The Unusual Suspects
Four nakeds, four engine corifig~urations four e-ticket rides directi~td'j~iIk
T HEY'RE OUTCASTS, THE MOTORCYCLE INDUSTRY'S DIRTY little secrets. Despite their niche popularity in the U.S~ they make up only a tiny portion of new-unit sales, and yet to those in the know, they represent some of the most potent and entertaining motorcycles made. They're the nasty nakeds, and like all shady characters, they tend to bring trouble with them wherever they go.
Their very origins go back to a time before the stunt movement took hold, when cash-strapped riders crashed their sportbikes and then fixed them up just enough get them back on the road. Who needs expensive bodywork when it’s just going to get chucked down the road again?
Then something revolutionary happened. First Triumph—with the original Speed Triple—followed primarily by European makers, asked, “Why don’t we pre-crash the bike for you?” Turning a blind eye to conservative convention, they answered by building brand-spanking-new “naked” models, providing consumers with unfaired, sport-oriented performance bikes that had never been bent, broken and beat-up. Were it not for that original Speed Triple and the success it enjoyed, the modern Triumph company might not still be around today. Indeed, maybe even the nakeds you see here wouldn’t exist, either.
And what a fearsome foursome these bikes make. Arrival of the Tuono V4 R was met with great anticipation around the Cycle World offices (“Yellow Alert!,” April), since the previous Tuono V-Twin had been a staff favorite. Grouping that bike with the new Speed Triple R, Brutale RR 1090 and revised Streetfighter S meant only one thing: shootout!
Throw out everything you know about traditional comparison tests, because this one is different. It’s based primarily on emotions and feel—in particular,
each bike’s ability to bring out the worst in us. We all asked ourselves, on which of these bikes is it virtually impossible to behave? Chuck out practicality, fuel mileage, refinement, availability of luggage, affordability and niceties like wind protection; if the keys to all four were hanging on the wall and raising hell was on the agenda, which would you grab? We have included the important specs and data for you to peruse, but they weren’t the pivotal factors in deciding which one of these hooligans came out on top.
Right off the bat, you’ll note that all four machines have different engine configurations and displacements.
The Aprilia is propelled by a lOOOcc 65-degree V-Four, the Ducati by a 1099cc 90-degree V-Twin, the MV by a 1078cc inline-Four and the Triumph by a 1050cc inline-Triple. All the engines go about their business in a different manner, too: The Streetfighter and Speed Triple give up top-end POW for bottom-end WOW, while the Brutale excels at the former and the Tuono impresses across the entire rev range. Three of the four utilize electronic rider aids to manage power and/or traction, with only the Triple R leaving such matters to your right wrist.
Although these four don’t see eyeto-eye in the engine department, their chassis are more similar. The Ducati and Triumph use Öhlins suspension front and rear, and the Brutale comes with a Marzocchi fork and a Sachs shock; all three of those bikes ride on expensive and ultra-lightweight forged aluminum wheels. Aprilia saves consumers some coin by fitting Sachs suspension and cast aluminum wheels at both ends. All four utilize radial-mount Brembo brakes up front, but the Triumph is the only one equipped with ABS.
If these bikes had a theme song that described their attitude, it would have to be Judas Priest’s “Breaking the Law”— or maybe that’s just what automatically plays in a rider’s head when following Associate Editor Mark Cernicky. Either way, the upright seating positions, powerful engines, race-spec brakes and
amazing chassis make it very difficult to refrain from wheelies, stoppies, painting long blackies on the asphalt exiting corners and backing into apexes with the rear hacked out. All of which will get you into some seriously hot water; it’s called “exhibition of speed” here in California...
That’s why any one of these bikes can tum a simple commute into something more akin to a supermoto race. So, to get away from the judgmental eyes of the general public, we headed out on multiple all-day rides to areas where we could get more naughty. But not only did we flog them on curvy backroads, we logged more freeway miles than we care to recall and ripped around town on lunch runs and errands. We even suffered through some multi-hour rides in the rain and fog on super-slick wet roads at night.
