Smart Money

Bang for the buck without the tuck

Motorcyclist - - Contents - —Mitch Boehm

with so many su­perb new and used choices on the naked-bike scene, to­day’s street­bike fans are a lucky bunch. But things weren’t al­ways such. Back in the day, if you wanted a naked sport­bike with (then) up-to-date per­for­mance, you had to build your own. Strip down an early-gen GSX-R, for in­stance, bolt on a wide su­per­bike han­dle­bar, and poof! In­stant street­fighter. They weren’t per­fect, but they were hi­lar­i­ous fun in town, de­cent on tour, and plenty ca­pa­ble for peg-drag­gin’ duty.

Do­ing bang-up duty as a rea­son­ably mod­ern in­ter­pre­ta­tion of Team Green’s KZ1000R Ed­die Law­son Replica of the early 1980s is Kawasaki’s retro-spec ZRX1100/1200 (1999–2005). The Z-rex was heavy (550 pounds), not all that pow­er­ful (100 to 113 hp de­pend­ing on dis­place­ment), and had a steel-tube frame brack­eted by twin shocks and a con­ven­tional fork. But what it lacked in tech it surely made up for with early-su­per­bike aes­thet­ics, bal­anced han­dling, smooth power, se­ri­ous com­fort, and a huge de­gree of per­for­mance-mod head­room. All of which made—and still make—it a fa­vorite among en­thu­si­asts of a cer­tain pedi­gree.

ZRXS are plenty durable, but be wary when buy­ing used. Many will have an af­ter­mar­ket ex­haust, and jet­ting needs to be right or they’ll run hot—with ex­pected re­sults. Sur­face fin­ishes are also sus­cep­ti­ble to the el­e­ments, so look closely when you buy. Prices run from the low $2,000s for higher-mileage, less­cared-for units to $5,500 or more for pris­tine, lower-mileage bikes.

One of the foun­da­tional el­e­ments of the in­dus­try adopt­ing the naked­bike move­ment is Tri­umph’s Speed Triple, which first ap­peared in 1994 as a stripped Day­tona 900 and then mor­phed into the ex­cel­lent sec­ond-gen ver­sion—called the T595—which ran from 1998 to 2004. Pack­ing 105 snarly horse­power, Hinck­ley’s triple-pot pow­er­plant proved a near-per­fect street­bike engine, be­ing a tor­quer and a revver at once—and sound­ing like an Indy­car at full boost didn’t hurt ei­ther. The chas­sis was solid, the en­tire pack­age pretty durable, and the rid­ing ex­pe­ri­ence very, very mem­o­rable.

Prices range from around $3,500 for rat­tier ex­am­ples to $5K to $6K for low­er­mileage units. Third-gen Speed Triples are even more sub­lime, with 1,050cc, 120 hp, and a more mod­ern look. They are pricier in gen­eral than the sec­ond-gen bikes but are amaz­ingly fun to ride, with a vis­ceral and unique feel.

An­other naked le­gend is Du­cati’s Mon­ster, which in many ways launched to­day’s naked craze back in the early ’90s with the orig­i­nal M900. While the first-gen air-cooled bikes are aes­thet­i­cally and vis­cer­ally sat­is­fy­ing, it’s the 996-en­gined S4R Des­mo­quat­tro (2004–2008) we re­mem­ber best—and

for ob­vi­ous rea­sons. Brack­et­ing that boom­ing, 115-horse, liq­uid-cooled, eight-valve twin is a lovely al­loy sin­glesided swingarm, Brembo brakes, stacked si­lencers, and clas­sic rac­ing-stripe paint.

As you’d ex­pect for a bike this spe­cial and rare (Du­cati im­ported small num­bers), prices are rel­a­tively high, with a range from $6,000 for a higher-mileage, well-used ex­am­ple to more than $10,000 for lower-mile, well-cared-for ex­am­ples. (The lovely S4RS, with premium suspension, costs even more.) Still, for some­one look­ing for older-school eight-valve mon­ster thrills who won’t—or can’t— plunk down the $15K to $18K nec­es­sary for a new 150-horse 1200S or R, the S4R makes a pretty se­ri­ous state­ment more than a decade af­ter its de­but.

Yamaha has played the naked game pretty well, too, its FZ1 hav­ing mixed it up nicely since the first-gen ma­chine hit the streets in 2001. (And don’t for­get, the FZ1 mantra spawned the best-sell­ing FZ-09 and FZ-07.) In fact, as a per­former and a used-bike bar­gain, the first-gen model (2001–2005) is a very good mo­tor­cy­cle de­spite be­ing big, heavy, and car­bu­reted. Be­cause the first-gen FZ1 uses the old R1’s long-stroke engine, power is midrange heavy and eas­ily ac­cessed, which is ideal out on the mean streets. The Fizzer’s rid­ing po­si­tion is roomy, its suspension sup­ple (un­like the sec­ond-gen bike), and there’s plenty of fuel—5.5 gal­lons—for longer treks. It’s a solid and durable per­former and an af­ford­able one too, with prices rang­ing from $1,500 to about $4,000 de­pend­ing on mileage and con­di­tion. In terms of bang-for-the-buck, this one’s pretty hard to beat.

The last liv­ing rem­nant of Du­cati’s fa­mous 996/998 su­per­bike lived on in this Mon­ster.

Ar­guably the first big naked, Tri­umph’s iconic Speed Triple re­mains a treat to ride.

Yamaha’s first-gen FZ1, which struck a chord with rid­ers, took 15 years to repli­cate.

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