Upright aggression: MCN's guide to the best stripped-back super nakeds on the market in 2021
A new generation of super nakeds hit the streets last year with more power, fancier tech and higher price tags than ever before. The headline grabbers were Ducati and Kawasaki whose new bikes – the Streetfighter V4 S and Z H2 - boasted superbike-matching statistics and face-melting performance.
Best super naked motorbikes
- Aprilia Tuono V4 1100 Factory
- KTM 1290 Super Duke R
- Ducati Streetfighter V4 S
- Yamaha MT-10 SP
- Kawasaki Z H2
- BMW S1000R
- MV Agusta Brutale 1000RR
And in this opulent world of excess, none is more excessively opulent than MV Agusta who also entered the ring with the Brutale 1000RR.
But the old guard aren’t finished yet. There’s a new generation of KTM 1290 Super Duke R to consider and, despite receiving no upgrades, the Yamaha MT-10 SP, Aprilia Tuono V4 1100 Factory and BMW S1000R are still firmly in the running, too.
We’ve ranked the bikes from best to worst, but it would be difficult not to enjoy any of these in isolation. In truth, the bar is set so high and there are so many great machines here that the best one for you will be the one that suits your riding style and habits the most. There’s a reason that none of them receives less than 4 stars overall in MCN’s bike reviews!
Aprilia Tuono V4 1100 Factory
Spec: 1077cc / 175bhp / 183kg / 820mm seat height
Price: £11,900 (used), £16,999 (new)
The Tuono V4 1100 Factory has reigned supreme in the supernaked sector since its release in 2015 and it is the benchmark to which the new challengers would always be measured.
Blessed with the best of engines, brakes, tyres, electronics, soundtracks and suspension, it’s little wonder the Italian has consistently been our favourite super naked since it grew from 1000 to 1100, mixing undiluted superbike performance with high-barred, cruise-controlled practicality.
Updated for 2019, the Tuono 1100 V4 Factory gets semi-active Öhlins, which broadened its appeal. It isn’t a big leap in normal conditions, where the new electronic suspension doesn’t feel too different from the old mechanically-adjustable units, but at the far end of the spectrum it automatically softens for bumpy roads and hunkers down for the fast, billiard-smooth Tarmac.
The Tuono’s engine is smooth and torquey with a sledgehammer-like but velvety thrust at the top end. It strains at the leash in the midrange and only a racetrack will do full justice to all 173 of its searing horses.
The Tuono is more compact than some of the other bikes in this list (but still comfy for taller riders), its polished aluminium frame and swingarm are works of art, brakes hiss and bite like a true racer and Pirelli Super Corsa SPs flatly refuse to budge in a corner.
One of the best up/down quickshifters in the business serves to make life aboard the Aprilia more enjoyable, as does cruise control, its flashy dash and rider aids that are separated-out so they can be honed to perfection. Build quality and attention to detail is as luxurious as road bikes get and the final gift is its new electronic Öhlins.
For race-replica fans, the Tuono’s have-your-cake-and-eat-it recipe of speed, excitement, practicality and tech makes it the perfect performance bike; unless you’re the most hardcore of track addicts.
KTM 1290 Super Duke R
Spec: 1301cc / 178bhp / 189kg / 835mm seat height
Price: £14,000 (used), £15,699 (new)
KTM’s new 1290 Super Duke R enjoys a new level of refinement and easy speed that makes it the most rewarding and exciting to ride at any speed. It ticks every super naked box, including the one marked ‘mischievous’.
The KTM is the ultimate thrill-seeker of the bunch. Like the Kawasaki, the 1290 Super Duke R is a ground-up, dedicated head banger and didn’t start life as a superbike, although it’s easy to overlook in this company with its ‘modest’ 177bhp, familiar face and understated satin black plastics.
But the Super Duke has come of age. It still looks like it’ll rearrange your facial features in a dark alley, but it has a more luxurious feel now thanks to a snazzy new colour dash, designer chassis labels and jagged switchgear buttons.
It also comes with keyless ignition and cruise control as standard. It’s the most well-rounded of the super naked class of 2020 - sportier and more exciting than the Kawasaki, with instant, in-any-gear acceleration to match and every inch as quick and capable as the Ducati in the real world.
Tighter and more refined than the outgoing Super Duke, the 1.3 litre V-twin rumbles in all the right places but is now so polished it feels more like a four cylinder than the Streetfighter at times.
Where the Ducati thrives on revs and the Kawasaki is an elasticated crescendo of double cream power, the KTM is a festival of grunt. It produces so much bottom-end torque it can take corners a gear or two higher than you’d expect and the motor barely needs more than 5000rpm to go about its business, extremely quickly. Rev it harder and it accelerates as rapidly as your muscles will stand.
