Road Test

Heads up - naked 1000s test

The TWO team head onto Britain's roads to test seven of the best naked 1000cc bikes and come back with bug-splattered visors and stiff necks




Hope nowt's coming the other way, lads...

Seven 1,000cc streetbikes with no fairings, low top speeds and stacks of attitude. With your head stuck out in the breeze 100mph really feels like 100mph - welcome back to proper biking.

A wind of change is gradually sweeping across sportsbike-obsessed Britain. While the latest generation of superbikes are jaw-dropping in their abilities, with MotoGP levels of handling and acceleration, they find themselves ever more at odds with Britain's speed-despising road system. Revenue from Gatso cameras is expected to top £200 million this year, the feds are using satellite technology to catch offenders, we have our
average speeds timed without our knowing and they're even using CCTV cameras to issue tickets. It's a war out there on speed, and speed is losing.

And it's an age thing, too. We've all been speeding for so long now that it's, well, getting a bit boring for some. 194mph on the M4? Done it. 4th gear wheelies? Yep. Been banned for six months? Hurray, that too. Many of us have less to prove these days and an engine that makes 175bhp is no good to anyone if you have to be doing lightspeed to enjoy it. Today, riders are demanding style over performance. Bikes should sound good, look good and make you feel good without going so that fast that you end up travelling back through time just to get your kicks each time you ride.

Which is where this collection comes in. They're all packing serious 1,000cc firepower and come in all shapes and sizes. Inline four,
V-twin or triple, the way these streetbikes make their power is as different as the way they look, but they all go like stink and don't for one second think they're a soft option. Any one of these bikes will, in the right hands, show a superbike the way home over a given series of bends. The Italian bikes - Ducati, Aprilia and MV Agusta - are predictably fussy, overbearing bikes with a look and feel all their own. The Japanese pair, Yamaha's FZ-1 and Kawasaki's Z1000, are (of course) smooth and deeply efficient, while Triumph as always tread their own path with the Speed Triple.

So we took seven streetbikes and rode them through London, past the Garden of England area of Kent and kept going until we hit Beachy Head on the coast. Two days later everyone had had a fantastic time, but nobody got nicked, nobody crashed, the police weren't called and we never topped 120mph the whole time. Sweet.

KAWASAKI Z1000: AGENT ORANGE

Sweet Lord, when I first clapped eyes o thing my eyeballs
ruptured. It's more orange than a carrot wearing a Holland football shirt while taking an Easyjet flight. And it's ugly, isn't it? It's either really ugly or really striking and even now I'm not sure which. Acres of plastic explode in several directions at once, the world's silliest exhaust system juts out at a bizarre angle, and even the engine castings are weird. Some people love it and
others hate it, but one thing you
cannot possibly do is ignore it.

As a motorcycle, the new Z1000 is blisteringly uncomfortable and useless at protecting you from the elements. The steeply-sloped
saddle slides your whole body down towards the back of the fuel tank which forces you to push back with your arms, and after 25 motorway miles at 90mph my arse was on fire and screaming for mercy. Many years off motorcycles has made my body weak and woman-like, but this was ridiculous.

Get the Z1000 into its natural
element of towns and A-roads,
however, and the whole picture changes. The engine is wonderfully smooth and incredibly fast,
launching the Zed forwards with indecent haste that, quite frankly, takes you by surprise the first time you try full power. This bike is outrageously strong and makes the nearest competitor, the Yamaha
FZ-1, feel quite feeble in
comparison. Grab the throttle in any gear and the Kawasaki lunges
forwards, all you have to do is keep feeding it gears until a corner, your bottle or an errant child in the road forces you to back off.

In time-honoured Kawasaki
fashion, the engine feels too rapid for the chassis. There's a huge sense of mass with the Zed and at times it feels like you're riding an unstoppable, un-turnable lump that'll lure you into trouble with its nuclear engine. The bike feels so fast and heavy that it could simply knock any other traffic out of the way, blast straight over the middle of central reservations and keep on going no matter what the rider did. Where the Aprilia Tuono and Ducati S4-R both feel light to ride and are a joy to steer and play about on, the Kawasaki is very much a straight-line expert and corners require a surprising amount of effort. You're unlikely to actually get into any
trouble because the brakes are excellent, but the Zed doesn't steer very quickly (that's a fact) and the arse end is vague and a little ponderous.

