The KTM Super Duke was by far the most well thought out piece of two-wheel equipment I have ridden in many years. It will fill every need for the rider that requires a catch-all bike for any situation, including road surfaces, traffic conditions and riding solo or two-up. The torque of the KTM is well matched with its transmission, and clutchless shifting with a slight throttle release was seamless both in traffic and in the canyons. The handlebar position, peg position and seat made for a great all-day rider. When we entered the canyons all I needed to do was scoot up closer to the tank and take a flat track-type riding position and the KTM did not fail to deliver.
Now if you're looking more toward the racebike configuration, I would highly recommend the MV. Other than the riding position, the MV is also equipped with great power, brakes and suspension. The MV has no funny quirks and does everything well except in the passenger department--but that's not what this bike was designed for. It looks spooky-fast standing still, but be advised it also delivers only what you ask for; after just a day on the MV your confidence will soar, and the bike just makes you look good.
This is not to say that the rest of the naked bikes are bad, poorly made or substandard. The Aprilia, Ducati, Kawasaki and Yamaha are just no match for the KTM or MV. -Bruce Reimer
Pity the poor Japanese entrants here. The two, beaten to death by the bean counters, can't help but seem cheap next to the exquisitely turned out MV Agusta, the amazingly well developed KTM and the brutal insouciance of the Aprilia. The Z1000 is festooned with awkward details and let down by lowest-bidder suspension; the Yamaha isn't far behind, a huge disappointment to me as one of the first-gen's biggest fans. (To be kind, the '07 bike is, I'm told, dramatically improved over the '06, but I long for the better suspension and long-stroke engine of its predecessor.)
Among the Europeans, the KTM impressed most, partly because I had few expectations of it. What a wonderful motorcycle on the right roads, incredibly refined and docile. That engine is a complete sweetheart, making you question the need for a breathtaking top-end rush for street use. The KTM struck me as what the Suzuki SV1000 could have been--a faster version of the 650 but with its talent for taking care of the rider and instilling confidence. Then you have the Tuono, for the first time seriously challenged (by the Super Duke) yet rising heroically to the game. The reworked, single-plug engine lacks the first-gen's boomy bottom-end, but it's much more refined and notably smoother. Aprilia gave the new Tuono a superior chassis, didn't mess with the ergonomics and completely failed to lose sight of what made the original such a standout. It's in my mind the best bike here, period, but keep an eye on the mirrors for that angular orange beastie. -Marc Cook
As I rode the KTM Super Duke I asked myself, "What is wrong with this bike?" It certainly isn't the motor. The KTM 990 engine is strong everywhere, with the real power coming on above 5K rpm. The Super Duke's off-idle and low-end power delivery is silky smooth as well. It's not the suspension, which soaked up the bumps with ease and transmitted multitudes of seat-of-the-pants feedback. Perhaps the brakes would let me down? Nope--strong, linear brakes with good bite make the braking very predictable. The ergonomics are all-day comfortable, as long as the day wasn't spent on the freeway. I even like the styling, which may be hit-and-miss depending on personal taste, although nothing can match the styling of the MV Augusta Brutale. So what's wrong with the Super Duke? At almost $14K, it's the second most expensive bike in the test. Sure it is a great standard-style motorcycle, but without the exotic styling that comes with the MV Augusta, I just can't see spending that much money on this category of motorcycle. -Jim O'Connor
In my mind, this group breaks down to three pairs of bikes. The Japanese duo look and feel like the affordably priced bikes they are with their uninspired styling (okay, so the Kawasaki appears to be inspired by The Transformers) and poorly damped suspensions. The Kawasaki's entertaining engine beats out the Yamaha's puzzlingly unresponsive lump. The S4R and Brutale perform more like pure sportbikes without bodywork. They're wonderfully planted in the turns, ferociously fast and sound like the pedigreed racers they're so closely related to. While they are significantly more comfortable than Ducati's 1098 and MV Agusta's F4, they're also noticeably less so than the far more versatile Aprilia and KTM. The Tuono R and the Super Duke are the standout winners in this class because they offer absolute all-day comfort without sacrificing much--if any--performance to the racier Italians. The KTM is the most entertaining with its knockout low-end punch and dirtbike-like agility, but the Aprilia offers better long-haul comfort and superior high-speed performance, all for $999 less. It might just be the best all-around sportbike in existence. -Lance Holst
Although we went through great pains to test these bikes based on their performance, I can't avoid acknowledging the probability that most people shopping for bikes in this category care more about styling than performance. While all the motorcycles in this group can handle canyon curves as well as they can negotiate downtown traffic, I think the vast majority of them end up spending far more time in the latter than the former. Thus the reason for such a radically divergent-looking group of machines.
I love the performance of the KTM and Aprilia--but I have a hard time justifying shelling out more than 12 large for a bike in this category. If I was in the market for a naked bike, I'd most likely be a cheap bastard, so I'd probably look toward the Z1000 or the Triumph Speed Triple--even though neither bike's appearance is to my liking. -Kent Kunitsugu
There are so many ways to compare these naked bikes that no matter how you group them, it will be lopsided. How much performance do you want? How much comfort? How much do you want to pay? It seems to me that versatility is what these bikes should be about and of these six, the Aprilia stands out as the true do-it-all bike. Great ergos and adequate wind protection for a long trip, loads of fun in the twisties and a price in line with that performance.
The Yamaha and Kawasaki would be high on my list as well, especially if money was an issue. But I can't help thinking that, rather than buy the FZ1 or Z1000 and then spend money to fix the things I didn't like, it would be easier to start with an R1 or ZX-10R and work the other way. Strip off the bodywork, mount up some lights and a handlebar, and I'd be in business. Sure it might be more expensive in the long run, but it would be cheaper than the European bikes, and the performance is practically guaranteed. Hmmm, we've still got that ZX-10R hanging around... -Andrew Trevitt