Jeff Allen

Aprilia Tuono 1100 RR vs. BMW S1000R vs. KTM 1290 Super Duke R vs. Yamaha FZ-10 Comparison Review

We take these super nakeds to the road and track and back again

Back in 2012 the final stretch of a once all-dirt road to the 14,115-foot summit of Pikes Peak was paved, and with this change of surface came a new chapter in the historic Race to the Clouds. As speeds increased and elapsed time up the 12.42-mile course plummeted, safety concerns arose. Following a pair of tragic competitor fatalities, the event organizers introduced an equipment standard requiring eligible motorcycles to have been manufactured with a one-piece handlebar.

With this "safety" initiative the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb has become a premier showcase for the thriving sport naked segment.

At this year's 96th running of America's second oldest motorsport race, a 2017 KTM 1290 Super Duke R ridden by former KTM factory superbike pilot Chris Fillmore shattered the all-time motorcycle record to become King of the Mountain.

super naked motorcycles on the road
SUPER NAKEDS on the road.Jeff Allen

In attendance serving as a Squadra Alpina rookie rider coach (another recent PPIHC safety initiative) I witnessed Fillmore's historic feat and was equally impressed by the Super Duke R. As chance had it, I traveled directly from Pikes to Thunderhill Raceway located in Willows, California, for the GEICO Cycle World Track Day Shootout, a two-day event offering a rare opportunity to ride with readers while conducting the track portion of this super naked test.

Sharing the 3-mile, 15-turn road course with roughly 80 riders each day meant logging comparative timed laps wasn't feasible, and lap times really aren't the point with these fun-factor machines. So Cycle World Associate Editor Sean MacDonald, Editor-in-Chief Mark Hoyer, guest tester/Red Bull Street Freestyle rider Aaron Colton, and I gathered on-track impressions of each bike's performance at speeds much greater than what is sanely possible on public roads. The event was a great success as readers got to ride for free, meet new friends, and interact/ride not only with magazine staff but also talented MotoAmerica racers and to speak with representatives and/or demo gear from Bell Helmets, 6D Helmets, Alpinestars, and Pirelli.

super naked motorcycles at the track
SUPER NAKEDS at the track.Jeff Allen

Now to introduce the real stars of the show: Challenging the "King" KTM 1290 Super Duke R is an Aprilia Tuono 1100 RR, defender of the throne as Best Open Class Streetbike in last year's Ten Best Bikes and returning with updated electronics and brakes. The Bavarians have also upped their game, as the 2017 BMW S1000R is endowed with a modest power increase and cornering ABS. Rounding out our test is the Yamaha FZ-10, a full-feature affordable option in the category based on the YZF-R1.

Taking advantage of Pirelli's CT Racing (ctracetires.com) trackside tire service put the bikes on equal footing with street/trackday Diablo Rosso Corsa radials. The tires held up to countless laps of abuse while providing plenty of side grip to see every bike here grounding pegs and mufflers when ridden at a quick A-Group pace.

aprilia tuono 1100 rr on track action
Aprilia Tuono 1100 RR.Jeff Allen

Once all testers had put in multiple sessions aboard each bike we had a meeting of minds with unanimous praise voiced for the unmatched track prowess of the Aprilia Tuono 1100 RR. "Hands down, my favorite engine here," Hoyer remarked of the 65-degree V-4 engine's unique character. "And it's not just that it's technically superior in terms of balancing bottom-end torque and a top-end that just won't quit; it's also one of the most beautiful sounding and inspiring in its power delivery."

Corner exit drive was right at hand with intuitive response, and the addi­tional 500 rpm on top (over its predecessor) allowed stretching a gear between turns. “The throttle comes in like butter when you roll back on midcorner and is beautifully controllable all the way until you grab the next gear,” Hoyer enthused with added gravity from an over-the-moon Colton. “It’s the most impres­sive motor package I have ever ridden,” he declared. “Low-end is smooth as butter and the top-end could get a rocket into space.”

aprilia tuono 1100 rr on road action
Aprilia Tuono 1100 RR.Jeff Allen

Harnessing that power is the most comprehensive and configurable electronics package of the four. Its RSV4-derived aPRC (Aprilia Performance Ride Control) now includes auto-blip clutchless downshifts, a pit speed limiter, and cruise control. This, along with eight-level TC and three-level Wheelie Control adjustments that can be changed on the fly, means finding your preferred setting, while more involved than the others, is easy as dialing 911 once famil­iar with the process. The Tuono also has a Launch Control function for race starts; however, I don’t recommend its use if you value clutch longevity.