All of this is good, of course. Bikes of this ilk should make a statement and have character, and the Kawasaki is ticking boxes in both these departments. 100mph on this bike really feels like 100mph, the wind roar is deafening at speed and linking together the bends on your favourite stretch of road is infinitely more rewarding on the big Z1000 than any superbike which effectively does it all for you. The styling is deeply controversial and may well assure the Zed a place as a gay icon in certain circles, but Kawasaki have been brave and there are no half measures with this bike. The Z1000 is typical Kawasaki: bloody fast, a bit wayward, heavy and outrageous, it demands a certain courage of
character from prospective buyers. Your mates might laugh when you first pull into the car-park on this, but their smiles will soon disappear when you disappear off the first set of lights - in a bright orange haze.




Wide bars + loads of grunt + not their bikes = wheelies

TRIUMPH SPEED TRIPLE: CLASS ACT

I immediately chose the Speed Triple for our two day jaunt round Kent and the South Coast, not because it is the best ever naked bike built but I do believe it is the best all-rounder.

Not be as radical as the Super Duke nor as drop-dead gorgeous as the MV, but the styling is great, really muscular. On many Triumphs I find there' s an 'it's not perfect but it will have to do' approach to the
finish, but apart from the rather spindly-looking
handlebars and without removing the tank and seat I'm happy to report this is definitely not the case on the Speed Triple. Being a three cylinder you also get the best of both worlds from the motor with very useable low down grunt that's great for short shifting while honing along twisty B-roads. The other bonus is the nice spread of power allows you to cruise through town in tall gears without the lumpiness experienced on the Aprilia, KTM, or Ducati, all the time getting that fantastic triple noise from the exhaust and some really pleasing burbling on the over-run.

It is a fact that it's impossible to ride big streetbikes for any length of time without popping the odd wheelie, and again the Triumph scores high as even I can haul the front up at will and keep it there. When it comes to braking all the bikes here have the same radially mounted caliper set-up , and as far as braking performance goes I really couldn't tell much difference between any of them - they're all exceptional. The Tuono had a much sharper initial response followed by a more powerful feel all the way through, while the Brutale is unusual as it uses a Nissin master cylinder and Brembo callipers. A strange combination but this
combination appears on quite a few models so I'm sure MV Augusta has their reasons.

When it come to handling, the Speed Triple is very stable both at low and high speed but being the heaviest bike here means it is the least nimble when it comes to flicking from side to side or manoeuvring through traffic. The Super Duke has to be the
master when it comes to low to medium speed handling, the MV feels even lighter but it's very
horrendous suspension makes it feel too nervous for road riding.
In many ways, the Triumph was the best bike on this test. Comfortable, great styling, great engine and most importantly it's got bags of character. You can really hustle the Speed Triple, and while the gearbox is the least positive of the group, this is a bike that encourages the rider and makes the most of what they've got, rather than intimidating in any way. After the agony of the Brutale or
lifeless character of the Japanese bikes, the Triumph was always a real pleasure to get back on.

KTM SUPERDUKE: PERFECT

Last one to arrive and last one out the garage usually gets the short straw. So why had they left the KTM Super Duke for me? Running on vapours no doubt.

I say this because no-one has anything bad to say about KTMs these days. They are the perfect motorcycles. Well, there's a lot of enthusiasm for the marque at least. My experiences of KTM to date are the Adventure, which I thought was quite good. And then the 950 Supermoto. That one was different. It totally blew me away. I mean really blew me away - like my first ride on an RC30 back in 1988 and my first taste of a Ducati 916 at its launch in 1993. It instantly became one of my all-time greats: bottled essence of motorcycle. Let me sniff.

