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Top 10 BEST Roadsters and Naked Motorcycles [600-999cc]

Mid-range doesn't have to mean mid-standard with a raft of stellar naked and roadster motorcycles between 600-999cc - this is our pick of the bunch

Yamaha MT-09

Have you noticed how, all of a sudden, there’s now more brilliant ‘roadsters’ or ‘nakeds’ available than probably since the 1970s (when all bikes were like that and they were just, well, ‘bikes)? 

V-twins, parallel twins, triples fours and more and from not just the Big 4 Japanese manufacturers but from Triumph, Ducati and KTM – and that’s just in the ‘middleweight’, 600-999cc category! 

The reason why, of course, is simple: the classic (not ‘retro’, mind) roadster is by definition both affordable and easy and comfortable to get on with. But they can also be a great introduction to bigger bikes, have more than enough road performance for most and even acquit themselves well on the track.

But which are the best? What do they cost and what do you get for your money? Here’s our pick of the 10 current best…

10. Suzuki SV650 [from £6599]

An oldie but oh what a goodie. Suzuki’s V-twin may be more than ageing (the original was introduced in 1999) but sneaks into our top 10 for two simple reasons: it’s still a good, well proven motorcycle and, even more importantly, it costs mere buttons to get your hands on. 

Sure, there’s little slick sophistication here. There are no electronics, no significant suspension adjustment and it’s all, well, a little ‘basic’. But for a first big bike when any buyer is likely operating on a tight budget that matters little. 

What does is that this latest, third generation (fourth if you include the Gladius) version as (re)introduced in 2016 is good looking, is in no way intimidating, has proven reliability and is a doddle to ride with light, slim proportions and an easy, upright riding position.

Best of all, its 645cc, free-revving yet flexible V-twin remains an absolute gem, while Suzuki are forever offering the SV650 with tempting deals.

9. Kawasaki Z650 [from £6849]

Kawasaki may have been tying themselves in knots with their model designations recently (Zed this, Ninja that, ERs no more) but peer into the lexicon soup and under the equally baffling ‘Sugomi’ styling and there’s some damn fine bikes. 

The latest Z650 is a good example. Basically it’s the fifth generation version of Kawasaki’s rival to Suzuki’s SV650. 

Originally dubbed the ER-6n, it stood out for its willing, 70bhp parallel twin (until recently still the basis of most Supertwin racers), went through two further ER versions before being updated and rebranded as the Z650 in 2017 (all Kawa roadsters are now ‘Zeds’, their faired, sporty bikes ‘Ninjas’) then updated again for Euro5 last year. 

The result may be a tad confusing but it also conveys the amount of development and refinement the little Kawasaki twin has benefitted from. The result is classy and well-finished with a TFT dash (rare for this price), has a willing 67bhp and decent handling chassis and is a first big bike any buyer would be proud of. 

It might not quite have the ‘chutzpah’ and fun factory of the sprightly and nimble MT-07 and is also a little bit dinkier (so better for shorter riders), but it’s a class roadster more than deserving of its place here. 

8. Honda CB650R [from £7399]

We’ve always had a soft spot for Honda’s four-cylinder CB650. Although in many ways a latter-day Hornet and still determinedly ‘budget’ this modern incarnation is somehow more gentlemanly and classy and its constant evolution since its reintroduction in 2014 has resulted in not just the most affordable four-cylinder of all but also one of the best middleweight roadsters. 

That first 2014 bike was great looking with its Siamesed CB400/4-alike header pipes but also smooth, easy, pleasingly substantial and practical. 

Later versions, although more angular and aggressive, perform better still with power rising to 90bhp in 2017 then with new ‘Neo Café’ styling, 92bhp and being renamed CB650R from CB650F in 2019. 

No, it isn’t an MT-09 or has the Z900’s 123bhp. That doesn’t matter. But it IS a genuine, fairly classy, effective Honda four-cylinder roadster with more class than most for £1500 less than both.

7. KTM 890 Duke [from £9649]

You can’t help but love the ‘street supermoto’ DNA of KTM’s naked Dukes and, at the second time of asking, the 890, or certainly the £10,649 ‘R’ version, is undoubtedly the best (we’re ignoring the super naked 1290 here, which, with 175bhp and a £16K+ price tag is a different kettle of haddock entirely). 

The enlarged successor to the short-lived, 2018 790 Duke, the 890 was introduced in R form in 2020 with 119bhp an ultra light 166kg quality suspension and sophisticated electronics to instantly become one of the liveliest roadsters around, albeit one that’s pretty single-minded, impractical and expensive. 

Which is why this cheaper, more basic non-‘R’ version was introduced for 2021. Depending on which way you look at it, this 113bhp version is slower (more sensible), less nimble (more real world) at 169kg and more comfortable and affordable, making it a brilliant roadster. 

But it still pricier and less practical than an MT-09 and lacks the character and class of, say, a Street Triple…

6. Kawasaki Z900 [from £9149]

Another roadster that’s surely suffered from Kawasaki’s slightly confusing model range management and over uniform styling (remember the Z800 and Z1000? No, me neither…) but also one that’s more than deserving of a slot here. 

