Strip lightning! The best naked motorbikes of 2021
Before sports bikes gained racer-replica bodywork, touring machines required weather-beating full fairings and even adventure machines donned screens, beaks and all manner of plastic add-ons, all bikes were naked.
- Latest news: Triumph Trident makes comeback for 2021
Today, though, naked is the term we apply to unfaired, upright, uncluttered but otherwise modern machines that appeal for their pure simplicity, light ease of use and reasonable versatility.
What’s the appeal of a naked motorcycle?
Being unfettered and upright a naked is often both affordable and easy to ride; especially when it comes to smaller bikes for novices. A middleweight naked can give a classic, wind-in-the-hair motorcycling experience a faired sports bike or tourer can’t match, while a large-capacity or sportster-derived super-naked can deliver superbike thrills but with upright comfort and added versatility.
Of course, there are downsides, too: being exposed to the elements means a naked can be more tiring over distance and lacks the luxury faired bikes can offer, but for a pure motorcycling experience there’s none better.
2020 acted as a battle ground forn a new breed of hyper nakeds with superbike-rivaling power figures and top-level components. A new benchmark in performance has brought with it a new benchmark in price, and with the older models in the category still packing serious punch it could be wise to go for a used machine instead. Here’s our pick of the best around right now, in all categories…
Best naked motorcycles in 2021
- Aprilia Tuono V4 1100 Factory
- Ducati Streetfighter V4S
- KTM 1290 Super Duke R
- BMW R1250R
- BMW S1000R
- Triumph Street Triple RS
- KTM 890 Duke R
- Triumph Speed Triple 1050 RS
- Yamaha MT-07
- Yamaha MT-10SP
- Honda CB500F
- KTM 390 Duke
- Zero SR/F
2017 Aprilia Tuono V4 1100 Factory
Spec: 1077cc / 175bhp / 183kg / 820mm seat height
Price: £11,900 (used), £16,999 (new)
Although the RSV4 sportster it’s based on has started to fall behind its rivals, the Tuono, thanks to spec boosts to RR and Factory trim, then a capacity and power hike in 2015 have kept the roadster version ahead of the pack.
The top-spec Factory, with Ohlins, Brembos and more is as exotic and potent as nakeds get and was improved further in 2019 with the adoption of new semi-active suspension.
Top-spec Aprilias are generally beautifully built, packed with quality components and durable, however Tuonos appeal to hooligans and dealers are sparser than most. Weak residuals can make them a tempting used buy.
2020 Ducati Streetfighter V4S
Spec: 1103cc / 205bhp / 199kg / 845mm seat height
Price: £19,800 (used), £19,975 (new)
The Streetfighter V4 was unveiled at the end of 2019 and made Ducati’s intentions in the naked sector very clear. Essentially a Panigale V4S with the fairing stripped off, the Streetfighter shares the Öhlins suspension, Brembo brakes and lightweight cast aluminium frame as its superbike stablemate.
With 205bhp on tap, you’d expect riding the Streetfighter to feel like clinging on to a raging bull, but MCN Chief Road Tester, Michael Neeves, was surprised to discover how refined it can be.
"The 2020 Ducati Streetfighter V4 S is the speed-crazed wheelie monster you’d expect it to be, but it has a surprisingly grown-up side, too," he said. "Friendly at low speed and perfectly happy to accelerate hard with both wheels on the floor, it’s far calmer than its V-twin predecessor and its supermoto-like riding position is less extreme, too."
If the price of the top-spec Streetfighter V4 S is a step too far, there’s a base model costing just over two grand less. It’s 2kg heavier and has cast wheels, mechanically adjustable Showa Big Piston Forks and Sachs shock. If the Panigale V4 is anything to go by it won’t ride a million miles differently, but without semi-active damping the suspension will be a little firmer.
- Read the full Ducati Streetfighter V4S review on MCN
- Read MCN's long-term test report for the Ducati Streetfighter V4S
2020 KTM 1290 Super Duke R
Spec: 1301cc / 178bhp / 189kg / 835mm seat height
Price: £14,000 (used), £15,699 (new)
But despite having 178bhp and 103.3ftlb of torque on tap, the 2020 iteration of the Super Duke R is more refined and polite than ever before, as MCN contributor Jon Urry discovered at the bike’s launch.
"The KTM 1290 Superduke R's unique selling point has always been its V-twin motor’s monster amount of grunt," he said. "However, previous models were just too abrupt with this surge of torque and it overwhelmed the bike’s chassis and electronics to the point that the ride became too wild and you felt like you were fighting against, rather than enjoying it.
"By dialling back this aggression, and refining its chassis and power output, KTM have made their naked bike far more fun to ride while still ensuring 'The Beast' retains a welcome bit of attitude. It’s had its claws trimmed, but its teeth remain nice and sharp."