So I'd been left the Super Duke and had to catch up.I didn't have time for expectations. I jumped on it and went. Snicking into second, I was considering hoiking a wheelie, I felt - instantly -that much at home on it. I resisted the urge, of course, that would've been dangerous and I'm useless at wheelies. It took a mile to realise how much it shared with the Supermoto.

Technically it shares the basic motor, a 75-degree V-twin but 47cc more at 999cc (bored and stroked). It's also fuel-injected versus the SM's carbs, which isn't always a plus these days, except for the
environment. The Yamaha FZ-1 was ruined by its fuel injection (sorted now) and the MV Agusta in this test could do with a nice set of carbs, or a visit to the KTM factory to see how it should be done. The Super Duke fuels superbly, micron-perfect on and off the throttle with an even rush of power through the rev range. It metes out 118bhp, 30 more than the SM, though the taller gearing brings them closer together in the
sensations they deliver.

Maybe I can only have one epiphany with KTM and if so that was my first ride on the Supermoto. I mean, if an angel appeared to you for the second time, it wouldn't quite be the same as the first would it? Amazing, and mind-warping, sure, but not quite the shock it was first time.

What the Super Duke really does for you is flatter your riding, to the point where you can't help feeling you're a fantastic rider. The engine works so well with the chassis that your thoughts become actual road manoeuvres and none of the controls get in the way of the flow, as could be said with several of the other bikes here. Riding position is natural and bang-on, brakes are intuitively sensitive, and throttle response I've already praised. The overall balance and suspension quality of the bike makes it feel 20kg lighter than it is, and it's not that light at 186kg.
Is there anything wrong with it? Not in performance. It delivers 100% on its promise. The styling is really weird and the finish feels a little
disappointing, a bit too like a
plasticky motocross bike than an expensive pure road bike, but that's probably because its DNA is in
off-road. But KTM's foundations and supreme success with dirtbikes has given them an advantage in their road-bike evolution. In short - it kicks arse. Everyone's arse.

BRUTALE 910R: FOCUSED

The MV could have sat next to all manner of beautiful bikes and I would still have chosen it. Call me superficial, but with looks like that I could stomach several deficiencies in the performance department. The combination of design, components and finish is as good as you can find on two wheels. Coupled with happy memories of the earlier 750 model, I was in for a treat.

Never mind the slippery, narrow foot pegs that occasionally displace my narrow Alpinestars and the
slippery, narrow seat that forces me into the fuel tank, or even the cramp inducing distance between bum and feet. Never mind too the quirky Aprilia-like switchgear with the horn and indicator the wrong way round. The rectum-correcting
suspension batters your limbs into submission, while who cares about the funky looking 190section rear tyre that does little to aid the
ponderous turn-in speed? I can live with this stuff because it's still the sexiest streetbike in production.

If pushed however, I'd have to admit that every (considerably less expensive) bike here was a much better ride than the Brutale. If ever a bike needed a paper bag over its head, the Yamaha does. It's so ugly it makes me cry, but by the end of the day I'd gladly have taken that fat, wonderfully comfortable gargoyle of a bike over the MV.

The other Italian offerings from Aprilia and Ducati, if you take looks out of the equation, shame the MV. The tiny and ancient Monster has an engine to die for and is ridiculously fast in S4R format, though bucks and shakes at the very thought of a bumpy B road and in fact comes pre-broken with mirrors and fairing already hanging off. The Aprilia can do it all competently, despite being a little rough around the edges, and looks pretty damn fresh in its new 'shouty' paint scheme.

Kawasaki has tried and failed to add a little pizzazz to the Zed with its curious colour-coded plastic
additions at the front of the motor. But what a motor! It's blindingly fast and smooth and capable, but still lumbered with its trademark plank for a seat. The Kwak is a bullet and a bit of a bargain, so fair play to them. Even the poor old Speed Triple looks dated and fat next to the beautiful MV, but not to ride. The triple is lazy but strong with brakes to match the best of the rest and a character all of its own. Everyone liked it.

But sling your leg over the KTM - I'm afraid it's angular lines leave me stone cold - and you'll want to stay put. This bike is absolutely bang-on. Riding position, power, improved fuelling, gearbox and handling all feel pretty much perfect. It's modern, sharp, fast and sassy.

