, buying a motorcycle. Allegedly
Although sportsbikes continue to dominate the UK's bike sales market their success is starting to decline. Compared to last year sportsbike sales are down 4% year on year and there is a definite shift away from race reps to alternative styles. And which style of bike is currently going through the biggest revival? The naked bike.
According to official industry figures up until the end of September 2006 a total of 21,211 sportsbikes were sold, compared to 17,415 naked bikes. And these two figures are getting closer as the sportsbike market drops and the naked one climbs. So why are riders changing their preference?
One school of thought is that sportsbikes are simply getting too extreme. Riders are finding fewer and fewer places to unleash 160bhp and the potential penalties - ban, prison, losing the wife off the back at 140mph - are starting to out weigh the benefits. Then there is the problem with theft, insurance costs and all the various evils that go with owning a sportsbike.
But not all riders want to abandon the benefits that come with a sportsbike, namely a powerful engine, quality suspension and decent brakes. Which is where these naked bikes come in. These bikes offer the handling and performance of a sportsbike, just with out the extreme riding position and at the expense of some top end power and speed.Who the hell are you? Simon Daukes is your traditional sportsbike owner who has ridden (and had stolen) a variety of race replica bikes. He is looking at buying a new bike but having test rode the latest versions of both the R1 and Fireblade has found they simply don't offer what he now wants and, like many other owners, has decided to buy a naked bike. He is your average sportsbike owner, married, kids grown up and looking at using the bike to commute with, take out on a blast and also take the wife on the back for occasional trips. So with our very own Niall Mackenzie on hand to offer advice we let Simon loose on the best naked bikes around.
I have to confess to having a soft spot for Speed Triples. Simon hit the nail on the head when he said everything just feels right about them. That's the key to the modern Triumph range, they work fantastically well as road bikes. Hop on a Speed Triple and the suspension, brakes and engine all complement each other, rather than fighting an all-out war as they do on the Tuono. Niall reckoned the suspension was a bit soft but that will only show up if you're really getting it on. For day to day use I reckon it's just about spot-on.
But the best thing about the bike is without doubt the engine: it's a beauty. The three-cylinder motor is always willing to pull no matter which gear you're in, the fuel injection is spot-on with none of the glitches we've come to expect on modern bikes and the muted popping on the overrun is wonderful. It's also one of the best wheelie bikes out there, if that's your thing.
But the Triple does have some faults. The gearbox is clunky and not a patch on anything from Japan, while the pillion seat is suicidal. But these are easily forgotten (unless you're a pillion of course... ). This is Triumph's best-selling bike with a huge cult following, and that says a lot. As for the colour options, well, I love the new white colour and I'm starting to sway towards the roulette green too. Not sure what this says about me though...
Riding KTM's Super Duke is like sleeping with a girl who already has a boyfriend. You know it could end in a world of pain and suffering, but the thrill of getting away with it keeps you coming back for more.
Trouble is, there's simply no way of riding the KTM sensibly - it just isn't that kind of bike, which is a bit of a problem. Both Niall and Simon thought it would land them introuble, although interestingly for for different reasons. I agree with them. The problem (and, it must be said, the sweet, sweet joy) with the KTM is that it's packed full of fun and naughtiness, and this stems from having a superb chassis and brilliant engine. KTM's first real attempt at a big bike engine - and it's easy to forget they had only been knocking out single-cylinder lumps until this motor appeared - is a superb motor. The V-twin is really smooth through the whole rev range and delivers massive, thumping amounts of torque, which easily propel the front into the air in the first two gears.
Last time I rode a Super Duke the fuel injection was all over the place, but it seems like KTM have nailed this bugbear down. This bike, which is a 2006 model, suffered no such problems. But because that motor is so smooth speed builds up really quickly - at least it does up to around the 80mph mark, which is a problem in town and 50mph limits!
Out of town the KTM is an absolute hoot to ride. It has a chassis that feels like it has loads more to offer, rarely, if ever, getting out of shape on country roads and, as Niall said, it would make a great track day bike.
I really could see myself owning a Super Duke. I love the insect looks, fantastic engine and blinding brakes. But I'm not sure I have the required self-control not to get into some serious trouble.
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