The Super Duke R is built with impressive attention to detail and top quality parts, but it’s no secret they’ve had their problems with quality and reliability with some machines. But the Austrian firm are constantly developing and improving their machines and most riders have had nothing but trouble-free ownership.
We have a few owners' reviews for the outgoing 2019 version and they are all positive so far.
2019 BMW R1250R
Spec: 1250cc / 134bhp / 239kg / 820mm seat height
Price: £11,000 (used), £11,215 (new)
The ‘R’ (for naked Roadster) has been, certainly in Britain, the largely overlooked version of BMW’s legendary boxer twin but ever since the first new-generation, 1100cc ‘oil-head’ in 1995, it’s also been one of the best.
It combines pleasing purity with decent all-round performance and BMW’s traditional class, despite sometimes oddball looks. The 2006-on 1200 model remains the basis of the brilliant R nineT retro while, since evolving into the canbus version in 2015, which saw a return to telescopic forks from Telelever, 125bhp and much improved looks.
It’s become a truly great all-rounder and 2019 sees the new 134bhp ShiftCam motor, classy TFT screen and more, while the optional extras catalogue means you can make it what you want. Yes, it’s a little sensible and sober and not cheap but you won’t be disappointed.
BMW quality is good, the later 1200 and new 1250 is problem-free and the R tends to be owned by mature owners so are looked after and serviced properly. Options such as heated grips and luggage are worth looking out for, though.
2014 BMW S1000R
Spec: 999cc / 165bhp / 207kg / 814mm seat height
Price: £6500 (used), £11,190 (new)
Although on face value simply an un-faired version of the RR with a nose cowling and flat bars, BMW’s thoroughness means it’s actually a lot more than that. The engine’s been detuned to deliver more grunt and flexibility, it’s smooth and safe thanks to flawless electronics yet it’s raw and wild when you want it to be.
Plus there’s lots of BMW options available. If you want a four-cylinder super-naked with genuine versatility and a touch of class, this is the one.
BMW’s S1000RR family has proved largely reliable and the R is less stressed. Buyers also tend to again be mature and responsible. Spec can vary greatly so look around, but on the plus side Rs can be found more cheaply than most BMWs as well.
2017 Triumph Street Triple RS
Spec: 765cc / 121bhp / 166kg / 825mm seat height
Price: £7500 (used), £10,300 (new)
Triumph’s smaller naked was launched as a naked version of the original Daytona 675 in 2007 and proved a masterstroke, exploiting the flexibility and character of the 675cc triple in a stylish, affordable, versatile and fun middleweight package that appealed to novices and experienced riders alike.
It’s been updated successively but the biggest change came in 2017 with a growth to 765cc, addition of electronics and, significantly an expansion to three variants: the base 111bhp S, 116bhp R with Brembos and fully-adjustable suspension and this range-topping RS complete with more power, top-spec electronics, TFT screen… the works. It’s a brilliant, all-round, midi super-naked.
Although it’s only been around in 765cc for two years the Street Triple’s history is solid and Triumph’s higher-spec bikes are well-built and classy. By its nature, though, it can be thrashed and suffer novice damage so with plenty out there shop around.
2020 KTM 890 Duke R
Spec: 890cc / 119bhp / 166kg / 834mm seat height
Price: £10,000 (used), £10,399 (new)
The 890 Duke R is the sportier of the Austrian firm’s middleweight Dukes, the softer option being the 790. The Duke is a single-minded but immensely capable motorcycle that MCN’s Chief Road Tester Michael Neeves described as one of the finest handling road bikes money can buy.
If you fancy the odd bit of touring or carrying a pillion, this probably isn’t the bike for you. But if all your miles are done for fun on sunny weekends or at trackdays, this could be the perfect fit.
Our online owners’ reviews of the 790 Duke’s build quality and reliability are mixed, so we hope they’ve been addressed with the 890. But it’s a brand-new motorcycle so it’s too early to tell just yet.
2018 Triumph Speed Triple 1050 RS
Spec: 1050cc / 148bhp / 189kg / 825mm seat height
Price: £10,300 (used), £13,600 (new)
The big Speed Triple is one of the British firm’s biggest success stories. Originally launched as an unfaired, naked version of the then Daytona 900 triple sportster it was an instant hit due to its grunty, three-cylinder character, classy style and upright versatility.
Twenty-five years and at least four updates since, the same is true today. Last updated and gaining 10bhp in 2018 there’s now two versions, the more basic S at £11,600 and this top spec RS with fully adjustable Ohlins, Arrow cans, carbon fibre and more. The Speedie was always distinctive, evocative and useful, now it's classy, sophisticated and fast as well.