Oh yes, and so to the subject of fuelling. This is where the MV, slinking gracefully along the
catwalk, falls flat on its fussy arse. It's 2007 and here we have a
motorcycle that simply won't run between 5,000-7,000rpm, which is precisely where you'll spend most of your time. Surging forwards and backwards like a drunken tourist on the motorway, it's essential to run in 4th gear to keep the revs high enough to avoid embarrassment. A crying shame, but not surprising.

If I had the money, I'd still have one parked up in the dining room, looking pretty and stupid. If I had to buy one to ride, it's the KTM by a country mile. Never mind the looks, it's a bloody goer.

YAMAHA FZ-1: GETTING BETTER

Everyone deserves a second chance. Well, possibly not everyone. Hitler probably got what was coming to him and I'm not totally convinced that Jade Goody doesn't deserve the same fate but on the whole I'm all for forgive and forget. Which is why I wanted to give Yamaha's FZ-1 another shot.

I was there in late 2005 when Yamaha first unveiled their new streetbike with the R1 motor. Hell yes! Then I rode it. Hell no! What a shonker, horrible fuel injection and a rock-solid rear shock that tried to compact any poo in your lower intestine into diamonds every time you hit a bump. What a let down, what a waste.

But for 2007 Yamaha has subtly tweaked and it's better, much better. The FZ-1 is now a bike that can be ridden without its faults driving you to distraction. This year the fuel injection is now about as good as the other bikes. It's not
perfect and the KTM, Ducati and Triumph lead the way when it comes to smooth throttle response, but the engine still annoys me. I guess it depends on where you are coming from. If you're buying a streetbike because a sports 1,000 scares you then the lack of umph low down with the
FZ-1 isn't going to be an issue. But if, like me, you want a naked bike to pull like a beast low down then it will piss you off. On the motorway at 90mph in top the Yamaha is just reaching it's 7,000rpm sweet spot. Why on earth do you want that in a 1,000cc streetbike?
No, give me the Z1000 with its gigantic thrust of low down grunt anytime. I'll happily sacrifice top end for bottom end power. The only bike that was worse than the FZ-1 low end was the MV, it had the feeling that something had been wedged into its intakes to restrict bottom end. A piece of expensive parmesan cheese, perhaps?
But at least the chassis worked on the Yamaha, unlike the rock solid MV. The rear shock feels better (I'd put money on a softer spring) and it's a good handling bike. It's not as sharp as the KTM or Tuono but it feels good in corners.

I want a streetbike that has instant punch, great styling, doesn't need to be revved and is fun because of it, which is why I'd have the Speed Triple or Super Duke. The Triumph's triple engine gives me exactly what I want while the chassis, soft seat and excellent suspension give me the ride quality my delicate bum deserves. The KTM just makes me smile, a lot. Last year I wrote exactly the same thing about the Z1000, it needed more bottom end. The 2007 Zed model has it, and hopefully Yamaha will do the same to the FZ-1 next year or even sooner. Until then, thanks, but I'll pass.

DUCATI MONSTER S4R: RAPID

First day with the boys from TWO and there's a garage full of 1,000s, where do you start? Coming from daily life on my BMW 650 Dakar Replica every one of these bikes is going to feel alien so I plump for the bike that has turned heads since it's inception some 15 years ago. I've always wanted to ride a Monster and now I'm sat astride the daddy of the family, a modern day classic with the desmo from the 999.

It doesn't take too long to get used to the raw power of the S4R, but I didn't struggle with it as much as I thought I would. The riding position is much more traditional cafŽ racer than the others and it's a fair reach from the seat to the bars and very much suits those with a high ape factor. But there's something
nostalgic about the Ducati and I've never heard the roar from the pipes nor the growl from the engine when I dropped down a few gears and yanked the throttle open. Sweet.