Power and Performance
In this class, engine performance carries a lot of weight, and the naked that proved to be the biggest badass was the Tuono, despite it having the smallest engine of the bunch. Not only did it stomp the nextclosest bike, the MV by 9.5 horsepower, it very nearly matched the torque king of the quartet, the Ducati. And while the Triumph came up far short in peak hp (by a whopping 33 !) to the Aprilia, it made up for much of that difference with an amazingly flat and usable torque curve.
On a tight backroad, it’s hard to match the smooth, urgent corner exits that the Triumph and Ducati provide from basement revs. The MV needs to be whipped more to run with those bikes leaving the apex but quickly makes up ground as the tach swings into the upper end of the rev range. Under those same conditions, however, the V-Four in the Tuono is unmatched; it damn near equals the Twin and Triple down low, keeps up with everything in the midrange and then kicks all the challengers’ asses up top. Proof is in its dominating display at the dragstrip, where it turned the quickest E.T. and the highest trap speed. Its standard quick-shifter—part of the APRC package—is a huge advantage when hauling butt, too (our Ducati didn’t have the optional DQS).
Not that the Aprilia’s engine is perfect. As we pointed out in our April test, it could use a bit of fueling refinement at lower rpm, and its sensitive throttle response amplifies the situation; at least these symptoms usually were experienced only when leaving stoplights or at very low rpm. The MV also had a few fuel-delivery issues: It surges slightly at steady-state cruising between 5500 to 6000 rpm with small throttle openings but never does so under any other circumstances.
As for the Ducati—which caused us to complain about fuel-mapping issues in the past—its injection seems to be sorted out. We never noticed any of the surging and searching that one of our previous testbikes exhibited.
And the Triumph? It’s well-mapped and performs beautifully. What’s more, as Road Test Editor Don Canet noted, “The Speed Triple R is the only bike here without traction control, but due to its
perfect fueling and grunty, three-cylinder power delivery, it also is the bike least in need of such artificial intelligence.”
That contrasts with the Aprilia’s APRC electronics package, which is very complex in function yet intuitively easy to control and interact with. Traction control can be toggled on the fly (via left-bar-mounted paddles) at any time, whereas the Ducati (which now comes standard with TC) requires scrolling through multiple menus and a series of selections to change settings, and only when the bike is stopped. Activation of the MV’s TC is another story entirely: Learn the secret handshake and join an underground society, and then the bike may just let you into the proper menu. We carried a cheat sheet with us to navigate its menus, which are stupidly complex.
As for the actual functionality of the systems, the Tuono and Streetfighter TC can be set up to be virtually transparent, performing the task of saving your butt without taking away any of the thrill. The MV seems to cut power for a longer duration and makes drive feel like it has fallen flat on its face. On the Tuono and MV, we left the power modes in the manliest settings; we were trying to get into trouble on these bikes, not avoid it. The Ducati and Triumph are all man all the time.
Ducati Streeffighter S Ups A Awesome stopping power A Total torque monster A Subtle-yet-potent performance ,,owns v High-effort turn-in v Odd ergos and handlebar bend suggest that Ducati could spend more time behind bars v Notchy shift action
Aprilia Tuono V4 R APRC Ups L~ Third-gear clutchless power wheelies! Excellent quick-shifter for WFO upshifts z~ Spot-on ergonomics ,,owns v Looks like it could transform into a Camaro at any moment v Rock-hard seat that is also easily soiled v Minor fueling issues
Considering the diversity of the engines in these machines, it's surprising how closely matched are their chassis. They all have their own distinctive handling characteristics, but for the most part, they all can be hustled along a sinuous stretch of road at a pace that will shock your average racer-replica owner. Top notch chassis components support all four bikes, so "tuning" them was simply a matter of dialing in the clickers on the suspension. We made a couple of tiny adjustments to the Tuono, performed major setup surgery on the MV and left the other two essentially untouched from their baseline settings.
