The BMW F 800 R’s cockpit layout is comical at best, with a busy analog speedometer that takes some diligence to read. The digital readout does offer a gear indicator and fuel gauge though, and nice wide mirrors provide the best view of what’s behind you, although vibes render them useless at speed.
As with any BMW, you’ll either love or hate the F 800 R’s asymmetrical headlight design. The bike has the most generous wind protection, although testing proved wind was directed towards the rider’s upper body.
Despite being relatively small in size, the Ducati’s flyscreen does an admirable job of deflecting wind gusts. This made freeway stints on the Ducati more palatable than one would have expected.
The Ducati features a stunning race-inspired digital gauge cluster, although our testers claimed that any amount of glare during day riding made it difficult to read. Similar to the BMW, vibes through the handlebar made the Ducati’s mirrors difficult to see out of.
Nice large readouts make the Triumph gauges of the best in the group, although the multitude of available information proved to be a bit much for some. The new handlebar clamps, end weights and Magura handlebar are all clearly quality components.
As with its Speed Triple sibling, the new Street Triple R features Triumph’s new “wolf-eye” twin headlights.
The FZ8’s gauge is without question the simplest, yet most easy to read of the group, providing all the pertinent information in a well laid out fashion. The FZ8’s bars have a bend that permits a comfortable riding position, plus the Yamaha’s mirrors provide great visual reference for what’s behind you.
With its sleek design, the FZ8’s headlight and affixed flyscreen provide great wind protection. Of the nakeds, the Yamaha was the least abusive at freeway speeds.
The 1100 EVO's 20mm higher bar risers and reshaped seat significantly alter the new Monster's ergos, but it still features the sportiest riding position of the group. Outfitted with BMW's low seat option, our F 800 R has the most cramped ergos, while the Yamaha conversely boasts the most comfortable.
Maybe we were too busy talking about how naked bikes don’t sell well this side of the pond. Perhaps too focused on the economic pitfalls of late, or too fixated on the latest superbike technology. Whatever the case, we almost completely overlooked the number of serious entrants in the segment this year. And we almost failed to notice that the segment is more robust than ever, with a number of manufacturers importing models previously only available in Europe, and others updating their already potent packages.
There is just no feasible way to test all the available naked bikes in one fell swoop. That in mind, we lassoed up a group of bikes that are either new or updated for 2011 (the Triumph Street Triple R and Ducati Monster 1100 EVO are actually 2012 models) and went to work. And while no one engine configuration is duplicated, no displacement matched and no price tag the same, this year’s eclectic group of stripped eye candy proved to be one of our best yet.
**BMW F 800 R
** It doesn’t take more than five minutes aboard the all-new F 800 R to realize this isn’t quite the sadistic two-wheel monster BMW stunt rider Christian Pfeiffer makes it look to be. The R model was said to be developed with input from Pfeiffer however, and features a more sport-oriented double-sided swingarm, chain drive and shorter gear ratios in the later three gears.
In the engine department, the BMW doesn’t exactly clamor performance. A rather tall first gear makes stoplight-to-stoplight commutes a tad frustrating, although the revised six-speed transmission is faultless. The closer spacing between fourth, fifth and sixth gears is instantly noticeable too, as is the engine’s nature to build revs with urgency.
In typical parallel-twin fashion, the F 800 R is buzz happy, with a significant amount of vibrations making their way through the footrests and handlebar as you creep near the 70 mph mark. Surprising, especially considering the engine features a unique swivel-rod counterweight specifically designed to fend off the vibrations emanating from the 360-degree crank. Also worthy of note is the excessive amount of engine braking, which often makes the entrance into tight corners …um… interesting on your more spirited passes through the twisties.
Not to say that the BMW is a handful in the canyons though. In fact, even with its noticeably long wheelbase, the bike steers with relative ease and is extremely stable at speed. The non-adjustable front fork is tuned quite well too, with sufficient damping characteristics that allow it to absorb rough patches of road well. Plus, spring preload and rebound damping adjustments to the horizontally mounted rear shock can be made in just minutes via the turn knobs on the shock.
Ground clearance is seemingly a non-issue with the BMW as well. Although that’s in part to the bike’s rather high footrest placement, which admittedly provides a slightly cramped riding position. However, BMW offers both a high or low seat, with the former providing a 32.5-inch seat height and the latter a 30.5-inch seat height, at no additional cost.