The S4R is a skinny thing and made the FZ-1 seem positively obese (possibly the kindest thing I could say about the most soul-less bike I rode on the test) and only the Brutale seemed smaller. Maybe I'd got used to the power of the bikes by the end of the two days, but the Ducati always felt very rapid and I wish I'd had the confidence to really nail the Monster through the gears. It's the sort of bike that wants to be told what to do and I do like the clunky feel of the Ducati through the gears. The Kawasaki Z1000 allowed you to pull away in almost any gear and it was hard to tell which ratio you were in sometimes, not
something a novice to big bikes really wants when he's coming into a tight corner 40mph faster than he's ever done before!
In fact I preferred all the twins to the fours, especially the KTM which just felt so easy to ride. The twins feel more alive, they vibrate and make nice noises, and bikes like this are all about fun and feel. With my dirtbike background I knew the Super Duke would be the bike I liked riding the most, and sure enough it was a natural progression from what I'm used to.

As for the Monster? It really is one of those bikes that you want to say you've owned or ridden as it's such a design classic, and had it not been for the Monster's popularity we may never have seen the 916 or 1098. Despite it's venerable age, the S4R still has plenty to offer and is sport riding taken back to basics. I loved it. Oh well, back to my 650 then...

APRILIA TUONO: RAMPANT

I had my eye on the Tuono from the moment it arrived at the office. For some reason, every time I looked at it, I thought about Playstations. I just wanted to jump on, push buttons and have some fun, and the Tuono delivers a massive hit every time. The engine doesn't have the same finesse as the Monster, it doesn't really have any finesse at all, but it sucks up the road and spits you out the other side with the rider
wondering what just happened.

I love how aggressive everything is, how the engine and brakes are as mad as each other. It just wills you to try a bit harder than the other bikes do. I couldn't figure out how to set the dash up to show the time and a trip meter, all I could do was start and stop the lap timer. Some of the roads we used were mega bumpy and while the standard settings on the Tuono suspension were firm, it coped really well. On the same roads other bikes like the Triumph felt saggy and wayward. Sat bolt upright it was genuinely
comfortable up to 90mph, even at 130 the Tuono just tracked along. On the Zed at that speed the bars would waggle in my hands.
The Monster is still a cracking bike, the fact that it has been around since time began and can still cut it in this company is testament to how good it is. The engine is a pearler, on the Tuono if you come out of a
corner a gear too high and roll the throttle on, not much happens until 5,000rpm.

The Brutale is a bit of a dog, it looks stunning but there are too may negatives for it to appeal to me and it's like riding an ironing board. The Aprilia beats the other Italian bikes on this test easily, but wasn't my favourite bike of the day. Likewise the KTM was great but it looked a bit plain, if I looked at it long enough it reminded me of an ER-6 and that's a very bad thing. For this kind of money I want bikes to have a serious bit of bling about them.
The FZ-1 is not for me either. Bugger the tuning fork, you would need to throw the kitchen sink at this bike for it to stand a chance against this competition. No, my two favourite bikes were the Speed Triple and the Zed. Neither are as manic as this Tuono but they can still do big numbers without trying, they both look the part and make wheelies easy. If I absolutely had to choose one it would be the Zed. There - there's always something for everybody!

CONCLUSION

The variety of these bikes is part of their appeal. Despite all doing the same kind of thing they all get there in very different ways, which is why this model sector is so appealling.

In the time-honoured tradition of motorcycle magazines, we need to declare a winner. And in such a huge range of bikes at the end of the day it was always a fight over three keys, the Super Duke, Z1000 and the Speed Triple. Streetbikes need to be serious fun as well as practical and these three manage to combine these two factors.

Kawasaki's Z1000 might not be asthetically pleasing and in orange it was just too damn garish, but in black it's a whole heap more gentle on the eye and ticks all the right boxes. If you can live with the hard seat then the wonderfully smooth and tractable motor will have you grinning from ear to ear. Its chassis isn't quite as precise as the more sporty competition but it's good enough for all but the most rapid of riders when the going gets twisty.

KTM's Super Duke has long been a firm favourite of ours, something we're not ashamed about. A sorted chassis, beautiful engine and massive feel-good factor really underline what motorcycling is supposed to be about. It's hard to fault and
impossible not to enjoy, although why they made it look like Action Man's bike is anyone's guess.