With the most planted feel of the lot, the Tuono’s handling was the epitome of riding on rails yet offered superb agility working the track’s side-to-side transitions. Its upgraded Brembo M50 calipers, 330mm front discs, and Bosch-IMU-enabled cornering ABS proved a perfect addition to Aprilia’s well-refined package.

bmw s1000r on road action
BMW S1000R.Jeff Allen

Such was not the case regarding the brakes on the BMW S1000R. “I thought brake fade was a thing of the past, but even with repeated bleeding the front system on the S1000R went from pretty good to spongy in less than three laps at the track,” Hoyer noted. “I adjusted the lever all the way out and still had to resort to four-finger braking at the track.” Excessive lever travel spooked more than one rider, as Colton also expe­rienced “brake fade on every outing” with MacDonald complaining of “inconsistent brake feel” as well.

Our test unit came equipped with BMW’s HP forged wheels, a $1,375 option said to provide a 5-pound weight saving and substantial reduction in rolling inertia. This, along with its titanium muffler and relatively wide, high-leverage handlebar, lends the S1000R a lithe response at turn-in, but it also proved the most nervous and unsettled of the lot when pushing a quick pace. “At the track, the BMW seemed to feel slightly different going through the same corner in the same way,” Hoyer said. “It was odd, and I can only think that the electronic suspension is what’s causing this.” His view was backed by Colton, who also felt the DDC suspension was not consistent from lap to lap and at times had a pumping, lost feeling in the rear.

bmw s1000r on track action
BMW S1000R.Jeff Allen

Adding to our Beemer’s baffling behav­ior was occasional non-operation of its bidirectional Gear Shift Assist Pro, a new addition to the Premium Package. Despite that, we can’t imagine a buyer passing on this $1,900 add-on, which also includes DDC, Dynamic TC, additional ride modes including Ride Mode Pro (for greater customization of electronic aids), cruise control, “cornering” ABS Pro, heated grips, and a stylish engine spoiler.

ktm 1290 super duke r on road action
KTM 1290 Super Duke R.Jeff Allen

KTM offers upgrades for the 1290 Super Duke R in the form of a Performance Pack ($475.99) that includes a bidirectional Quickshifter+, Bluetooth device connectivity with its new TFT dash display, and MSR (Motor Slip Regulation) that electronically controls the degree of engine-braking. There’s also a Track Pack ($299.99) that unlocks nine-level TC adjustment, throttle response selection, launch control, and allows Wheelie Control to be turned off.

Unfortunately our testbike didn’t have the latter so we made do with preset TC and a rather nannyish anti-wheelie feature. Of course to the delight of our guest wheelie maestro, the system can be turned off to unleash the full thrill of the V-twin’s monster midrange torque. “If the Aprilia is a superbike with bars on it, the KTM is a supermoto with a monster engine,” remarked MacDonald, who took a shine to the Duke’s menacing styling. “Love the looks. It feels exotic and special and obnoxious when you’re on it. The looks reflect the obscenity that is the motor.”

ktm 1290 super duke r on track action
KTM 1290 Super Duke R.Jeff Allen

Despite an additional 500 rpm extension to the rev range included within the latest updates, we found the Duke demanded more gear changes per lap than the others. Tapping into its meaty midrange and running a gear taller in most corners greatly helped. “So much torque everywhere!” was Hoyer’s inspired take. “Total brain recalibration required when jumping off of one of the higher-revving four-cylinder bikes. I got into a groove on the racetrack and felt like I was flying but at the same time never felt rushed or overwhelmed.”

Taller and narrower than the others, once acclimated to the KTM’s roomy on-top non-hunkered-in sensation, then the hard-cornering fun unfolds. “Felt tall and narrow, but I managed to drag the shifter midcorner and changed gears!” Hoyer exclaimed after hot lapping the Duke with baseline suspension settings. “Luckily, on street pattern, this was an upshift… I minded my lean angle and adjusted the shifter for more clearance following that and it was fine.” KTM has the foresight to include a decal under the seat with suggested preload and damping adjustments for road or track use. While more lively and less planted than the Tuono, the Duke railed the circuit at speed and braked with the confidence and vigor one would expect from its new M50 caliper/Bosch-enabled cornering ABS setup. I now see how this stock platform provided the base for conquest of the mountain.

yamaha fz 10 on track action
Yamaha FZ-10.Jeff Allen

Viewing the spec chart would suggest the FZ-10 is disadvantaged in this fast company in having something north of 20 fewer peak horsepower than the others. But the R1-derived inline-four holds its own and is rich in character with a unique sound and feel thanks to its crossplane crank configuration. “Great motor, nice power down low, but fun throughout the rev range,” MacDonald remarked. Colton concurred: “Very fun, linear motor. Impressive wheel-lifting power through third gear.”

While we all found the delivery intui­tive and three-level traction control easy to grasp, to a man we noted edgy response when initially opening the FZ’s throttle. “Even in the softer throttle settings, it took adaptation to the small-opening quickness of the Yamaha’s ride-by-wire system,” Hoyer stated, referencing the trio of ride modes labeled STD, A, and B. “After a few laps at the track or several miles on the street, I was able to cope, but I think the FZ-10 would benefit from fine-tuning in this regard.”

yamaha fz 10 on road action
Yamaha FZ-10Jeff Allen

Despite weighing in second lightest to the BMW, the Yamaha chassis felt softly sprung when hustling it around the track at speed as handling proved less responsive and precise. Fluid steering inputs paid dividends and made the most of available cornering clearance that saw the FZ scratching pegs and muffler a bit earlier than the rest.