In both handling and ergonomics, the Streetfighter stood out like a sore thumb. As Canet pointed out, “The Due feels tall and stinkbug. The flat, odd-feeling bar bend delivers an eerie, uncomfortable sense of being nearly over the front wheel. It really requires some time to acclimate and develop trust in its handling ability.” The Streetfighter’s excellent brakes, though, received nothing but positive comments.
Although the Speed Triple R provides uncanny stability and composure, “It feels big, weighty and has a high rollcenter,” said Cernicky. “It’s tall and can’t be hurried when transitioning through ess-bend corners.” Neither was it nearly as happy as the Aprilia or MV when trail-braking to the apex of a corner; the Triumph tended to stand up a bit, especially due to the front brake initially being a bit grabby. But as Canet noted, “Excellent Öhlins suspension and sticky Pirelli Supercorsa SP rubber [same tires as on the MV] make the Triumph a very effective track-day mount or weekend canyon carver.”
[Triumph Speed Triple R
Ups Telepathic connection between throttle hand and rear-tire contact patch Massive torque available from just above idle Most comfortable cruiser for longer hauls :~owns v Looks like a Buell mated with a pitbull v Horsepower hole too deep to crawl out of v Rev limiter kills the fun right when things are getting good
MV Agusta Brutale RR 1090
A Third-gear clutchiess power wheelies! A Sport ergonomics sculpted by Zeus himself A Sounds like a two-wheel Ferrari ,,owns v Long-throw shifter feels stolen from a Guzzi v Slippery little footpegs suck, especially in the rain v Confusing electronics interface makes a Rubik's Cube seem simple
Out of the box, the Brutale’s suspension was too soft, especially the shock, causing it to squat and make the bike understeer on corner exits; but with that solved via a few preload, reboundand compressiondamping adjustments, it became an excellent handler. “Where the MV stood out for me was how well it worked at high speeds over broken, slurry snaked, bumpy and rippled asphalt,” said Cernicky.
The RR was perfectly happy in tight second-gear corners, as well, giving the rider a great sense of traction. And trailbraking never upset the chassis.
“I could brake hard to adjust my entry lines with a lot of feel from the front tire, and that instilled confidence,” added Cernicky.
If there is a bike amongst this quartet that is forgiving in almost every handling situation, it is the Tuono. Its light, agile steering is helped in part by a wide handlebar, and yet the front end never feels nervous. Turning traction is easy to find on the Aprilia, because the bike communicates quite well what the Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa up front is doing; that allows the rider to concentrate
more on finding the ideal line through corners. And when it comes to providing the best combination of power and feel, the Tuono's brakes are tops.
Any one of these bikes can turn a simple commute into something more akin to a supermoto race.
In the end, ranking these four bikes was easier than we thought it would be. We assigned each of them the human char acteristics they had exhibited in our test, then ranked them based on which ones we would least like to see riding away with our daughters on board.
Without question, the least threatening of the group is the Ducati Streetfighter. Its mannerisms are fluid, composed and predictable, and it’s sneaky-fast. All good traits, unless you are depending on it to back you up in a bar fight. Then comes the Speed Triple R, which definitely puts up a toughguy image, flexing and posturing and proving its mettle more often than not; but it still doesn’t have the killer instinct we were looking for.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of all is the MV Agusta. It’s raw, a little unrefined and, at times, a bit sloppy, but when it’s time to tango, the Brutale is brutally effective. Don’t let its pretty face fool you: The MV packs a powerful jab, has a stout and precise chassis and is someone—okay, something— on which you never want to lose focus.
But our mission here was to finger the bad boy of the club, and the Aprilia Tuono is guilty as charged. Even after riding these and numerous other bikes for weeks on end, we would get back onto the Tuono and instantly be reminded of what a ruthless motorcycle it is. Everything about the Italian V4 is focused on going fast and getting there quickly. Its lightning reflexes, superb controllability, excellent rider intervention and knockout engine punch make it the nastiest naked we’ve ever ridden.
So, if you end up owning a Tuono—or, actually, any one of these hooligans—here’s our advice: Lock it up and throw away the key.
TUONO V4 R
BRUTALE RR 1090
SPEED TRIPLE R