Bang for the buck without the tuck
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.