Even more, BMW customers can opt for the premium package—as we did. With this, you get ABS brakes, heated grips, accessory sockets, alarms, an on-board computer and tire-pressure monitoring system. While the package does send the price tag into five digits, it is one that most BMW customers will surely go for. That’s because the bike’s ABS system, equipped with BMW’s new ABS sensor, works flawlessly with the 320mm rotors and four-pot Brembo calipers to provide quick, safe stops. We do wish, however, that the system had an off setting, like the Ducati offers. No complaints with the heated grips though, as they made both early morning and late night rides all the more palatable.
The BMW’s new throttle valve kinematic system is noticeably improved for 2011, providing not only a smoother throttle delivery, but also enhanced fuel mileage. Such good fuel mileage in fact, that if you’re anything like us, you’ll run out of steam before the bike runs out of fuel. That’s not to say we’re (too) out of shape, just that the wind blasts bouncing off the fly screen, mixed with the vibes through the handlebar, were more punishment than we could bear for an extended period.
If you can learn to live with the vibes, cramped ergos, and rather confusing gauge arrangement, you’ll be quite happy with the BMW. At the end of the day, we actually came to grips with it. And found pleasure in its more upright, relaxed seating position and plush seat. There’s still no denying this isn’t quite the bike Christian Pfeiffer makes it look to be though.
BMW F 800 R
** + Chassis is surprisingly stable mid-corner
+ ABS works well
– First gear too tall
– Excessive buzz through handlebar and foot pegs
– Poorly laid-out gauge cluster
x Some things are better left unsaid
**Suggested Suspension Settings
Rear: Spring preload—16 turns out from full soft; Rebound damping—1 turn out from full stiff
** BMW F 800 R
** 11.799 sec. @ 114.49 mph (corrected)
** 60-80mph/ 4.34 sec.80-100mph/ 4.64 sec.
**Ducati Monster 1100 EVO
** Always at the forefront of the naked bike segment, the Ducati Monster is one impressive package that combines both style and performance. And with its EVO treatment, the 2012 Monster 1100 EVO is every bit as enticing as its predecessors, and then some. New ergonomics and chassis bits are matched with a slightly altered design. Plus, revisions to the two-valve air-cooled engine make this one of the strongest Monsters to date. Not surprising then, was the ear-to-ear grin affixed to each of our test rider’s faces after their first stint on the bike.
With a new cylinder head design that features revised inlet ports and an altered combustion chamber shape, plus increased valve lift and reshaped pistons that bump compression from 10.7:1 to 11.3:1, the EVO even challenges the water-cooled competition, despite only spinning our Superflow’s drum to the tune of 85 horsepower. The true sweet spot on the Monster, as we would find, is between 5000 and 8000 rpm. Try to push it anywhere past that and say hello to the bike’s extremely harsh rev limiter. And yes, that only leaves you with about 3000 rpm to play with, but keep it in that range and the Monster will impress. Expect your left foot to get a workout, as that short rev range means more shifts per mile than you’d hope.
Handling is great with this new Monster, with the 43mm fully adjustable Marzocchi front fork providing near-perfect damping characteristics during our stints along Glendora Mountain Road, one of California’s finest. Thanks to its smaller stature and stable chassis, the Monster is on par with even the most nimble bikes of the group, with turn-in and transitions that require little effort. Out back, the Sachs rear shock provides a more sport-oriented feel, with slightly firmer settings that can admittedly make the bike feel a tad stiff over big bumps.
The Monster doesn’t just excel in the canyons though; it’s surprisingly comfortable and enjoyable around town too, with plenty of character to keep the flame burning long into the night. Thanks to a new seat design and 20mm-taller bar risers, the 1100 EVO is one of the most palatable of the Ducatis to date—a point all of our test riders were quick to note. Plus the bike’s new race-inspired, slipper-style wet clutch provides a light feel at the lever and zero wheel chatter, even when you are aggressive with the shift lever. And to boot, the new Pirelli Diablo Rosso II rubber fitted both fore and aft further improves the Monster’s linear steering, and offer great wear life. All this even masks the fact that the Monster is still rather buzzy and warms your southern regions quickly during urban commutes.
Previously a mere option on the Monster, ABS comes standard on the 2012 EVO. Unlike with the BMW, Ducati gives you the option to turn the system off altogether. We tried to run in said setting, but often found ourselves riding with it on, simply because we continually forgot the system automatically reverts to the on setting when the key is cycled. That said, the front and rear ABS work well, with the cycling only being a tad intrusive. Feel from the Brembo four-piston radial calipers biting on 320mm discs isn’t exactly that of the feel from the Triumph’s Nissin units, but things do get slowed down in a hurry. The biggest thing we noted is that while initial feel is rather mushy, when grabbed with force, the Brembo stoppers provide great power—although by that time, it’s likely the ABS has already been actuated.