Rider aids enhance the experience more than ever and guide you along rather than nagging at you, but the 1290 Super Duke R is as gloriously unhinged as a supermoto when you switch them off.
A stiffer new frame, revised geometry, rear linkage and WP Apex suspension have transformed the KTM’s ride, poise and agility. It covers ground devastatingly quickly with little effort, unlike the Ducati which demands rider input and the Kawasaki that wishes it hadn’t had that extra pie.
Brembos are race-grade and the ride quality supple, but not quite in the Ducati’s semi-active league and while Bridgestone S22 sports tyres are excellent, racier rubber would really let its new chassis shine.
The most well-rounded 1290 Super Duke to date, the KTM does the mundane and rapid with ease, all with a cheeky grin on its face.
Ducati Streetfighter V4 S
Spec: 1103cc / 205bhp / 199kg / 845mm seat height
Price: £19,800 (used), £19,975 (new)
If you’re serious about your riding and crave the finer things in biking life the Ducati Streetfighter V4 S won’t disappoint. It’s everything you’d expect an exotic superbike to be, albeit it a naked one.
Paint finishes are deep, components top drawer and its skimpy bodywork is designed to within an inch of its life. It’s just a shame there’s so much plastic where, for the money, carbon fibre should really live.
Unlike the Kawasaki Z H2 which thrives at road speeds, the Ducati merely tolerates it - after all this is a bike with an engine that started life in Dovi’s 2014 MotoGP racer, a BSB-winning chassis and WSB-grade electronics.
Despite its urge to get going, its 1103cc V4 engine is unthreatening, easy to manage and just about happy enough to bimble. Bars ooze motocross aggression and footpegs are high, but the seat is nicely padded, it’s roomy and the rear cylinders cut at tickover to stop your under-quarters from gently frying.
At low speed its twin-pulse motor chugs like a twin, but it quickly turns into an even, bass-loaded rumble. The Ducati has enough midrange grunt to keep you interested without ever needing to go further, but it’s certifiable past 10,000rpm and just when you thought it was quick, the Ducati blood-spits its way to its heady 14,500rpm redline.
It’s a serious motorcycle that doesn’t want to waste its energy by playing the fool. Of course, you can wheelie and skid the Streetfighter about (it even has ‘backing-in’ control), but it’s happier firing towards the horizon with both wheels on the floor.
Its counter-rotating crank, wings, decreasing torque maps, extended swingarm and rider aids are all designed with lap times in mind, but as a result the Ducati lacks a degree of super naked cheekiness.
Instead, it rewards exponentially the harder you rev it and push its ultra-stiff chassis. It wears lightweight Marchesini forged ali wheels, has semi-active Öhlins, Brembo Stylema calipers (the latest and greatest) and a 200/60 section rear Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa II (the biggest and stickiest).
Ride quality is plush in Street mode and it’ll take corners at any speed with barely a flinch in Sport. It hunkers down and digs in the harder you ride, so you’ll need to book a trackday to properly appreciate its talents.
Yamaha MT-10 SP
Spec: 998cc / 158bhp / 210kg / 825mm seat height
Price: £11,000 (used) - £14,299 (new)
The Yamaha MT-10 SP is more than just an R1 with the fairing ripped-off. There’s more low-down grunt, a gentler throttle response and a flexier chassis for more feel in low-grip conditions, but belting out 158bhp it oozes potential.
This snazzy £14,299 SP version comes with an R1M-aping paintjob, a colour dash and semi-active Öhlins. It might look racy, but it’s roomy, has a nice squidgy seat, a fuel gauge and cruise control.
Yowling and screaming its head off, the crossplane crank motor still amazes nine years after Yamaha brought out the original big bang R1. This clever engine has the easy, vibe-free flexibility of an electric motor, on and off the throttle, mated to the kind of ballistic top end you can only really exploit fully on track.
The MT-10 SP instantly involves you in the riding experience and delivers a more vivid impression of speed; a superbike needs to be pinging against the limiter to get the same buzz. It feels just like an R1M does at the limit on track, but at a more sedate pace and best of all you’re treated to that same uniquely glorious crossplane soundtrack every time you tap the even smoother ride-by-wire throttle.
Few bikes cover ground as quickly, in as much comfort, or while having as much fun as the MT-10 SP. Better still, you can stick a tank bag on it and take it touring, or fit sticky tyres and rip up a trackday.
The MT-10 SP might not make your heart skip with lust – its Transformers styling isn’t to everyone’s taste - but it’s so much fun it makes your grin bones hurt.
