SUPER NAKEDS Aprilia Tuono 1100 RR vs. BMW S1000R vs. KTM 1290 Super Duke R vs. Yamaha Fz-10
—from road to track and back, this fast, fun foursome goes head to head.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Harnessing that power is the most comprehensive and configurable electronics package of the four. Its Rsv4derived APRC (Aprilia Performance Ride Control) now includes auto-blip clutchless downshifts, a pit speed limiter, and cruise control. This, along with eightlevel 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 Boschimu-enabled cornering ABS proved a perfect addition to Aprilia’s well-refined package.
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, highleverage 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.
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 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 ninelevel 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 antiwheelie 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.”
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
THE APRILIA’S LOW-END IS SMOOTH AS BUTTER AND THE TOP-END COULD GET A ROCKET INTO SPACE.
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.
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 smallopening quickness of the Yamaha’s rideby-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.”
Despite weighing in second lightest to the BMW, the Yamaha chassis felt softly sprung when hustling it around