Of the group, the 1100 EVO is the only bike to offer traction control. One would hardly know it though, as the system goes almost unnoticed. With only four levels of interruption, the system’s interface thankfully isn’t too overwhelming and can be navigated with ease. Plus, you have the option to shut the system off if you’d like. Throughout the test, we ran with the system set to level two, and no test rider argued that the system was adversely affecting the ride.
At the end of the day, the 1100 EVO is as simple as Kento makes it seem: “Much better overall than the previous 1100”.
Ducati Monster 1100 EVO
** + Improved ergonomics
+ Extremely nimble chassis and competent front end
+ Updated design makes for one sexy bike
– Narrow powerband leaves you constantly searching gearbox
– Things get hot near your southern region in traffic and at stoplights
– Gauges are especially useless during the day
x Still counting how many people said “that’s a cool Ducati”.
**Suggested Suspension Settings
Front: Spring preload—8.5 turns out from full stiff; Rebound damping—1 turn out from full stiff; Compression damping—2.25 turns out from full stiff
Rear: Spring preload—13mm thread showing above locking preload collar; Rebound damping—8 clicks out from full stiff
** Ducati Monster 1100 EVO
Quarter mile 10.89 sec. @ 119.95 mph (corrected)
Roll-ons 60-80mph/ 3.99 sec. 80-100mph/ 3.45 sec.
**Triumph Street Triple R
** The 2012 Street Triple R isn’t all-new this year, nor has it been heavily revised like the Ducati, but aesthetic changes, adjustable Kayaba suspension and upgraded Nissin stoppers warranted the Triumph a spot in this comparo. And we’re thankful we didn’t leave it out, as it is perhaps the most refined Street Triple to date.
While the 675cc power plant has gone structurally unchanged, the clever Brits have fine-tuned the fuel injection to provide an absolute faultless throttle response; it’s this character that had most of our test riders falling in love with the Triumph after just minutes.
Power is great from the three-cylinder engine as well, and its expansive range of power even lets you get lazy with the gear shifter, which is a shame considering the Triumph has a standout transmission, good for absolute seamless shifts. Float the tach needle anywhere between 4000 and 9000 rpm, and the bike is more than content, with additional power available all the way up to the 12,650 rpm rev limiter. Especially nice about this broad range of power is how it made our favorite sections of road—which were once work on the Monster—much less demanding.
As if our test riders didn’t have reason enough to fight over the Triumph, throw in the R model’s fully adjustable Kayaba fork and shock and you have an all-out brawl for seat time. Matched only by the Ducati’s Marzocchi units, the Street Triple R’s front fork provides sporty damping characteristics that are only a tad firm for freeway stints. Add to that a chassis based on the 675 Daytona and you have the hands-down best handling bike of the group, with a “neutral yet light feel,” as Kento claimed in his notes. Of course that’s aided by the bike’s sporty Pirelli Rosso Corsa rubber.
Thanks to twin 308mm floating discs and Nissin four-piston radial calipers, the Triumph is in a field of its own in terms of brakes too, with a strong initial bite and great power all the way through the pull. Throughout the test in fact, the only brakes that provided equal feel were those of the Yamaha.
Up front the 2012 Street Triple R runs Triumph’s new wolf-eye headlights. Either you love ‘em or you hate ‘em. While we won’t take sides, we will say that the flyscreen from Triumph’s accessory catalog is surely a must. As the only bike in the group without at least some form of wind protection, the Triumph is somewhat tiresome when blasted by head winds. Still, in a group of bikes that tend to vibrate more than the massage chair in your living room, the Street Triple takes comfort to a whole new level. The bike is so smooth, in fact, with such little vibrations at either surface street or freeway speeds that the miles seem to just tick away without notice.
Quite surprisingly, the Street Triple R is only the second most expensive bike of our group, coming in just behind the Yamaha—a bike clearly built with a price point in mind—with an MSRP under the five-figure mark at just $9599.
Triumph Street Triple R
** + Most nimble chassis of the group
+ Near-perfect fuel injection
+ Tons of power throughout rev range
– High foot peg position can have taller riders cramped up
– Could use a flyscreen. Something. Anything.
x Love at first ride
**Suggested Suspension Settings
Front: Spring preload—7 turns out from full stiff; Rebound damping—2 clicks out from full stiff; Compression damping—3 clicks out from full stiff; Ride height—8mm fork tube protruding above top triple clamp Rear: Spring preload—11mm thread showing above locking preload collar; Rebound damping—7 clicks out from full stiff; Compression damping—7 clicks out from full stiff
Triumph Street Triple R
** Quarter mile 10.76 sec. @ 124.413 mph (corrected)
Roll-ons 60-80mph/ 3.44 sec. 80-100mph/ 3.75 sec.