Triumph's Speed Triple is similar, but delivered in a more road-based package. Ultimately, it wins this test. It's the most practical of the streetbikes, comfortable, fast and with one of the sweetest engines around. The motor is so good we'll even forgive it for the notchy gearbox. It's a really polished all-round package with great, if a little dated, styling. Sounds great, too.

And the rest of them? The Tuono is a belter, absolutely mad out of the box and it looks amazing, but it only does about 23 miles before the reserve light comes on and is too rabid and focussed for many. The Ducati is still great fun to ride but it's hard to see people buying what is in essence a 15 year-old bike, while the MV Agusta is simply a window ornament. And the Yamaha FZ-1 is a perfect example of how having the most power makes absolutely no bloody difference at all if it's not put down to the ground in the right way. Grunt, man. That's what you need.

SPECS

Aprilia


TYPE - STREETBIKE

PRODUCTION DATE - 2007

PRICE NEW - £7999

ENGINE CAPACITY - 997cc

POWER - 122.1bhp@9900rpm

TORQUE - 67.2ft@8300rpm

WEIGHT - 205kg (WET)

SEAT HEIGHT - N/A

FUEL CAPACITY - N/A

TOP SPEED - 147.1mph

0-60 - n/a

TANK RANGE - N/A

Ducati


TYPE - STREETBIKE

PRODUCTION DATE - 2007

PRICE NEW - £7995

ENGINE CAPACITY - 998cc

POWER - 119.6bhp@9900rpm

TORQUE - 67.9lb.ft@7600rpm

WEIGHT - 204kg (WET)

SEAT HEIGHT - N/A

FUEL CAPACITY - N/A

TOP SPEED - 150.5mph

0-60 - n/a

TANK RANGE - N/A

Kawasaki


TYPE - STREETBIKE

PRODUCTION DATE - 2007

PRICE NEW - £7345

ENGINE CAPACITY - 953cc

POWER - 106.9bhp@9200rpm

TORQUE - 67.9lb.ft@7600rpm

WEIGHT - 234kg (WET)

SEAT HEIGHT - N/A

FUEL CAPACITY - N/A

TOP SPEED - 147mph

0-60 - n/a

TANK RANGE - N/A

KTM


TYPE - STREETBIKE

PRODUCTION DATE - 2007

PRICE NEW - £8495

ENGINE CAPACITY - 999cc

POWER - 114.9bhp@8900rpm

TORQUE - 71.6lb.ft@7900rpm

WEIGHT - 197kg (WET)

SEAT HEIGHT - N/A

FUEL CAPACITY - N/A

TOP SPEED - 146.6mph

0-60 - n/a

TANK RANGE - N/A

MV Agusta


TYPE - STREETBIKE

PRODUCTION DATE - 2007

PRICE NEW - £10,500

ENGINE CAPACITY - 909cc

POWER - 122.7bhp@10,700rpm

TORQUE - 65lb.ft@7800rpm

WEIGHT - 206kg (WET)

SEAT HEIGHT - N/A

FUEL CAPACITY - N/A

TOP SPEED - 153.2mph

0-60 - n/a

TANK RANGE - N/A

Triumph


TYPE - STREETBIKE

PRODUCTION DATE - 2007

PRICE NEW - £7739

ENGINE CAPACITY - 1050cc

POWER - 116.9bhp@8900rpm

TORQUE - 73lb.ft@7300rpm

WEIGHT - 222kg (WET)

SEAT HEIGHT - N/A

FUEL CAPACITY - N/A

TOP SPEED - 139.4mph

0-60 - n/a

TANK RANGE - N/A

Yamaha


TYPE - STREETBIKE

PRODUCTION DATE - 2007

PRICE NEW - £7199

ENGINE CAPACITY - 988cc

POWER - 137.7bhp@11,900rpm

TORQUE - 67.2lb.ft@9600rpm

WEIGHT - 216kg (WET)

SEAT HEIGHT - N/A

FUEL CAPACITY - N/A

TOP SPEED - 153.6mph

0-60 - n/a

TANK RANGE - N/A

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