Kawasaki Z H2
Spec: 998cc / 197bhp / 239kg / 830mm seat height
Price: £13,300 (used), £15,149 (new)
Despite sharing the same supercharged engine as a Kawasaki Ninja H2, the Z H2 is actually less of a naked racetrack refugee than you’d expect. It’s more like what you’d end up with if you streetfightered a Suzuki Hayabusa or Kawasaki ZZR1400.
It’s low, long and 239kg-heavy, with bars swept back towards you, almost cruiser-style and comes with the reassuring user-friendliness of any one of Kawasaki’s current sit-up-and-beg Zeds.
If you’ve got a runway to play with the Z H2 will pull ruthlessly through the upper gears until you can’t hang on any longer, but what’s clear on the road is just how calm and collected it is for something so big and powerful.
For the most part its weight is actually useful, locking you into the tarmac and at low revs the force-fed inline four is docile and pulls cleanly in top from just 1500rpm… and doesn’t stop until your neck muscles call time.
In fact, the Kawasaki is so refined the only clue to its supercharged blood group is the exhaust’s gravely undertones and its distinctive off-throttle chirp. An exercise in controlled aggression, the power is linear and the Zed’s combined traction and wheelie control are so refined they’ll let you treat the throttle with the utmost of disrespect, without the rear ever letting go or the front going north.
Fast cruising is its thing and it’s composed through long, smooth flowing curves. Pirelli Diablo Rosso III tyres have plenty of grip and it’s capable for its size, but scratching isn’t what the Z H2 is about. It lacks the composure and front-end feel of the Ducati, Aprilia and KTM and its throttle manners are spikier mid-corner, with power coming in with too much of a jolt.
The Kawasaki is well finished, has cruise control, Brembos, fully adjustable Showa forks and a colour screen, but it lacks the attention to detail that gives the KTM and Ducati such a premium feel. Its basic semi-adjustable rear shock works well enough, but doesn’t deliver the magic carpet ride you’d expect.
Spec: 999cc / 165bhp / 207kg / 814mm seat height
Price: £6500 (used), £11,190 (new)
But being based on a bike from that era means that equipment like the analogue tacho and LCD dash combo looks pretty dated. The Brembo brakes are sharp, but not as sharp as the later generation units on the competition and the wheels are heavier.
None of this, of course, really matters when you’re riding in the real world and neither does the fact that it ‘only’ produces 163bhp. BMW opted to soften the power of the naked version of the bike but focus on torque lower in the rev range. That means it’ll pull from 1500rpm in top gear making it easy to go for that gap on the road without stirring the gearbox.
Old-school electronics also mean that you can switch them off at the touch of a button without needing a degree in computer programming as is increasingly the case with modern systems. And most riders won’t be getting the advantage of all those top-end rider aids anyway.
Despite not being as plush as the Öhlins units on the competition, the S1000R’s semi-active Sachs units mean that it handles beautifully and is comfortable on the UK’s pot-holed roads.
The BMW is designed to be fun at road speeds, and it is. You also get heated grips, cruise control and a soft seat. Unless you’re a real trackday addict or you want to have the very latest tech for top trumps down the pub, there’s nothing wrong with the BMW S1000R – it’s fast, nimble and incredibly good fun to ride – it’s just starting to show its age in a very competitive market.
MV Agusta Brutale 1000RR
Spec: 998cc / 205bhp / 218kg / 845mm seat height
Price: £27,290 (new)
When you’re paying £27,290 for a naked superbike you want it to be full of drama and it’s here where the new MV Agusta Brutale 1000RR delivers.
Producing a claimed 205bhp from its 998cc inline-four motor it’s excessively quick, sounds like the devil in a food blender at 13,000rpm and whether or not you like the way it looks, you can’t deny that it’s sculpted to within an inch of its life.
Wings, scoops, slots, strakes and four cartoon exhausts, there’s also a sliver of a seat pad for each buttock. The tooling for that little lot alone must’ve cost a fortune.
Its colour dash looks like something out of an Italian hypercar and it’s bejewelled with shiny Brembo Stylemas, semi-active Öhlins suspension, lashings of carbon fibre, cornering LED headlights and every conceivable electronic rider aid. Add another two wheels and it would be a Dubai millionaire’s Lambo.
With all that power and sky-high price tag the new Brutale RR is as irrelevant as a road bike gets. You can’t use anywhere near all its power away from a track and at that money you probably wouldn’t want to. It’s no better than its cheaper rivals, either.
But away from its designer labels, decadent styling and fancy electronics it’s a sorted and capable bike. It’s still raw, unapologetically angry and lacks real-world grunt, but it’s the best MV have produced in a very long time.