** Talk about bang for your buck. With an unbelievably low MSRP of just $8490, the 2011 Yamaha FZ8 is by far the bike least likely to do any long lasting damage to your savings account. And with its geometry coming straight from its larger displacement sibling, the FZ1, Yamaha’s new naked was sure to stir things up in this year’s naked test.
Rather than running the same five-valve head as the FZ1, the new 779cc FZ8 runs a redesigned four-valve iteration, with altered valve timing and cam profiles. The result is a surprisingly strong engine that pulls hard from 5000 rpm all the way to up to 12,000 rpm. With its strong midrange, the FZ8 feels like the quickest of the group too, with plenty of top-end to easily get you in trouble with the law. There’s something to be said for how crisp the Yamaha’s throttle response is as well, and how smooth the ride is—have to thank the rubber inserts on the footpegs here. The six-speed transmission is flawless and the spacing between gears is almost perfect—again, only matched by the Triumph.
It doesn’t end there. The Yamaha has exceptional ergonomics, with an almost perfect reach to the handlebar and plenty of room for riders surpassing the six-foot mark. Of the group, it’s got the most comfy seat to boot; sometimes it’s the little things that make a difference. Looks are a different story though, and the bike’s wide fuel tank looks more fitted for a B-King than a middleweight naked.
Holding the FZ8 back is its non-adjustable 43mm KYB fork and YHSJ rear shock. That’s not to say that the units aren’t up to par. In fact, for freeway riding and around-town commuting, they work exceptionally well. It’s just that, while turn-in is quick thanks to the bike’s narrow 5.5-inch rear wheel, steering mid-corner feels heavy as the soft suspension packs down and turns the nimble bike into a tank. Plus, the front fork protests heavily over chewed-up sections of road, and the rear is soft enough that our 180-pound test riders made sure to keep their chiropractors on speed dial during the test. Of course, that could be a non-issue for those willing to look elsewhere for fully adjustable suspension. That’s already available, too (one need only refer to this issue’s BFK).
In terms of rubber, the FZ8 comes with a set of specifically designed Bridgestone BT-021 tires that aren’t the sportiest of the bunch, but provide great wear. In the braking department the FZ8 is no slouch, with the Sumitomo calipers biting on 310mm discs to provide both great feel and power. Thanks to its sleek headlight design and small flyscreen, the Yamaha is perhaps the least abusive of the group to ride at freeway speeds. Plus, the bike features the most easy-to-read dash of the group, with an LCD readout that is perfectly laid out and a tachometer that is easy to read at a glance.
While clearly built with a price point in mind, the FZ8 is still an impressive package, with a strong engine and decent handling characteristics.
+ Great midrange power
+ Most comfy seat of the group
+ Smooth ride with few vibes
– Feels cumbersome compared to the others
– Obnoxious intake howl
– Suspension is too soft for aggressive riding
x Not a bad bang for your buck
**Suggested Suspension Settings
** Front: N/A
Rear: Spring preload: position 5 of 9
** Quarter mile 11.23 sec. @ 121.002 mph (corrected)
Roll-ons 60-80mph/ 4.37 sec.80-100mph/ 4.29 sec.
