They’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!,”), 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 1000cc 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 eye-to-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.