If these bikes had a theme song that described their attitude, it would have to be Judas Priest’s “Breaking the Law”—or maybe that’s just what automatically plays in a rider’s head when following Associate Editor Mark Cernicky. Either way, the upright seating positions, powerful engines, race-spec brakes and amazing chassis make it very difficult to refrain from wheelies, stoppies, painting long blackies on the asphalt exiting corners and backing into apexes with the rear hacked out. All of which will get you into some seriously hot water; it’s called “exhibition of speed” here in California…
That’s why any one of these bikes can turn a simple commute into something more akin to a supermoto race. So, to get away from the judgmental eyes of the general public, we headed out on multiple all-day rides to areas where we could get more naughty. But not only did we flog them on curvy backroads, we logged more freeway miles than we care to recall and ripped around town on lunch runs and errands. We even suffered through some multi-hour rides in the rain and fog on super-slick wet roads at night.
Power and Performance
In this class, engine performance carries a lot of weight, and the naked that proved to be the biggest badass was the Tuono, despite it having the smallest engine of the bunch. Not only did it stomp the next-closest bike, the MV, by 9.5 horsepower, it very nearly matched the torque king of the quartet, the Ducati. And while the Triumph came up far short in peak hp (by a whopping 33!) to the Aprilia, it made up for much of that difference with an amazingly flat and usable torque curve.
On a tight backroad, it’s hard to match the smooth, urgent corner exits that the Triumph and Ducati provide from basement revs. The MV needs to be whipped more to run with those bikes leaving the apex but quickly makes up ground as the tach swings into the upper end of the rev range. Under those same conditions, however, the V-Four in the Tuono is unmatched; it damn near equals the Twin and Triple down low, keeps up with everything in the midrange and then kicks all the challengers’ asses up top. Proof is in its dominating display at the dragstrip, where it turned the quickest E.T. and the highest trap speed. Its standard quick-shifter—part of the APRC package—is a huge advantage when hauling butt, too (our Ducati didn’t have the optional DQS).
Not that the Aprilia’s engine is perfect. As we pointed out in our April test, it could use a bit of fueling refinement at lower rpm, and its sensitive throttle response amplifies the situation; at least these symptoms usually were experienced only when leaving stoplights or at very low rpm. The MV also had a few fuel-delivery issues: It surges slightly at steady-state cruising between 5500 to 6000 rpm with small throttle openings but never does so under any other circumstances.
As for the Ducati—which caused us to complain about fuel-mapping issues in the past—its injection seems to be sorted out. We never noticed any of the surging and searching that one of our previous testbikes exhibited.
And the Triumph? It’s well-mapped and performs beautifully. What’s more, as Road Test Editor Don Canet noted, “The Speed Triple R is the only bike here without traction control, but due to its perfect fueling and grunty, three-cylinder power delivery, it also is the bike least in need of such artificial intelligence.”