|Specifications||BMW F 800 R||Ducati Monster 1100 EVO||Triumph Street Triple R||Yamaha FZ8|
|MSRP||$9950 ($11,395 as tested with premium package)||$11,995||$9599||$8490|
|Type||Liquid-cooled parallel-twin DOHC four-stroke, 4 valves/cyl.||Air-cooled L-twin SOHC four-stroke, 2 valves/cyl.||Liquid-cooled inline three-cylinder DOHC four-stroke, 4 valves/cyl.||Liquid-cooled inline four-cylinder DOHC four-stroke, 4 valves/cyl|
|Bore x Stroke||82.0 x 75.6mm||98.0 x 71.5mm||74.0 x 52.3mm||78.0 x 53.6mm|
|Induction||BMW BMS-KP electronic fuel injection, single injector/cyl.||Siemens EFI, 45mm throttle bodies, single injector/cyl.||Keihin multi-point sequential fuel injection, 44mm throttle bodies, single injector/cyl.||Mikuni EFI w/motor drive sub—throttle, 35mm throttle bodies, single injector/cyl.|
|Front Suspension||43mm telescopic fork, 4.9 in. travel||43mm inverted cartridge fork, 5.1 in. travel||41mm inverted cartridge fork, 5.1 in. travel||43mm inverted fork, 5.1 in. travel|
|Rear Suspension||Single shock, 4.9 in. travel||Single progressive shock, 5.8 in. travel||Single shock, 5.1 in. travel||Single shock, 5.1 in. travel|
|Front Tire||120/70ZR-17 Metzler Sportech M3||120/70ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso II||120/70ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa||120/70ZR-17 Bridgestone BT-021F BB|
|Rear Tire||180/55ZR-17 Metzler Sportech M3||180/55ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso II||180/55ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa||180/55ZR-17 Bridgestone BT-021F BB|
|Rake/Trail||25 deg. / 3.6 in. (91mm)||24 deg. / 3.8 in. (97mm)||23.9 deg. / 3.6 in. (92mm)||25 deg. / 4.3 in. (109mm)|
|Wheelbase||59.8 in. (1519mm)||57.1 in. (1450mm)||55.5 in. (1410mm)||57.5 in. (1460mm)|
|Weight||455 lb. (206 kg) wet; 430 lb. (195 kg) dry||418 lb. (190 kg) wet; 397 lb. (180 kg) dry||422 lb. (191 kg) wet; 395 lb. (179 kg) dry||463 lb. (210 kg) wet; 436 lb. (198 kg) dry|
|Fuel Consumption||45 to 47 mpg, 46 mpg average||32 to 48 mpg, 40 mpg average||34 to 47 mpg, 42 mpg average||36 to 44 mpg, 41 mpg average|
While the 1100 EVO benefits from healthier torque figures, power is hard to come by up top, and only the BMW offers less horsepower. While the Street Triple R has the least amount of torque, the three-cylinder has a horsepower figure on par with the FZ8 and the smoothest power curve.
It’s A Little Like Tee Ball
Of course, because each of these bikes vary so drastically in engine configuration, displacement and even price, we were forced to restrain from scoring them based on performance against each other. Saying we won’t keep a tally though, is a lot like parents saying they aren’t keeping score at their kid’s tee ball game. We’re not buying it. Neither are you, we’re sure. With that, we will say that there was obviously one standout in the group, and that is made clear in our accompanying SROs. But let’s not lose sight of the big picture here: how strong the naked bike segment is right now. And to think, we almost completely overlooked the category.
** **Eric Nugent
** While I had a blast riding all these bikes, I wouldn’t have guessed at the end of it I would be picking the Triumph as my favorite. Looking at the lineup on paper, the Ducati Monster 1100 EVO, the BMW F 800 R, the Yamaha FZ8 and the Triumph Street Triple 675R, I would have thought the BMW would have been the one with the target on her back. But as it turns out, the Triumph (the smallest displacement of the bunch) was the bike that did everything right and then some. With the 1100 EVO in second I have a new love for the Monster line. And with a great engine, I chose the FZ8 to round out the podium in third.
Every time I try to compare a couple of motorcycles I ask myself, what am I looking for? Depending on your lifestyle and/or budget there are a variety of options. In the low budget department is the Yamaha FZ8; its soft seat and plush suspension made it a very comfortable performer, but wide tank had me thrown off. If your taste is more exotic, then you might consider the Ducati Monster 1100 EVO. I enjoyed the style and performance of the Ducati, plus the Ducati Safety Package is a nice touch, since you can turn the ABS on or off and adjust the intensity of the traction control. High on the scale in both the performance and fun category is the Triumph Street Triple R. The power and agility of the Street Triple is inspiring, and overall it is a great package.
** It was love at first ride. For me, the Triumph Street Triple R just did everything so well. Not only does the bike have the absolute most crisp throttle response of any bike I have yet ridden, but it has plenty of power and is completely free of vibrations—something the other bikes can’t lay claim to. Still, a big surprise to me was how well the Yamaha FZ8 works. For being the budget bike of the group, the thing handles extremely well, plus has plenty of midrange and peak power to make things interesting. Not too far behind, in my opinion, is the Monster 1100 EVO, with the price tag being the only thing that really holds me back. Of course that leaves the BMW bringing up the rear. I grew to accept the bike, but I won’t say I like it.
This comparison really boils down to two protagonists in the middleweight naked category, divided neatly down both price and intended riding venue lines. On one hand there’s the Yamaha FZ8; economically priced, and comfortable enough to handle long commutes or all-day rides without complaint. On the other, the Triumph Street Triple R, with the type of performance that can slay much larger prey on a tight and twisty road…and also very reasonably priced. Which to choose?
If you’re on a budget and aren’t looking for squiggly lines every time you look at a map, then the Yamaha is for you. But if you’re willing to pay a little more for backroad performance and a stirring exhaust note, you simply can’t go wrong with the Triumph.