The Speed Triple RS is built to a high standard with great attention to detail and high-quality parts. What’s more it’s been constantly refined over the years. As long as it’s been looked after and service properly you should have few concerns – plus there are plenty out there to choose from.
2017 Yamaha MT-07
Spec: 689cc / 74bhp / 182kg / 805mm seat height
Price: £4500 (used) - £6349 (new)
Basically a smaller, cheaper twin cylinder version of the already brilliant MT-09 900cc triple, the MT-07 has been a sales sensation across Europe since its launch in 2014 due to its irresistible combination of perky, flexible performance, great handling stunning value and an almost unique ability to appeal both to novices as a first big bike and experienced riders as a Sunday toy.
A 2017 update eradicated one of its few faults (over soft forks) and improved its looks. Yes, it’s a little basic and lacks long-legged versatility (Yamaha have the 700 Tracer for that), but for the money, the MT-07’s virtually unbeatable.
Mechanically it’s pretty reliable but watch for corrosion and cosmetic damage as the MT-07’s both built down to a price and likely to suffer from novice neglect. But again, its popularity means there’s plenty to choose from.
2017 Yamaha MT-10SP
Spec: 998cc / 158bhp / 210kg / 825mm seat height
Price: £11,000 (used) - £14,299 (new)
A slightly unusual recipe of making a naked out of Yamaha’s R1 superbike and then up-speccing it into SP trim with top quality semi-active Ohlins suspension and quality colour TFT clocks resulted in not just a brilliant super-naked performance roadster but also a classy, refined all-rounder (it’s mini-screen arguably discounts it from being a true naked) but it does make the MT-10SP genuinely versatile.
The detuned, cross plane crank four is one of the best engines around, the uprated chassis delivers both excellent handling and versatility thanks to now being switchable on the move and it’s classy and well built, too. Yes, it’s pricey and slightly odd looking, but the big MT is a brilliant bike.
The SP is one of the better built Yamahas and features quality components while the base R1 powertrain has no known glitches. Cosmetic damage or neglect apart there’s nothing to fear.
2016 Honda CB500F
Spec: 471cc / 47bhp / 189kg / 789mm seat height
Price: £3700 (used) - £5599 (new)
If you’re a relatively new biker with an A2 licence, Honda’s purpose-built twin is simply the best naked option available. As the roadster variant of Honda’s tailor-made A2 CB500 family (the others being the sports CBR500R and adventure CB500X) it has the same, easy and willing 47bhp twin, a neutral chassis which is a doddle to get on with is reasonably versatile and, for 2019, benefits from stylish new clocks, a useful boost in mid-range and slightly uprated styling and all for well under £6k. Better still, older used versions are even cheaper still.
Although built down to a price in Thailand, Honda quality shines through and the little CB is both durable and reliable – as are the rest of the CB500 family. Watch for the usual novice neglect and scrapes, though.
2013 KTM 390 Duke
Spec: 375cc / 44bhp / 149kg / 830mm seat height
Price: £1700 (used) - £4699 (new)
Originally launched in 2013 the lightweight, punchy, 44bhp single redefined how much fun you could have on an A2-compliant machine thanks to its supermoto lightness and nimble handling combined with a punchy, single-cylinder motor. The result is a hoot and great fun both for novices and experienced riders. Plus, it got even better yet in 2017 with a new TFT dash, LED headlight, revised styling a more. Yes, it’s brash and lairy and no good over distance, but for urban, hooligan fun, no A2 naked gives you more.
Some KTMs have had durability issues and there’s no getting away from the fact that the Duke is spindly and likely to have been thrashed and crashed but find a good one that’s been correctly looked after and we see no cause for concern.
2019 Zero SR/F
Spec: electric / 110bhp / 220kg / 787mm seat height
Price: £16,000+ (used) - £17,990 (new)
Yes, electric motorbikes are still both a motorcycling rarity and novelty, while the best examples also remain prohibitively expensive. But there’s also no doubt that, of the current crop, Californian electric specialist Zero’s new-for-2019 SR/F is the best – and is a naked, too. It’s the first product of their attempt to build machines with more performance and more conventional motorcycle chassis.
So, the SR/F has an almost Ducati Monster-style tubular chassis, decent inverted forks and radial brakes, a modern colour TFT dash and Zero’s best powerplant yet. As a result, the ride is classic performance roadster (think Ducati Monster, but heavier); initial acceleration is phenomenal; ease of use is total and range is a realistic 80-plus miles. Yes, it’s expensive and the infrastructure isn’t quite there yet. But this is the best naked electric you can buy.
With the SR/F, as it’s so new and so few are yet available used, it’s difficult to offer solid advice but you can be reassured that Zero have a decent track record and most of its components are proven.