The Z900 replaced the Z800 in 2017, although curiously it did so not by having an enlarged Z800 engine but by using a sleeved-down Z1000 one. Yes, really. With 123bhp, quality suspension, classy build and a lighter, H2-inspired, tubular steel frame it was a far classier package than, say, Yamaha’s MT-09, too. 

In fact, if you want a ‘sub-super naked’ four-cylinder at a sub-£10K price without conspicuously going for a budget option such as Suzuki’s GSX-S750, it’s more than worth a look. 

Our only reservations is that it’s generic styling makes it slightly anonymous, especially compared to Kawasaki’s own, gorgeously retro Z900RS which is based on the same mechanicals.

5. Yamaha MT-09 [from £9,002]

Yamaha’s all-new 900cc triple proved a revelation when originally launched in 2013, both for its brilliant blend of grunty, punchy three-cylinder performance in a nimble yet affordable package and also for being the pathfinder for Yamaha’s all-new family of modular ‘MT’ machines. 

The MT-07, Tracer and XSR families and more all owe their existence to that success of that first MT-09. An SP version with uprated suspension followed in 2019 and now have a total makeover for 2021 with a new, lighter Deltabox frame, Euro5 compliance, 4bhp extra taking peak power up to 117bhp, new electronics and more.

The result is the best MT-09 yet – fun, involving, reasonably practical and affordable, with (£10,202) SP version now a ‘real world’ supernaked that makes you wonder why you’d need anything more for the street. 

The looks have been somewhat divisive but they aren’t anonymous… and best of all, at around £10K, they’re both, still, a steal.

4. Ducati Monster [from £10,385]

Italian legends Ducati have pulled no punches with their all-new-for-2021 Monster and the result is right up there with the very best 600-999cc roadsters you can buy. It could be argued that eschewing historic Monster signatures such as air-cooling and a tubular steel lattice frame is reckless but the result is a much stronger all-round package 

With Euro5 forcing the newcomer to replace the old 797 and 821, the Italian firm is effectively betting the farm on its new Monster. They should have little to fear. With 109bhp from its 937cc V-twin the engine is a peach, delivering a brilliant blend of performance, character and practicality. 

The slimline aluminium beam frame is better yet with easy, involving handling that threatens to match Yamaha’s latest MT-09. And the overall result is cohesive, refined, well-equipped and classy. 

Yes, visually it may jar slightly with Monsters of old and it is definitely pricey in this company, but it’s the best Monster yet from a long line of predecessors…

3. Yamaha MT-07 [from £6902]

With over 125,000 examples sold since the first MT-07 in 2014, two updates since, each making a significant improvement.

The latest version introduced this year giving a slightly roomier riding position, Euro5 compliance (without losing any of its 73bhp performance), a slight restyle and stronger brakes, the brilliant MT-07 is now better than ever – demanding its presence at the top of this particular pile. 

The Yamaha twin simply delivers more for less than any rival. Its performance is both easy enough for novices yet sufficiently lively and engaging for more experienced types; its chassis is fabulously nimble and accurate, yet upright and versatile. 

It outpaces and out-entertains bikes of the same price and is a bargain that can’t be ignored. All of these are reasons why Yamaha is still the best middleweight roadster twin available.

2. Triumph Trident 660 [from £7395]

We knew Triumph was coming up with an affordable three-cylinder roadster rival to Yamaha’s best-selling MT-07 and we haven’t been disappointed – it’s even worthy of the historic Trident name. 

Launched this year and with an all-new, 80bhp 660cc engine, typically fine-handling Triumph chassis and yet a simplicity and affordability that undercuts Triumph’s own Street Triples by almost a grand, the Trident is a brilliant addition to the class and one of the best ‘first big bikes’ you can buy. 

If you love the MT-07 but would prefer a triple to a twin and want something a little more substantial and solid you won’t be disappointed. It also looks great in an understated manner that appeals more you walk up to it.

1. Triumph Street Triple [from £8100]

Triumph’s middleweight version of its Speed Triple has proved such as success since the launch of the 675 original back in 2007 that it’s since spawned a whole dynasty of Street Triples which should appeal to every rider. 

That original was effectively a naked version of the equally brilliant Daytona 675 three-cylinder supersports machine and a large part of the reason for its success was that, like its bigger Speed Triple brother, its three cylinder engine proved a perfect compromise of characterful, mid-range flexibility and high rpm 98bhp performance. 

Better still, in middleweight Street Triple form, it was even more affordable, real world relevant and accessible to more types of rider. Oh, and it was British, stylish and different, too. That success proved the catalyst for a family of ever better ‘Striples’ including an up-specced ‘R’ from 2008, a fully-updated 675 from 2013, a new 765 range from 2017 including S, R and RS versions and a further update for 2021. 

Today the Daytona has departed us but four versions of the Street Trip’ are available ranging from A2 compliant 660cc S from just £8100 to luscious Ohlins, Brembos and electronics equipped 121bhp RS for £10,700. 

In short, there’s a Street Triple for everyone and they’re all among the very best 600-999cc roadsters around, that’s why it’s our No. 1.

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