The only bike here lacking IMU cornering ABS, it’s worth noting our only nit regarding the FZ’s brakes was “stoppie struck” Colton wishing the ABS could be turned off like that of the other bikes here. One other omission stood out in this fast company as summed up by the editor-in-chief. “Okay, so maybe I am getting soft, but it’s a glaring omission not to have auto-blip downshift on the FZ-10—and the R1, for that matter.”

super naked motorcycles on a country road
Super naked bikes on the road.Jeff Allen

With stock tires remounted, we hit the road the next morning for an overnight ride out to the coast and back. Drawing the lucky key for the initial freeway transit down I-5, I set the FZ-10’s cruise control at 80 mph and enjoyed the roomy ergos and soothing silky beat of its crossplane four. The Tuono is equally smooth and pleasant at highway cruise, and while the KTM’s pair of coffee-can pistons produce a distinctly coarser beat, it, too, feels remarkably relaxed even nearing 100 mph in top gear. Bar damping is a BMW update for this model year, yet the fine-pitched tingle that remains induced hand numbness for a few of us. But when the going got cold along the coast, the Beemer’s heated grips made it the key of choice. At one particular roadside stop Colton left his assigned bike and bellied up to the to BMW bar to thaw his paws.

overhead view of super naked bikes on the road
Super naked bikes on the road.Jeff Allen

Always the source for killer tricks, our street freestyle pro displayed a practical benefit of the KTM’s supermoto ABS mode: hacking the rear and skidding into a perfectly squared-up parking job as we lined the curb adjacent to a Calistoga coffeehouse. Even Hoyer caught the fever and was captured on film wheelying the BMW over a crest in the coastal redwoods.

Such antics are a part of naked sport appeal, and to a rider our favorite road miles came the following morning heading east on Highway 128. Picture the Star Wars forest moon of Endor, only these naked crotch rockets managed the speed slalom without incident. “Riding the Aprilia through the redwoods on that winding road was one of the single greatest 20 minutes on tarmac of my entire life,” came Hoyer’s convincing testimonial. “Third-gear crossed-up power wheelies at 85 mph with filtered sunlight and mist hanging in the air, the animal growl of the greatest streetbike predator on the market echoing through the trees… It was so good I almost didn’t believe it was real.”

I was aboard the FZ-10 through the wooded stage and enjoyed a similar experience. To my delight, even on its middle of three TC settings, the snappy Yamaha allows long clutchless floaters out of second- and third-gear corners.

Perhaps nearly as amazing was the fact we rode past a taco joint in Boonville and didn’t stop. “I’ve had nine tacos in three days,” was a personal-favorite Hoyer quip on the trip. Upon return to Willows we convened at Subway and came to a general consensus over lunch. Our BMW simply suffered too many mysterious ills, and even though this defies the Motor Works reputation for refinement, it relegated the S1000R to the bottom of each tester’s order of preference. Locked in a split decision for the runner-up slot is the Yamaha and KTM, the least and most expensive bikes here. “I thought the FZ-10 might suffer against this powerful, more expensive group of nakeds,” Hoyer noted, making a strong case for Yamaha’s $12,999 performance bargain. “It really didn’t suffer much at all. It does feel a bit wider and slightly heavier, but its right-now engine response and super-composed chassis made it a great bike at the track and an even greater bike on the street. It’s amazing, especially at its price.” One thing remains though: The KTM is King of the Mountain and will stay so until some other super naked makes the climb to raise the bar.

super naked motorcycles parked in front of store
Super naked bikes parked in front of Stewarts Point Store.Jeff Allen

While the guys didn’t buy into my choice of a foot-long toasted spicy Italian at the sandwich counter, we were all in agreement that the Aprilia Tuono 1100 RR ranks right at the top both road and track. It possesses true superbike performance in every area: engine, electronics, handling, and brakes. And it does so with a degree of comfort, civility, and Italian spice and flair that inspires you physically and emotionally to desire more track time following a two-day road ride. And that is a mountain of evidence in our book.

aprilia tuono 1100 rr studio side view
Aprilia Tuono 1100 RRCourtesy of Aprilia
2017 BMW S 1000 R
BMW S1000RPhoto Courtesy of BMW
ktm 1290 super duke r studio side view
KTM 1290 Super Duke RCourtesy of KTM
yamaha fz 10 studio side view
Yamaha FZ-10Courtesy of Yamaha
super naked bikes group static
Aprilia Tuono 1100 RR, BMW S1000R, KTM 1290 Super Duke R, and Yamaha FZ-10.Jeff Allen

THE NUMBERS COMPARED